Enhancing Triple Women Roles through ICTs : Analysing the Policy Intervention

enhancing triple women rolesSince the last few decades, gender issue has become one of the most popular topics discussed by both political and socio-economic development experts and practitioners. One of the reason is the fact that gender discrimination may lead to more poverty and lower quality of life, either in national or sub-national societies (Momsen, 2010).  The significance of this issue is conveyed in the third objective of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which is the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment. However, women are not only the beneficiaries, but are also the key actors in achieving overall MDGs (UN, 2010). Women ensure the better education and livelihood for their families when they have opportunities to control economic and financial resources (ibid).

In this information age, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) offer a new approach to improve human productivities as well as gender empowerment. The positive impacts of ICT in improving Human Development (HD) have been declared in many policy reports and development project documents. As a tool to produce an outcome, ICT indeed has no direct relationship with HD or women empowerment. However, it may contribute to HD through economic, social and political processes (Marcelle, 2000b). The correlation between the use of ICT and HD improvement can be measured by using ICT Development Index (IDI) that contains 11 indicators of ICT access, use and skills (ITU-D, 2010) and Human Development Index (HDI) or GDP per capita (UNDP, 2004).

These positive outcomes also reinforce a development perception that ICT may have a huge opportunity to enable women to obtain equality in social, political and economic empowerment (UNDAW 2003 cited in (Morgan, 2011). Nevertheless, technology may also aggravate the existing social disparities (Marcelle, 2000a) where the digital divide become wide due to social and cultural obstacles (Primo, 2003).

The other arguable issue in ICT and gender development is whether the technology is gender neutral or not. According to Marcelle (2000), because the technology is not gender neutral, there is a chance for women and girls to be neglected from the advantages of technology. Therefore, such intervention is needed to address this inequality. However, as (Wangmo et al., 2004) and (Ultrich et al., 2004) argue that the technology is originally gender neutral while the policies are not. Apart from this debatable issue, both contradictions suggest a policy intervention to address the gender equities.

Marcelle (2000) defines the national ICT policy as “integrated set of decisions, guidelines, laws, regulations, and other mechanisms geared to directing and shaping the production, acquisition, and use of ICTs” (Marcelle, 2000, pp.39). In terms of gender perspective, ICT policy as a pro-active intervention should reinforce women for getting benefits, to have access to use the technology (Primo, 2003), as well as to bridge gender digital divide (Thas et al., 2007). However, to what extent this policy has been implemented and whether it is successfully delivered to female as the beneficiaries or not, are the other issues that needs to be considered.

In understanding the issues of gender and ICT, two case studies are taken from Indonesia and China. There are unique issues of Gender and ICT Policy in both nations. These two countries set minimum quotas for women in parliament (Wangmo et al., 2004), i.e. 20% women in China (Ultrich et al., 2004), and 30% females in Indonesia (Ballington and Kadirgamar-Rajasingham, 2003). On the one hand, China does not have adequate gender policy specifically on ICT, but there is a significant growth of e-commerce businesses managed by women. On the other hand, Indonesia, that has integrated gender initiatives in national ICT policies with many gender related projects supported by other organisations, shows moderate improvement of women empowerment in rural area (Wangmo et al., 2004).

As one of the BRIC countries, China is considered a significant player in the developing world with a GNP per capita is $3,265 within 1,324.66 million populations in 2010 (Hausmann et al., 2010). It is much different from Indonesia which has less GNP rather than China, namely  $2,246 for a population of 227.35 million people in 2010 (Hausmann et al., 2010).

Applying gender in development measurements, Gender Gap Index (GGI) is used to indicate women improvement. China, which has low gap equality in economics and politics, is ranked 61st of GGI in 2010 with a score of 0.6881. It is enhanced by the ratio of women in health and education has been relatively high between 2006 and 2010 (as shown by figure 3). Sixteen points lower than China, Indonesia ranks 87th at score of 0.6615 with relatively the same level of global gaps in economics, health and survival, as well as education attainment. Figure 1 and 2 depict the gaps of those four factors in China and Indonesia.

Hausman et al

Source : (Hausmann et al., 2010)

It can be seen from figure 4 that the number of women politicians in Indonesia has slightly increased in the last 5 years, perhaps because the ‘quota’ regulation which requires 30 per cent women in parliament (Fleschenberg et al., 2010, Ballington and Kadirgamar-Rajasingham, 2003)). The same quota rules had also applied in China, but the percentage of women in parliament did not change in the last two years, namely 20.6% (Fleschenberg et al., 2010). Although having this relatively huge numbers of female politicians, policies supporting women are still rare in China. This is because in autocratic political systems, parliament is only a symbolic institution rather than the decision-maker, and the critical influencer is the Communist Party and the Politburo (ibid). Therefore, numbers of women in parliament do not always improve policies related gender.

In an ICT context, the situation is more likely to be similar. There is a fact about the lack of ICT related gender policies in China. Nevertheless, several initiatives have been introduced by other organisations. For example, Tianjin Women’s Business Incubator (TWBI) initiated ICT project for women entrepreneurs (Guihuan, 2005). This initiative aims to tackle unemployment problem by creating job opportunities for women. Together with other development stakeholders, TWBI started the programme by establishing ICT service networks. This programme also includes women trainings on either entrepreneur or ICT skills.

The fact that most businesses run by women are more successful than those managed by men leads the gender based project in this old industrial city. Getting stuck in the beginning, the project is then successful as most women quickly enlarge their companies or at least they started their own business. In recent day, it has successfully supported 50 enterprises, helped 2,000 firms to get microcredit, provided job opportunities to 6,000 women and conducted training for 20,000 females. This success assists decision makers to develop related policies and regulations (Guihuan, 2005). In this case, the policies are established from bottom line.

A different case comes from Indonesia. Gender and rural development in Indonesia relies very much on the agricultural sector where women’s labour force participation is 61%, in which 75% of them work on rice production (The World Bank, 2005). The rest generate their income from livestock and run Small Business Enterprises (SMEs). To leverage these businesses, government and financing institutions have introduced micro-credit schemes.

In terms of household economics, women play an important role in managing family expenditures where their cultures ensure women put family interest above their own interests. However, the traditional norms may also become a barrier for women to get equal access to productive resources. For instance, a traditional perspective that men are the family’s main decision makers sometimes hinders women to get their rights.

Considering gender issues in terms of formal regulations, the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) addresses the needs of women in rural area and gender equality goals as an integrated part of Indonesia’s National E-Strategies (The World Bank, 2005). There are also initiatives that have been conducted by civil society organisations, academics and women organisations to address this issue, for example Radio Community Station in Kamal Muara Indonesia Agriculture and Forestry Information Centre in Magelang, and a telecenter in the Pabelan Islamic School. In this case, government plays important role to drive the use of ICT for women, a typical of top-down approach.

Considering the roles of policy intervention in leveraging the use of ICT for gender development (Marcelle, 2000), both of two countries have different approaches in enabling ICT policies. A top-down approach has been introduced in Indonesia, while China implementing bottom-up approach. There is an evidence that ±64% women in Hong Kong are using the internet compared to nearly 70% of men (ITU-D, 2010). This fact demonstrates that the bottom-up approach also can be successful.

In summary, from two case studies that have been discussed before, a policy with gender analysis is necessary. It can be proposed in two ways, either bottom-up or top-down approaches. However, the two case studies demonstrate that the number of women in parliament was not really influencing the policy. It will also depend on the background of the nation and other powerful organisations in the countries. Furthermore, it is clear from the discussion that ICT plays important roles in enhancing women roles in productive work, as well as reproductive and community work. They ways in which it is implemented may depend on policies intervention, either from government or societies.


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Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia

Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia, alumnus pendidikan master di The University of Manchester, United Kingdom, jurusan Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) pada tahun 2011 sebagai Decentralization Support Facilities (DSF-The World Bank) Scholarship Awardee.

2 Responses to Enhancing Triple Women Roles through ICTs : Analysing the Policy Intervention


  2. ICTs a path way for women’s empowerment

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