Patricia . K. Litho University of East London Gender, ICTs and Development workshop, IDPM’s University of Manchester, 6th June 2006
Structure of the presentation • Introduction • ICTs for development (ICT4D) • The research context • Theoretical perspectives • African feminist perspectives • The Social Construction of technology • Empowerment: the problem of meaning and measurement • The research methodology • Emerging issues • Conclusion
Introduction • The emergence of ICTs has had great impact on several socio-cultural, economic and political aspects of our lives including the development agenda. • This is evident in the level of investment in the area of ICTs for development.
In 2003 alone, the Canadian government contributed about 35 million US dollars towards bridging the digital divide. • Besides the actual ICT projects in various countries, the number of local, national and international forums looking at ICTs for development is also an indicator. This very workshop for instance and WSIS 2005 among others.
ICT4D within Uganda • The belief in ICTs has also had impact on gender and development discourse. Several initiatives are trying to use ICTs as a means to ‘empower' women and address other women issues. • Uganda has been no exception; It has embraced ICTs and several initiatives have been set up, the latest being the establishment of two ICT ministries; ministry of information and national guidance and ministry of communication and ICT (INetwork Dgroup, June 2006).
The research context • In Uganda, women specific ICT project have also been set up. One such project is the CEEWA ICT project established with an aim to economically empower women. Through the project women ‘entrepreneurs’ have been targeted, they have been given training in computer usage as well as business skills. Key concern for this study however is; did the CEWA project beneficiaries actually get empowered as a result using ICTs?
Theoretical discussions • Before proceeding, however, there is a need to have a common understanding of ‘empowerment’ and the theoretical positions that this paper is based so as to appreciated the issues raised in relation to ICTs and women’s ‘empowerment’. • Besides questioning the meaning of empowerment this paper also employs an African feminist as an overarching approach to looking at ICTs as experienced within Africa and the social construction of technology theory to analyse technological and social changes in the Uganda context.
Empowerment: a problem of meaning and measurement • Like several development concepts, ‘empowerment’ is used a fluid way that seem to conceal what actually happens. For this reason this study critically looked at the CEEWA ICT project and the following questions were raised; what is empowerment? How was it defined in the project, how was empowerment measured in the project? Do ICTs actually empower women? • Unless these questions are answered, it is really unjustified to claim that ICTs have the potential to empower women.
Empowerment: • Although defining empowerment is subject to debate because of the different ways is used; to ensure a meaningful discussion this paper looks at it; as a multidimensional process through which women become aware of their subordinate position, the power structures in their environment and then try to do something to overcome these constraints.
Empowerment: • The Longwe women’s empowerment framework is viewed as a possible framework for analysis because it enables planners question empowerment and examine the extend to which projects led to empowerment. According to Longwe (1994), only by addressing the five levels at which gender gaps exist can empowerment begin to exist. These five levels include; welfare, access, control, conscientisation and participation.
The Social construction of technology (SCOT) • SCOT is a social shaping of technology theory that emerged as criticism to the technological determinist theory that views technology as leading to increased opportunities and that the absence of technology lead to constraints. • According to SCOT, technologies emerge out of a process of choice and negotiation and that the shape a technology takes is influenced by the interests of a powerful group. The four principles of SCOT include; relevant social group, interpretative flexibility, functionality and closure.
African feminism • This feminist standpoint is based on the principle that in order to represent others, it would do good to do so based on their actual experiences. African feminist therefore feel that producing knowledge on women in Africa would be better done by those who understand their valves better ; i.e. themselves because women’s experiences are not homogenous and things are interpreted differently by different groups of women.
Methodology • A qualitative approach was used to collect data. The techniques used include observations, unstructured interviews, focus group discussions and a review of documents. • The sample; project beneficiaries, the implementing organisation, policy makers, government officials and donors (IDRC & Hivos). • For analysis; a framework analytical approach was used, including the use of Nvivo qualitative software for coding. The key concerns of the study also informed the analysis.
Emerging issues • The social groups in the project included; development agencies, policy makers/government, implementing agency and the project beneficiaries • These groups held different positions which pretty much depended on their financial position and it did influence levels of participation.
These groups understood ICTs differently.One group thought all roads would lead to the telecentre Source: www.endna.sn/cyberpop
It was thought that all services would be provided at the telecentre; (Source: poster at Buwama telecentre)
But what actually happened can be illustrated through this picture of a bicycle phone booth
The functionality of the ICT project and the Uganda context generally can be seen through the story of the mobile success story and illustrations like thus one .Source: www.idrc.org/Uganda/telecentre
Computer usage in a women only environment. Source: The Monitor newspaper 2000:10
ICTs and women’s empowerment • This is based on the ‘Longwe’ • Welfare • Access • Control • Participation • Conscientisation
Conclusions • ICTs do make a difference, it enables access to information, offers opportunities at an individual and community level. ICTs makes it easier for business women to accomplish things faster but it does not always lead to empowerment. • While welfare and access issues of empowerment may be addressed my ICTs and to a certain extent participation; there are limitations to how much ICTs can actually do.
The social cultural structural aspects like control (a core concern of feminists) remain unchanged. Women remain oppressed and in certain cases ICTs like the mobile phone actually increase domestic violence. The CEEWA beneficiaries also indicated that while their income had improved, their domestic burden had actually increased.
References • Fox, R. (1996) Technological change: methods and themes in the history of technology • Longwe, S. (1994) ‘from welfare to empowerment’ • Mackenzie, D. and Wajcman, J. (1999) The social shaping of technology • Narayan, D. (2005) Measuring empowerment: cross-displinary perspectives • Oyewumi, O. (2003) African women and feminism: reflecting on the politics of sisterhood