Gender and e-governance

Background

Developing countries have not been able to harness the potential of ICTs at the same speed as industrialized nations. Issues of access to ICTs and investment in ICT infrastructure among others have limited the uptake in such countries. As a result, many of the initial ICT for Development programmes and initiatives focused on access, complemented in many cases by support for local capacity building.

It is, however, essential to emphasize that ICTs are not gender-neutral - they are not accessed, managed and controlled by all men and women equally. As a result, men and women experience different benefits and effects of ICTs at all levels, a point highlighted by many studies on ICTs and gender since the early 1990s.

The goal of this primer is to address this gap in the context of e-governance.

This primer is part of the UNDP's Gender and Democratic Governance Primer Series. The others include:

  • Quick Entry Points to Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality in Democratic Governance Clusters
  • Gender Equality and Justice Programming: Equitable Access to Justice for Women
  • Corruption and Gender Relations: Five Dimensions for Democratic Governance
  • Gender Equality and Electoral Funding Mechanisms

Overview

UNDP defines ICTs to include both new and "old" technologies, and does not limit it to the use of the Internet or personal computers. Many older technologies, such as the telephone and radio, are more accessible to the poorest sectors of the population and are regaining importance due largely to the process of convergence between old and new ICTs.

UNDP e-governance strategy was adopted after a major review of its extensive participatory experience with practitioners in the countries and regions that it serves. This strategy aims to

  • increase the efficiency, transparency and accountability of national institutions;
  • enhance access to information and improve the delivery of basic services to the overall population, in particular the poor;
  • enhance citizen participation, in particular by the poor, women and youth, in democratic processes and policymaking;

In 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women reflected on the issue of ICTs and gender, in formal documents and in non-governmental forums. Likewise, at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005 women explicitly addressed the issue of ICT for governance and their involvement in it. However, both of these events demonstrated the need for more work particularly in the areas of policy, capacity development and governance mechanisms that could help catalyse social and political change.

Themes: