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Revisiting the Roles of Information and Communication Technologies

Revisiting the Roles of Information and Communication Technologies

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Published by Sreng Sopheap
This paper outlines how ICTs can be more gender sensitive and an empowering tool to bridge the gender digital divide. It is specifically also addressing the notion of ICTs for Development (ICT4D) which has been taking place across the globe and calling out for an attention that such success in the third world is very much context specific.
This paper outlines how ICTs can be more gender sensitive and an empowering tool to bridge the gender digital divide. It is specifically also addressing the notion of ICTs for Development (ICT4D) which has been taking place across the globe and calling out for an attention that such success in the third world is very much context specific.

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Published by: Sreng Sopheap on Jun 06, 2010
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 Sreng SopheapGender and Development Studies,School of Environment, Resources and Development,Asian Institute of Technology,Thailand
This paper outlines how ICTs can be more gender sensitive and an empowering toolto bridge the gender digital divide. It is specifically also addressing the notion of ICTsfor Development (ICT4D) which has been taking place across the globe and callingout for an attention that such success in the third world is very much context specific.The paper offers an interdisciplinary approach in integrating from technical skills tosocial and environmental in sustaining livelihoods, assessing environmental changeimpacts on gender and capital assets. In conclusion, it provides policyrecommendation consideration for Cambodian planners and practitioners who work inthe surrounding areas.
Introduction to Key Concepts
In understanding how gender and its complexities, it is important to make aclear distinction between gender and sex, especially these two terminologies weremuch proposed by feminist theorists during the 1970s (Connell, 1999). Gender associally constructed given that is what society and perception that has assigned suchas roles, norms and behavior to be appropriate between women and men and howpeople are perceived and expected to think or act as women and men (Cornwall,2007; Gove and Watt, 2004).Unlike gender, sex is a biological fact difference between women and men,both internal and external organs, hormonal make up and secondary sexcharacteristics (Ostlin, George and Sen, 2001; Connell, 2002) and these determinedand governed by such social institutions often women are perceived as subordinate tomen and by roles that have been assigned (Karl, 1995). And with the roles thatwomen and men are supposed to perform often given that women and men haveunequal positions and needs that lead to different access and control over resources(Moser, 1993).From ideas of gender and sex, it seems that sex is something fixed and naturewhile gender is more based on cultural perspectives. However, this dichotomy tendsto box only into two types human being that is only a woman and ma, neglectingother types in between, those who are not fitting into the box of either a woman or aman, such as intersex, transgender and transsexual people and therefore, sex as well asgender, is seen as a social and cultural construct too (Butler, 1990; Jolly 2000). Howdoes this gender term have to do with ICTs?ICTs is a term which rarely defined in many relevant literatures and sometimemisleading (Fors and Moreno, 2002). In a particular term, it can be defined by Heeks
(1999) in Fors and Moreno (2002) as ―electronic means of capturing, processing,
storing and commu
nication information‖ (p.199). ICTs can be a great tool
to helpwomen achieve political and social status, increase voice and empowerment,
especially if ICTs were adapted appropriately can help improve livelihoods andincome opportunities of poor rural communities (McNamara, 2008). Yet, manybarriers are laid ahead and needed to be discussed.
Introduction to Gender and ICTs
 Great challenges for women on ICTs education remain a major barrier forthem to entry to such accessible to ICTs. Such diverse drivers may contribute to
women‘s inability to access to ICTs which in return lead to increase in widening
digital divide and impede women to fully enjoy the benefit from ICTs in their socio-economic as well as improving their life status (Umrani and Ghandially, 2003). Insuch situation, the less chances of women access to new technologies, the feweropportunities for self organizing and building voices. This in return called forproviding accessible conditions that women would acquire new technological skillsthat they can use to meet with new remerging issues, gain more self-independent frommale dominance/family members, improve decision making via informed choices andenhance their positions in society (ibid).They continue to urge that providing womenwith ICTs training skills would enable them to participate more successfully andwould even involve actively in development, especially in a timely era of informationage.Mitter (1999) argued that for women to be able to catch up with more newtechnologies and better paid work environment, opportunities for them to receivetraining, education and relevant facilities are needed to assist them in this fastchanging situation.
Though ―two
 pronged strategy‖ offered by Mitter (1999, p.11)
that are the keys in which accessing to such opportunities of education shall be relied.The first is to work towards some policies reform and public advocates that ensureprovision of public support such as education, maternity leave and child caresubsidies so that women can pursue a better career. The second is to realize thatimproving job opportunities alone does not sustainably mean job with equity andequality for women. Therefore, some shaping and transforming within the family,social institutions and power that discriminates against women or under privilegegroups to educational and opportunities must be dealt accordingly.Likewise, technology has been viewed as masculine is an issue (Oldenziel,
2004), yet many poor women as much as ―two
third of the world‖ are having limited
language capacity, skill and so not likely to be able to communicate in English andtogether with cultural constraints is another (Umran and Ghandially, 2003, p.360).Munevar M. and Arrieta (2002) suggested that social structure of institutions such asfamilies, churches, schools, politics and even sciences have been patriarchy rooted;
strongly sediment which continuously to ensure ―unequal participations of women‖ i
nvarious spheres (p.47). Such frequently practices by those institutions have been so
much unquestioned or been so ―naturalized‖ as source of power to legitimately claim
unequal gender positions (ibid)In order to help women reach out their potential and attain to ICTs, it isimportant to d
evelop a local content that meets the need women‘s concern and
language ability, community-based knowledge and cultural specific would (Huyer,2005). As much as concern, using technology means financial cost must be put intoconsideration that many women in poor developing countries do not have muchcontrol over cash income or even decision to influence the consumption of technologies (Pattanaik, 2005). However, in the study of Best and Maier (2007) inrural India regarding women use ICT services discovered that concern about the cost
was not a major indicator of accessing to ICT services by many rich women but wasremained as big constraint for poorer populations.What have been the useful recommendations on these ICTs accessible towomen is that lower cost would allow women for more frequency of usages, ICTs
should be locally designed and managed with culturally defined and women‘s friendly
tools that reflect the needs of women such as skill development related improvement
women‘s lives (Best and Maier, 2007). More important is to make ICTs more fun,
more diverse and implement where women and men locate so that self inclusion toICTs can be enhanced (Faulkner and Lie, 2007). Such critical issues should becarefully warned that with the rapid growth, adoption and its successes in the thirdworld are likely to depend on in which contexts they have been created and raisedconcerns that it may contribute to reproduce or deepen gender biases and genderinequalities (Lee 2004).For ICTs development and its benefits to the whole population, it must require
thoroughly understanding of women‘s needs and the rest of the population socio
-economic environments (Faulkner and Lie, 2007). In such environments, particularlyin the developing countries, women are in an inferior position to men, taking all tripleresponsibilities and having had not chances to go out without an accompanying.Therefore, less access to ICT tools in the way that is not mainly due to limitedinfrastructure/facilities but poverty, social support, illiteracy, opportunities and culturebarriers to adopt them (ibid; Umrani and Ghandially, 2004).Lee (2004) argued that even with various opportunities brought by ICTs in thedeveloping countries which intend to bring women chances to access to jobs andpositive impacts are only taking place in theory; while in practice, she argued that
―the global market is enmeshed with gender ideologies‖ (p.218) in which culture and
social barriers prevent women than men from being equal participants in society andfurther push them back into their private sphere. Such unequal share among thedeveloped and underdeveloped countries with regard to technologies create other twodivisions as what Umrani and Ghandially (2004, p.360) term
as ―information rich‖and ―information poor‖ that intersect across ― race, ethnicity, class, age, religion andgender‖ in which women in poor and rural regions are the most further away to bridge
the digital gap. In this sense, it should not dismiss the fact that ICTs in rural contextsare as much as possible as in urban. This illustration will be discussed in the belowsub-section.
ICTs in Rural Livelihoods
ICTs may also consist of different tools and facilities that help improveexchanges of information and management between individuals to communities,government and inter-government (DAW, 2005). What is important about ICTs is nottechnology in itself but its diverse functions and the enhanced ability to help transmitinformation across the distance, create new opportunities in business, education,health and in especially in rural areas where agricultural productivity can be improvedthrough direct access to agricultural experts (Siriginidi, 2009; Siriginidi, 2002). If ICTs needs are properly addressed, they are an excellent tool to promote womenempowerment, economic development and gender equality (Best and Maier, 2007;DAW, 2005; Umrani and Ghandially, 2004). Yet gender awareness in designing andimplementing ICTs are needed to ensure that introducing of ICT tools will bothbenefit women and men equally ( Best and Maier, 2007)Though, we have seen so far ICTs can play a great role; particularly in thecontext of livelihoods and empowerment. Yet, the tool of ICTs in women

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