There is a misperception that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are only useful for middle income and developed countries. In fact, latest research suggests that poor citizens from low income countries could benefit dramatically from having access to telephony, to information, and to disaster warning systems. There is an abundance of such pro-poor applications, several funded by the World Bank Group.
ICTs used by/for women have proven to be effective in decreasing trafficking, violence against women, etc. and increasing economic opportunities, awareness on disease prevention, nutrition, and reproductive health. In some regions where women are not allowed to speak out, ICTs have allowed them to have a voice, communicate, and acquire knowledge.
Of general concern is the women's low representation in the new "content" creation field, as the number of women scientists, IT specialists or engineers has been dropping since the early 1980s. What are the societal and political implications of this trend? Are we missing out on engendering the information society? What role, if any, should development agencies take in encouraging women's participation, as consumers and producers, in the information society?
As the UN WSIS summit taking place in Tunis in November is approaching, international development communities have been discussing ways to ensure that gender equality is integrated into WSIS and its outcome processes. Through videolinks, we are inviting Steering Committee members of the WSIS Gender Caucus---a multi-stakeholder group consisting of men and women from government, civil society, the private sector, and UN organizations-- to brief us on their activities surrounding WSIS. (e.g. research program) They will report on outcomes of recent conferences on women and ICT, including finance resources, Internet governance, role of the private sectors, and links between the Millennium Development Goals and WSIS.
Florence Etta, Knowledge Analyst, IDRC 's Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa, Kenya
The WSIS Gender Caucus created in Bamako in 2002 has since been actively involved in activities to engender the process, documents and outcomes of WSIS to ensure equal participation and benefits for women as men in the information Society. In Africa, the WSISGC has participated in UN regional preparatory conferences, made proposals and recommendations at these and at other high level meetings on ICTs and gender based on realities gathered at conferences organized since 2004. A handful of women have been trained to gender analyse ICT projects, programmes as well as national ICT policies and E-strategies. Continuing challenges are:- funding for gender and ICT activities, few trained women and fewer in the governance structures of ICTs as well as underdeveloped theory and analytical frameworks and weak or non existent gendered indicators.
Power Point Presentation (PPT PDF 178KB)
Engendering ICT Policies in Africa WSIS Gender Caucus Efforts (MS Word 150 KB)
Lettie Longwe, Program Director at The World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) Africa, South Africa and Interim WSIS Gender Caucus
Ms. Longwe presented a summary of the e-mail based discussions the WSIS Gender Caucus organized with the objective of creating a collective understanding of gender perspectives in four critical areas: Internet Governance, Financing of the Information Society, MDGs, and Implementation of WSIS. She presented the Gender Caucus program of events at WSIS to take place in November and gave a summary of the Gender Caucus post WSIS plans, including the areas that will be given specific attention after Tunis.
Eva Rathgeber, the Joint Chair of Women’s Studies for Carleton University and the Université d’Ottawa
Claudia Morrell, Executive Director, Center for Women and Information Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The WSIS Gender Caucus has done an extraordinary job of outlining what needs to be achieved in the world to increase women's participation and leadership in ICT development. Women's full participation in the knowledge society through ICT access, literacy, development and design, and advancement will not only benefit women, but also their families and the economics of their communities. Perhaps the single most important factor in ensuring that girls and women benefit from and participate in the information society is education. Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals includes as its target the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels of education by 2015. ICTs provide a new opportunity to make this goal a reality. The charge for NGO's, the civil society, businesses, and government entities is to collaboratively take action. At a recent symposium hosted by the Center for Women and Information Technology and the World Bank in Baltimore in June 2005, 250 representatives from 38 nations committed to such action and many of those individuals and organizations will be present at WSIS to continue the efforts already occurring globally.
A continued challenge is also the mainstreaming of women in the leadership of the UN organizations overseeing ICT policy and initiatives, including the recommendations for the Global Alliance as an outcome.
Samia Melhem, Senior Operations Officer, infoDev, World Bank
Kayoko Shibata, Knowledge Management Analyst, Gender and Development Group, World Bank