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Gender and technology in developing countries: opportunities and challenges Nancy J. Hafkin, Ph.D. Boston University, ‘73 Retired, United Nations.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender and technology in developing countries: opportunities and challenges Nancy J. Hafkin, Ph.D. Boston University, ‘73 Retired, United Nations."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender and technology in developing countries: opportunities and challenges Nancy J. Hafkin, Ph.D. Boston University, ‘73 Retired, United Nations

2 Gender equality & information and communications technology (ICT) – ICT offer flexibility of time and space, end isolation, access to knowledge and productive resources. – Women suffer most from limited time availability, social isolation, and lack of access to knowledge and productive resources. ICTs to empower women and promote gender equality Connection between ICTs and poverty alleviation

3 Overall aims of gender and ICTs Ensure that women as well as men, at all social levels and in all countries, can access and use emerging information technologies Full inclusion of women in all aspects of ICT Possibility of more women globally to be technological innovators


5 Cinderella Works in the basement of the knowledge society (if she works in it at all) – little opportunity to reap its benefits. – waits for "her prince" to decide the benefits she will receive.

6 Cyberella  Fluent in the uses of technology  Comfortable using & designing computers, technology, communication equipment, software,working in virtual spaces  Devises innovative uses for technologies  Finds information and knowledge to improve her life and expand choices  Active knowledge creator and disseminator  More than a user, designs information and knowledge systems to improve all aspects of her lif e.

7 Constraints to women’s full use of information technology

8 Access Physical access related to gender: more women live where infrastructure is weak Less disposable income to access facilities Difficulties posed by culture, gendered division of labor in accessing public access facilities Difficulties in mobility Women’s hours and skills levels need to be addressed in providing access Losing out, even in the classroom

9 Content Little content available to meet women’s information needs in developing countries Available content may not be in usable form Language/literacy barriers Need for tools to handle illiteracy, non-Latin scripts

10 Technical skills Women have less access to education, to scientific and technical education Leaky pipeline prevents women from tertiary-level S&T education Support needed for women in IT skills development

11 The leaky pipeline in S&T education Gender gap widens ascending the educational ladder More girls now in secondary and tertiary education, but few in S&T Attitudes about what is appropriate for girls Girls’ lack of comfort or interest in S&T

12 What we know about women, S&T Girls do not pursue science and technical studies at the same rate as boys – Most pronounced in physics, engineering, technology – Representation of women declines at successive stages of scientific and technological careers Parents’ attitudes towards boys’ and girls’ abilities a factor- lack of family commitment to girls’ education Few differences between girls and boys on standardized measures of math and science achievement Most recent (2010) research shows: – Specific domains of gender inequities are responsible for gender gaps in math. – Gender equity in school enrollment, women’s share of research jobs, and women’s parliamentary representation were the most powerful predictors of cross-national variability in gender gaps in math. This highlights the significance of increasing girls’ and women’s agency cross-nationally.

13 Technology policy constraints Absence to mentions of gender in policy If mentioned, lip service rather than substance Belief that all technology is gender neutral Policy makers lack awareness of gender issues in technical matters Gender advocates lack knowledge on technology policy issues

14 Gender aspects of technology issues ICT issueGender aspect Technology choiceIs the choice affordable to many women? It is user-friendly, especially for neo-literates? RegulationWho provides what service and under what conditions? Does it provide for universal access and affordable services? Sector liberalizationCompetition can bring in needed investment and force down end user prices to make access more affordable to women. InfrastructureWill the infrastructure be deployed in areas where women predominate?

15 Trafficking of women through the Internet Pornography Sexual harassment/bullying Use of Internet to perpetuate violence against women Women need secure spaces online Delicate balance: protecting women’s rights without instituting censorship Sexual exploitation of women on the Internet

16 Gender and information technology data Comprehensive gender ICT data across a number of countries do not exist Without data there is no visibility; without visibility there is no priority (UNDP)

17 Gender and ICTs: what statistics show Women’s participation generally lags behind that of men Gender divide more pronounced in developing countries Few reliable statistics available from developing countries (e.g. no ITU stats on India) Even countries with high ICT development have gender inequalities in use The gender divide and the overall digital divide do NOT move in tandem Disputes argument that you don’t have to take care of gender; it will take care of itself. Specific attention must be paid to gender to achieve gender-positive results.

18 Source: ITU, World Telecommunication Indicators 2004 and selected national sources Relationship between Internet penetration and proportion female Internet users

19 Examining Gender and IT projects: the myth of gender neutrality Looking at: Projects with a gender focus Projects intended to benefit men and women equally Projects without gender issues Projects that aimed to be gender transformational Questions: – Did the project impact men and women differently? – Was your access to resources and benefits different if you were a man or a woman?

20 Project examples: Cisco networking training for African women – ECA – Single sex training helped, as well as management and gender awareness, exposure to development issues – Need for follow up on return to help trainees overcome social and cultural obstacles

21 National Graduate Registry Panama Aim: a database for graduates with the expectation of increasing female employment at professional level (2/3s of grads are women) – CVs gave full names and marital status – Project data not disaggregated by sex – Employers retained sex role stereotypes – No evidence that more women got jobs

22 IT training at Kenyan center Spread over 2 weeks with breaks was more difficult for women from abroad than men Local women couldn’t practice in the evenings Need to correct for different entry skill levels No awareness of gender and cultural factors Follow up to see that cultural factors do not intervene, that women get to use training

23 Reform models for China Telecom sector Assumption: Macro-economic policy projects in technical areas are gender neutral – In applying gender lens, researcher and bureaucrats became aware of gender issues, led to questioning of unstated assumptions (re e-commerce, decreased workload, educational opportunities) – Realization that women’s special needs and interests needed to be covered in policy projects – Need for gender analysis – Participation of women in the project does not guarantee benefits for women

24 Information system for small producers: Peru Community information system defined for small producers and local officials – Assumption but lack of concern that “community” was male – Already marginalized, women felt more marginalized when technology services went to men – Realization that many small producers were women – Difficulties in training as many women were illiterate – In mixed-sex training, men mocked women’s abilities

25 India Health Care Providers: PDAs In Andra Pradesh PDAs were distributed to local health assistants, who were women Community and users were not involved in planning Local women had different health priorities that national and district level health offices Men workers protested when technology was distributed to women, demanded PDAs for themselves, regardless of work utility

26 Some lessons from projects Access to and use of technology increased women’s self esteem and their domestic and community status While technology empowers, it also affects and alters gender relations All projects have gender issues

27 More lessons... Technology is not gender neutral Technology is socially embedded; it operates in a socio-cultural context Gender analysis and design is needed from the beginning of projects  Lack of consideration inevitably leads to problems in the socio-cultural context  Specific attention must be paid to gender in order to achieve gender-positive results. “If you don’t ask for gender, you don’t get gender.”

28 Newer technologies: it’s mobile, baby Gender, Development, Technology focus has turned to cellular technology Enormous usage compared to Internet Mobile broadband growing Mobile networks coverage becoming near universal Technology developments: – Falling costs of smart phones – Voice access to web – Supercedes mobile disadvantage of limitation to known contacts

29 M-pesa (mobile money)  Cash transfers  Phones as wallets

30 Emphasis on women owning, not sharing, phones Low cost phones, prepaid not contracts Development of relevant content: life-saving services for Bottom-of-the-Pyramid women Technical training for women in phone use (beyond just calling) Aim: women’s empowerment

31 Mobile phones: opportunities for women  Women farmers: market prices, secure inputs  Increased security for women  Health applications  Women see it as increased freedom (especially in business), decreased tolerance of domestic abuse  But, reassertion of patriarchy: negative reactions of men to women and cellphones  Positive impact on women’s employment (South Africa)  Willingness of poor to spend large income % on communication

32 The Knowledge Society: Measuring women’s participation

33 Knowledge society: science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship: Examples of Philippines, Thailand

34 Philippines Women do well in ICT use, entrepreneurship, higher education, technical skills 58% Internet users women More new women entrepreneurs than men Increasingly more women becoming engineers High percentage of women researchers Closed gender gap in health and education (only Asian country to do so) But lack full economic equality – Women work longer hours and for lower wages – One of world’s highest workloads compared to men’s

35 Thailand Women rank high in science and technology achievement, use of the Internet, rate of entrepreneurship, particularly in innovative areas But, very low level of representation in government Conclusion Conclusion: Women would do even better in both Thailand and Philippines if there were more gender equality

36 . Knowledge Society: Measuring Women’s Contributions Globally To provide a framework for data analysis to achieve inclusive knowledge society To encourage the mainstreaming of gender in data collection, statistics and indicators for the knowledge society so that gender issues can be taken into account in policy and action. Based on: Absence of integrated data on women and knowledge society Concentration on developing countries where lack of data most evident Data needed – For policy makers to make informed decisions towards competitive national knowledge society – Taking full advantage of country’s human resources.

37 Basic assumptions Knowledge not only for economic growth but to empower and develop all sectors of society (e- inclusion) Knowledge, including S&T knowledge, is also generated from and transmitted outside formal education and institutions Aims: – not only women’s full participation in formal STI, but also STI’s development and application of technologies for social development, including energy use, food production, clean water and sanitation – Promotion of enterprise development and lifelong learning opportunities in all sectors of society

38 Need for composite index Existing indices do not cover necessary ground – ICT and STI frameworks do not address gender issues or collect/utilize sex-disaggregated data – Gender equality indexes do not address ICT, STI, knowledge society issues

39 Organizing the Framework Input indicators (base conditions) Health Social status Economic status Access to resources Agency Opportunity Policy environment Outcome indicators (Participation and benefits) Participation in: KS decision making Knowledge economy Science, technology and innovation Lifelong learning

40 If you want to read more... Engendering the Knowledge Society: Measuring Women's Participation Engendering the Knowledge Society: Measuring Women's Participation edge_society2007/2007orbicom_eng_know_s oc.pdf edge_society2007/2007orbicom_eng_know_s oc.pdf Thank you.

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