Tag Archives: gender inequality

International Girls in ICTs Day: April 24th

Started in 2010 by the International Technological Union (ITU), the International Girls in ICTs Day is centered around the idea of celebrating and promoting female involvement in the international technology sector. While ITU itself does not put on any events for the day, it encourages all ICT related organizations and stakeholders to be involved, stating on their website, “these are events where girls and university students are invited to spend the day at the office of ICT companies and government agencies so they better understand the opportunities the ICT sector holds for their future.” The website also provides various resources and promotional materials for general International Girls in ICTs Day events and profiles of female role models in the technology industry from around the world. Additionally, they provide archives of current and past events for the day to encourage groups around the world to become involved in the cause. 

One event put on last year in Swaziland brought two communications companies in the nation together with 160 high school girls from around Swaziland in the first annual Girls in ICT Communications Installations Tour. The groups visited national and regional communications stations and viewed presentations from sector female and male professionals among other things. 

While the gender gap in the ICT sector around the world is far from solved, events and celebratory days like this are crucial to encouraging and promoting the involvement of women and girls in ICTs. The growth of events like these and the idea that girls and women can and should have equal roles as men in the technology industries play a large role in the path towards gender equality, access, and education.

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Gender Inequality in Côte d’Ivoire

In class today, we had a presentation on gender inequality by Keshet Bachan, a gender equality expert from Israel. Among her talking points, Bachan noted that there are many forms of violence against adolescent woman, including trafficking and prostitution, and that many women who come from poor backgrounds are vulnerable to this sort of violence.

In my country papers for this class, I researched the Francophone West African state of Côte d’Ivoire. Through this research and my interest in this nation, I have learned that it lags behind many of its neighbors in the different ICT sectors and that there is much gender inequality in the state. The government does not invest much money, if any at all, in women’s education or fertility. And along those lines and echoing Bachan’s presentation, female mutilation/cutting is a common practice. UNICEF defines female mutilation as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.” This is particularly a problem in Cote d’Ivoire where a national law was adopted in 1998 to criminalize the activity. It is a problem among people who do not have access to education, the Muslim population and the Voltaïques and Northern Monde ethnic groups, where over 70% of the women are mutilated. Genital mutilation is not only a problem for the obvious reasons of discriminating against and suppressing women, but it also leads to child mortality and makes it easier for adolescent women to contract HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire is a form of social integration and sometimes a required religious ritual of purification. Seeing that female mutilation was in direct conflict with four of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG 3: promoting gender equality & empowering women, MDG 4: reducing child mortality, MDG 5: improving maternal health, MDG 6: combatting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases) UNICEF has begun to take action to safeguard human rights in the country. Through advocacy for women’s rights, gender equality and access to education, UNICEF has been able to raise awareness about the issue and help curtail genital mutilation. They have also used nationwide technology campaigns on radio television and mobile phones to establish child protection networks and to empower adolescent and adult women. Between 2000 and 2006, national genital mutilation dropped in females from 44% to 36.4% in direct response to these radio and television campaigns. While we in the United States may scoff at the power that radio has to bring people together and raise awareness about issues, because we are so engulfed with social media and smartphones, radio is showing in Côte d’Ivoire that it is a reliable strategy to achieving gender equality in developing countries.

 


Vietnam and gender inequality in ICT sector, but making headway in closing gender gap

As in most other countries, women in Viet Nam lag behind men in employment in the ICT sector, especially with regards to more “intellectual” work associated with the ICT industries. According to this presentation by Lee Anh Pham Lobb, of the participants surveyed, only 10.4% of the people employed in the “Specify/Design/Build” areas of software work are women, compared to 89.6% men. In contrast, 60% of the testing/support employees are women, compared to 40% men. When asked what could have caused this inequality, one male operational manager said, “‘ Women do testing better than men because women are always calm and patient. They can spend hours running the same test. Men cannot…'” and a female quality assurance manager said, “‘Design is still male territory. Men advises us (women) to keep out of this area.'” Clearly, if any change is to happen in terms of equal gender representation in the ICT industries, there must be some perception changes.

This imbalance has significant effects, especially when considering pay differences associated with more highly regarded positions, which also tend to be male-dominated. As we had discussed in class, many times, if all other factors were held constant, gender alone would not greatly affect access to and use of ICTs. Lack of resources, especially money, is often something that holds back many women from purchasing and using ICTs. Of course, in the case of employment in the ICT sector, the money dynamic is different, but it indirectly affects ICT access and usage by women not only because of what they earn but also because of the types of products and services that are designed. A paper by Tran Ngoc Ca and Bo Göransson explains that women’s needs are usually not considered in product and service design unless the designer is a woman. If you consider that for a moment, it would almost be as if all lefties’ needs were completely disregarded and they were forced to do things the right-handed way (which actually is true a lot of times, but unfair). Additionally, the way ICTs are used varies according to gender. “Many studies confirm that women are more likely than men to use ICT for family-related purposes, such as health and education, as well as for small-scale social business activities.” It seems that women’s use of ICTs is of great import to the success of many development initiatives, so their needs must be taken into consideration during the design process.

It is often said that development cannot truly occur until women are as empowered as men, until they have equal access to resources and can utilize their skills to maximize economic growth and social harmony. In Viet Nam, it seems that gender equalization in many ways may readily be achieved as more women play an integral role in development initiatives. As Viet Nam embraces ICT4D and considers it a high national priority, we may soon see more rapid development as more ICTs become “gender-friendly”. In fact, the paper also says that Viet Nam is already somewhat “seen as a quite pro gender development and equality.”


Gender Inequality and Media Education

In Gilwad, Milek and Stork’s Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa, it is made clear through data and analysis that women not only have less access to ICTs, but also use them in different ways. For example, while men spend the majority of their TV time watching sports, news, politics, and educational programs, women spend the majority of theirs watching entertainment and music, as well as “ANYTHING being broadcasted”. This suggests that the gender gap in ICTs needs to be addressed in both areas. One innovative strategy that I encountered in an OECD report is called “media education”. This approach, instead of making the use of ICTs its main goal, emphasizes the teaching of productive ways to utilize ICTs (i.e. find jobs, increase information sources, knowledge, awareness, etc.). The idea behind it is that children will see and engage with media outside the classroom in differing ways, making it difficult to have a uniform ICT curriculum. By focusing on how to productively interact with ICTs, the school can cover a wide range of bases effectively. While this does increase overall access that might not be available at home, it also increases usage productivity and awareness. This aids gender inequality by providing all children with a knowledge of how ICTs work and function, which could help the gap caused in some places where men are more likely to be in a professional job where ICTs are available and knowledge about them is necessary. In addition, it provides women with the knowledge necessary to pursue such jobs. Gilwad, Milek and Stork show in their research that for some ICTs, usage and access would be equal or even reversed if income and education were held constant. Deeper analysis in the classroom of ICT use can help break down these cultural perceptions that men are the ones who are most suited to use ICTs.


The World Bank and its efforts towards the reduction of gender inequality in ICTs

One of the Millennium Development Goals, “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Womenby 2015, with levels of education and health, has during the past decade improved with the combined efforts of the United Nations and the World Bank. According to the World Banks’s page focused on gender inequality, “two- thirds of all countries have now reached gender parity in primary education, while in over one- third, girls significantly outnumber boys in secondary education” (World Bank).  One severe difference that the World Bank works to diminish and promote equality is for the issue regarding ICTs. The World Bank created an ICT Toolkit in which the World Bank in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations such as the OECD, gathered resources and “briefly answered some of the broad questions about the relationships among gender equality, ICTs, and development” (World Bank).  By the past discussions debated in class and the past readings we have spoken about it is well known that ICTs are reshaping the nature of life and are changing the way we approach sustainable development.

With human rights being one of the main concerns of the United Nations and in order to empower women, it is important that men and women have the same access to the use of ICTs as well as the same opportunities to master them. In October of 2006, The World Bank’s Gender and Development Group released a report with the briefing notes from the conference focusing on ICTs and Gender. In this report “ICT and Gender Inequality”, the World Bank claims “equitable access to information and communication technologies can be an importing tool for empowering women”. However they discuss that women’s participation in the fields of science and technology is usually opposed. Because of these cultural attitudes in which women are “often financially dependent on men or do not have control over economic resources, and when the allocation of resources for education and training often favors boys and men” makes all accessibility to ICTs and jobs using technology particularly limited.

In hopes of reducing this digital divide amongst men and women, the World Bank has created several ICT projects throughout the world. By teaching women the proper education to utilize technologies and giving them the right opportunities, according to the World Bank, countries can further expand their economic development.  The World Bank lends nearly 1 billion dollars a year to a variety of e- governments and hopes to improve the access for women and shrink the gender inequality within the next decade. In their report they provided the general public with specific “gender- responsive intervention examples”. One example is located in rural villages in Uganda, where “women use cell phones to operate business that provide communication services to their communities”. The World Bank collaborated with The Grameen Foundation along with MTN Uganda by not only providing women with jobs as phone operators but also providing access to these technologies.

The World Banks toolkit comes with a layout plan on how to start your own project and how to monitor the gender gap. With this toolkit the World Banks hopes to diminish this gender inequality in ICTs throughout the world as well as improve education with the use of Information Communication Technologies.


Thailand’s ICT Usage Could Not Be More Different Than Many African Countries

This week, we looked at an article that highlighted gender inequalities in ICT usage in African countries.  While the numbers were interesting and usage was low, it described a greatly different picture than what I had experienced during my time in Thailand, and therefore does not tell the whole story of ICT and gender in developing countries.

Even while living in rural Thailand, in the poorest region of the country, it seemed that technology was everywhere.  Everyone had a mobile phone – and this includes those living in villages with no electricity or running water!  Internet cafes were extremely popular, and you could get free wifi at every restaurant, tea shop, cafe, and even markets.  TVs were a HUGE part of Thai culture, every household had a TV and it was turned on every night for hours.  At the University, every student had laptops and cell phones, and sometimes even an iPad too.  My Thai roommate had a Blackberry, iPad, TV, and laptop!  There were entire malls dedicated to technology sales – computers, phones, etc.  Facebook is HUGE, and everyone had one – even my homestay brothers and sisters in rural villages, giving an indication of what Internet access might be!  Gender did not seem to be an issue, in fact, it almost seemed as if females had more access and were using technology more!

If you compare my observations to what the study of African countries, there couldn’t be more of a contrast.  To make sure my experiences weren’t completely off base, I did some research on ICT usage in Thailand.  And guess what?  There are more mobile phones in Thailand than there are people!

DM-Export-WSources

As I thought, there isn’t much of a gender disparity with 33% of males using the internet, compared to 31% of females.  In fact, although it is 31% of women using the internet, more than half of Thailand’s internet users are female!  (http://www.thailandinternet.com/internet-statistics-for-thailand.html)

Internet Demographics in Thailand

Internet Demographics in Thailand

Thailand’s overall internet penetration is 27%, but those who are connected to the internet are using it 50% more than TV (http://wearesocial.net/blog/2012/01/social-digital-mobile-thailand/).

Besides there being more mobile phones than people, the mobile market is over 100%!

Thai_Mobile_Market

A survey showed that, 91% of Thais surveyed reported that they had used a cell phone in the last three months and that 90% of women had cellphones, compared to 80% of men (http://www.nationmultimedia.com/life/How-the-poor-use-cell-phones-30173682.html).

Check out the data below from a UN report from the International Seminar on Information and Communication Technology Statistics in 2010.  The region I stayed in was the Northeast and is the rural and poor in the nation.

Source: Santipaporn, S. (2010). Information and Communication Technology Statistics in Thailand. National Statistical Office.

Source: Santipaporn, S. (2010). Information and Communication Technology Statistics in Thailand. National Statistical Office.

Santipaporn, S. (2010). Information and Communication Technology Statistics in Thailand. National Statistical Office.

Santipaporn, S. (2010). Information and Communication Technology Statistics in Thailand. National Statistical Office.

Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised by the numbers I found.  Do any of these numbers shock you?


Mobile Phones Helping Women in Restrictive Cultures

Gender inequality is not a new concept. Particularly, gender inequality is high in areas where women are restricted due to societal norms, cultural practices or religious beliefs. Robin LLyod’s article,Mobile Phones for Women: A New Approach for Social Welfare in the Developing World ,outlines how decreasing this divide can increase opportunities. He tells the story of a Palestinian girl, looking for employment, who has had trouble finding work due to the fact she is unable to leave her home without the accompaniment of a male. With use of her mobile phone she “posted a “mini-resume,” browsed for suitable jobs via text messages, and then interviewed in person after an appointment was set. On September 22nd, she started a data-entry job with the German aid agency GTZ.”

The use of mobiles greatly influenced her employment situation. The article continues to explain that though Salameh had access to a mobile phone this is not typical. Gender inequality when it comes to ICTs (in this case mobile phones) is even more extreme in restrictive cultures. The London-based telecom industry advocacy group GSMA (for Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initiated the mWomen Program which plans to “half the number of women in the developing world who lack mobile phones within three years by putting phones in the hands of another 150 million women.” They believe this initiative is important not only because of Salameh’s story and the resources mobile phones can provide, but also because women with phones tend to feel safer, more empowered and independent and more connected.

Although I believe ICTs and mobiles can provide all of the above, I hope their plans have instilled protections against the issues we’ve discussed in class with mobile phones. What about theft? Cost? Reception? Providing phones is only one step; who will be paying for the minutes?