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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: July 28 2010 »

Published on The Communication Initiative Network (http://www.comminit.com)

by Kirrin Gill, Kim Brooks,Janna McDougall,Payal Patel, Aslihan Kes

International Center for Research on Women
Publication Date
January 1, 2010


This 2010 International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) document analyses the process of enabling women to increase their resources and economic opportunities and strengthen their ability to compete in market economies through technology. It offers recommendations on how to improve the way technologies are developed and deployed so they benefit women and enable them to be more successful economic actors.

The paper introduces a conceptual framework (illustrated on page 8, figure 2: How technology can facilitate the economic advancement of women), shows examples of integrating the needs of women into the technology development, and examines the lessons, common characteristics, and effective strategies of successful technology initiatives involving low- and middle-income women. It gives specific recommendations on better ways to develop, introduce, and disseminate technologies to help women to advance economically.

As stated here, “Bridging the gender and technology divide requires two main shifts:

    * First, ...focus ...innovation efforts on sectors, such as energy and information and communication technologies (ICTs), which can convey rapid and significant benefits to women in developing countries. Like education, health, water, and agriculture - sectors that are widely recognised for their positive impacts on women and their families - energy and ICTs are particularly promising because they have the potential to benefit all women, regardless of their primary occupation, while often profiting their families and communities. For example an alternative household power source (the multifunctional platform) provides energy that lengthens the productive work day for women and other members of the home where it is installed. ICTs, including mobile phones and computers with Internet connections, have allowed women to develop new careers as village phone owners while also giving communities access to these services. Focusing on these two sectors would concentrate technology development efforts in a way that could be particularly beneficial for women in developing countries.
    * Second, ...radically rethink the lifecycle for developing and deploying new and existing technologies. Rather than allow enthusiasm for a given technology to drive how it is designed, marketed, and distributed in the field, developers need to put female users at the center of their thinking, consulting and involving women at critical design and deployment phases. Rather than creating a technology and only then figuring out how to entice women in developing countries to adopt it, developers must first ask: ‘What technologies do women need to increase their economic opportunities?’ And then they must involve women - as technology innovators, developers, and drivers of the process - to design something that women can’t afford not to use."

The paper documents the phases of the "technology lifecycle" (illustrated on page 13, figure 1), including:

    * Identifying the problem
    * Designing the technology
    * Researching the market
    * Introducing mechanisms to address barriers to access
    * Training users
    * Supplying and distributing the technology
    * Creating and maintaining market linkages
    * Assessing and evaluating the entire process

ICTs used as examples of the steps in this process for the economic enhancement of women are listed as:

   1. Village mobile phones - Women entrepreneurs sell mobile phone usage to other women and men. The question of long-term sustainability arises as more people own their own mobile phones. For example, the Grameen Village Phone programme staff and external researchers conducted assessments to determine the impact of the intervention on women phone booth owners and customers. Increases of 30-40% in household income seem to be declining among village operators as personal mobile ownership increases.
   2. Outsourced ICT Services - Outsourced information technology (IT) jobs, such as medical transcription and software support, offer employment.
   3. ICT Telecentres - Fee-based ICT products and services can be offered to women for entrepreneurship opportunities and for service employment and education.
   4. ICT Academies - Education for high-skilled IT training for women can be made available in national universities. For example, in the Middle East, coupled with training for women in networking, interpersonal skills, and career planning, as well as job placement programmes that linked graduates with ICT employers, the academies created by a partnership of the Cisco Foundation, United Nations Development Fund for Women, and national governments give women help in the high-skilled ICT labour force.

The conclusion of the document recommends asking critical questions about needs, barriers, markets, training, and assessment at the earliest phases of research and development to ensure that a technology will aid women in developing countries. Practices in project development can include: engaging women in design and deployment of technologies; focusing on sectors that have the potential to give rapid and significant benefits to all women regardless of their primary occupation - alternative household power sources and ICTs are the two examples given; engaging partners with complementary capabilities - for example, non-governmental organisations can reach low- and middle-income women, while the private sector can create sustainable markets; and investing in training needed. Finally, the document enumerates elements of technology policymaking that support women.

Click here to download this 36-page document in PDF format. [1]

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
1120 20th St. N.W.
Washington DC
United States
Tel: 202 797 0007
Fax: 202 797 0020
info@icrw.org [5]

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