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Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Female Labor Force Participation - Private Sector Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa Region

December 8, 2004

SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION (in HTML)

Presentation:

Yasushi Kaito, Executive Advisor, NEC Corporation, Japan
Presentation Material (PPT 891KB - to see presenter's notes, please go to view > > notes page )

Najat Rochedi, Regional Coordinator, ICT for Development in the Arab Region (ICTDAR) - UNDP
Presentation Material (PPT 122KB)

Deema Bibi, ICT Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Arab States Regional Office
Presentation Material (PDF 1.3MB)
Presentation Material (Flash Player 8.5MB)

Discussants: 

Simel Esim, Regional Gender Specialist, Arab States, ILO
Presentation Material


Carmen Niethammer, Operations Officer, Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank

Hila Hanif, International Program Manager, Cisco Systems, Inc.
Worldwide Education


Chair:

A. Waafas Ofosu-Amaah, Senior Gender Specialist, Gender and Development, World Bank

Introduction:

Kayoko Shibata, Knowledge Management Analyst, Gender and Development, World Bank

The videoconference seminar explored how ICT empowered women to participate in the private sector as investors and entrepreneurs by focusing on some countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. 

Ms. Najat Rochdi, ICTDAR/UNDP, presented cases of ICT-based income-generation project in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia, which had strengthened women’s enterprises through efficient marketing of handicraft and agriculture-based products.  She also highlighted the use of ICT in community awareness in critical areas such as HIV/AIDS, drug and workforce development through promotion of the positive role models.  Ms. Deema Bibi, ICT Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Arab States Regional Office, presented an e-village project in Jordan which is using ICT for business incubation of women entrepreneurs in the tourism sector.  Mr. Yasushi Kaito, Advisor, NEC Corporation, envisioned development of home-based works in IT-related fields, including projects such as virtual call-centres, which might be culturally suitable for the Middle Eastern women.  Mr. Kaito also expressed interests in setting up a venture capital fund to foster female IT entrepreneurs in the Middle East as well as to enable interactions between Japanese and Middle Eastern women on ICT-related issues.

The discussions that followed the presentations focused on the role of partnership building, infrastructure development, and strengthening of the ICT contents in its contributions to women’s labor participation.  Some of the important policy implications that came out of the videoconference included:

  • ICT should be considered as tool and not an end in itself.  While access to ICT is an important indicator of women’s development, it is the content of the ICT which is instrumental in women’s income-generation and empowerment.
  • Public-private partnerships.  The role of ICT in overall gender mainstreaming is important, especially in the area of identification of partners. In addition to conventional partners such as the corporate sector and the semi-private institutions such as the Chambers of Commerce, the group agreed that ICT projects should incorporate less conventional partners such as academia as well as the marginalized government bodies such as the Women’s Ministries. These important institutions have high potentials for gender mainstreaming but are often sidelined in important policy discussions.
  • Role of ICT in building positive role models is also crucial.  Especially in the context of the Middle Eastern region where access to ICT has a strong male bias and internet cafes are not women-friendly, it was highlighted that ICT should be instrumental in overall reduction of gender gaps in various walks of life and not only in income-generating activities.
  • While infrastructure is not perceived to be the main barrier in the Middle East, it is still a constraining factor in the rural areas.  It was agreed that there is still need for combination of printed (and pictorial) materials with ICT tools for a wider coverage among the rural areas and the semi-literate women.
  • Challenges include lack of enabling policy framework.  Access to loans, credit and capital remains a barrier in ICT-based entrepreneurial activities among women.  It was emphasized that further collaborations should be made to facilitate securing of cheaper credit and capital.
  • ICT-related women’s projects should to be economically demand-driven, especially in the context of the Middle Eastern region, where high level of formal education has not automatically triggered high level of labor participation among women.


 




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