Femenist Agenda for Reducing th Gender Digital Divide

Femenist Agenda for Reducing th Gender Digital Divide

Gillian M. Marcelle (SPRU University of Sussex, UK and Technology for Development, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch051
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Abstract

There is little shared understanding of the term “digital divide,” but this has not prevented the international community from investing a great deal of effort in projects that aim to reduce the digital divide by reducing disparities in access to information and communication technologies (ICT) (European Commission High Level Group, 1997; International Telecommunication Union [ITU], 1984, 2003; United Nations Economic and Social Commission [UN ECOSOC], 2000). The divergent rate at which ICT diffuses—the digital divide—is a reflection of broader socioeconomic divides, many of which exist within societies. The divide between men and women, rich and poor, young and old, urban and rural, literate and non-literate, also manifests itself in the digital world of media, computers, telecommunications, Internet, and jobs in software production. Information and communication flows carried by ICT are increasingly becoming an integral factor in international, institutional, and political processes. Lack of access to ICT therefore impacts on opportunities for developing countries’ economic growth, wealth distribution, social empowerment, and development. It is the digital divide which largely prevents the equal sharing of knowledge worldwide and leads to “information and knowledge poverty” among certain groups. If only a select number of countries, and within them certain groups, reap the benefits of ICT while others continue to lag behind, the digital divide will continue to grow and the virtuous cycle that ICT can create will not be enjoyed by many (Millward-Oliver, 2005). There is little acknowledgment and even less acceptance that gender constitutes an important influence in the structure of the “digital divide.” At first glance, this failure to admit context may seem strange and out of step with common sense. Why should gender relations, such an important and pivotal element of social structure, that is known to influence differentiated access to financial resources, employment opportunities, education and training, water and sanitation, health care, legal status, and enjoyment of human-rights not affect access to and control of ICT? This article will explore some of the key factors that lead to gender blindness in the digital divide debate and articulate a strategic response

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