Social media was an integral part of the Egyptian Revolution, mobilizing citizens for political change.
Many participants in our research in Cairo described Facebook as the real reason behind the Revolution. Facebook is well known by both Egyptian men and women, with many accessing the site through their mobile phones. While most women do not have their own Facebook accounts or the email addresses needed to join, they are able to access Facebook through a male relative’s account, usually a husband or son. In most cases, men and women are using the internet for communication and entertainment purposes. They are not using these technologies to access information about financial services and few Egyptian financial institutions are using social media to reach clients despite its potential as a unique and low-cost marketing tool.
“The idea to send text messages for advertising is the bomb!”
Beyond social media, mobile phones are another way for financial institutions to reach women. Women own and control their phones and many were receptive to being reached by SMS text message. Mobile phone penetration in Egypt is high. The International Finance Corporation places mobile phone penetration at 73%, with 100% penetration among users over the age of 15. While many businesses experienced reduced sales during the Revolution, a mobile shop owner interviewed as part of our research, stated that people continued to buy phones and credit despite the poor economic circumstances. Both men and women are interested in receiving motivational messages and information on new products from financial service providers via SMS text messages. One of our research participants enthusiastically stated that “The idea to send text messages for advertising is the bomb!”
The use of technology can play a role in overcoming the barriers to financial exclusion by allowing financial institutions to reach women without placing further constraints on their limited time and mobility.