Measuring Empowerment of Women Through Internet: Application of ME Framework in a Research Intervention in India

Measuring Empowerment of Women Through Internet: Application of ME Framework in a Research Intervention in India

Aparna Purushothaman
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch007
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The chapter discusses the Measuring Empowerment Framework and how it can be used to measure the phenomenon of empowerment through the internet. The ME framework not only provides the opportunity to measure the concept of empowerment through the indicators of empowerment defined for the research participants but also by identifying whether there is sufficient opportunity for the women to use the achieved competencies and capabilities through the project in the future. Although the framework has been interpreted and applied to projects in different countries on a bigger scale, it also lends itself to be applied to smaller project settings and gives the flexibility to choose variables depending on the project's context.
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There is a reported gender divide, which shows that women and girls have less access to ICT’s compared to men in developing countries. Even though the information revolution by the ICT’s have benefitted women who are highly skilled and whose income and work experience have improved because of the knowledge based economy, there is a larger group of women who face barriers in order to fully participate in the knowledge economy (Marcelle, 2000). Most of the populations of women who are not benefitted are women from global south (Wamala, 2012). The barriers for successful access and usage of ICT’s by women users are deeply rooted in the socio-cultural context of the societies where they belong to and thus are influenced by factors such as nationality, class, ethnicity, age, and position in society (Purushothaman, 2013). Infrastructure and low literacy does have a direct influence on women’s access and usage. The gendered roles defined by the culture also have a strong influence on how women use the technology (Purushothaman, Holmfeld, & Kuruvilla, 2017).

The chapter particularly focuses on the usage of the most powerful ICT tool Internet, by women users. “Internet is not just technology; it is an efficient vehicle to promote a better life for many human beings” (Barak & Sadovsky, 2008, p. 1812). Access to the Internet is not only about physical access and being connected to the Internet but also includes possessing the required online or digital skills to use the medium effectively and efficiently (Hargittai, 2003; van Deursen & van Dijk, 2009, 2010). It is imperative that learners of this generation and coming generations have to be prepared for the evolving knowledge economy if they need to be successful and move forward in the digital age and making them equipped with the digital skills is of utmost importance. Some students by virtue of their ethnicity, region, and class are not able to participate in this information age, as they do not have the scope of access in terms of requisite skills (Purushothaman, 2017).

It has been observed that when it comes to women users, access statistics is not an indicator of women’s empowerment (Amichai-Hamburger et al., 2008; Melhem, Tandon, & Morrell, 2009). Apart from the connectivity, educational and cost barriers, equal emphasis must also be given to the often-neglected dimensions of access, which are interwoven around the cognitive, psychological and socio-cultural barriers to access (Purushothaman, Holmfeld, & Kuruvilla, 2017). Individuals are not going to be empowered just by getting them connected to the Internet. Unless an individual takes advantage of the empowering tools and opportunities, which are available through the Internet, they cannot realize the full potential of the Internet technologies (Amichai-Hamburger, McKenna, & Tal, 2008; Hill, Wiley, Nelson, & Han, 2004). There is an identified need for awareness of the gender dimension of access, need and use of information technologies, and international organizations across the globe who work on women empowerment and development have been stressing on the need for closing the gender gap in access and usage of ICT’s and powerful technologies like Internet so that women are not left behind in this information age (Purushothaman, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

ICT4D: Acronym for Information and Communication Technologies for Development.

Empowerment Process: An experience which individuals undergo that bring changes which could be human, financial, political, etc.

Technophobia: Avoidance of technology because of fear of using it.

Internet Self-Efficacy: Confidence or one’s belief in their ability to use the internet.

Digital Divide: The differences in access and usage of any form of technology by the privileged and underprivileged.

Networked Knowledge: Skills and competencies to access, evaluate and use the digital content available through internet and also to network through the internet.

Gender Digital Divide: Disparities in access and usage of any form of technology between women and men.

Empowerment Through the Internet: Gaining the knowledge and skills and also the confidence to use the internet by reduced technophobia and improved motivation to use the internet.

Empowerment Outcomes: Which can be measured through indicators as results.

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