Excerpts from this interview are also included in the eco Association newly-published international study "Women in Tech Across the Globe: A Good Practice Guide for Companies”.
dotmagazine: Ms. Paus, with Vodafone, Germany, you are responsible for their corporate responsibility strategy. What would you see as being the most important strands of that strategy?
Inger Paus: Connecting for a better future is actually the broader company mission, which also is true for us here in Germany. And basically we focus on three areas, which are: digital society; social inclusion; and planet. And what we want to do is connecting people with our technology. We want to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind and that we save the resources and save the planet and the climate.
dot: On that topic of social inclusion: when it comes to digitalization, what benefits do you think it is bringing when it comes to improving livelihoods around the globe?
Paus: I think we’ve got an untapped potential of leveraging digital technologies for the well-being of people; not just in western industrialized states, but also in emerging countries. Be it education, be it better healthcare, or be it mobility, and the opportunities to make a living.
dot: When it comes to those benefits: from your own experience and from the research that your institute is undertaking, do you see that sometimes girls and women are falling behind a little bit in comparison to boys and men? And are there one or two initiatives that you’re aware of that are helping to perhaps address that gap?
Paus: Absolutely. Women are still one of the – if not THE – largest marginalized group worldwide. And this is not just true for industrialized countries. It’s also true in particular for emerging and developing countries. And this is why the access to technology is key, because it solves some of the key challenges of these women, which is education, it’s access to health care, but also the opportunity to work, to participate in an economic sense. And there are two examples, which are one of many, actually.
For example, M-Pesa: this is the mobile payment solution we invented in Africa, which basically granted access to financial resources to over millions of people, including a lot of women, who for the first time had an opportunity to run a business and make a living.
The second one, which we run, is F-LANE. This is a global accelerator program for women and it has benefited already 20 start-ups and over 300,000 people worldwide who are focusing on services and products for female empowerment.
dot: And looking again at the work of the Vodafone Institute, one of the key findings from your current studies is that there is a higher level of skepticism when it comes to digitalization and its benefits in Europe – particularly in Germany – than there is in other regions of the world. I’m sure there isn’t a short-term solution to that. But are there essentials from your perspective as to how to reduce that skepticism?
And it turned out that there was kind of a pattern that Western industrialized states and citizens in these states are much more skeptical towards digitalization compared to people in India and China. And our explanation actually was that people in industrialized states obviously have fears and concerns that they’ve got much more to lose when it comes to disruptive technologies than emerging countries like China and India, where people have experienced a lot of increase of well-being and career opportunities in the last 10 to 15 years. And I think there is no “one-size-fits-all” recipe. But I think awareness for the benefits and the positive potential of technologies and really education, providing competencies to kids and already in schools: that is essential also for Western industrialized states to make sure that we get the most out of digitalization.
dot: So education must be center stage, then.
Paus: Yes, absolutely – in both emerging and developed countries.
 Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications (October 2018) The Tech Divide: Contrasting Attitudes Towards Digitisation in Europe, Asia and the USA.
Inger Paus is responsible for Vodafone Germany’s corporate social responsibility strategy. She is Chair of the Management Board of the Vodafone Foundation Germany and Managing Director of the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications. Before joining Vodafone, she held multiple positions in Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communications at Microsoft. As Head of Economic and Social Policy, she developed campaigns and initiatives on issues ranging from digital education and industry 4.0 to the future of work. Furthermore, she led the Microsoft’s Berlin Center, which was established to foster the dialogue between government and society. Prior to that, she led Microsoft’s Corporate Communications in Western Europe and Germany. Inger Paus holds a degree in Strategic Communications and Planning from the Universität der Künste, Berlin.
Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.