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Gender, ICT and Social Service Delivery

What Development Practitioners Need to Know about Gender, ICT and Social Service Delivery

Many of the recommendations in this module are based on cases documented in the Case Studies on Gender and ICT section. See the 'Delivery of Social Service, Economic and Political Empowerment and Labor Market Participation' section of Case Studies and Gender and ICT, click here.

  • Hybrid ICT approaches can benefit women:
    The case studies suggest that it is not necessary for ICT applications to emphasize the latest technology. The practical utility of the application for women as the main beneficiaries is more important. A hybrid approach can have a positive impact, as is shown in the case study of AUWMD. The Internet was used to provide information on reproductive health issues and the NGOs used traditional methods for information dissemination among rural women. VIDERO, Slovenia, is an ideal example of imaginative convergence of two advanced technologies, namely medical and Internet technology for maternal and child benefits.
  • Intermediate technologies can sometimes produce results similar to high-end technology:
    An understanding of women's need for delivery of social service and sensible application of appropriate technology including intermediate technology such as radio or walkie-talkie can give dramatic results. For instance, the use of VHF radios to ensure quick communication in the RESCUER initiative in rural Uganda could bring down the maternal mortality rates by 40 percent. Although the high-end equipment may be appropriate at district and national levels, providing Internet facilities to illiterate birth attendants in remote areas does not seem practical enough. The intermediate technologies like radio, being faster, cheaper and easy to operate, can thus play a key role in such cases.
  • Technology can boost confidence among women:
    It is visible from our case studies that ICTs not only improve delivery of social service but also help build women's confidence and self-esteem. For example, the TARAhaat initiative showed how dedicated women could be role models for young girls to emancipate themselves and move toward financial independence. The WICT project in Kenya showed that early success of their videos helped to further enhance women's self-esteem. These confident women became motivated to use sophisticated equipment such as digital video cameras and a non-linear (computerized) editing system to enhance their professionalism.
  • Planning for sustainability is as important as planning for the ICT initiative:
    To ensure sustainability, initial high enthusiasm needs to be backed by prolonged commitment and effort, otherwise even thoughtful efforts fail to take roots. If there is a likeliness of lack of support at later stages, the project needs to be designed in such a way that the maintenance cost is small and easy to bear after initial investment. This will help ensure the survival of the project even after the donors pull out. The project partners need to include local authorities, especially in remote areas, as an important initial step for better sustainability of ICT initiatives.
  • Participation and involvement of women is important:
    Besides the enthusiasm among promoters, women's willingness to participate readily in ICT initiatives is an important facilitating factor. The involvement of women in design and implementation levels (at every stage of the project to address their real, salient needs) is a major contributors to the success of ICT projects aimed at serving them. In the case of women farmers in Ukraine, conscious involvement and consultation with women farmers from the beginning proved critical. It ensured that the project design would meet the information and networking needs of women farmers by providing them with the right information at the right time.
  • ICTs can be a powerful tool to gather support for women:
    As seen in the case of Modemmujer, Mexico, ICTs can be used as a powerful tool for generating awareness about atrocities committed against women and for gathering support for women's causes.
  • ICTs can provide a platform to women for active political participation:
    In developing countries women are isolated, unheard, and powerless in a male-dominated sociopolitical environment. Through ICTs women can voice their opinions and exert pressure on policymakers to incorporate women's perspective and concerns. This is demonstrated by the case studies on the WICT project in Kenya, Chasquinet in Ecuador, and WomensNet in South Africa.

    The WICT project equipped women with the technology, tools, and skills necessary to meet their information and networking needs and exemplified women's political empowerment and advancement through ICTs. There can be a number of benefits, once the seeds of empowerment are sown. For example, sound training in handling video cameras provided the poor and uneducated women with unexpected and powerful opportunities, such as shaping public policy, informing the community about ground realities, winning the confidence of people, emerging as suppliers of authentic news clippings and earning money while rendering these services. Thus, ICTs enabled the women to raise their voices and earn credibility among the masses and policymakers.
  • Ideas such as E-marketing can prove instrumental in development of women-run cotton industries:
    The case studies on Tortas Peru, a Cambodian village, and Banaskantha, India show how women are using ICTs to enhance the scale of trade and rapidly develop cottage industries. Such efforts require a good service idea to be successful, support from different sources, and an organizational structure for stability. Interestingly, in the case of Tortas Peru, even the foreign customers are mostly Peruvians by origin. An important lesson here is that given a sound idea, women can successfully use the Internet to reach out to customers and deliver products and services at home and abroad.
  • Relevance of content for women is highly desirable:
    In addition to the technology component that provides a medium or form, relevant content is equally important in ICT interventions for delivery of social service, economic empowerment, and political participation. Women are unlikely to use a technology if the content, information, or service does not concern their needs or interests. Our case studies on Telecommunication in Chile and WomensNet, South Africa, indicate the importance of relevant content, as women themselves become eager to seek out a particular service and benefit when the content is managed carefully.
  • Selection and training of participating women is significant:
    Our case studies imply that the initial batch of participating women needs to be selected and trained carefully because positive experience makes the road to self-empowerment easier. Women face challenges and can benefit from opportunities offered by ICTs, but these need to be visualized and planned imaginatively by project functionaries.
  • There is a dearth of ICT initiatives that target women:
    Due to the small scale of ICT applications among developing countries, the impact of any such initiative on women is unlikely to be measured at this stage. A lot more needs to be done in quick succession for any measurable impact of ICTs on women in the areas of delivery of social service, economic empowerment, and political participation. The learnings of this toolkit provide some indicators and a glimmer of hope from a few success stories suggest that if the ICT use is grounded in local reality, and if the technology is used imaginatively, positive results for women follow.

Our research showed that on the passive-to-active continuum regarding the role of women in deploying ICTs for their benefit, the incidence and impact was low in delivery of social service, low-to-moderate for economic empowerment, and moderate for political participation. Please see the report for further details.

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