Strategies to Cross the Gender Digital Divide

Information and communication technology (ICT) offers potent tools to overcome obstacles women and girls typically face, and opens new opportunities in education, political participation, health care, and income generation. For example, ICT bridges communication barriers by allowing women to access many of these opportunities without having to leave their homes, villages, or communities.

Three politically active Moroccan women learning how the Internet can be used for advocacy, research, and constituency building To realize this potential, ICT activities must recognize and address gender differences that affect ICT access, usage, and benefits. Recognition of these barriers starts at the policy level and continues through to final evaluation. Without such explicit consideration of gender equity, ICT activities may inadvertently exacerbate rather than bridge the gender digital divide.

What opportunities do ICTs offer women in developing countries?
  • Networking and knowledge-sharing: Women use ICT to build political networks, advocate around key issues, share knowledge and experience, and mobilize community action to secure women's rights.
  • Income generation: Women entrepreneurs use the Internet to launch and strengthen their business activities. Through the web and email, they obtain market information, build their customer bases, and establish networks of suppliers. They also use ICT to inform their business strategy and improve "back office" operations, such as financial management, market analysis, and product design and development.
  • Education and training: Using ICT, women and girls can gain access to new education and training opportunities, surmounting obstacles of distance, cost, traditional seclusion or segregation.
The DOT-COM Alliance
The DOT-COM Alliance is a joint venture between USAID (EGAT/EIT/IT and G/WID) and the DOT-COM partners to take a leadership role in bridging the digital divide in USAID-assisted countries. DOT-COM works with USAID missions to ensure that women and girls fully participate in and benefit from ICT projects, and that gender concerns are integrated into all ICT activities.

DOT-COM also initiates activities to test innovative uses of ICT to enhance women's economic status, promote women's legal rights and participation in civil society, and improve education and health care for women and girls.

DOT-COM Strategies:
DOT-COM projects employ a wide range of strategies to address gender considerations. Illustrative projects include:

The Romania Information Technology Initiative (RITI) - Policy: dot-GOV

The RITI-Policy project advises the Romanian Communications Regulatory Agency (ANRC) on universal services policies to assure that everyone in the country has access to communication services. dot-GOV advisors explicitly address the particular impacts of telecommunications policies women's access to ICTs, as well as the features of telecom policies -- e.g., interconnection, licensing, accounting, regulation and public relations -- needed to ensure that women gain access to and benefit from communication services.

Morocco Information Technology in the Service of Women in Politics Project: dot-ORG
This project focused on providing Moroccan woman leaders involved in politics with computer training that focused on using ICTs for professional networking and advocacy. Throught this training the project worked to enhance the political participation of Moroccan women, as part of a national effort to increase the number of female political candidates in Morocco and build their capacity to use ICT. Staff from dot-ORG and its RTI, one of dot-ORG's resources partners, designed and conducted an intensive training-of-trainers activity that developed capacity among ten Moroccan women in the use of ICT to enhance political campaigns, strengthen advocacy skills, and carry out Internet research for informed decision-making.

These ten Moroccan women trainers then carried out two end-user training activities for forty-six Moroccan women politicians and civil society leaders. This training was bilingual, French and Aribic, interactive, and culturally appropriate. In addition, participants engaged in discussions around broad issues of ICT, gender, and policy making.

India Technology Tools for Teaching & Training (Project T4): dot-EDU
India is a nexus of innovative activity in the area of ICT development for the region and in the world. dot-EDU, via Project T4, is outlining educational interventions to combat the low levels of educational quality and equity in India, especially among girls and other vulnerable populations. The project focuses on developing a multichannel approach to overcoming some of the obstacles to education that exist. It is designed to complement and support the Government of India's objectives for universal education by 2003.

Through a substantial stakeholder strategic planning process, the district and national levels of government and dot-EDU partners will plan to introduce ICTs into the educational mix, including elements of interactive radio instruction, computer based instruction, video instruction, and hybrids of these technologies.

The Network for Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange in the Telecommunications/ICT Sector (NetTel@Africa) project: dot-GOV
NetTel@Africa is focusing on gender in three areas:
  • Gender analysis in telecommunications policy planning;
  • Disaggregated data in telecommunications indicators; and
  • Gender considerations, including case studies, in ICT applications.
NetTel@Africa has provided sub-grants to eight African higher education institutions to produce ten modules at the post-graduate diploma level (basic) and at the masters level (advanced). Gender considerations will be integrated into each of these modules, such as:
  • Module 1 - Macro environment and implications of telecoms
    • Gender and the ICT revolution in Africa
  • Module 3 - ICT industry and markets
    • Licensing and approvals - gender targets or set aside (as in black empowerment; women's empowerment) for ISPs, etc
  • Module 6 - Approaches to regulation
    • Evolution of regulatory theory - public interests (rural/urban; gender)
    • Benchmarking - access to rural areas, agricultural dissemination
  • Module 7 - Universality and quality of service
    • Universal service objectives (make explicit gender targets)
  • Module 9 - Policy, law and institutions
    • Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
    • Role of women's groups in policy formulation and implementation
    • Participation of women in governance of ICTs
    • Participation of women in international policy forums
  • Module 10 - ICT applications -, africaonline, rural telecentres, telemedicine
    • Women owned ICT small businesses
    • Access to health extension services
    • Access to market and price information
    • Educational services, distance learning
    • Access during civil emergencies

Brazil's Disadvantaged Youth Employability Project: dot-ORG
Photo from Brazil LTNet Training Program of girls working on computers. Caption reads Giving girls access to ICTs gives access to new worlds of opportunitiesBrazilian at-risk youth, especially young women, are denied many opportunities for gainful employment and career prospects. Staff of dot-ORG and the four collaborating NGOs implementng the project are working closely with the State Government of Perumbuco and private sector organizations to develop a technology-centered training-to-employment program. Since many disadvantaged youth have problems resulting from poverty and a lack of education, the project will provide psycho-social support and training, and follow these young people for at least the first six months of employment.

At-risk young women and girls are a special target of this program. Not only will at least 50% of the participants be female, the project recruited women ICT trainers and employment counselors and funds a half-time gender specialist from Casa de Passagem, one of the four collaborating NGOs implementing the pilot project. Furthermore, the training curriculum, instructional materials, counseling activities, the internship, and employability skills development training are being designed specifically to meet the special needs and contexts of disadvantaged girls and young women. Indicators to measure the participation and successes of the female participants are being developed right at the beginning of the project.

Uganda ICT and HIV/AIDS Pilot Project: dot-EDU
This pilot project will build the capacity of women-oriented NGOs in Uganda to use ICT to address the challenge of HIV/AIDS in their communities. dot-EDU will work with the NGOs to create and conduct training programs that build entrepreneurship and other work-based skills among those vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS, with women and girls as the primary target group.

To help ensure full participation by women, the project will explicitly address obstacles women face, including limited access to disposable income, travel restrictions, childcare responsibilities, language requirements, low self-confidence.

For More Information, Contact:
Andrea Bosch
Chief of Party, T4 Project - India
Education Development Center

Janice Brodman
Associate Director and Gender Specialist, dot-ORG
Education Development Center
Tel: (617) 618-2620

Sarah Tisch, Ph.D.
Chief-of-Party, dot-GOV
Internews Network
Tel: 202 833-5740 x 203

Related Resource Partners
Related DOT-COM Activity
RITI | Policy

Africa Region - Network for Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange in the Telecom Sector in Africa

Morocco - Information Technology in the Service of Women in Politics Project

Brazil - Programa Para o Futuro

India - Technology Tools for Teaching & Training in India (Project T4)

Uganda - The IT and HIV/AIDS Pilot Project
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Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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