5.2 Guidelines for regulators

Sector liberalization

  • Is sector liberalization being promoted in order to bring in investment and reduce end-user prices, thus making telecommunications and ICT more accessible to men and women?
  • Is consideration given to reducing high customs duties on mobile telephones and computer equipment that deterwomen users, who are likely to have less disposable income than men?
  • Is the national regulator directing private sector players to deliver on social and gender policy objectives such as universal access?
  • In return for granting licenses, is the regulator compelling service providers to provide service to underserved areas where women predominate?
  • Is the regulator providing funds for research, development and testing of technology that will serve women?
  • Are gender-equity concerns a part of community service obligations performed by cellular phone operators?

Regulatory frameworks

  • Do regulators permit the resale of mobile phone services, which may be profitable businesses for women to establish?
  • Has the regulatory framework addressed reducing licensing fees, spectrum prices, and interconnection charges that might make ICTs more accessible to women?


  • Has consideration been given to reducing fees for telecommunications, Internet service provider (ISP), and mobile service licenses to promote improved affordability by women and the poor?
  • Has consideration been given to allocating special licenses for rural operators or community ICT center operators -- especially those run by and for women?
  • Do license awards contain conditions that promote gender analysis and mainstreaming within the licensed company?

Universal access

  • Do universal access policies stress public access points as an alternative to more capital-intensive choices (one line per home) and ensure that locations of public access points are gender-sensitive (e.g. not just in bars or auto shops but also in schools, clinics and markets)?
  • Whenever access to ICT is considered, do women have access? If not, what actions can be taken so that they will have access?

Universal service obligations

  • If regulators call for establishment of telecenters in under-served areas, as part of license-holder universal service obligations, have the different needs of men and women in the concerned communities been considered?
  • Does proposed service delivery to under-served areas reflect geographical gender distribution in the population?
  • Are disadvantaged and/or rural women, such as single mothers, widows, or disabled women, given any priority for service, subsidies or special pricing? 

Factors leading to mobile phones being too expensive for women45

In addition to the high cost of purchasing handsets, poor users can waste precious money trying to get connected in areas where they face poor signal coverage. They risk being charged even when they do not succeed in getting connected. In addition, when top-up cards have a short lifespan, (for example, only 15 days) users often must spend additional money when that time period runs out. Likewise, when a woman has to spend her only remaining money to make a call to distant relatives to request a remittance -- but cannot get her message through because of poor coverage -- she may nevertheless be forced to pay for the call. The pricing regimes of some service providers do not take into account the fact that some calls do not get to their destinations.

45Rural women’s use of cell phones to meet their communication needs: a study from northern Nigeria, Kazanka Comfort and John Dada in Buskins and Webb 2009 (ibid)