Apps That Empower Women

The first app I remember seeing was shown to me by a male friend of mine. It was called the Wobble app, and it allowed you to take a photo of any woman you chose and make her chest area jiggle. And we wonder why our research with YouGov (Source: The App Economy YouGov/Lady Geek 2010) shows that women with smartphones were nearly twice as likely as men to have never downloaded a SINGLE app.

Quite remarkable when the same piece of research showed that more women than men bought smartphones in the last six months. So women are buying smartphones but are not buying apps for two major reasons: Like me, women perceive that many apps—your iFarts, iBurps, and so on—are not relevant to their lives. Second, there is just too much choice out there. Who needs 200,000 apps? Most women want a small selection of apps that make a difference to their lives.

And that is exactly the ambition and purpose of the IdeasProject "Apps to Empower Women" challenge from Nokia. The competition asked for submissions of app ideas that would make a real, practical difference to women’s work, education, and leisure. The top app chosen in the challenge will be developed by a team of women software developers.

Honors went to Mobile Women African Crafters by Atim Oton, Easy App for Elderly Women by JoJa Dhara, and Trigger Free by Jenny Evgenia. Mobile Women African Crafters would create and increase sustainable income for local women crafters in Kano, Nigeria, by giving crafters a way to share and sell their crafts via mobile phones. The Easy App for Elderly Women would allow easier navigation through the various social networks and communication tools to help older women  stay in contact with  friends and family. Trigger Free would allow survivors of sexual violence to identify media that can trigger post-traumatic stress, allowing users to add media to a database, rate it, and help other survivors enjoy trigger-free leisure.

The winner was Woman's Personal Private Market Place by Rustam Sengupta. Often women, especially those living in the rural areas of emerging markets, do not have access to personal care products such as contraceptives, or the means to purchase them from traditional sellers. The app will have a catalogue of such products and allow the process to be as discreet and comfortable as possible. Now that is what I call a real app.

These ideas show the force for good in innovative technology like apps. Yes, we can download apps to get the weather or play a game, but it's amazing to see how apps are transforming how women gain access to everything from health services to banking, and employment opportunities to educational tools. The mWomen Programme is an important component of this, and addresses key barriers to women’s access to mobile phones. The appetite for empowering apps is a hunger to feed, and there are inspiring women making it happen.

Sarah Fink from Lady Geek TV contributed to this article. 

The judges for the Apps to Empower Women Challenge were Mitchell Baker, Abigail Disney, Libby Leffler, Elizabeth Varley, Angelique Mannella and Belinda Parmar.

Belinda Parmar is the founder of Lady Geek TV. Please join the Lady Geek campaign to end the stereotypes and cliches towards women in tech and Like us on Facebook

[Image: Flickr user ~ l i t t l e F I R E ~]

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