Source: Bridge  (2004)

Author: Anita Gurumurthy

New technologies in the information and communications arena, especially the Internet, have been seen as ushering in a new age. There is a mainstream view that such technologies have only technical rather than social implications. T he dramatic positive changes brought in by these information and communication technologies (ICTs), however, have not touched all of humanity. Existing power relations in society determine the enjoyment of benefits from ICTs; hence these technologies are not gender neutral. The important questions are: who benefits from ICTs? Who is dictating the course of ICTs? Is it possible to harness ICTs to serve larger goals of equality and justice? Central to these is the issue of gender and women’s equal right to access, use and shape ICTs.
Access to new ICTs is still a faraway reality for the vast majority of people. The countries of the South, particularly rural populations, have to a significant extent been left out of the information revolution, given the absence of basic infrastructure, high costs of ICT deployment, unfamiliarity with ICTs, dominance of the English language in Internet content and indeed – lack of demonstrated benefit from
ICTs to address ground-level development challenges. These barriers pose even greater problems for
women, who are more likely to : be illiterate; not know English; and lack opportunities for training in
computer skills. Domestic responsibilities, cultural restrictions on mobility, lesser economic power as
well as lack of relevance of content to their lives, further marginalise them from the information sector.
The ICT arena is characterised by the strategic control exercised by powerful corporations and nations –
monopolies built upon the intellectual property regime, increasing surveillance of the Internet and an undermining of its democratic substance, and exploitation of the powerless by capitalist imperialism, sexism and racism. Within the ICT arena women have relatively little ownership of and influence on the decision-making processes, being underrepresented in the private sector and government bodies which control this arena.
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GENDER and ICTs: Overview Report