The status of women’s access to participation in the Information Society is a microcosm of the larger society that we live in. It is a startling testament of the sheer mountain of the task that is before us and also how optimism at the highest levels of national policy makers has to be tempered with the harsh realities of the socio-economic and political landscape that is evident in the developing world. It is within this crippling environment that the role of ICTs and their potential for the empowerment of women should be examined to be able to provide concrete and tangible results for the participation of women from all levels of society into the Information Society.

There are notable examples of successes within the region in attempting to push this agenda forward, but it should also be cautioned that we need to place these pilot projects and ad hoc policies in the appropriate context. We need to ensure these successes do not detract attention from the actual status of participation of women in the Information Society. In the final analysis, equal participation of women in the Information Society involves attention on issues such as the ability to access, process, create and manage information.

UNDP has always advocated that ICTs have enormous potential, especially in the field of education, health and commerce. Even more so, it has a critical role in providing an opportunity to democratize decision-making and enhance the governance processes of women’s rights. However, to ensure we are able to reap the full potential of the opportunities within this new Information Age, the global community and national policy makers have no other choice but to be proactive about ensuring that the benefits of ICT are equally available to and shaped by women and men.

It is within this vein, that UNDP-APDIP and APC WNSP collaborated on this publication to examine and discuss the context of ICTs and gender by placing it within the Gender Equality Framework.

We hope this publication will move the dialogue forward to address the questions of implications of integrating a gender perspective by realistically examining the state of play across the region.

Shahid Akhtar
Programme Coordinator, UNDP-APDIP