Gender and ICT/Taking a Closer Look at Women's Realities

…in no region do women enjoy equal legal, social, and economic rights. Women have fewer resources than men, and more limited economic opportunities and political participation. Women and girls bear the most direct cost of these inequalities—but the harm ultimately extends to everyone. . . Gender inequalities persist because they are supported by social norms and legal institutions, by the choices and behaviours of households, and by regulations and incentives that affect the way economies function. A strategy to reduce gender inequalities must address these factors. Foremost among the costs of gender inequality is its toll on the quality of human lives. Evidence suggests that societies with large and persistent gender inequalities pay the price of more poverty, illness, malnutrition, and other deprivations, even death. This makes a compelling case for public and private action to eliminate inequality. Public action is particularly important, since many social, legal, and economic institutions that perpetuate gender inequalities are extremely difficult for individuals to change.

- The World Bank, 2001[1]

Gender Neutrality of Technology – Pure Science Fiction


The application of the technology and who uses it make ICT extremely gendered. However, in reality, gender issues are not holistically addressed in the application of ICT. The way ICT is applied today has largely been an extension of our socialization – an extension of the provision of basic services and an extension of our efforts to promote efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness. Generally, the way ICT is applied today has little to do with the appreciation of the individual and the richness in diversity s/he brings to a society and the multiple identities and roles that the individual plays within that society.

The way ICT is applied today makes little difference in addressing gender (Kuga Thas, 2003). Traditionally, women have had a subordinate position to men, where, for example, she may contribute materially to the household but her husband makes the decisions on how the income is spent. On a macro-political level, most governing bodies are dominated by men; legislative and judicial decisions often lack a gendered perspective and do not represent women’s interests. ICT access and use may be similarly restricted: at the micro-level, the son’s preferences may translate into allowing boys greater access than their sisters to the family computer; at the macro-level, supposedly ‘gender-neutral’ ICT policies regarding education, training and price structure may have an unintended negative impact based on gender roles and access to ICT resources.

In the context of ICT, it is necessary to consider how ICT impact women’s multiple roles and examine changes brought about by the new information and communication society on women’s and men’s gendered roles. Gender role analysis is useful to understanding to what ends women and men utilize ICT (i.e. reproductive tasks associated with educating children, productive tasks associated with work, and community tasks associated with volunteerism), whether use of ICT is time-saving, and whether women’s and men’s use of time is different (i.e. does one sex have greater leisure or does increased time flexibility create the potential for more ‘double shift’ as telecommuting blurs distinctions between private (home) and public (work) domains).

In terms of ICT use and impacts, examining gender roles may lead to greater understanding of the differences between women and men in ICT use and impacts. For example:

  • In a given community, do women and men, girls and boys, participate equally in the use of Internet facilities at a library or telecentre? At the telecentres, are men visiting pornographic sites and making the environment uneasy for women to remain within?
  • In a development organization, is there a gender difference among those who use/appropriate email and those who do not? Is a general public email account assigned to lower category staff who are usually women compared to private email accounts of top management who are usually men?
  • Does the availability of a home computer facilitate work management through telecommuting, or does it create unrealistic time demands because the worker – female or male – is always connected? Are both women and men who telecommute paid equal wages for equal work or do wage differentials still exist?
  • Are women, when telecommuting, often disrupted just because they are working at home, while men are generally left to do their work without disruption just as they would be at an office? Do female workers’ time demands increase or decrease?
  • Are national policies being designed in such a manner to encourage telecommuting only for women, with the presumption that all women would prefer to work from home as they would want to take care of the children and household? Do such policies work against encouraging men to share household responsibilities? Do such national policies prioritize incentives to the private sector as they will not have to pay for various insurance and health benefits?[2]

Will such policies effectively remove women’s opportunities to go outside of the home? Will such policies unknowingly exacerbate existing situations of domestic violence?

The questions above as one can see are not just limited to the issue of an equal number of women and men using ICTs. They must include issues that ‘interfere’ with not only family matters, but cultural matters as well. Projects that say they address gender inequalities therefore, need to look beyond the surface of the immediate problem (see Figure 1). Projects cannot run away from ‘interfering with family and cultural matters’ because when gender inequalities are addressed, the whole issue of socialization of values, of what is feminine and masculine, and the power dynamics between the two socialized concepts need to be examined and analysed.

The fact remains that opportunity costs of forgoing girls’ labour are often high, particularly relative to boys’, given the gender division of labour within the household. Girls are more likely to be ‘employed’ in the household, whereas boys are often not considered old enough to contribute to productive labour (Bhatty, 1998). Thus, the opportunity costs of empowering women and girls at all stages are high for a household to bear. It is only when this ‘empowerment’ is accompanied with an income value to the household that a valuation of their contributions changes to one of reasonable acknowledgement. Gender is therefore a consistent variable in decision-making at the household, and reinforced in a vicious circle by the larger society not only through tradition, beliefs and practices, but through various institutional structures and mechanisms which include those of the State. These usually result in women and girls facing gender-specific disadvantages arising from the specific construction of femininity.

Women are also constantly reminded about what they should or should not be interested in, and where their capabilities and strengths lie. For example, the Newsweek magazine, regularly trumpets studies finding gender-related mental differences while ignoring the (far more common) studies which finds no differences at all (Henson, 2002). Dismissive explanations such as ‘women just aren’t interested in computers’ or ‘women aren’t as smart as men’, implicitly reinforce the stereotypical mentality that women are genetically pre-determined from conception to not be interested in computers.[3] This ‘just aren’t’ theory has been used in many other fields when women first began entering them, from education to medical science to even joining the armed forces. Even if women are able to acquire better education and training and begin to enter ICT fields in greater numbers, women’s leverage within the ICT job market may be undercut by the feminization of certain ICT occupations whereby “large numbers of women enter a profession and as a result, there is a drop in salaries, status and working conditions” (Hersh, 2000). As Reardon warns, “as computer-based skills become more commonplace, and as the need for more workers to use them in a greater variety of ways grows, more women will again be recruited. But this will be at a lower wage because these will no longer be considered specialist skills, merely something that women can do” (Reardon, 1998).[4] Feminization has plagued other sectors, perhaps with the exception of law and medicine, and Hersh raises the question of how engineering and ICT professions can be opened up to women and “become a genuinely gender neutral profession without a resulting drop in salaries and status” (Hersh, 2000).

A cornerstone of gender equality is women’s equal participation in decision-making. Collective participation is also one of the essential aspects of women’s empowerment. Participation in decision making is integrated with ‘conscientization’, process of awareness raising among women about gender discrimination and the resulting oppression it creates for women as a social group. Through this process, women collectively analyse various aspects of gender inequality that they face. This process constitutes women’s development and becomes the basis for action to overcome and dismantle gender inequality in control of resources. Achieving control is an essential element of women’s empowerment that includes the ability to direct and/or influence events to protect one’s own interests. Control makes it possible for women to ensure that resources as well as the benefits that the use of these resources can bring are distributed so that women and men get equal shares. This framework is particularly useful in understanding and evaluating the impact of women’s access to ICTs. Gender gaps in access to ICT resources and services remain an obstacle to women’s empowerment (see Box 3).

Box 3: The Same Old Story?
While efforts are underway to increase ICT access, improve capacity and enable usage for all – or

at least for more – questions are arising about how well those efforts are reaching women in developing countries. It’s the same old story, in some ways, with a high tech twist. Early returns suggest that women are neither participating in nor benefiting from the efforts at anywhere near the same level as men. The familiar and still formidable constraints are again rearing their ugly heads – poverty and illiteracy, lack of time, insufficient skills – with ‘technophobia’ and maledominated, corporate control of technology added to the list. Accompanying the questions and constraints are the continuing debates about the relative value of ‘Women in Development’-type initiatives vs. ‘gender mainstreaming’ as responses. Noteworthy progress notwithstanding, after a quarter of a century of exploring, analysing, debating and experimenting with approaches to meeting women’s development needs, one still faces daunting difficulties and dilemmas when it comes to striving for gender equity.

Source: Fontaine, M. 2000. A High-Tech Twist: ICT Access and the Gender Divide. Knowledge Enterprise Inc.

In investigating the impact of ICT and development on gender equality, it is essential to trace the factors that govern its production, consumption, distribution and appropriation. Women and men traditionally have different levels of access to and control over resources, whether they exist in the private or public spheres.

Where are Women in the Globalized Information and Communication Society?


In a globalized[5] world where international trade and financial systems have become so dependent on ICTs, it has become an arena that women cannot afford to not be a part of. Despite being a very new field in most developing countries, the ICT sector is already being entrenched with gender inequities that are so well-ingrained in other sectors, from gender employment patterns and gender stereotyped division of labour to gender role biases. These could take the form of preference for male workers because of the perceived physical demands of the job or the perceived higher level of skills and experiences which are in turn due to men having easier access to more opportunities, or the provision for differentials in salaries due to the man being perceived as the main breadwinner of the household. Women tend to be poorly represented as administrators and managers and concentrate in lower level, end user positions. On a higher level of skills, women tend to be well represented in desktop publishing and software programming, but not in hardware design, operating systems or computer maintenance. Swasti Mitter says that, “technological innovations become commercially successful if and when the creator of the innovation could make use of political, economic and legal networks. Thus the dominant group in a society determines the shape and direction of a society’s techno-economic order - and the image of an inventor has almost always been male. Lack of access to relevant networks in the public domain explains the historical marginalization of women’s contribution to technological innovations” (Sarkar, 2003). Unfortunately, it is a reality that women are not seen or encouraged to be ‘creators’ but rather more as ‘consumers’ of ICTs.[6]

Access to ICT, Women’s Use and Challenges


Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart (2001) in their document entitled Gender, Information Technology, and Developing Countries: An Analytic Study provides valuable insights as to where women are in the still defining globalized information and communication society. In their review of available sex-disaggregated statistics/data on Internet use, which had to be sourced from marketing surveys and ad hoc research projects,[7] the authors found the figures by country puzzling as there did not appear to be any correlation between women’s Internet usage and expected indicators such as female literacy rate, female GDP per capita, female representation in professional and technical jobs, or even gender empowerment. Nor were there regional patterns to women’s use. No correlation could be found in developing countries either between a high percentage of users overall and a high percentage of women users, as there is in the developed world such as in the USA and Japan (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001). This lack of correlation supports the hypothesis that many women Internet users in almost all developing countries are not representative of women in the country as a whole, but rather are part of a small, urban educated elite. A study by Asian Women’s Resource Exchange (AWORC) on gender and ICT issues in the Asia-Pacific confirms this (Ramilo and Villanueva, 2001). Figures of relatively high (e.g. 30 percent or more) women’s Internet use as a percentage of total users per country can be misleading when Internet access is confined to a tiny elite of high-income urban dwellers. This urban elite centricity is particularly true for countries like the Philippines and Malaysia, where the latter boasts of extremely good telecommunication infrastructure. Figures by the Internet World Stats show that Asian Internet users as at the end of June 2006 experienced a growth of over 232 percent and represent 36.5 percent of global users, but penetration (percentage of global population) is only 10.4 percent (see Table 1). By regions, in 2004, women were 22 percent of all Internet users in Asia, 38 percent in Latin America, and 6 percent in the Middle East. No regional figures by sex were available in Africa. In the two latter regions, less than one percent of the total population was connected to the Internet.[8]

Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive surveys that document all the uses women make of ICT in developing countries. However, the early adapters of the technology in developing countries were nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on women’s rights and empowerment issues on behalf of women. This was clearly the case when women mobilized around the world in preparation for and in their actual participation at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. In these cases and in the cases of women entrepreneurs in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), women are using ICTs to make their organizations and businesses more efficient and effective. Where these groups of women are concerned, women have strived to be their own agents of change and decision-making, ensuring that the technology serves them.

Table 1: Internet Usage and Population of the World
World Regions Population (2006 Est.) Population (% of World) Internet Usage, Latest Data % Population (Penetration) Usage (%of World) Usage Growth, 2000-2005 (%)
Africa 915,210,928 14.1 23,649,000 2.6 2.3 423.9
Asia 3,667,774,066 56.4 380,400,713 10.4 36.5 232.8
Europe 807,289,020 12.4 294,101,844 36.4 28.2 179.8
Middle East 190,084,161 2.9 18,203,500 9.6 1.7 454.2
North America 331,473,276 5.1 227,470,713 68.6 21.8 110.4
Latin America / Caribbean 553,908,632 8.5 79,962,809 14.7 7.8 350.5
Oceania 33,956,977 0.5 17,872,707 52.6 1.7 134.6
WORLD TOTAL 6,499,697,060 100.0 1,043,104,886 16.0 100.0 189.0
NOTES: (1) Internet Usage and World Population Statistics were updated for 30 June 2006. (2) Demographic (Population) numbers are based on data contained in the world-gazetteer website. (3) Internet usage information comes from data published by Nielsen//NetRatings, by the International Telecommunication Union, by local NICs, and other other reliable sources. (4) For definitions, disclaimer, and navigation help, see the Site Surfing Guide. (5) Information from this site may be cited, giving due credit and establishing an active link back to ©2006, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved. Source:, accessed on 23 August 2006.

However, while the AWORC study acknowledges that the rate of increase in the use of ICTs by women’s organizations have been rapid, women’s full access to the benefits of ICTs have largely been for administrative purposes (Ramilo and Villanueva, 2001). These findings seem to imply that women’s use of ICTs is driven by their practical realities and needs, which may or may not directly challenge gender inequalities and/or inequities within the local context. The experience of Projek Ikhtiar, however, does suggest that while women are driven by their practical realities and needs, they will be unable to fulfill these needs effectively if gender issues on control and decision-making remain unaddressed.[9]

Another prominent challenge is the lack of relevant local content and the continued predominant use of English, which makes ICT seem highly irrelevant to many women in the Asia-Pacific region, and much of the developing world. Women continue to be more inclined towards ICTs that are more audio in nature, such as the radio and even the mobile telephone.[10] For example, recognizing the relevance of radio and its proliferation as a reality in most women’s lives, especially those who are not employed outside of the homes, the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) in Malaysia focused its public education strategy on providing awareness and information on basic rights to women, through the radio. WAO targets non-Malay or non-English speaking audiences whom, through experience at the WAO Refuge, were either short of time or had costs and literacy obstacles in gaining information through print media, television or new forms of ICT. Working through the radio has been very successful as the number of phone calls to the Refuge invariably increases whenever there is a programme aired (Kee, 2004). Hence, community media centres which promote women’s issues and content can be an effective approach to providing development solutions but within a gender equality framework.

Mainstream media can also be encouraged to host gender transformative and women-centered programmes.[11] Women prefer technology that is audio in nature not purely because they are illiterate or semi-literate, but largely because they do not speak English, the predominant language of the Internet and the new knowledge-based economy. A cheaper alternative in telephony that is now available is VoIP, which unfortunately is not allowed in many countries because it affects the profits of telecommunication monopolies (Sprigman and Lurie, 2004).[12]

While ICTs include a variety of technologies, the Internet has proved the most innovative and fastestgrowing new technology. This network of networks has become critically important in the development of the new information and/or knowledge society, contributing to the development of what many are now calling the new knowledge-based global economy. Many of the more traditional ICTs such as radio and television broadcasting are converging on the Internet, using it, becoming part of it, and often becoming indistinguishable from it (APC, 2003). In our race to be part of the new knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that governments substantially consider that in many cultures, women have been at the core in safeguarding and passing on traditional knowledge and wisdom. While the recording of this traditional knowledge and wisdom is still done with the use of speech, drama, painting, song or dance, the use of writing and the invention of the printing press has changed information and communication means tremendously.

The knowledge, culture and tacit skills of women should be respected and enhanced through the use of ICTs, thereby enabling a better preservation and transference of traditional knowledge, wisdom and skills. It is also equally important to ensure that the tacit and uncodified knowledge of women, and the material resources of their traditional use in the household and in micro and small businesses, are not appropriated by the corporate sector in the developed world. Codification and digitization of women’s knowledge should not lead to patenting, a trend that could deprive rural and semi-literate women of their livelihoods and ways of life. Instead of an intellectual property regime that privatizes knowledge, an inclusive knowledge society must fully embrace women’s knowledge including knowledge that is contextual, rooted in experience and practice, and draws from local knowledge. In addition, it means ensuring that the information needed by specific communities is generated, and that accessing society’s knowledge is possible and affordable to all.


The perception of women being passive consumers of ICT rather than producers extends to their work related use as well, where one continues to see a feminization of lower level ICT jobs and women in a more reactive role of receivers of ICT-type jobs. Women continue to be concentrated in tedious, repetitive tasks as when they were during the first wave of industrialization, in manufacturing sectors such as textiles, clothing and electronics. The lower skilled ICT jobs that women typically find themselves in are word-processing and data entry. Trends and dynamics of global job distribution have also seen women taking up more social-related ICT jobs such as working in particular divisions of the call centres industries, information-processing, banking, insurance, finance, printing and publishing, where skilled requirements are relatively lower than in software development. The entry of women in the new technology service sector is not only recent, but there are fewer jobs numerically compared to those that had been created in manufacturing.

Women’s employability status has also considerably weakened as women who had lost manufacturing jobs were generally not qualified and unskilled to enter into the new service industry. The service jobs show a preference for young women, familiar with English, single and better-educated than those who had worked in manufacturing. In call centres in the Philippines, employees – both women and men – commonly recount that they are trained to speak in an American accent, and are even expected to handle emergency calls which get redirected to these call centres outside of the country concerned (interviews conducted by WomensHub, Philippines).

Women tend to represent a very small percentage of managerial maintenance, software developers, or design personnel in operating systems and networks. Summarizing the results of the United Nations University / Institute for New Technologies project on Monitoring the Impact of Technological Changes in Women’s Employment in Asia, Swasti Mitter (in Ng and Kua, 1995) concludes that the introduction of new technologies has changed women’s work in three ways by:

  1. Altering the process of production in manufacturing and service industries through automation, de-skilling of workers and augmenting the skills requirements of key jobs;
  2. Introducing new products or services in the market, such as electronics, computer peripherals or information processing work; and
  3. Shifting production that often used old technologies to locations that are distant from the main sites of commercial units or to home-based workers.

Evidence also indicates that women are conspicuously absent from decision-making structures in ICT in developing countries. These structures include boards and senior management of private IT companies, senior management and advisors of international policy and regulatory organizations, technical standards-setting organizations and industry, and professional organizations. In line ministries of developing countries, out of 201 senior government officials responsible for ICTs in developing countries, only 11 are women (5.5 percent). Although the numbers are miniscule, it is notable that there are more women in senior government positions related to IT in Africa than in other regions.[13] Women’s representation is also very low in International Trade Union Study Groups, which are able to influence the direction of the development of information and communication infrastructure and standards in developing countries. Likewise, women from developing countries are absent among the 19 directors who sit on the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit corporation that assumes responsibility for Internet address space allocation and related matters, and is therefore a major decision-making body and player in the Internet world. Women in key decision-making positions in ICT have the potential to influence how ICT is allocated, applied and developed in their countries as well as at regional and international levels. These women are able to facilitate the entry of other women into the arena and alleviate some negative impacts of the technology on women and girls.

Despite the appalling statistical scenario of women and ICT use, and its ‘easy-to-miss’ implications on women’s employability, women have taken on leadership roles in technology, debunking the ‘women just aren’t’ argument, of women not being technically inclined (see Box 4). It is important that this information is shared with a wider audience of women and girls to help reverse the mentality and attitude women generally have towards technology as a result of years of socialization that says ‘technology is a male domain’. As Swasti Mitter expressed in her keynote address at the Global Knowledge II Women’s Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2000, “it is not only in the production of content, but also in the sphere of production of technology that women’s presence is necessary for an efficient and equitable knowledge society…The prospect of addressing women-specific questions in the configuration of software remains remote unless women themselves become visible in the community” (Mitter, 2000).

Gender Implications in Skills and Capacity Development in Science and Technology


To some extent, the traditional view that women tend to shy away from technology is becoming less of a reality as women represent more than 30 percent of university level students in natural sciences in a large number of developing countries across the regions (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001). In Malaysia, for example, women are at least 50 percent of the students in IT courses at public universities (Ng and Yong, 1995).[14] In Western Asia, enrollment at most universities is predominantly female. The high percentage of women studying natural sciences, as well as other fields is largely due to the fact that many men are sent or get to study abroad, while women usually do not have this option.

Box 4: Women in Technology
Augusta Ada King

There are five visionaries who changed the face of technology – the unsung Heroes of Computing. These five includes a woman, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815–1852). The other four are Douglas Engelbart (1929- ), Vannever Bush (1890–1974), Alan Turing (1912–1954), and J.C.R. Licklider (1915–1990).

Ada Lovelace, Lady Byron

She is credited with the idea for the first computer program. In 1979 a programming language developed by the US Department of Defence was named in her honour as ‘Ada’.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper of the US Navy

As early as 1953, she invented the compiler – the intermediate program that translates English language instructions into machine language.

Esther Dyson

She has been hailed as the ‘most influential woman on the Internet’. She was the first interim chairperson of ICANN and earlier, also the chair of Electronics Frontier Foundation. She has also written the book Release 2.1.

Carleton S. Fiorina

She was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard Company from 1999 to 2005, and launched the World e-Inclusion programme in October 2000. She also led the Hewlett- Packard merger with Compaq, which was completed in May 2002.

Courtney Houston

She is founder and Chief Executive Officer of eHow, a website that provides 15,000 step-by-step how-to solutions.

Pippa Norris

She has written Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide, outlining the debate between the cyber optimists (who see Internet as a great leveller) and cyber pessimists (who see greater inequality emerging) and examining the evidence in 179 countries worldwide. She is currently the Director of the Democratic Governance Group at the United Nations Development Programme based in New York.

Note: Paraphrased and sourced from selected questions and responses from

However, these percentages take a sharp dip when a closer examination of the existing workforce in the area of science and technology, and particularly at jobs that require higher levels of ICT skills. Many of these qualified women opt out due to gender-constructed social obstacles – such as tight labour market and the prevailing preference to give men jobs rather than women, lack of suitable mentors and role models, sexual harassment in the field, and so forth (Henson, 2002). Social expectations for women to get married and stay at home is also a prevalent reason, and the ‘value’ of the woman as a wife can be strongly linked to the level of education obtained.

On the flip side of this coin, it is important to note that a growing number of governments who are experiencing this phenomenon of having more women studying at the tertiary level and doing much better than their male colleagues, are thinking of affirmative measures to allow young men to qualify more easily into universities and to encourage better performance by male enrolees. In this respect, governments may want to not just examine the numbers, but also ask why young men are not doing well or studying as hard as they could. If parents are still giving preference to male child education but this time, sending them abroad despite their poorer examination results, it could account for the poor performance locally in schools and at university. In short, is this the result of the fact that there is no change in how young men and boys are being socialized into society and their perception of what it is to be male, while there is some change in how young women and girls are being socialized into society, and in their perception of what it is to be female? Will our response be to withdraw or reduce the affirmative measures taken in relation to development initiatives for women and girls and start reallocating resources towards affirmative measures for young men and boys? Something to ponder about, no doubt.


  1. From the World Bank’s World Development Indicators 2001, pp. 35-36.
  2. Women’s ability to work is significantly shaped by the availability of childcare, flexible work hours, and maternity leave. While in many countries, governments mandate that employers provide for these benefits, the extent to which these are actually provided relies heavily on the decisions of the employer, which are more often than not, guided by actual costs incurred as well as opportunity costs.
  3. Sceptics are constantly amazed at how illiterate women, if taught effectively, can quickly learn how to use the computer. For example, on 23 March 2000, an illiterate woman launched the e-governance programme in Rajasthan in Nyala village in the presence of the ex-US President Bill Clinton. Kailashi Devi was tutored over two days to operate an ICT-based system, clicked on Rajasthan Government’s site and showed President Bill Clinton the immunization card of the health department (see for details). Clinton, impressed that an illiterate village woman could retrieve information on neo-natal care from the Internet, later stressed at the need for similar community centres all over the Mississippi Delta.
  4. Certain kinds of work, because they are historically performed by women, have come to be defined as ‘unskilled’ (and therefore lowpay). Effective call service often requires a great deal of performative or emotional labour, but such labour is naturalized as ‘inherent’ to women and therefore undervalued (Costanza-Chock, 2003: pp.11-12).
  5. Globalization (also frequently referred to as global restructuring to emphasize its social aspects) (Marchand and Runyam, 2000) refers to the phenomenon that emerged in the 1970s involving the spatial reorganization of production, movement of industries across borders, and spread of financial markets that resulted in flexible production methods and integration of production into global commodity and production chains. “Businesses could treat the whole world as their field of operations and re-deploy their capital and move the location of their production at will” (UNIFEM, 2000).
  6. In the case of consumer applications, the international private sector is attempting to capture women’s purchasing power while clothing its efforts, in the language of gender and ICT advocates, as ‘empowering women’, but clearly targeting women who have significant amounts of disposable income (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001: p.19).
  7. As the International Telecommunication Union did not have sex-disaggregated data, other sources that did have sex-disaggregated data had to be sought out and used.
  8. According to Nua Internet Surveys (, the art of estimating how many are online throughout the world is an inexact one at best. Surveys abound, using all sorts of measurement parameters. However, from observing many of the published surveys over the last two years, here is an ‘educated guess’ as to how many are online worldwide as of September 2002; the number is 605.60 million globally, with 6.31 million in Africa, 187.24 million in Asia and the Pacific, 190.91 million in Europe, 5.12 million in the Middle East, 182.67 million in Canada and the USA, and 33.35 million in Latin America. Since accessing this data in 2005, it is now only available to subscribers, see
  9. See Gibbons, D. S. and Kasim, S. 1990 for more details.
  10. Grameen Phones in Bangladesh is another example where women with low levels of literacy can still effectively adopt new ICTs in their lives. The experience such as that of Grameen Phones further testifies that women’s illiteracy should not be equated to their lack of wisdom, survival skills or of resilience. For more information on Grameen Phones please visit See also Bayes, A., von Braun, J., Akhter, R. 1999. ‘Village Pay Phones and Poverty Reduction: Insights from a Grameen Bank Initiative in Bangladesh’. ZEF-Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 8, Center for Development Research, Bonn, May, p.47.
  11. WAO has successfully partnered with both mainstream radio stations and the web-based radio station, However, it took NGOs in Malaysia more than a decade to get the Domestic Violence Act enacted before issues of domestic violence started to be taken up more readily by the mainstream media.
  12. Telkom, a formerly state-owned monopoly and the owner and operator of South Africa’s telephone network, was privatized between 1997 and 2003. Despite enjoying an advanced network backbone, Telkom does not offer basic telephone service to a majority of South Africans. As it depends on revenues from phone calls, Telkom has little incentive to offer cheap VoIP service. South African law dictates that only Telkom and ‘under-serviced area licensees’ (small firms in rural areas) are allowed to offer VoIP, yet the government has not approved a single under-serviced area licensee. So today, for a variety of regulatory reasons, only Telkom can provide VoIP. For competitive reasons, it does not. (Sprigman and Lurie, 2004).
  13. Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart compiled these figures from lists of senior government officials from developing countries using the ITU Global Directory, 2001.
  14. Also available online at uu37we0k.htm#9.%20information%20technology,%20gender%20and%20employment