Around the globe, more than 1.2 billion women in low-middle-income countries do not actively use mobile internet. Furthermore, women in these countries are 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men.
Since 2021, Viasat has connected rural communities in Mexico through the Ambassador Program – a program designed to partner with local representatives comprised mostly of women to be the boots on the ground in areas connected by Viasat technology. Currently serving 27 communities throughout Mexico, the Ambassador Program encourages gender equality, creating a fair and just society, and addresses systemic inequalities, including digital inclusion. It has been the chosen model for Viasat to focus on creating opportunities for women, as the vast majority of the rural communities’ male population have migrated, leaving the women with household responsibilities, yet little economic empowerment or opportunities.
Our female ambassadors are critical for Viasat’s business model in rural Mexico as we identify new markets, build rapport among community members, understand the market needs, and sustain long-term.
As Viasat gained a greater understanding of the circumstances around the Ambassadors in the program, it was clear that there was an opportunity to impact the community in an even greater way. Throughout these communities, many local women were inspired by the new-found opportunities the Viasat Ambassadors were undertaking. However, Viasat’s model for the program was to have one ambassador per community.
During several focus groups, we learned about the appeal that non-traditional economic activities have amongst the rest of the women in these communities, paired with their needs for autonomy and decisions on economic matters. Thus, the idea of the Ambassador Empowerment Program (AEP) was born.
To bridge the digital divide and empower women to be active participants in the digital economy, Viasat is proud to launch the Ambassador Empowerment Program, also known as “Aprende y Empodérate” – an initiative under the Ambassador Program. In its pilot phase, AEP has launched in five communities in Mexico – Chila, Coyay, and Toxtla, located in the state of Puebla, and Huaxolotipac and Huitepec in the state of Oaxaca. Operating through a training-of-trainers model, the program provides the resources for Viasat Ambassadors, who are already seen as role models by other women in their community to be leaders, empowering women to harness digital skills that unlock economic, social, and educational opportunities.
“I am inspired by all the opportunities that access to the internet can provide for my community to move forward and continue making economic progress,” says Marisol, Viasat Ambassador for the Nahuatl indigenous community of Toxtla. The pilot program consists of a series of workshops facilitated by International Connector and the Viasat Ambassadors, using digital technology covering topics such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, personal branding, networking, finding opportunities, and creating an action plan.
Investing in unserved and underserved communities provides the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty—enabling in current and future generations. “AEP is catalytic in caring for all aspects of digital inclusion ranging from accessibility, equity, literacy, and empowerment,” says Tory See, director of social impact and ESG at Viasat. “Working with partners to ensure that the whole digital inclusion ecosystem is cared for, beyond foundational connectivity, is critical to consider as we aim to bridge the digital divide.”
The Ambassador Empowerment Program will be piloted in Mexico until November 2023. Learn more about Viasat’s digital inclusion initiatives here.