In low- and middle-Income countries, 440 million women still do not own a mobile phone. By bringing mobile and Internet access to women, technology companies can expand their customer base and promote diversity and inclusion in their workforce, ultimately improving business performance. But to effectively engage more women, barriers such as affordability, availability, and digital literacy must be overcome. Both the private sector, through initiatives like payment plans and infrastructure development, and the public sector, through government funding and global expertise, can work together to address these challenges and close the gender digital divide.

The USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, a public-private partnership between Microsoft’s Airband Initiative and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by DAI’s Digital Frontiers project, seeks to bring Internet access to more women around the world. USAID and Microsoft partner with internet service providers and technology companies in different countries to expand women’s economic opportunities and enable digital development services. The partnership utilizes the technical expertise and scale of Microsoft’s staff and operations as well as USAID’s expertise and successes on combating gender inequality in the digital development space. Through this partnership, M-KOPA, an African fintech platform providing digital financial services to underbanked consumers in Kenya increased affordable smartphone access to Kenyan women.