One of the greatest promises of technology is its potential to better our lives. From wiping out minor inconveniences, like ordering dinner and paying a credit card bill, to effecting change in major fields like health and transportation, today's innovations reach far and wide to increase our quality of life.
We're highlighting under-the-radar tech that affects one distinct group: women. Technology of all kinds — in the healthcare, reproductive-education, safety and career fields — is improving the lives of women around the world. Below are eight of the most impactful.
1. Kitestring helps you get home safely at night.
Before the age of the smartphone, women had to rely on old-fashioned methods — pepper spray, car keys, 911 pre-dialed into a cellphone — to protect themselves from unwanted attention. While these options remain available, smartphones have armed women with an even bigger arsenal of apps to ensure their safety.
From bSafe, which includes an emergency alarm function and a location tracker for friends, to Kitestring, a mobile Web app that periodically checks up on you while you're out and alerts your friends if you don't answer, safety checks have never been more accessible.
2. This NASA-built garment helps keep women alive after giving birth.
According to the World Health Organization, postpartum hemorrhage is the most common cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in developing countries, causing up to 25% of maternal deaths around the world.
The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) is intent on decreasing these numbers. Originally thought up by NASA in the 1970s, use of the lightweight contraption for women's health gained traction in the early 2000s. It mimics the lower half of a wetsuit and consists of five parts that wrap around a mother's legs, pelvis and abdomen, and it's proven to be remarkably successful at preventing postpartum hemorrhages in new mothers.
3. The Sayana Press is an injectable form of birth control.
Depo-Provera, an injectable form of contraception administered just four times a year, is a popular option in developing countries due to its convenience and effectiveness. But because many women live far away from health clinics, they're not in a position to access it.
The Sayana Press wants to change that by combining the Depo-Provera drug and a new distribution method called the Uniject system. The resulting product consists of a single-use syringe that is both portable and easy to use, even for someone who isn't a trained medical professional. On a practical level, it means women who desire contraceptive access won't have to travel from remote areas in order to receive the shots — healthcare workers can come to them.
4. Mobile phones are going the distance for women farmers.
Women farmers often own less land and have less access to credit and investment services than their male counterparts. But with basic mobile phone services, women farmers around the world are increasing their profits and staking out their positions in the modern agricultural economy. In India, for example, one woman saw her profits quadruple each season after she began using a GreenSIM, which sends daily mobile messages with agricultural information and data on the weather.
According to Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a group that works to improve the African agriculture industry, women's agriculture groups in Zambia have used mobile phones to improve their profits by "millions of kwachas," which is equivalent to hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
Mobile phones can also provide useful financial records. Nicole Stubbs, the CEO of First Access, which helps calculate the risk of lending money to small-time businesspeople based on their mobile data, noted that mobile phones represent an untapped resource for small business owners — particularly women farmers.
5. Menstrual cups are providing alternatives to tampons and sanitary napkins.
While menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s, more recent innovations — including a switch to silicone-based material and a new shape — have helped bring the device into the limelight.
Use of menstrual cups is still nowhere near as widespread as other forms of on the menstrual market, but it's gaining popularity all over the world, particularly for women who can't afford disposable sanitary products. As the Huffington Post's Sabrina Rubli noted in December, unlike cotton sanitary pads or tampons, menstrual cups carry a reduced risk of infection, and they're much cheaper in the long run.
6. Online forums help women connect with other women in their career fields.
The advent of the Internet has made it easier than ever for career-minded women to easily connect with other ladies in their field. There's Ellevate, which connects women across all industries and is 30,000 members strong; the BOSS Network, which focuses on entrepreneurial women; Binders Full of Women Writers, which links up female and female-identifying writers; and GirlGeeks.org, which focuses on women in computing.
If it's an industry, there's probably an online community dedicated to the women in it.
7. Birth control apps aid women who don't have time to worry about whether they took their pill or not.
Like a period tracker, birth control apps are designed to make life easier for women with a million other things on their minds. They're particularly helpful for those who take daily birth control pills, a method for which accuracy and discipline is of the utmost importance, but they can also help keep track of ovulation, bodily symptoms and other contraception-related issues.
8. Sex toys provide pleasure for women — and their partners, too.
Who said tech couldn't be pleasurable? Newer versions of time-tested sex toys, including dildos that can be operated by a smartphone and recharged with a USB cord, have recently hit the markets, and they're waiting to be taken advantage of. They're perfect for couples, or the single woman who likes her sex toy with a side of innovation. Go get yours, ladies.