LEARNING CASE 9: GENDER AND RURAL INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY 1

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1 LEARNING CASE 9: GENDER AND RURAL INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY 1 1. An Information and Communications Technology (ICT) project in Jordan was launched to create an enabling environment that: (i) improves access to efficient and affordable ICT services (defined as hardware, software, networks, and media for collection, storage, processing, transmission, and presentation of information in the form of voice, data, text, and images and, in this project, including telecommunications, information technology, and postal services); (ii) facilitates private sector growth in the ICT sector; (iii) improves the competitiveness of national firms; an (iv) enhances the efficiency of the delivery of government services. 2. The ICT sector is one that exhibits great disparities between men and women. Women in the developing world have limited access to ICTs because of time constraints, lack of education and cultural norms. In Jordan, while women make up 48 percent of the population, they amount to only 6 percent of Internet users. With the Internet as the fastest growing mode of communication, women in the Middle East make up a mere four percent of the Internet users, while men make up 96 percent of Internet users. Women in Jordan count for 28 percent of the total ICT labor force. The Jordanian government, in partnership with UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and Cisco Foundation, are working to eradicate the gender disparities found in the ICT sector through the Achieving E-Quality in the ICT Sector initiative which aims to mainstream and empower women in the ICT sector. Questions for Discussion: Discuss information poverty and the disproportionate effect that it has on women. What are the different ways in which women may use traditional modes of communication and ICT? What would you bear in mind while designing a project with ICT components focused on women? 1 Anderson-Saito, K., A. Dhar and E. Pehu GENRD Operational Notes for Task Managers to integrate gender into rural projects. ARD Communiqué. World Bank, Washington, D.C. The authors would like to acknowledge inputs provided by Chinwe Olisemeka toward the preparation of the course module. 256

2 Notes for Instructor: Objective: To enable participants to understand gender issues within rural ICT and to discuss how they can be integrated into development projects. Information is power. Having timely and relevant information can fundamentally alter people s decisions and actions. Having relevant information and technology is crucial to raising the productivity of agriculture. Information on new agricultural and animal management practices, on pest epidemics, on transport availability, on new market opportunities, on market prices of inputs and outputs are all essential for an efficient and productive rural economy. Information poverty is common in rural areas in the developing world. Distance to information sources can be considerable, and timely access difficult. Such information is usually in written form, restricting access to those with limited literacy. Equally important, indigenous knowledge is seldom documented and stored, resulting in its loss. ICT is particularly important for rural women who are often the main actors in the rural space but ICT is not gender neutral. There are important gender differences in terms of access to, and impact of ICT. In particular, rural women tend to be more restricted in terms of mobility, time, literacy and resources than men. Fewer women use ICT than men in developing countries, and most of the women users are part of a small, educated urban elite (Hafkin, November 2003). 1. How ICT Can Help Rural Women: Agricultural Market Information: prices of inputs (fertilizer, pesticide), outputs (agricultural products), transport (timing of trucks going to urban markets) and marketing opportunities. Examples: In Costa Rica, women farmers, who are small coffee growers, use telecommunications to obtain marketing information from central cooperatives in the capital that have computer links to sources. The links provide information on national and international coffee prices. In rural Mexico, cooperative offices use microcomputers to get weather updates, urban market prices for local agricultural produce, and other information that helps local farmers decide when to harvest crops and transport to the city (Source: Zijp, World Bank Discussion Paper #247). Rural Business Information: access to markets and business-related information; e-commerce: connecting small artisans to markets; support to innovation; support to small farmers. 257

3 Examples: In Peru, Quipnet helps market small-scale eco-tourism facilities run by women by e-commerce through the Internet. In India, the SATCOM program provides information by satellite to small-scale women entrepreneurs who are members of the Self-Employment Women s Association (SEWA). Privacy: ICT enables rural women to access information in the privacy of their homes, which can be important in certain cultural settings. Example: In Nigeria, Televans are used to disseminating information to rural communities by showing videos using the ICT brought by the vans. Documenting Indigenous Knowledge: The use of ICT can help document and store the considerable indigenous knowledge existing in rural society, especially among women. This knowledge can be stored in databases, and areas of knowledge can be identified with potential to be developed commercially through strategic partnerships with the community, venture capital and the private sector. Strategic Information: The use of ICT can enable women to access strategic information, such as legal advice. Example: UNIFEM has set up more than 1500 Internet sites worldwide to combat domestic violence. 2 Prominent among the initiatives supported by UNIFEM is FEMNET in Africa, which works with Men for Gender Equality Now Network. This network has reached out to thousands of men in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia to raise awareness and change behaviors to stem the inter-linked pandemics of gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. Also UNIFEM has supported work in India with Zonta International and the University of Delhi on men and masculinity has generated interest from universities in Europe and requests to host a creative photo exhibit on the subject from a number of museums in the United States. Financial Services: ICT can help bring sustainable financial services to rural areas. By strengthening the ability of rural financial institutions to manage and monitor small loans, ICT can enable these institutions to provide financial services to the rural population in an efficient and cost-effective way. Examples: The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh successfully uses a system of mobile phones and Internet to implement a credit scheme that targets rural women (http://www.grameen.com). In Swaziland, Smart Cards for Small Businesses are being used. The Growth Trust Corporation (SBGT) is issuing Smart Cards to its small business clients to allow them to get funds and make repayments at participating commercial bank branches around the country. SBGT, acting as a virtual bank, has provided Swaziland s major banks and branches with battery-powered Smart Card reading terminals, and maintains a line of credit with the banks offering the service free of charge to low-income clients. 2 Among many good examples of this, UNIFEM has created a web portal to pull together information from numerous sources about the issues, good practices, and opportunities in implementing SC resolution

4 Participation: ICT can forge links between women and men farmers, rural organizations, NGOs, agricultural research centers, marketing organizations, private firms, and government agencies. By so doing, ICT can provide new opportunities for the rural poor, especially women given the bias of extension services against them, and enables them to participate in decision-making. Example: In Nigeria, the use of ICT has facilitated the conduct of agricultural surveys, the analysis of data, and the use of that data to design rural development projects (e.g. the preparation of FADAMA II Project, 2001, World Bank). Management of Natural Resources: ICT can help collect information on environmentally sound practices, and support environmental planning, monitoring, and management of natural resources through monitoring systems such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Example: In Burkina Faso, where a national environmental information system is being used to underpin the country s natural resource management policy. 2. Designing ICT Components Focused on Women More needs to be done to ensure that rural women, as well as men benefit fully from ICT activities. This requires meeting certain gender-specific challenges: Awareness: rural women may be unaware of the availability and/or use of ICTs. This is true for both men and women in rural areas, but given that women are more home-based than men, they will be less likely to be aware of new initiatives to bring ICT to the rural space. Special efforts need to made to convey this information, for example, through existing channels of women s groups, local NGOs, women s trade groups, cooperatives, etc. Physical access may be difficult, especially in remote areas where infrastructure is poor. And this can be especially difficult for women, who, in many societies are already over-burdened with responsibility for economic activities, as well as household work and childcare. They have less time and energy to travel distances to use ICT. Innovative examples of how to address this: 1. Mobile phones: combining the use of mobile phones with computers in rural and urban towns, thereby having rural outreach as well as access to national and global information. Example: In Uganda, the use of mobile phones to provide rural outreach to agricultural information centers at the district level is being explored through the Bank-supported National Agricultural Advisory Program (NAADS). Information to be available includes agricultural production technologies, economies of farm management and agricultural marketing. 2. Solar energy: Extend rural outreach through the use of solar power. 259

5 Example: In the remote Arua District, Uganda, solar energy is being used to power computers, which are providing information to the rural community. Social and Cultural Issues: Women have less access than men to those facilities that do exist: 1. Comfort: the facilities may be located where women are not comfortable frequenting, 2. Hours of operation may not be conducive to women s use, 3. Attitudes: local society may regard information technology as unsuitable for women. To address these issues, analysis needs to be done to better understand the nature and severity of each, and design the ICT component in such a way as to deal with it. For example, evening hours on local schools may be suitable for women relative to both timing and comfort. Knowledge of use: Training in the use and maintenance of the technology needs to be provided for both women and men. Basic computer training is essential for all using ICT. SEWA is an excellent example of providing such training to semiliterate women. Affordability: Women may not be able to afford training and some financing arrangements may be needed to purchase/lease equipment such as mobile phones. Women typically have challenges to obtaining credit given that they have less suitable collateral (e.g. land and other assets) than men. Options are to have women s groups purchase/lease together, share the costs, or have a payment scheme built in to the leasing arrangement. Cost Recovery: 1. General services: It is now almost universally accepted that general information should be available as a free or subsidized public good. For example, TV/radio have commercials that can cover costs. Printed matter has advertisers who put in advertisements for a minimal fee, and videocassettes are sold at production costs. 2. Specialized services: For highly specialized services targeted at specific groups, and where such groups are willing to pay for these services e.g. veterinary services then the information/services is sold at higher costs. 3. Evaluation Methodologies Impact evaluation methodologies are evolving. A number of methodologies have been developed to evaluate the impact of ICT; but most, if not all, are restricted to 260

6 one aspect of ICT, such as computer and Internet related activities and measurable costs and benefits. Methodologies need to be adapted to assess the impact on rural livelihoods, and this is especially the case with gender: how is the impact of the use of ICT on the livelihood of rural women assessed? To do this, single-impact methodology will not work. Rather, a multi-dimensional approach is needed to reflect the multi-dimensional impact of ICT use on rural women s livelihood. This would entail the use of a multi-disciplinary team of experts drawn from the social sciences, education, information technology, agricultural and life sciences. There is a need for standardized definitions and indicators for measuring input, output, outcome and impact. The European Union is in the process of developing such standardized indicators to track progress toward becoming an information society. These indicators could be used as a reference to develop compatible definition, indicators and data systems. 4. A Good Practice Example for Discussion: Successful use of ICT for Rural Women: SEWA Self-Employed Women s Association (SEWA) India is a member-based organization of poor informal sector women workers. Two-thirds of their members live in rural areas and are home-based workers, vendors, manual laborers, service providers and producers. SEWA s ICT unit has been exploring the use of ICT as a tool to increase the efficiency of rural micro-level enterprise activities to secure poor women s livelihood. SEWA has successfully taken an integrated and holistic approach to the use of ICT for rural development, such as providing its members with access to information; training them with communication tools and customized software; technical training on repairing their tools; generating job opportunities; and providing child care and health care. Current ICT Activities: Basic computer training for semi-literate women before they are introduced to communication tools such as the Internet and customized software for their micro-enterprises. Technical training such as maintenance and repair of their tools, e.g. hand pump repairing. Providing loans to informal sector workers such as vegetable vendors for mobile phones. Providing health and nutritional advice by linking hospitals via video conferencing for villagers who are laborers and service providers. Exploring partnerships with medical institutes to provide better access to health care for its members, e.g. telemedicine. 261

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