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IDPM Working papers

This Working Paper is part of the Development Informatics series

ICT Initiatives, Women and Work in Developing Countries: Reinforcing or Changing Gender Inequalities in South India?

Shoba Arun, Richard Heeks and Sharon Morgan

Abstract

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are increasingly used by developing countries in strategies that see the new technology as having the potential to deliver economic growth, employment, skills generation and empowerment. There is growing agreement, however, that the impact of ICTs in developing countries is not gender neutral, necessitating an engendered approach to ICT-based projects. This paper argues that ICTs as a form of new technology are socially deterministic, with varied implications for women in terms of employment and empowerment dependent on the context within which the ICTs are utilised. The paper presents findings from two ICT initiatives in South India showing significant impacts on women's employment, income and social roles. One ICT initiative - "gender-blind" and pursued within the globalised, competitive context of an increased role for markets and 'flexibility' - has generally reinforced gender inequalities. By contrast, a gender-focused ICT initiative involving significant state intervention has brought about positive changes to livelihood outcomes and empowerment of poor women.

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