Africa: USAID and Partners Announce Winners of Gsma Mwomen Design Challenge

Barcelona, Spain — Today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with partners Qtel Group and AusAID, announced the winners of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge, which aims to redefine the smartphone user experience for resource-poor women in emerging markets.

The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge was created to simplify the smartphone user interface to help overcome reading and technical literacy barriers for women. Twenty-two per cent of women surveyed in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda who do not use mobile phones say it is because they do not know how to use them.

Qtel Group CEO Dr. Nasser Marafih presented the Grand Prize of $20,000 USD to Jeremy Canfield, Sarah Fathallah and Angel Kittiyachavalit for their design, 'Sahel Shake', at a ceremony today at Mobile World Congress 2013. Second place, with a prize of $10,000 USD, was awarded to Aloke Pillai of the York Sheridan Design Program for 'mpower'. The Emerging Talent Prize of $10,000 USD, which is reserved for an entry from emerging markets to ensure entrepreneurs are able to compete alongside professional design firms, was awarded to Raphael Mutiso, from Kenya for his entry 'Simplified Grayscale Power Efficient Interface.' See here for a description of the winning programs and finalists.

"The standard of entries was extremely high, but the winning submissions were outstanding and we heartily congratulate them all," said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile for Development and member of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge selection panel. "Designing for the specific needs of resource-poor consumers is vital to increasing access to mobile's social benefits, as well as increasing commercial value for the mobile industry."

Dr. Nasser Marafih, Qtel Group CEO, said on presenting the Grand Prize: "We are delighted to be involved in the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge, as it seeks to address technical literacy issues for under-served communities around the world. The energy, creativity and innovation demonstrated by all the entrants are an inspiration and we believe that the winning entries will play a vital role in enriching the lives of women in the near future. Our congratulations go to the winners, and our thanks go to the GSMA and all the partners for their support for this competition. We are looking forward to exploring the opportunity to bring to market those innovations."

Grand prize-winning team Jeremy Canfield, Sarah Fathallah and Angel Kittiyachavalit said: "We are thrilled to have the chance to share this design with the attendees of Mobile World Congress as well as a wider audience. We particularly want to thank GSMA mWomen, Qtel Group, USAID and AusAID. As designers, it is always a privilege to share our work on this type of platform and have the opportunity to bring this design to life."

USAID Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor Maura O'Neill noted that, "We launched the Design Challenge to curate the best ideas from developers around the world for reimagining how women engage with mobile technologies. Our sincere congratulations to the winners. We are eager to see their designs catalyze the industry, including our wonderful partners, and kindle a new movement to address the mobile needs of women everywhere."

In emerging markets, feature phones with basic voice and SMS capabilities are currently the standard. However, smartphones are forecasted to proliferate[1] in these markets over the next few years, becoming the main way people in developing countries will access information, the internet and its associated benefits. Yet, there is a mobile phone gender gap in low to middle-income countries, where 21 per cent fewer women than men have access to this potentially life-enhancing tool.

"The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge team gratefully acknowledges the support of partners Skipso and Small Surfaces in implementing the competition," continued Locke. "It is through clever and thoughtful design that we as an industry can work together to help close the gender gap in phone ownership by women."

[1]Strategy Analytics, 2011, cited in Ericsson, Profitable Pre-paid Smartphones, June 2012

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