In 2004 the Swedish program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) was established. This organization focuses on the spread of ICTs throughout the developing world, and since their founding it has been devoted to just that. Their numerous development projects have proved successful in their twelve target countries scattered throughout the world, and while their main focus is centered around development and poverty reduction through the use of ICTs, they have also partook in projects dealing with various social issues. Since 2007 Spider has focused its energy on a variety of gender-focused initiatives, which can be viewed in their 2012 report ‘Empowering Women Through ICT.’ These ‘women centered projects’ were focused in six different locations, and although all are pertinent to the gender divide in ICTs, I chose to highlight their project empowering indigenous leaders through ICTs in Bolivia.
Bolivia is home to 36 indigenous communities whose recognition in the local political realm has up until recently been largely ignored. With the election of President Evo Morales in 2005, these indigenous groups have gained more rights and prevalence in the political world, but the presence of women’s rights and roles in the government has been somewhat of an afterthought. However, in 2007 Spider coupled with CIDOB (the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia) to focus on leader ship and public policy advocacy for indigenous women. To enhance the role and rights of indigenous women in Bolivia Spider and CIDOB have trained a core group of indigenous women in developing their computer skills. Several of the skills taught to these women include:
- Computer and Internet skills: such as email, Skype, and blogging and writing
- The use of applications such as Word, Excel, and Power Point
- Web development and maintenance
This training was rooted in political leadership, and has helped articulate the female’s voice in the political arena. Through the teaching of ICTs, this project has lead for ‘an increasing number of female leaders that have been able to gain key political positions at a local, regional, and national level.’
The use of ICTs has given women more confidence in reach out and speaking out on issues pertinent to them, and through this greater access to knowledge these women are able to realize the gender inequalities that they are facing. Spider has hoped that the teaching of this core group of women will initiate change in Bolivia and help spread the use of ICTs. ‘To date the women of Bolivia have initiated twenty-three socio-economically sustainable projects in the areas of promotion of indigenous handicrafts, tourism, forestry, and livelihood,’ proving this program to be a success in empowering women through ICTs.