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.
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?
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 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:
Brazil's Disadvantaged Youth Employability Project: dot-ORG
Brazilian 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.