USAID and Reliance Foundation created the WomenConnect Challenge India in 2020 to help identify innovative solutions to bridge the gender digital divide across India. This Challenge supports new approaches that close this gap, expand business opportunities for women, and support women to empower themselves and their communities.
While most of the world is becoming increasingly connected, the gender gap in mobile internet use in some countries is over 51 percent. In 2017 only 19% of women in India were aware of mobile internet; in 2020 this increased to 53%. In terms of ownership, 67% of women own a mobile phone compared to 79% men. Advancing women’s digital connectivity is a key component to ensuring women’s economic empowerment. To date, USAID has funded three rounds of the WomenConnect Challenge grantees working to address barriers limiting women's access to technology and to connect nearly 6 million women in 16 countries.
In partnership with Reliance Foundation, this fourth round of the challenge focuses on India’s gender and technology gap and support solutions to improve women’s participation in everyday life by meaningfully changing the ways women access and use technology. From over 200 applications, 20 semi-finalists participated in the Solver’s Symposium (link) to help refine their proposals. Ten awardees were chosen in 2021 to apply local, culturally-contextual innovative solutions to closing the gender digital divide (link to an upcoming press release). This Community of Practice is intended to support and showcase their work while creating a space for all organizations involved in digital inclusion to collaborate and build momentum to close this gap for good!
USAID is the world's premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID works to help lift lives, build communities, advance democracy, and champions the cause of women empowerment across the globe. USAID's work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity; demonstrates American generosity; and helps countries progress along their development journey.
To date, USAID has 16 WomenConnect Challenge grantees in three different rounds working to address barriers limiting women’s access to technology and connecting nearly 6 million women in 16 countries. WomenConnect Round One, in 2018, awarded nine grants and WomenConnect Round Two, awarded three in 2019. Earlier this year, four winners were announced for WomenConnect Round Three.
Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries Limited, aims to play a catalytic role in addressing the nation’s development challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions. Led by Founder and Chairperson Smt. Nita Ambani, Reliance Foundation (RF) is relentlessly working towards facilitating transformative changes to ensure overall well-being and higher quality of life for all. Among India’s largest social initiatives, RF is focused on addressing the nation’s development challenges in Rural Transformation, Education, Health, Sports for Development, Disaster Response, Urban Renewal and Arts, Culture and Heritage. RF has touched the lives of more than 56.5 million people across India in more than 47,800 villages and several urban locations. Learn more: www.reliancefoundation.org