Gender and ICT/Lessons Yet Unlearnt

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In most developing countries, women are less likely than men to use the Internet because they do not have access, they do not have skills, they do not have disposable income or they do not have time and/or interest. Therefore the notion those ICTs can be a vehicle for making government services and public participation more widespread is flawed by the simple fact that men and women have different user patterns. From this perspective, the move towards digitization of government services may be further marginalizing women.

- Dr Eva Rathgeber, Carleton University[1]

Issues and Potential Solutions[edit]

There are commendable efforts at the grass roots to provide equitable access to ICT for women and girls and minority groups. The term ‘minority’ is used here to represent any group which lacks socio-economic and political voice. Used in this way, the word ‘minority’ then provides us the full extent of a contradiction when it is realized how great in number women and girls are as the poor and the marginalized, yet how silenced and invisible they seem to be. Women and girls are also largely representative of the rural population where infrastructure for ICT is non-existent for most developing countries. Some of the programmes designed for women and girls go a step further in the provision of ICT literacy and actual training, and not just access. However, looking at the current advocacies around the globe on gender in the area of ICT, one will find that the call for equality and equity is persistent and, sadly, consistently ignored to a large extent. Current advocacies apply to basic issues of access, affordability, training, employment, education, health and so on, in addition to more complex issues of information security and freedom of communication, Internet governance, intellectual property rights[2] and free and open source software (Kuga Thas, 2003). Greater attention needs to be paid to micro-level successes and a higher consciousness needs to be cultivated when trying to address gender issues in ICT. This section highlights persistent issues in gender and ICT[3] and some illustrative examples on potential solutions.

Access and Control[edit]

Women’s access to new ICTs is most times mistakenly understood to be synonymous with making available an Internet-abled computer for women to use. This is far from true. There are numerous and significant factors that determine whether women can access ICTs - from education, literacy, language and skills to financial resources, cost implications, time constraints, location and socio-cultural norms. Women’s access to ICTs and control over them is not equal to men’s. When considering the way in which ICTs are allocated between women and men (the ‘gendered’ allocation of ICTs), it is important to look at the difference between access and control. ‘Access’ is the opportunity to make use of ICTs meaning not only technology but also information and knowledge, while control refers to the power to decide how ICTs are used, and who has access to them. Women’s access and control (or lack thereof) is dependent on factors such as age, class, gender, geographic location, health, illiteracy, and other socially and economically-determined categories.

Some experiences on the ground do point to the fact that availability of computers alone does not ensure equitable access to both women and men. For example, the National Institute of Information Technology’s Hole in the Wall Project in India installed a computer screen and keypad with an active Internet connection into the wall of a slum or school in three different pilot sites. Through a hidden camera, women monitored who accessed these Holes in the Wall and how. Use was evenly divided between girls and boys at the rural pilot site, but was higher among boys than girls in the urban sites, allegedly because when boys pushed girls aside, girls would withdraw, fearful of the physical threats that might arise from challenging the boys (Mitra Sr., 2001). Particularly, where computer labs are just placed in schools without further monitoring as to how these are accessed by girls and boys, the tendency is for boys to rush for the computers, while girls do not. In Hong Kong SAR, while a growing number of households have computers, it was found that many women are only allowed to touch the computer to clean it.[4] For women, affordability of the technology is a key factor to their access. Innovative experimental measures such as those in India that seek to provide ICT access even though there are no telephones or electricity in the area is worthy of mention. A project has started in Andhra Pradesh, India, using packet switching to route Internet data and telephone calls through the spare capacity of railroad cables to areas presently without telephone service. If successful, it would provide connectivity at rates below those of any other option.[5]

For areas where there is no electricity, the Pondicherry project in India combines power supply from the grid with battery backup and solar power. Pilot projects have been put in place in Mongolia as well as in Chennai, India, and elsewhere using wireless radio modems for transmission of Internet data to remote, sparsely populated areas where there are no landline telephones.[6] Rapid progress is also being made towards the availability of inexpensive Internet access devices that could be installed for public access. The Simputer, being developed for the rural poor by Ashok Jhunjhumwala and Vijay Chandru at the Indian Institute of Science, has attracted a great deal of interest and support. With a market cost of about US$ 200, the battery-run pocket computer/Internet access device uses free software and features a smart card that could provide a whole village with separate personal accounts on one machine.[7] The developers feel that the availability of the device will spur content development in local languages, a necessity if more women are to be able to access information that addresses their needs. Outside of urban areas, women in developing countries are far less likely to come into contact with ICTs and tend not to perceive a need for them. In some places, this is due to a lack of telephones, electricity and infrastructure. In others, it is because women often control indigenous, traditional and popular forms of media which, many caution, should not be ignored in the rush to embrace computer-facilitated communication. As one woman explains, “for generations, rural women have been active participants in social communication networks using indigenous communication methods for information exchange and knowledge sharing. This rich cultural and creative environment should...be strengthened. The preservation of traditional forms of communication and new IT are not mutually exclusive.”[8] ICTs therefore do not have to be just computers and the Internet. Radio, television, embedded chips, and links between old and new technologies or the combined usage of these are important tools in reaching poor people in developing countries. The Kothmale FM radio station in Sri Lanka[9] combines traditional community radio serving a poor and isolated rural area of Sri Lanka with Internet and computer technology.

For areas where there is no electricity, the Pondicherry project in India combines power supply from the grid with battery backup and solar power. Pilot projects have been put in place in Mongolia as well as in Chennai, India, and elsewhere using wireless radio modems for transmission of Internet data to remote, sparsely populated areas where there are no landline telephones.51 Rapid progress is also being made towards the availability of inexpensive Internet access devices that could be installed for public access. The Simputer, being developed for the rural poor by Ashok Jhunjhumwala and Vijay Chandru at the Indian Institute of Science, has attracted a great deal of interest and support. With a market cost of about US$ 200, the battery-run pocket computer/Internet access device uses free software and features a smart card that could provide a whole village with separate personal accounts on one machine.52 The developers feel that the availability of the device will spur content development in local languages, a necessity if more women are to be able to access information that addresses their needs. Outside of urban areas, women in developing countries are far less likely to come into contact with ICTs and tend not to perceive a need for them. In some places, this is due to a lack of telephones, electricity and infrastructure. In others, it is because women often control indigenous, traditional and popular forms of media which, many caution, should not be ignored in the rush to embrace computer-facilitated communication. As one woman explains, “for generations, rural women have been active participants in social communication networks using indigenous communication methods for information exchange and knowledge sharing. This rich cultural and creative environment should...be strengthened. The preservation of traditional forms of communication and new IT are not mutually exclusive.”53 ICTs therefore do not have to be just computers and the Internet. Radio, television, embedded chips, and links between old and new technologies or the combined usage of these are important tools in reaching poor people in developing countries. The Kothmale FM radio station in Sri Lanka54 combines traditional community radio serving a poor and isolated rural area of Sri Lanka with Internet and computer technology. centres, of frequently requested information of local interest downloaded from the Internet.[10] Local knowledge in applying ICT in development has been quite an untapped potential.

Education, Training and Skill Development[edit]

Education, training and skill development are critical to ICT interventions. Illiteracy rates for women in developing countries are far higher than men. Training methods are often ad hoc, alienating and not customized to women’s needs. Learning practices for women should be extended to women and girls, made gender-sensitive (making training women-specific, ensuring ongoing user support, and mentoring in the communities where women live) and deepened (for women as users, technicians, policy- and change-makers). Training in the use of ICTs by knowledgeable trainers is a serious shortcoming. For the most part, women have little or no previous experience with technology, and many feel confused when confronted with the sudden appearance of computers and the Internet. Merely getting access to the hardware or connecting groups to the Internet without an adequate introduction to what it is and how it works – and in the absence of policies or guidance about usage, etiquette or communication techniques – is proving insufficient to promote intelligent usage (Fontaine, 2000). Who assists with the capacity strengthening also can be an issue, especially if all the technical ‘experts’ are males, and many are young. As one woman explained, “we find that mainly women over 40, who are just learning to use their computers, feel really uneasy when a young boy is the one in charge of hands-on-training.”[11] WENT that began in 1999 as an Asia-Pacific regional training workshop, with strong support from UNESCAP, is one model that integrated a gender perspective into their training approach. WENT aims to build the capacities of women in the field of ICT and strengthen women’s organizations and networks in Asia and the Pacific. The training was purposefully designed to have women ICT practitioners lead in the training as well as the development of the training modules. Jointly managed by APC WNSP and APWINC on behalf of AWORC, WENT is now being replicated at sub-regional and national levels as well as in other regions of the world.[12]

In India, Datamation Foundation works with local non-profit partners including Nari Raksha Samiti (NRS), Prayas, Action India, Nanhi Kali, Katha, Arise and Shine Church International, Deepalaya, Udayan, Help Care Society, Azim Premji Foundation, and the American India Foundation, who offer free or low-cost six to eight month IT training courses to marginalized groups of women, and recruits successful trainees for full-time jobs within the company (Sarkar, 2003). Since the overall goal of the programme is women’s empowerment and personal development, Datamation Foundation also provides life skills training in topics such as healthcare, communication skills, professionalism and work ethics, and knowledge of worker’s and women’s rights. An ongoing mentoring and training system has also been established to ensure the necessary support towards new employees. However, of Datamation’s nearly 2,000 employees, only 35 percent are women, but 85 percent of these women are from disadvantaged backgrounds. In education, at the primary and secondary levels, radio and television are an increasingly important means of reaching the rural poor. In Thailand, for example, educational radio has been utilized to teach mathematics to school children, and for teacher training and other curricula[13] (Kenny, 2001). In such programmes, however, it is important to see if existing patterns of gendered division of labour obstructs access to learning for women and girls. Radio educational programmes that are conducted in a series with little repetition tends to favour learning for men and boys, as women and girls often cannot follow a radio programme diligently enough due to their multiple gender roles and responsibilities of reproductive, productive and community. The timing of when these programmes are held should also be a consideration.

Industry and Labour[edit]

In the ICT industry, labour is highly sex-segregated. Women are found in disproportionately high numbers in the lowest paid and least secure jobs. The gender dimension of ICT also affects telework, flexi-time, and work from home arrangements where women have few rights, meagre pay, and no health, social or job securities. A woman’s wage labour outside (or inside) the home as a result of the new technologies does not entail a change in the family division of labour. Men still get out of doing the housework, and women find themselves with dual or triple burdens. Poor working conditions, long hours and monotonous work routines associated with ICTs are often injurious to women’s health. While many countries in Asia scramble for strategies to attract international telework that is currently globally distributed, women too are looking towards these new opportunities to work from the home, in trying to balance their multiple gender roles and responsibilities at the household, in work, and in the larger society. Governments are seriously looking at national policies to enable teleworking on a larger scale.[14] However, such policies must not only consider the practical gender needs of women, but their strategic gender interests. The ‘working conditions’ at the home front needs to be well-defined and be made more conducive for women in terms of protecting their rights as workers (including their right to leisure), and the implementation of such policies should not further perpetuate the general misconception that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’. Nor should such policies contribute further to limiting the mobility of women outside of the home or reduce her independence and self-determination within the home.[15]

While the system provides women with the possibility of managing their homes and earning a living, there is a danger that their contributions to society will remain invisible. It would not change their existing gender inequity in the home or the prevailing stereotypes that domestic work is essentially women’s work. e-Homemakers in Malaysia[16] is one group whose work since 1998 is aimed at supporting women who choose or want to work from home to balance their gender roles and responsibilities, and is currently working in tandem with a similar policy thrust and emphasis of Malaysia’s Ministry of Women and Family Development.[17] For teleworking to help in achieving gender equality in the family, however, both women and men must challenge gender roles and stereotypes and start with the premise of equality between wives and husbands in all aspects of family life – in decision-making, in household work and in family responsibilities. If this is not embedded alongside the promotion of teleworking, all teleworking for women can do at best is to provide an opportunity for women to balance their gender-based roles and responsibilities better, and at worst, be used to justify women’s multiple burdens of having both a family and career life (APC WNSP, 2003).

Content Development and Language[edit]

Online content development and language used facilitate knowledge sharing. However, the content that predominates on the Internet and in the new media is northern-ruled, male-dominated, anglophone, and culturally biased. This affects the expansibility and proliferation of knowledge since access and use is limited. Hans-Dieter Evers in his paper on ‘Transition towards a Knowledge Society: Malaysia and Indonesia Compared’ (2002) is convinced that “the treasure trove of knowledge is jealously safeguarded by the powerful industrial nations,” and as a result, today, mega companies who control budgets exceeding those of many governments[18] “increasingly determine what knowledge is created and who will have access to it.” Representation of women’s viewpoints, knowledge and interests remain inadequate. The use of ICTs for pornography and sexual exploitation is another critical dimension of content that can provoke controversial debates around issues of Internet censorship. Language barriers to information access would require the development of more sophisticated applications such as multilingual tools and databases, interfaces for non-Latin alphabets, graphic interfaces for illiterate women and automatic translation software. The approach of the Kothmale FM radio station in Sri Lanka[19] has proven to be capable of overcoming linguistic barriers in using the Internet by non-English speakers (see earlier section on ‘Access and Control’). The radio station adds value to the information by interpreting it into a local context, by broadcasting it in vernacular languages, and by providing a platform for feedback through local discussion and networks of local correspondents. While translation software, even to/from relatively obscure languages, is becoming more easily available, original local language content will certainly go a much longer way to making ICTs relevant to local communities everywhere.

Power and Decision-making[edit]

In Nattering on the Net (1996), Dale Spender notes that women’s marginalization from the new communication technologies is “less to do with women and more to do with computers” arguing the computers are the site of wealth, power, and influence. She warns that women cannot afford “to permit white male dominance of these technologies because a very distorted view of the world is created when only one social group, with one set of experiences pronounces on how it will be for all.”[20] ICTs are important tools: for power and control, for making money, for effecting change, and for women’s equality and empowerment. Involvement in the power and decision-making processes of ICT is exclusionary – mostly representing white, wealthy, influential, professional, and English/American-speaking males.[21] Whether at the global or national levels, women are under-represented in all ICT decision-making structures including policy and regulatory institutions, ministries responsible for ICT, boards and senior management of private ICT companies, etc. Deregulation and privatization of the telecommunications industry is making decision-making in this sector less accountable to citizens and local communities, further compounding decision-making and control of resources for women. Gaining access and utilization of ICTs for women serves “to conscientize women in the possibility of changing how the world is shaped and how the world shapes women.” In particular, ICTs have a major role in reducing the vulnerability of the poor – especially to natural disasters and powerlessness. One of the reasons for this is the part that ICTs can play in amplifying the voices of the poor. ICTs bridge the distance between remote communities and service providers – markets, government departments, and aid agencies. They can allow the opinions of the poor and the needs of the poor to be heard.

For example, in India, the women’s rights NGO Sakashi had faced difficulties in lobbying for sexual harassment legislation. With help from international women’s networks provided over the Internet, Sakashi was able to receive advice and technical assistance on legal issues surrounding sexual harassment (Kenny, 2001). As a result, the group succeeded in convincing the Supreme Court to establish sexual harassment guidelines in the workplace and brought the issue within the purview of human rights violations. Another critical way in which poor women can profit greatly from the application of ICTs is having access to government information online, such as land registration through the Computer-aided Administration of Registration Department functioning in Andhra Pradesh, India since 1998. In India, Delhi-based NRS, founded 50 years ago to help women in distress, focuses on promoting the safety and security of women, family welfare, employment, health, and training in job-oriented professions. Under the leadership of Vandana Sharma, NRS established a small computer education centre and volunteers have trained 250 young women, many of them with a history of oppression, in basic computer literacy as well as office software such as Excel, Word, and Power Point. This IT training programme is part of the strategy to enable women who are dowry victims and have a history of harassment and exploitation, to find employment and economic independence. The NRS computer centres not only provide job training, but have also allowed NRS to establish an online complaint system for solving dowry and family dispute issues. Women can confidentially lodge complaints through the system and receive assistance from NRS, the police and government authorities (Sarkar, 2003). Other case studies show how groups use ICTs to uphold women’s rights. For example, Datamation Foundation has initiated a campaign against members of the medical community indulging in selective sex determination tests in India as well as against the selective abortion of female foetuses in contravention of the law and natural justice. Save the Girl Child Campaign uses ICTs innovatively and has a dedicated website for the campaign (http://www.indiafemalefoeticide.org). The website not only covers the regulatory aspects, but also includes a complaint lodging process. This process protects the identity of the complainant as well as provides an effective vehicle for the booking of doctors, maternity homes, ultrasound and radiology clinics. The complaints are retrieved into a database format at Datamation, from where they are handed over to the competent authority for further action at their end. The responses from the authorities are also sent back to Datamation to enable updating of the database within a month’s time, failing which, an automatic reminder for the competent authority gets published. Plans to sensitize people from rural areas on sexselective abortions include the use of Internet radio and Internet video. Staff and volunteers of Datamation Foundation are also taking the Campaign to rural areas using a portable computer mart called a ‘computer thela’. The equipment is taken to the panchayat level for the dissemination of information about the site. More than 750 cases of selective sex-determination tests and consequent illegal abortion of the female foetuses have been registered at the site. The site has been linked to other women’s rights websites across the country such as Nanhi Kali, NRS, Nari Dakshata Samiti etc. to draw enhanced traffic as well as to enable tracking of individual complaints effectively.

Freedom of Expression, Privacy and Security[edit]

Privacy, security and Internet rights are other important thematic areas for women. They include having secure online spaces where women feel safe from harassment, enjoy freedom of expression, and have privacy of communication and protection from ‘electronic snooping’. They also include the passage of ICT legislation that can threaten human rights. ICTs facilitate the development and progression of democracy, and when used effectively, can enable women’s political participation, irrespective of their literacy levels, on a much wider scale. However, before the potential of ICTs to do this can be fully achieved, there are already efforts to curb the use of ICTs in this respect.

Trafficking, Pornography and Censorship[edit]

The large and growing presence of pornography on the Internet has been used to argue for the need to censor online content by technologically filtering these and tracking down creators and clients of pornographic websites. However, technology that filters content does this on a blanket scale, and includes indiscriminately blocking access to websites that deal with educational and rights-based content on sex, sexuality and other related issues. With the absence of any viable alternatives to control the use of the Internet for trafficking and pornography, many women’s organizations and people in general, tend to demand that the State provide protection and to curtail such use without fully realizing the sociopolitical leverage that the common person can wield through the Internet.[22] However, the response to date, gives governments full reign in over-developing legislation and regulations, much of which is open to wide interpretation in regard to what the State might consider ‘harmful’ or ‘illegal’ (Ramilo, 2002). Depending on extent of political freedoms in a country context, these new legislations and regulations can have serious implications for human rights defenders.

What do Ground-up Experiences Tell Us?[edit]

Addressing gender equality means challenging existing social institutions and power dynamics, and therefore explicitly demands the conscious identification and implementation of affirmative measures for women. When men start asking ‘why only women?’ the answer needs to be rooted in the effects of historical and continued discriminations (and its variations) on women and girls. If women are to benefit from ICT interventions, integrating the perspectives and concerns of women is one of the important tasks to be undertaken. Two types of strategies are offered to support this task: top-down and bottomup.[23]

Social change as illustrated by APC WNSP below (Figure 3), includes critical reflection, implying the self and self-transformation. The element of self/self-transformation is a critical element as it relates to the personal self (as individual) and the human self (as social construct), as well as the stakeholders/audience of a particular ICT intervention. The changes that happen to the ‘self’ and how the ‘self’ affects other components are central to the gender analysis of ICT interventions. Like gender, the ‘self’ has different roles and responsibilities that can be evaluated and seen in different ways.

Figure 3: Learning for Social Change

Figure3gict.jpg

In making an appraisal of a project plan, an evaluator can often see the phenomenon of ‘fade-away’ in the project’s attention to gender issues. In other words, gender issues appear quite prominent in the situation analysis, but gradually fade away as the text progress towards goals, intervention strategies and objectives. It is quite common that the situation analysis boldly admits gender issues at the level of gender discrimination and women’s lack of participation in decision-making. However, as the plan progresses towards describing the interventions, the vocabulary fades away towards matters of welfare and access to factors of production (Longwe, 2002). The point where the plan fades away is a crucial point, not only for project reformulation, but for further analysis as to what it really takes to address gender and ICT issues. The story of SITA-Mitra Mandal illustrates this fade-away phenomenon and other points described above (see Box 12). Ground-up experiences of the application of ICT in development also tell us that the likely impact of project intervention on women and men is often assumed to be equally the same for both. However, it is clearly not. There is a need to not only be people-focused in the design of programmes and projects utilizing ICT in development interventions, but to incorporate a gender perspective within that framework, and place women’s empowerment in the centre of that. Designing development strategies on technology considerations alone does not work. The achievement of gender equality remains a challenge as it is strongly linked to human rights, in particular women’s rights and empowerment. Even where there are constitutional guarantees for women’s rights, these more often than not are insufficient to ensure gender equality, particularly when women have been denied their rights on the basis of culture and tradition, and hence, within these contexts, the denial of women’s rights have traditionally not been seen as discrimination. It is therefore particularly important for the promotion and protection of women’s rights, to establish jurisprudence that can set universal norms and standards, and this is where the strength of the CEDAW Convention comes in. The strength of the CEDAW Convention rests on the international consensus on its mandate of equality and its principles, given that there are 185 ratifications/accessions as at end of October 2006. Such a mandate is a strong counter to claims that equality between women and men should be made relative to culture and tradition. As Rebecca Cook puts it, non-discrimination against women is now a principle of international customary law.

Box 12: The Story of SITA-Mitra Mandal
The Delhi-based Studies in Information Technology Applications (SITA) project was launched in

1998 by Dr K. Sane, with funding from World Banks’s infoDev, to provide computer skills training to poor and disadvantaged women. SITA’s aim was to empower low-income women from rural, suburban and urban areas, through computer training, customized to meet the demands of both the public and private sectors. Women from two geographical regions, the Union Territory of Delhi and the adjacent state of Haryana, were targeted by this project. The SITA training package enabled intensive hands-on computer training with multilingual, audio-visual and interactive multimedia modules for self-learning. Wherever possible, trainees were also attached to a potential employer. A majority of the trainees involved in the project achieved commendable proficiency in basic computer skills. SITA experienced a financial crisis in the year 2001, after infoDev support ended. At this point, Khalsa College (Delhi University) stepped in to provide the much-needed infrastructural support and facilitated SITA’s interaction with the UN Asia-Pacific Centre for Technology Transfer (APCTT) based in Delhi. APCTT played an important role in the identification of ‘internship’ as an intermediate step in the process of securing jobs for SITA’s women. The SITA women also set up a cooperative called ‘Mitra Mandal’ to take up job assignments. Mitra Mandal is, however, finding it difficult to perform as envisioned. Mukul Ahmad of APCTT says, “the most important thing that Mitra Mandal needs is marketing. Everyone in Mitra Mandal was trained in IT, but there was no component developed to market the training. With the lack of confidence that comes from social and economic deprivation, marketing became a problem for those trained. Also, women’s lack of proficiency in the English language, no public relations workers from among them and their own socio-economic situations have come in the way of anything permanent and meaningful for them.”

For the SITA-Mitra Mandal endeavour, the poor response of the labour market to the trainees has been a disappointing experience. The inability of a majority of women to find jobs shows that good education by itself does not serve the needs of the individuals from the disadvantaged sector, since only a handful of the 500 women trained by SITA have jobs. Another unanticipated difficulty was the inability of the trainees to find stable employment. That is, they got jobs but failed to keep them for various reasons. Notable amongst them being poor communication skills particularly in English given that most of the trainees had studied in government-run Hindi-medium schools; low confidence levels caused by a tradition that regarded a girl as a liability; lack of family support given that low-income families are not able to afford domestic help, baby sitters, etc. The women that SITA caters to, have to do work at home even if they work outside with very little support from the men in their households. This proved wrong the premise that an effective IT training for jobs was enough to enable individuals to find jobs and build their own future. SITA has demonstrated that this is inapplicable for most persons from a disadvantaged background, particularly women. Furthermore, the SITA experience has shown that giving these women IT training alone may do more harm than good as it breeds frustration through unfulfilled expectations that end up by adding to the alienation and disillusionment. The Datamation Foundation case in India has proved that economically disadvantaged women do certainly possess the capabilities to qualify on the job. However, training initiatives per se, not linked to the employment market, come with stumbling blocks. If the benefits of IT have to trickle down to poor women, the larger institutional framework of the IT industry has to make spaces for the poor in general, and poor women in particular. The story of SITA elucidates the need for a more proactive policy in public and private institutions towards induction and mentoring of socially disadvantaged women.

Source: Sarkar, R. 2003. Building Information Societies: Grappling with Gendered Fault-Lines.

References[edit]

  1. Rathgeber, E., ‘Engendering E-Government in Development Countries’, 8 May 2006. http://www.carleton.ca/womensstudies/index.html
  2. Women’s traditional knowledge and bio-privacy issues lie on the continuum that concerns intellectual property, corporate monopolies and the ethics of the public domain. Knowledge-sharing needs to be promoted with newer concepts like General Public Licensing (GPL) which was designed by the Free Software Foundation, a non-profit institution that was established to promote the publication of free software. GPL is used by programmers who want to give others the right to copy and modify the source code of their programs. The concept also extends to written documents. Another non-profit called Creative Commons offers an alternative to full copyright, designed to encourage creativity and adaptation (visit http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html and http://creativecommons.org/about/ for more information).
  3. As articulated by the APC WNSP in the development of their ‘Mind the E-Gap’ framework to help ICT practitioners in understanding and applying a gender analysis to their work.
  4. Anecdotal information from Chan Yu, in 2003, who was then Executive Director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres.
  5. http://www.cseindia.org/html/dte/dte20010215/dteanaly.htm
  6. http://www.panasia.org.sg/rresult/40439.htm; http://xlweb.com/food/wireless/final.htm
  7. ‘Simputer to make browsing easy for rural folk’, The Times of India, 8 August 2000. http://www.simputer.org; http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1691262792.cms
  8. Quote is from the Virtual Working Group on Women and Media with a special focus on ICTs as they impact women’s lives, sponsored by WomenWatch and facilitated by Women Action 2000 during November and December 1999. The Group’s goal is to analyse, at a global level, which of the objectives from the Beijing Platform for Action, Section J, have been realized and which still need attention. Access the Group’s archives at http://sdnhq.undp.org/ww/women-media
  9. A joint project between UNESCO, the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and the Media, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, and the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.
  10. ‘Kothmale Community Radio’, in Dagron, Making Waves, pp. 127-132. Similar community radio connections to the Internet are found in Bolivia. UNDP, Human Development Report 1999, p.64; Gallagher, L. and Benamrane, D. ‘Rural Access by Radio and Internet Helps Close the Digital Divide’ - http://www.isoc.org/oti/articles/0401/gallagher.html
  11. Quote is from the Virtual Working Group on Women and Media with a special focus on ICTs as they impact women’s lives-sponsored by WomenWatch and facilitated by Women Action 2000 during November and December 1999.
  12. For more information see section on ‘Enabling Women’s Social Empowerment’ above.
  13. The example of the use of radio comes from Nwaerondu, N. G. and Thompson, G. 1987. ‘The Use of Educational Radio in Developing Countries: Lessons from the Past’. Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 2(2): pp. 43-54.
  14. Due to the prevailing notions that home-based work is essentially women’s work, it is likely that companies adopting telework systems would prefer women.
  15. This may be particularly true for cases of abuse within the home and violence against women issues.
  16. In 2003, e-Homemakers conducted an evaluation plan called ‘A Study on How Gender Dynamics Affect Teleworkers’ Performance in Malaysia’ to test APC WNSP’s Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) tool. The main objective of the evaluation was to explore how women’s family lives and home situations affect teleworking and their job performance. GEM is a guide to integrate a gender analysis into evaluations of initiatives that use ICTs for social change. The guide is available online at http://www.apcwomen.org/gem
  17. Given that women in Asia continue to fulfil traditional gender roles, promoting teleworking for women should be done with full recognition that it will not fully challenge gender issues and concerns in relation to work and family. Home-based work can clearly address practical gender needs without necessarily challenging socially (and internally) accepted roles of women and men in the home. Home-based work can become a compromise for women so they can continue to fulfil their roles as mothers and homemakers. The long-term effects in terms of gender relations within the family will not be truly evident until further evaluation and monitoring is done. What is necessary, however, is to make sure that indicators and benchmarks in terms of changes in gender relations as a result of teleworking are developed and evaluation of teleworking from a gender perspective is continuous (APC WNSP, 2003).
  18. 63Among the biggest 100 economic units (in the year 2000) are 49 countries and 51 corporations (Spiegel, D. 2001 in Evers, 2002: p.14). Government ministries, let alone universities and research institutes are dwarfed by the research and development divisions of these large conglomerates (Evers, 2002: p.14).
  19. For more information, see http://www.kothmale.ne
  20. http://www.apcwomen.org/resources/research/analytical-framework.html
  21. ‘Louder Voices: Strengthening Developing Country Participation in International ICT Decision-Making’ (2002), a study by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization and Panos London gives a good overview of which institutions are key players in ICT decision-making, especially differentiating those who make decisions on hard policy issues with those who make decisions on soft policy issues.
  22. The Internet was successfully used as a means to form a coalition of activists when thousands of Internet users protested Yahoo’s decision to sell pornography. In December 2000, Yahoo created an online store devoted to selling pornographic videos and DVDs. Just a few months later, after receiving over 100,000 emails from Internet users, Yahoo decided to remove the portion of its website that sold pornography and to stop accepting advertisements from pornographic websites. In May 2001, Yahoo decided to make it more difficult to find sexually explicit chat rooms and online clubs (Gurumurthy, 2004: p.27).
  23. See Box 11.