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Offshore Outsourcing of Information Processing Work and Economic Empowerment of Women

by Dr. Swasti Mitter,

International Expert in the field of ICTs and Economic Empowerment of Women and author of "Asian Women in the Digital Economy"

Wednesday, June 2.

Dr. Swasti Mitter explored the impact of transnational relocation of information processing work on the quantity and quality of women's employment in the developing world. Her talk focused on IT Enabled Services, such as data entry, medical transcription, or customer care services processed in call centers. It was placed in the context of accelerating trends in the transference of service sector jobs by global companies from high waged countries to low waged ones.

She assessed the challenges and opportunities that these relocated jobs, now running into millions, have brought to women and men in countries such as in India, Ghana or the Philippines. She suggested areas of intervention, for policymakers and donor agencies, to make such windows of opportunities in the Internet economy, sustainable and equitably distributed across gender. With the role of interventions in mind, she highlighted areas of activities and occupations where skills were proving scarce, yet the training for acquiring such skills is relatively inexpensive and hence could be made accessible, with support from national governments and international agencies, to underprivileged women. She explained the rationale of encouraging the private sector to be part of this strategic intervention.

India has been the prime mover, and so far, the most successful country, in receiving information processing jobs, outsourced from developed countries to developing ones. It is in this context that Dr. Mitter presented the findings of her recent survey in India of the role of women in local companies that provide such services to overseas clients. The new employment opportunities, as she narrated, have led to economic and social empowerment, on an unprecedented scale, of a vast number of young women who would have remained unemployed or have settled for less lucrative a profession. In the light of her observation and documentation, she in conclusion discussed the potentials of replicating the success of India elsewhere in Asia or Africa.


Dr. Swasti Mitter is currently an independent scholar and an international consultant in the field of ICTs and Economic Empowerment of Women. She was previously Professor of Gender and Technology at the University of Brighton, UK. She also held Visiting Fellowships at the Center for the Study of Women, UCLA, USA, and at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit of the University of Sussex, UK. Between 1994 and 2000, as Deputy Director of the United Nations University Institute of New Technologies she initiated a series of research projects on the impact of new technologies on women’s employment funded by UNDP, UNIFEM, IDRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Since 2001, she has been contributing, as an expert or as a consultant, to a wide range of UN agencies and academic institutions, to research and publications relating to ICTs and economic empowerment of women. Her most recent research, in collaboration with the Institute of Social Studies Trust, Delhi, entails a preliminary investigation of the impact of offshore outsourcing of IT Enabled Services on the quality and quantity of women’s employment in India. Professor Mitter has numerous publications in the field of globalisation, gender and new technology, which include "Asian Women in the Digital Economy (UNDP, Malayasia, 2000)."

Moderator: Ruth Kagia, Sector Director, HDNED


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Special Features

Presentation Materials 06/02/04