India Mobile service operator Uninor has initiated a project to empower rural Indian women by giving them easy access to mobile phones. The project dubbed 'Sampark,' would be backed by a heavy fund of $70,000 granted by GSMA's Mobile for Development Foundation. However, this is just an initial phase of the project, which has not taken full scale leap.
The total investment over the 7-month duration of the project is estimated to reach USD 183,654. Uninor will be contributing $ 11,400 as well.
Project Sampark is being launched as a pilot to assess the barriers that women face in accessing mobile services such as affordability, mental block or social stigma attached with women to own a handset. Moreover, the project will aim to enhance tele-density among women especially in the rural pockets of India.
Initially, the project will be launched in three of Uninor's telecom circles - UP(West), UP(East) and Bihar, and after measuring its results and accessing the impact, the project will be rolled out to its other circles in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. With 200 women promoters trained by Uninor itself, the project targets to add 6,000 new subscribers in rural areas a month, with at least half of them being women.
Morten Karlsen Sorby, CEO, Uninor, says, "The launch of ‘Project Sampark' is a first step in the direction to using mobile connectivity to deal with the developmental challenge of gender disparity in mobile usage. This project will be truly path-breaking in its intent as well it will be self-sustainable, scalable and continue to provide livelihood opportunities for women while building awareness of the benefits of mobile connectivity."
The project would start with the pilot phase in 87 villages of Aligarh district of Western UP. These have been identified as the major initiating ground for the project. For the roll out of the pilot, 40 women and four supervisors will participate including influential women in the region who are Anganwadi and ASHA supporters who can persuasively spread the message.
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