Gender and ICT/Implications of Integrating a Gender Perspective at National Level

I think one of the biggest challenges for many young women is grappling with the language of the ICT for development policy processes. Many times, policy statements are written (and discussions conducted) using specialized terms, which most people would only learn in a university political science course. Given that young women are still underrepresented in universities in many countries, there are simply fewer young women with the vocabulary to feel comfortable and confident in these dialogues.

- Terri Willard, participant in ‘Talk to Her: A Dialogue to Action among Young Women in ICT’

Implications for Policy, Programme and Project – Design, Implementation, Evaluation and Monitoring


‘Mainstreaming gender’ is both a technical and a political process which requires transformations in organizational cultures and perspectives, as well as in the goals, structures and resource allocations of governments and NGOs. Mainstreaming incorporates specific gender concerns within institutions, in agenda-setting, policy-making, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Elements in the mainstreaming task include staffing, budgeting, training programmes, policy procedures and guidelines. Experience suggests that increased response to gender issues is linked to the level of ‘fit’ of gender issues with the mandate and procedures of the government, and the capacity of staff members who work on gender concerns to translate their knowledge into agency-specific procedures and programmes.69 Recognizing the needs and perspectives of women in ICT policy can help ensure the active participation of women in policy discussions and lead to the increased contribution of ICT to socio-economic development, and in particular poverty reduction. When women have access to ICT, they can fully engage as decision makers in a variety of productive tasks, including entrepreneurship and management of SMEs.70 Thus, development goals and gender goals can advance at the same time. According to Sonia Jorge, “there need not be any inconsistency, however, between gender-specific objectives and development objectives; on the contrary, it is becoming increasingly apparent that one of the most effective means to provide access to both telephone and advanced ITs to unserved and lower income areas and populations is to encourage the development of micro, small or medium-sized telecommunications businesses owned and managed by women,”71 as shown by the very tangible example of Grameen Phones in Bangladesh.

Most Grameen-provided phones represented the first telecommunications service in the respective villages. In places where the signal is weak, antennas, which serve as an advertisement of availability of public phone services, are mounted on the women’s homes. Despite the imminent arrival of fixed wireless phone service in rural Bangladesh, observers feel that the Grameen village phones will continue to be viable businesses because the fixed wireless will probably target more densely populated areas and because village women have become loyal customers of the women phone operators. Grameen Phones has captured about half of Bangladesh’s cellular phone market. It is planning technological upgrades to phone cards, email messaging, fax and web access through the newly established Grameen Communications, an NGO, which plans to launch an Internet service and has started pilot Internet kiosks.

Importance of Substantive Consultation and Facilitation of Women’s Understanding of the Policy Process


Poor women in developing countries could improve their lives and the lives of their families with the help of ICT. Both the technological solutions and the successful pilot projects, along with tested finance mechanisms, are already in place. However, neither the technological solutions nor the pilot projects yet have sustainable business models that would allow them to be replicated in other regions. The focus needs to turn from small projects to national programmes, supported by national policy commitments. When these national programmes are put into place, women must ensure that they are part of them, and that governments remember that when they talk about reaching the poor in their countries with ICT, women are the majority of those whom they are talking about (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Integrating a Gender Perspective in the Making of a Public Policy


However, it is imperative too that when consulting with women, that not just practical gender needs are expressed and addressed, but also strategic gender interests of women (see section on ‘What’s the Difference Between Practical Gender Needs and Strategic Gender Interests?’). Consultations with women need to take place not only at the early stages of conceptualization and planning, but also at all stages of monitoring and evaluation. These consultations need to include simplifying development policy processes for women who have never been part of these, to enable their full understanding of the implications of policy development, not just from within the ICT sector, but the social sectors as well. Louise Chamberlain in her paper on ‘Considerations for Gender Advocacy vis-à-vis ICT Policy Strategy’ says that a World Bank study,72 “found that projects with greater focus on poverty reduction were more likely to address gender” (Chamberlain, 2002). However, this e-primer would like to suggest that a greater focus on addressing gender equality and women’s rights, will definitely address poverty reduction. Since no such national programme exists that truly addresses gender inequality issues in all of its forms, it is quite premature to say that the development approach that has been traditionally used is the better approach. In fact, Chamberlain to a certain extent supports this in her paper when she said that the study, “found projects with gender components to be more effective overall, also recognizes that such projects may also reflect better identification of the target population, design and implementation” (Chamberlain, 2002). The making of a public policy, in other words, must include women’s strategic gender interests at the centre of it if resources are to be well optimized. ICT policy generally covers three main areas: telecommunications (especially telephone communications), broadcasting (radio and television) and the Internet. It may be national, regional or international. Each level may have its own decision-making bodies, sometimes making different and even contradictory policies. It is essential that gender issues be considered early in the process of the introduction of ICT in developing countries, as ICT is not gender neutral.73 National level decisions about infrastructure can impact gender and affect women’s opportunities to use new technologies – including decisions about what systems to put in place (at what cost to the consumer?), which suppliers of communications services (will they have universal service obligations?), and where facilities will be located (will they be available in rural areas?) (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001). Many critics dismiss the issue of gender and ICT in developing countries because of the more pressing needs that women in developing countries have for safe water, adequate food, improved health, better education, owning land, etc. It is crucial to begin thinking outside of the ‘either-or’ mentality because ICTs are not, in any way, in opposition to fulfilling women’s basic needs. On the contrary, ICTs will go a very long way in reducing the stark isolation that women face when these basic needs remain unmet or inadequately addressed.

Importance of Recognizing and Adopting International Norms


The process of integrating gender concerns into national ICT policy development processes can be informed by international consensus documents to ensure cross-border interoperable norms/rules and closer cooperation that can assist governments in meeting their commitments. Examples of internationally agreed consensual documents include the Beijing Platform for Action (1995),74 the CEDAW Convention (1979), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of course, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The CEDAW Convention, for example, obliges States to undertake a series of measures to end all forms of discrimination against women, including to:

  1. Incorporate the principle of equality of women and men in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws, and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  2. Establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  3. Ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The CEDAW Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women, and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. It is also the only Convention that affirms the principle of substantive equality.75 The CEDAW Convention promotes the substantive model of equality and consolidates two central approaches to equality. First it stresses the importance of equality of opportunity in terms of women’s entitlements on equal terms with men to the resources of a country. This has to be secured by a framework of laws and policies, and supported by institutions and mechanisms for their operation. However, the CEDAW Convention goes beyond this in emphasizing that the measure of a State’s action to secure the human rights of women and men needs to ensure equality of results. The indicators of State progress, in the eyes of the CEDAW Convention, lie not just in what the State does, but in what the State achieves in terms of real change for women. Article 2 of the CEDAW Convention enjoins the State to ensure the practical realization of rights. Thus the State is obligated to show results, not just stop at frameworks of equality that are strong on paper. Hence, the CEDAW Convention stresses that equality must inform the practice of institutions. The UDHR is the main source of law in terms of fundamental and universal rights. At the international level, the UDHR guarantees the freedom of expression of every individual. Article 5 of the UDHR in particular, provides for the freedom of individuals to communicate and express over all forms of media (including ICT). Conventions and Declarations of the International Labour Organization (ILO) can also be particularly critical to the sustainability of women’s livelihoods. At the international level, the ILO sets standards and provides the basis for justice in the area of employment. The conventions that refer to issues of gender76 are:

  • Declaration on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Women Workers (1975). The Declaration stresses that “…all forms of discrimination on the grounds of sex which deny or restrict equality of opportunity and treatment are unacceptable and must be eliminated…”
  • Resolution on Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment for Women and Men in Employment (1985). The Resolution discusses the need for better conditions of employment, work and life of women.
  • Plan of Action on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Women and Men in Employment (1987) which is directed towards ILO policies and strategies. The main objective is to ensure gender mainstreaming within the institution.
  • Resolution concerning ILO Action for Women Workers (1991) which reaffirms the need for joint efforts between government, employers and workers to implement the principle of equality.
  • Equal Remuneration Convention 1951.
  • Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958.
  • Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention 1981.
  • Part-Time Work Convention 1994.
  • Home Work Convention 1996.

It is important to note though that all of these conventions and resolutions need to be understood within the framework and interpretation of women’s rights, women’s empowerment, non-discrimination and substantive equality, as primarily offered by the CEDAW Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action. The chart in Figure 5 draws preliminary reference to international law and perspectives in gender policy. Stage 1 emphasizes the need for countries to work with universal/international norms and practices, and at the same time develop the engendered policy approach at the national level. Also at the initial stages, some government/policy maker sensitization to the issues will be important. There should be a cross border recognition and understanding of the issues and networking of agencies. Subsequently, the approach requires the involvement of stakeholders and women’s groups at a very initial stage to inculcate and develop a deep and responsive consultative process. A central group will assist to identify the resources, make connections and identify current issues. In addition, a national agency will assist to champion the cause of women, and provide leadership. Stage 2 is where full recognition is given to the need for political, social and economic empowerment, and could be included into the mandate/goal of the national champion. In Stage 3, the approach stresses the importance of inter-agency coordination. Within a government perspective, agencies and ministries are tasked with their own priorities and work. This fact may put up communication barriers and/or challenges between organizations. Thus the idea here is that the inter-agency contacts, and working groups must be formed within governments and ministries. The reality is that an engendered policy must have the political clout at the broad inter-agency cooperation and at the highest levels of government, to reach out beyond even the scope and mandate of the ICT regulator even with the mandate of convergence.77 The scope of gender and policy must reach out to civil society, across ministries (horizontally) such as the Ministry of Family Affairs, and vertically, to higher levels of government, such as parliamentarians, and at the ground level – the most pragmatic implementers – authorities, police, etc.

Figure 5: Gender in the Wider Policy Process


Moving the Giant Towards an Inter-agency, Inter-sectoral Approach


Government structures are established in such a way that they do not actually facilitate inter-sectoral approaches and implementation strategies. As a result, collaborative interventions within and across sectors are minimal and fail in tackling issues on multidimensional fronts. Since gender issues are largely seen as the purview of national women machineries, it is important to examine the wider policy environment and political factors underpinning the establishment of national women machineries and their respective roles and functions. As countries shift their policy perspectives, there is the concern that gender issues might be relegated into social programmes viewing women as marginalized and underserved groups. Some of these critical concerns include:78

  • The need to advocate for the incorporation of gender issues in the design of broad economic and sectoral adjustment policies. This requires provision of analytical tools and an information base for determining the gender impact of trade liberalization, structural adjustment, and globalization and the integration of relevant concerns;
  • Mainstreaming of gender in decentralized programmes. As decentralization of government functions becomes the dominant approach to governance, the shift in decision-making and resource allocation locus requires an adaptation to local structure, rules and practices. While decentralization provides an opportunity to make programmes at local levels responsive to gender equity issues and ensures effective local level implementation of gender policies, it also increases accountability for gender equity by equipping local gender units and women’s committees with appropriate tools;
  • Ambiguous mandates. National machineries and focal points have been established but the ambiguous mandates, lack of clear definition of roles and responsibilities, and inadequate political support hamper their performance. Clarity in structures, processes and mechanisms needs to be emphasized;
  • Non-achievement of the full participation of women in the decision-making process at the political and administrative levels. In most countries, parliamentary representation of women has been less than 10 percent of the total; and
  • Lack of clear link between action plans and their intended outcomes. There is no logical sequence of activities that will lead to the attainment of gender equality in socio-economic status.

The above concerns show that gender analysis is not a simple process for a ministry to address on its own. Even with the establishment of national women’s ministries, due to the lack of resources79 and lack of history in and mechanisms for substantive collaboration between ministries, governments have been unable to reasonably put in the required constructive thought, leadership, resources and knowledge on the social and cultural dimensions of gender within the specific contexts of a country. In such a scenario, the concept of a dedicated Gender Unit that parallels the importance of the central economic planning unit within government can be instrumental in taking into account many of the issues pertaining to gender and women’s empowerment at the policy levels. A Gender Unit could assist in revising or developing guidelines to remove gender bias and discriminatory results for women, or add new regulations, develop circulars etc. that would better facilitate the achievement of the main goals of concretely addressing gender issues. In addition, a Gender Unit could address the identification of appropriate gender statistics and how to collate these in a country, while working closely with women leaders and civil society through a substantive consultative process. A Gender Unit should be ideally mandated to coordinate an inter-agency and inter-sectoral approach within the country. Such a unit may need to either be placed within the central economic planning unit of a country or at least, have a status that is on par with it. The concept or mechanism such as the Gender Unit is not meant to replace the national women machineries already established nor the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The roles and responsibilities of these are quite distinct, just as the role of the Economic Planning Unit is very distinct from say the Ministry of Agriculture or Rural Development. Nor does the establishment of a Gender Unit discount the need to allocate adequate resources to national women machineries and/or the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (see section on ‘The Need to Strengthen National Women’s Machineries’).

A Gender Unit with participation by other agencies and civil society groups could study the following:

  • Ways to improve government processes towards gender-sensitive policies;
  • Information exchange on issues facing women and ICTs within the country;
  • The relevance of an engendered approach to policy-making; in the area of ICT, especially with regard to Internet policy, and make recommendations to the telecommunications regulator (or Ministry of Communications), and to other Ministries;
  • Ways of applying new technologies to network women’s groups, NGOs and other related organizations;
  • Ways to develop or support relevant content for women;
  • Ways to further support ICT training for women in the region, implement best practices in the use of ICTs in relation to women;
  • Incorporation of women ICT experts for government or ICT projects; and
  • Directory compilation of women ICT experts, and the pooling together of resources nationally and internationally.

With the necessary expertise, information and knowledge concentrated within a Gender Unit, governments would be better able to effect a wider and more substantive consultation with women as well as to concretely integrate a gender perspective throughout all of their agencies and development programmes. It is therefore also critical that if a Gender Unit is indeed established that it receives more than sufficient political support and budgetary allocations.

Gender Concerns in ICT Policy


Nancy Hafkin’s work which identifies the gender aspects in ICT policy is shown in Table 2. In her analysis, Hafkin also borrows from the work of Sonia Jorge. Table 2 clearly shows that addressing gender issues in ICT also requires governments to look at other sectoral policies and how these could adversely impact on a progressive and gender-sensitive national ICT policy. These are issues of training and literacy (basic skills and skills training), issues of human resource and employment (employment schemes, paid and unpaid work in the area of ICT) and other related issues that can impede women’s active and substantive participation – for example, related legal issues that pertain to domestic violence, citizenship, guardianship, workers compensation, marriage/divorce, sexual harassment in the workplace, availability of maternity leave (to international standards/ILO guidelines), availability of paternity leave, ownership of resources particularly land, and even access to high quality and professional legal aid.

Table 2: Gender Aspects of ICT Policy Issuesa
ICT Issue Gender Aspect
Infrastructure * Is the infrastructure to be deployed throughout the country in the areas where

women predominate?

  • Are there provisions for high technology applications in areas where many women

live outside of the capital and major cities?

  • Women may be restricted from accessing ICT even when they are available in their

communities as a result of social, economic, cultural or technological constraints.

  • Gender awareness is essential in planning and implementing infrastructure.
Network Optimization * Does the proposed modernization provide infrastructure that is affordable to most


Network architecture * Equipment and service providers can offer cost-effective and appropriate solutions

for the majority of women.

Network deployment * Choices of network infrastructure can be made that cater for the majority, focusing

on universal access to ICT and not on expensive high-capacity specialized access.

  • Affordable and forward-looking technology such as wireless alternatives that

ensure low cost and affordable access can be used.

  • When new technologies are implemented, ensure that women are included in


  • The location of infrastructure should facilitate access for women.
Technology choice * The affordability of service is a key issue for women.
  • Limiting technology choice can militate against new players and new technology

in the market that might bring down costs, e.g. many developing countries ban Wi-Fi Internetb and VoIP telephony.

  • While limitation on the choice of mobile standards (e.g. GSM, CDMA) can prevent

fragmentation of markets in initial stages, continued insistence on standards can block the entry of mobile technologies that are cheap and effective for underserved areas.

  • Assessments should be undertaken to determine appropriate technology choice

who will use it and for what purpose?

  • User-friendly technology, particularly in the context of low literacy levels, should

be supported and promoted.

Sector liberalization * While monopoly system operators understandably dispute this, opening the

telecommunication and ICT sector to competition can bring in needed investment and force down end user prices to make access more affordable, notably to women.

Universal access * Universal access concerns the establishment of telecommunications development

funds and other programmes, funded by carrier fees and other revenues collected by regulators, to facilitate the expansion of access to the underserved.

  • It is the avenue for gender equality par excellence that has real possibilities of

positively affecting the lives of the mass of women.

  • As telecommunication development funds reflect extremely important policy and

set the rules for implementation of ICT projects in underserved areas, they deserve great attention from gender advocates.

  • Focus should be on developing gender-aware universal access policies stressing

public access points as an alternative to more capital-intensive choices (one line per home) and ensuring that locations of public access points are gender-sensitive (e.g. not in bars or auto shops).

Universal Service Obligations * Universal service is a specific obligation that regulators require of operators in return for licenses to contribute to universal service goals. Under universal service

obligations, regulators can mandate the provision of telecentres in underserved areas.

  • Telecentre plans need to take into account the different needs of women and men

in the concerned communities.

  • Gender equality advocates could lobby for incorporating gender-based issues in

universal service rules. In most places, it has not happened yet because women’s groups have not pushed for it.

  • Demands could include that service to underserved areas be delivered reflecting

male-female distribution in the population, that priority be given to disadvantaged women such as single mothers, widows, disabled women, etc.

  • Service providers could be mandated to offer telephone subsidies or price

packages targeted at rural women, the disabled and aged.

Regulatory Frameworks * Regulatory frameworks can permit the re-sale of mobile phone services, which

are often profitable businesses for women to establish.

  • Regulatory frameworks can reduce licensing fees, spectrum prices and

interconnection charges that can make ICT more accessible to women.

Tariff policy * This covers both import duties and taxes on computer equipment and pricing

schemes for communications services. High customs duties on mobile telephones and computer equipment as well as high prices for telephone service are deterrents to women users.

  • In preparation for competition in the telecommunication sector, many countries

are rebalancing international and domestic tariffs to eliminate existing subsidies, most frequently on local service. This rebalancing has meant higher rates for local calls in many places, which hit the poor, the majority of whom are women, the hardest. Although it is expected that competition will lower prices in the long run, in the interim many users cannot afford local service. Among the ways to compensate for rebalancing costs are basing tariffs on forward-looking costs and establishing regional (e.g. rural vs. urban) tariffs.

Regulation * Regulation is a vital area for advocates of gender equality in ICT. Regulators do not

set policy but rather help in its implementation. Regulation produces a set of rules for market behaviour – who can provide what service and under what conditions and sets the framework for achieving desirable outcomes established by national policy, particularly in the two areas of the greatest interest for ICT and to the empowerment of women: universal access and affordable services. It is an area that gender proponents should focus on.

Independent regulators * An independent regulator can compel profit-driven private sector players to deliver

on social and gender policy objectives such as universal access. In return for granting licenses, regulators can compel service providers to provide service to underserved areas where women predominate.

  • As regulators have the authority to set service priorities, gender equality advocates

need to lobby to ensure that service to poor women in rural areas is a priority.

  • Regulators can provide funds for research, development and testing of technology

that will serve women.

  • Those that secure licenses, particularly for cellular phones, are often required to

fulfil community service obligations. Elements to ensure gender equality could be written into these obligations.

Radio Frequency Spectrum * This issue also involves fees and licenses. Lower fees will encourage applicants to provide services to new markets, including women.
  • Licenses should be equitably and transparently distributed, so that women-owned

businesses and businesses that serve women have a chance to secure licenses. Only in a small number of places, women-run community radio stations have obtained licenses.

Licensingc * If fees for telecommunications, Internet service provider and mobile service

licenses are high, they will be passed on to users, limiting the affordability to women and the poor. High fees increase the cost of telephonic and ICT services, discouraging women-owned communications businesses including telecentres, phone-fax-Internet shops and mobile telephony.

  • A certain number of telecommunications licenses should be allocated to womenowned

businesses or businesses with women in management positions.

  • A gender equality licensing policy could waive license fees for communications

businesses run by women entrepreneurs or those that provide services to underserved areas, particularly where women are concentrated.

  • Fees could be reduced for operators with gender equality and pro-handicapped

employment policies.

  • Licenses can obligate providers to provide discounted service to certain customers

such as poor women in rural areas.

  • Licensing procedures should be transparent so that women applicants can have

ready access to the information.

  • License awards can contain certain conditions that promote gender analysis and

mainstreaming for the particular company.

Research and development and innovation * Are there incentives directed at encouraging women in ICT research and innovation?
  • Are tools and software being developed using local languages?
  • Is there research and development on technologies for the illiterate and neoliterate?
  • Research efforts and programmes that promote women innovators can be


  • Scholarships and grant programmes for women in science and technology can

be created.

  • Technology programmes should promote and accept women’s participation.
  • Grants or scholarships for women students and/or researchers can be provided

for technical programmes at universities.

Systems for learning and training * Do women have equal access to technical training?
  • Programmes to train women in ICT technical and management programmes,

followed by internships, can be supported.

Software and applicationsd * Do women have a say in what applications are being promoted?
  • Are they usable or accessible to many women?
  • Does the policy support free and open source software and Linux operating

systems that can make software available to communities with limited budgets?

Building technological capacity * Are opportunities extended to women as well as men?
  • Are there mechanisms for women to enter ICT fields and training programmes?

To develop role models for young girls? To stem the brain drain?

  • Are training opportunities available not only for technology professionals but for

non-professionals to use ICT?

ICT industry development and labour policies * Encouragement and incentives should be given to encourage women to enter all segments of the ICT labour force, not just the menial electronic assembly jobs they have dominated in the past.
  • Enabling policy can encourage the establishment of teleworking which has

provided jobs for many women.

ICT business development and e-commerce * Enabling legislation for e-commerce should encourage women entrepreneurs.
  • SME ICT and communications businesses, with possibilities for ownership by women and women's groups, should be encouraged.
  • Telecentres can provide economic opportunities for women; they should be

promoted for business development, with consideration for women owners.

  • A number of telecommunications licenses should be allocated to women-owned


  • Carriers could be obligated to do a certain percentage of business with womenowned


  • Training programmes could be promoted to establish ICT-related business

opportunities (e.g., e-commerce, telecentres, wireless company ownership).

e-government * Women could benefit from many e-government services especially land and voter

registration and license applications.

  • Women would especially profit from online availability of services that would

otherwise require travel to the capital city.

  • a Hafkin, N., ‘Gender aspects of ICT policy issues’, prepared for the UN Division for the Advancement of Women Expert Group Meeting

on Information and Communication Technologies and Their Impact On and Use as an Instrument for the Advancement and Empowerment of Women, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 11–14 November 2002.

  • b Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) is a network standard rapidly gaining in popularity in developed countries that creates wireless local area

networks in homes, offices and, increasingly, restaurants, hotels and airports at speeds faster than advanced mobile phone networks. Wi-Fi Local Area Networks can be accessed with a relatively inexpensive network card.

  • c This section owes a heavy debt to Jorge, S. 2000. Gender Perspectives in Telecommunications Policy: A Curriculum Proposal. Geneva: ITU.

  • d Intellectual Property Rights is an extremely controversial issue in the ICT sector today. Proprietary software which does not permit

changes to the software purchased by the user limits its actual use and customization for the unique needs of women. Advocates of free and open source software counter this by promoting the sharing of software applications that can be modified by users. Such software applications are more conducive for enabling women to shape and use them according to their needs.

The Engendered Policy Process


Addressing gender requires detailed process planning. Gender needs to be taken into account explicitly not only in the content of ICT policy, but also in the process of policy elaboration, implementation, and evaluation (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001). In other words, gender equality goals must shift from being just integrated into public policy pronouncements to actual integration into public policy development and implementation.

Need for Gender-sensitive Indicators and its Definition80


Sex dissegregation of data is only the minimum requirement to help people differentiate the impact of development programmes, policies and projects on women and men and if possible by age, ethnicity, geographical location, etc. Disappointingly, however, in many cases the dissegregation of data by sex has become the only requirement to fulfil when addressing issues of gender equality.81 This should not be so. In dealing with the ‘socialization’ of women and men and the inequalities that manifest as a result of this process, it is essential that suitable gender-sensitive indicators that are both quantitative and qualitative are further developed. Qualitative indicators are particularly valuable when measuring the immeasurable (see Box 13).

Table 3: Comparison between Gender Neutral and Engendered Policy Process

for Universal Accessa

Policy process steps “Gender neutral”approach Engendered approach
Problem definition Focus on macro statistics such as number and percentage of households with telephone, average distance to access Looks specifically at telephone penetration by gender, by female-headed households, average time and distance to telephone access, location of phones
Definition of goals and beneficiaries No specific goals for women and girls Explicit goals for women and girls as beneficiaries, particularly those with low incomes and living in rural areas
Formulation of policy options Policy to increase number and percentage of households with telephones, promote development of telecentres Same, but also to increase number of telephones per female-headed household, decrease travel time to access a telephone, locate telecentres easily accessible to women, and promote women as owners and


Choice of preferred option Focus on overall impact Focus on overall as well as gender-specific impacts
Enforcement of new policy Develop support from consumer-advocate groups, ministerial authorities, and operators Additionally, develop support from women’s organizations, gender units in policy and regulatory agencies, and grass-roots groups involved in communications access
Implementation of policy decision Define implementation modalities and administer process for compliance Implementation process should be gender aware. Ensure participation of women’s support groups so that implementation achieves goals set forth
Evaluation and monitoring Process based on baseline statistics and quantitative methods Based on overall and sex-disaggregated statistics and goals and qualitative methods of analysis; analysis of not only whether women benefit, but which women do so (age, class, race, rural/urban location)
Termination, renewal and revision Decisions based on overall, macro-level impacts Decision based on overall and gender-specific impacts

a Hafkin and Taggart (2001) adapted the work of Jorge, S. Engendering IT Policy. It is equally important that, in this elaborated process of policy development, implementation and evaluation, gender-sensitive indicators are specifically identified.

Gender-sensitive indicators, as the term suggests, are indicators that track gender-related changes over time. Their value lies in measuring whether gender equality/equity is being achieved through a number of ways. Gender-sensitive indicators take into account that gender roles exist and point to changes in the status and roles of women and men over time. It helps us to see in what ways a project affects gender roles and addresses or disregards gender discrimination. Gender-sensitive indicators should be drawn from the identification of gender issues within the specific context of a project or activity. Many indicators that take gender into consideration such as the Gender

Box 13: Measuring the Immeasurable
For networks and networking organizations, it is as important to identify indicators that can measure

qualitative change as it is to measure quantitative change. At the same time, the concepts of the objective and the subjective in relation to indicators need to be reconsidered. In traditional evaluation processes, indicators are supposed to be ‘objective and verifiable’. In practice, most indicators have a subjective element to (in) them. For instance, ‘increased rice production’ may seem to be an objective indicator, but it may be based on subjective assumptions that such an increase is positive per se, regardless of how this affects the environment or different members of the farming community. Indicators of social change are usually based on subjective criteria of justice and equity. This is as it should be. The important issue is that these criteria are clear. There are, however, ongoing efforts to develop indicators of qualitative achievement of both the tangible and intangible impact of activities on people and society. Work is going on to develop indicators of social and political change, self-reliance and empowerment and, at the same time, to set criteria and standards for ‘subjective’ indicators such as social development and empowerment so that everyone understands what is being measured. Each network and organization must identify its own indicators, but examples from previous efforts can help stimulate this process.

Source: Marilee Karl (ed). 1998/1999. Measuring the Immeasurable Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of Networks. Women’s Feature Service. Novib. p. 63

Empowerment Measure, Human and Development Index and Gender Development Index (GDI)82 are useful tools in tracking gender equality/equity. Many of these indicators are based on gender analytical models that have emanated from a feminist analysis of societies, relationships and development. On the other hand, a growing number of gender specialists believe that indicators by themselves are insufficient to capture women’s experience especially in areas such as women’s empowerment or participation. They argue that policy makers need to pay more attention to women’s experience, towards which indicators can be a pointer.83 For example, during the World Conference on Women in 1995, APC WNSP implemented a woman-led initiative that provided Internet access, electronic communications and information services and support to over 30,000 women attending the conference and the NGO forum. Over 40 women from 25 countries and speaking 18 languages worked together to set up and manage a computer networking facility, provided training and user support and facilitated the information flow and advocacy generated by women’s networks. One of the main goals of this initiative was to demonstrate to other women this new technology was appropriate for and could be maintained by women. Three years after this initiative, APC WNSP conducted a study to gather feedback from the women who had worked on this project and explored, in more depth, women’s relationship to and experience of working in ICTs. Among other things this study identified a series of women’s needs in relation to use of ICT. These general needs can be used as a guide for asking questions to determine specific indicators in different environments.

Anecdotal evidence in measuring the gender impact of projects, however, has been severely criticized as being too subjective on ‘just how good the project was’.84 Since they cannot be compounded or synthesized, comparison of different projects and approaches is difficult. As Louise Chamberlain (2002) points out, “in the end, it is more powerful to show that approach A gave an increase in women’s income of 30 percent, whereas approach B only led to a corresponding increase of 10 percent.” The commonly held belief is that quantitative indicators are measurements that stick to hard facts and rigid numbers and there is no question about their validity. Quantitative indicators are also seen as ‘objective and verifiable’ as they point out the number of computers in a workplace, telephones in a community, or computer- and Internet-related training workshops. Quantitative indicators deal with outputs and are easier to define. On the other hand, qualitative indicators are seen as subjective, unreliable and difficult to verify. Qualitative indicators are more difficult to ascertain because these indicators probe into the whys of situations and contexts of actions as well as perceptions of people. However, qualitative indicators are valuable to the evaluation process because projects and initiatives are involved in looking into changes in the lives of communities. Qualitative indicators seek to measure the impact of a project or an initiative and are therefore used to evaluate the long-term effects and benefits. From a gender/feminist perspective, qualitative indicators are particularly useful and important in understanding women’s experiences and perceptions in relation to empowerment and development. For example, the number of women using telecentres becomes more significant when it is supplemented with details of how the information that they find and the links that they make through the Internet have contributed to their sense of independence and empowerment (see Box 14).

Box 14: Definition of Quantitative and Qualitative Indicators
Quantitative indicators can be defined as measures of quantity, such as the number of women

users in a telecentre, the number of women trained in computer skills or the number of women who have access to the Internet compared to men. Qualitative indicators can be defined as people’s judgements and perceptions about a subject, such as the confidence those people gained in having computer skills for better employment opportunities or having access to the Internet to for better trading/marketing opportunities.

Source: Guide to Gender-Sensitive Indicators. Produced by Canadian International Development Agency. p.9

Properly developed and interpreted, qualitative indicators can also play a significant role in identifying constraints to implementation and obstacles to success, which would otherwise not be readily apparent. There are techniques such as surveys that can ensure the reliability and validity of qualitative indicators. An important principle to remember is that the use of qualitative indicators can play an important role in the promotion and understanding of stakeholder perspectives, particularly those relating to women,85 and therefore fostering participation. Developing gender-sensitive indicators in a participatory fashion requires a focus on including people’s own indicators of development.86

Guidelines for Setting Gender-sensitive Indicators for ICT Initiatives87


ICT indicators should be linked with the goals and purpose of an organization, an activity or a project. Goals can be long-term or short-term. For example, indicators for computer education projects that aim to provide skills for young people so that they can have better employment opportunities will need to measure the long-term and broader impact in relation to the creation of jobs, the types of jobs available, the number of girls and boys in these courses, the changes in the economic status of young people who become part of these programmes, the other opportunities that open up as a result of these programmes. Considerations that need to be taken into account in setting gender-sensitive indicators for ICT initiatives include:

1. Indicators change during the process of implementation


It is sound practice to define indicators at the beginning of a project or an initiative. This will make it easier to track the progress and to evaluate the outcomes and impact of the projects. However, it is important to keep in mind that indicators can change during the process of project implementation. Indicators that were not anticipated can manifest themselves or become accentuated along the way.

2. Indicators reflect specific realities and experiences


Indicators are determined based on the specific realities and experiences of the stakeholders of any project or initiative. The findings and critical issues identified in the evaluation must reflect the realities of the communities and the analysis should be organic to the community. It is important to recognize the realities of women’s lives when dealing with the performance of people within projects or initiatives. For example, it should be recognized that there are many factors including personal factors that affect women’s performance in and responses to projects and initiatives. If the evaluation framework aims to find out how ICT use changes lives, then the documentation should be done in a manner that respects the integrity of the whole process. Care should be given to translations or interpretations such that complete stories of communities are documented.

3. Technology indicators and gender differences


Gender inequalities are mirrored in the development of access to and use of ICTs. While ICTs can be used as transformative tools that can change power relations between women and men, they can also end up bringing women back to their domesticated status. For example, a number of feminist researches are now interrogating the impact of ICTs for women who are now able to work at home and who may unwittingly be potentially placed in a position to assume additional domestic activities. Indicators should be able to point out if ICTs contribute to empowering or marginalizing women or if ICTs reproduce or transform gender roles. It is also important to be mindful of unintended consequences brought about by projects or initiatives and be aware that ICTs also impact on women who do not have access to it. For example, in a village, women who produce handicrafts were able to market their products better because they were connected. An indirect consequence of this is that those who were not connected became more marginalized. Example 1: Compared to other technologies, ICTs are more open to women, i.e., more women are participating in ICTs. But women are more active on the information and communications aspects rather than on the technology aspect. This is a reflection of the masculine and feminine assumptions. Example 2: There are issues around access to ICTs. Women have access to becoming users of ICTs as information providers. Some have access to training and support either as trainers and recipients of trainings. But women have less access to the technical part of ICT. At some point in ICTs, there is a bottleneck where women have less access than men. Therefore, using the number of women Internet users is not sufficient to determine how women fare as users of ICTs. The theoretical approach for an ICT evaluation tool must look at many issues: women as users, women as information providers, women as trainers, and women as technicians. Example 3: Measuring differential impacts. One can evaluate an ICT project from a gender perspective even though it is an ICT project not meant to work on gender issues. For example, a project that provides computers to school children that does not consider gender can be evaluated from a gender perspective by finding out how the project benefits girls and boys.

Also, the gender gap may contribute to the stated fact that women face many difficulties in the work place. Employers sometime refuse to hire women, customers may underestimate the work a woman may do, or male co-workers may refuse to engage in teamwork with their female co-workers. Negative attitudes like that are mainly directed at women in higher positions than men. Men do not have an issue with women working for them, however they disagree when women are their superiors and hold higher positions. One of the known differences between genders is their work position. Men hold higher and more distinguishable jobs than women which is common worldwide, although this gap is slowly but surely changing. Also, another difference in most areas and societies between genders is the salary gap and how much they make a year. Men are usually paid more than women even if they are doing the same type of jobs, even though laws for equal pay for equal work exist in most places.

Al-Jenaibi, B. (2010). Differences Between Gender Treatments in the Work Force. Cross-Cultural Communication, 6(2), 63-74. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

4. Access indicators


Access means not only access to technology but also access to information and know-how. Access is affected by age, class, gender, race or by one’s socio-economic status. The most basic quantitative indicator of access is the number of women and men who have access to computers, telephones and the Internet. The factors affecting this access are usually the presence or absence of telecommunications and Internet infrastructures. However, quantitative indicators of access are only the starting point. The more significant indicators are often qualitative in nature. These include the quality of access to information that is useful, empowering and relevant for women. It also includes information for women who are not literate and in the appropriate languages. Other important indicators are those that reveal the amount of power and control women have over these resources and knowledge. Some of the questions that will help determine indicators are: Who makes decision about access to technology? Who creates the content? Who has the right to create content and language? How do women use the information they access?

5. ICTs strengthen networking


One of the most valuable advantages of ICT is its potential to strengthen and expand links, networks and networking initiatives. Many of the early studies of women’s use of email have shown that women use new technologies to network with each other. While it is not easy to isolate the impact of networking, a useful indicator of success could be how ICTs helps link women and groups with similar interests who might otherwise not be in contact or how ICTs bring together networks of individuals or groups for promotion and action.

6. ICTs support advocacy and substantive consultation


Advocacy is broadly defined as a process of bringing about change. Many advocacy campaigns are directed at generating policy changes at government, institutions and other levels where policies are made. ICTs are increasingly being used as tools in most advocacy undertaking because of their effectiveness in group communication and interactivity. The outcomes of these campaigns, whether actual policy change occurs, are indicators of the success of the advocacy campaigns and to a certain extent the effectiveness of ICT tools for advocacy. In the short term, it may be possible to gauge if one is making a difference by examining whether the use of ICT tools generates discussion and support for women’s concerns and issues, and catalyzes more action.

7. ICTs promote a non-hierarchical and empowering organizational culture


Access to strategic information can modify the way staff or members relate among themselves and can promote democracy in the organizations. Access can catalyze changes in the power structures of an organization because it enables women to participate more actively in decisionmaking.

8. ICTs should promote democratic communication towards e-governance


ICTs are increasingly being used as necessary and effective ingredients in communications strategies. The potential of these new technologies for participatory and democratic communication and the opening up of new communication spaces are seen as main contributions to social development and transformation. One must be mindful however that these spaces can exclude and alienate women who are less articulate and who may not speak the dominant international languages that are often used in these discussions. Indicators should take account of the means available that enable people/communities to feed their voices into debate and dialogue. The underlying assumption of the use of ICTs for information sharing and communication is that it provides a means for the sharing of knowledge and information directly by those who generate them. The quality rather than the volume or quantity of information generated is more meaningful as an indicator.

While women’s increased participation in communication spaces is an indicator for the positive use of ICTs, it is even more important to measure their role in these spaces. Some of the indicators could be their involvement in the major decisions related to the initiative. This will ensure relevance and meaning – a vital component for any intervention.

The Need to Strengthen National Women’s Machineries


Louise Chamberlain (2002) stresses that gender analysis is an exercise to understand differential impacts of projects or policy design, implementation, and outcomes for women and men. A wider application of gender analysis to ICT projects in the public and private sectors, particularly if they result in quantitative evidence, can bring key gender concerns to the attention of policy makers.88 However, a number of major constraints continue to be faced in gender mainstreaming efforts, as addressing gender inequality

issues are sometimes viewed as an externally imposed political agenda. This is particularly evident when despite the location of national women’s machineries in the highest level of government,89 the lack of political support in terms of clear and strong mandates as well as resource allocation deters the implementation of planned programmes. This results in poor coordination of collaborating units, inability to develop viable policies and vulnerability to change in the political environment.90 If the national women’s machinery is to be effective (for lack of a Gender Unit), a solid constitutional and legal status is crucial, as is a policy that specifies goals, clear lines of institutional responsibility and accountability. These should be supported by definitive planning procedures and a management structure that can transform policy into practice. However, such a structure usually exists in a political and financial vacuum in many countries which inhibits the achievement of demonstrable results. In addition, structure, functions and powers of national machineries may not be congruent, i.e. national machineries have more functions than they could be expected to implement in the light of their structure, powers and resources. While assistance in policy formulation can be a mandate, these bodies are bogged down by other welfare-related activities. Some of the functions are too difficult or inappropriate as they are presently constituted and supported. As part of a distinctive ministry (e.g. planning, social welfare), the unit might be expected to perform functions expected of the ministry per se. At times, there is the tendency to treat gender and women’s issue as separate and stand-alone concerns with plans separate from national and local concerns (e.g. separate plans for gender and women). An isolated focus would deter efforts to mainstream gender in government policy and programmes. There is a need to ensure that gender and women’s issues are not marginalized in government plans and mechanisms, and that procedures for gender planning within sectors are strengthened. Sectoral and local interests and priorities mitigate against cross-cutting gender issues in plans and programmes. Issues that are considered vital by ministries and local agencies may be given priority thus sidetracking gender concerns. This becomes pressing in the light of limited resources under which these agencies operate (see Box 15).

Box 15: e-Governance – Philippines Case Study
In the last couple of years, e-governance has become a priority area of many Asian governments

resulting in the implementation of various programmes that apply ICT in delivering government services and promoting transparency and accountability. Beyond these goals however, e-governance is being more closely defined alongside concepts of governance. The delivery of government services and information to the public using electronic means is differentiated as e-government. e-Governance, on the other hand, is defined as the transformation of (governance) processes (resulting from) the continual and exponential introduction into society of more advanced digital technologies. e-Governance focuses on how these new technologies can be used to strengthen the public’s voice as a force to reshape the democratic processes, and refocus the management, structure, and oversight of government to better serve the public interest.* Defined in this way, e-governance becomes significant in the exercise of citizenship and direct public participation in government activities. Both are key elements in women’s empowerment and achievement of gender equality. It can potentially bring forth new concepts of citizenship, both in terms of needs and responsibilities. For many governments in Asia, however, allowing e-governance to make it possible for their citizens to truly communicate with government, participate in policy-making and strengthen democratic processes remain a huge challenge. Three barriers immediately come to mind. First, the serious gaps in universal access to ICT as a means of participation; second, the complete absence of gender equality consideration in e-governance plans of governments; and third, the restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression imposed by undemocratic and fundamentalist states that seriously put into question citizen’s access to information and participation in political processes. The Philippines is a good case study that illustrates the first two barriers. In July 2000, the Philippine government adopted the Government Information System Plan (GISP) as the country’s master plan for reforming governance through ICT. The GISP sets the enabling policy, institutional infrastructure and environment, direction, priorities and benchmarks for computerization of key government operations and activities over the next five to 10 years. It is envisioned as the blueprint for an electronic bureaucracy that is widely and readily accessible to its constituency. The plan fails to deliver in two fronts. First, it is gender blind and totally devoid of any provisions that address gender gaps in access, education, government services and political processes. Interviews conducted with the main government agencies responsible for the country’s national ICT programmes and key government departments delivering public services, reveal that policy makers have not thought of factoring in gender in their e-governance projects at all. In fact, the first question that was invariably asked in these interviews was, “what does gender have to do with ICT or with e-governance projects?” Personnel in IT units, management information systems divisions, women’s bureaus and gender and development technical working groups equally shared this same puzzlement.** Even when the basic elements of gender mainstreaming are in place, none of those responsible for gender mainstreaming in these departments had any awareness about gender issues in relation to ICT programmes or projects within their department. Most of the personnel were familiar with ICT mainly through: the use of email in their work, their information work for their department’s website and the use of their department’s intranet. None of the gender and development programmes or projects were related to ICT directly.

Awareness about the differences of perspectives, roles, needs, and interests of women and men in relation to ICT was absent. At the same time, there was very little understanding that e-services may entail specific planning requirements that take into consideration women’s and men’s access, know-how and control over ICT. Second, the GISP sets an unrealistic target of ensuring that every citizen has online access by 2010 in a country where key economic and connectivity problems remain. Available data about access to the Internet indicates that the digital divide is very real with figures ranging from a low 2 percent to a high 6 percent of the population with Internet connection. While teledensity is higher at 9.05 per 100 person, the majority of Filipino homes do not have a phone because they cannot afford it or the infrastructure is not available. The most positive development in telecommunications access in the country is the phenomenal growth in mobile telephony and the popularity of short message service as a source of information. While sex-disaggregated data is almost impossible to find, general access information indicate that women’s access to the Internet is marginal, concentrated in main urban centres and skewed towards the educated and the middle as well as upper classes.


  • Bill Mead, e-Governance: Toward a Practitioner’s Definition.

    • Chat Ramilo conducted a gender assessment of the Philippines government’s gender capacity in e-governance. The gender

assessment was commissioned by the Canadian International Development Agency’s for its e-Governance for Efficiency and Effectiveness Programme which will provide US$8 million in bilateral cooperation funding to support the Philippine government’s e-governance programme.

Source: Chat Ramilo. 2002. National ICT Policies and Gender Equality Regional Perspectives: Asia. Paper presented at the UN Division for the Advancement of Women Expert Group Meeting on Information and Communication Technologies and Their Impact On and Use as an Instrument for the Advancement and Empowerment of Women, held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 11–14 November 2002.

Implications for Technical and Financial Resources


The Regional Meeting of National Machineries for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific: Towards a Forward Looking Agenda held on 12–14 November 2003 in Seoul, Republic of Korea, identifies that the inability to shift from a woman in development paradigm to a gender and development paradigm is partially due to budgetary constraints.91 The failure by national and local leaders to appreciate the concepts and goals of gender equality is a serious deterrent to mainstreaming gender in the bureaucracy. Gender plans are viewed as marginal in budgetary planning. Policy commitments are not thought through to their budget implications. Therefore, it is likely that programmes are under-funded and vulnerable to arbitrary budget reduction. As such, this lack of resources forces national women’s machineries92 to adopt coping strategies, where they end up dealing with one activity at a time, branching into small projects which should be the work of other agencies and use of existing networks (Moser, 1995: p. 125). Hence, assessment of projects and programmes implemented by national women machineries indicates a predominance of welfare-oriented activities (income-generation, microfinance, cooperatives, microcredit).93 The same scenario in all likelihood will be duplicated by the ICT sector if budgetary considerations in policy, programme and project planning to address gender inequalities are not included consciously.

In many countries, national women/gender machineries have been instrumental in shaping national policies and programmes. Of particular importance are developments in incorporating the gender perspective into national and sectoral plans, budgeting, accounting and auditing. Linking gender concerns to budgeting and auditing is an effective means for making governments accountable and for raising planners’ consciousness of the differential impact of budgetary decisions on women and men. In the Philippines, for example, government agencies and departments are enjoined to prepare a budget document disaggregating outlays in terms of impact on both women and men. In Indonesia, the national machinery ensures that the government’s commitment to mainstreaming gender is reflected in national, sectoral and local plans. Addressing gender means addressing the drawbacks in the socialization of women and men which result in discrimination and disempowerment. However, unravelling socialization is a very slow process, and needs to be undertaken at a highly conscientious level. Such demands require sustained funding and deployment of resources at its most optimal level, and attention to effectiveness rather than speed. Such demands may even mean a more purposive outreach rather than a blanket approach to servicing a community. The heavy emphasis of development aid on innovation and immediate sustainability leaves little room to spearhead adaptation, replication and upscaling, let alone room to substantively address gender issues in the area of ICT.