Partner: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) & International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Team Members: Nazima Shaheen
The project aims to measure the extent of the gender digital divide in rural Pakistan, whereby there is a gap in access to, and use of, information and communication technologies between men and women. Furthermore, the project seeks to measure the impact of the liberalization of telecommunication services thereon and to raise awareness regarding the gender digital divide in rural Pakistan and its impact on women’s empowerment. This project presents the first assessment of gender-specific information-communication technology (ICT) use and its impact on development.
A survey was conducted in four of the most disadvantaged districts of Pakistan, i.e Batagram, Bolan, Muzzafargarh and Tharparkar. While almost half of all surveyed households own at least one mobile phone set, these are largely owned by men, whose permission is often required for women within the family to make phone calls. This indicates that rather than network coverage and the presence of mobile phones alone, socio-cultural factors also determine whether ICTs reach female users in rural areas.
The hurdles women and girls face include negative perceptions of their technological skills and the bad image of ICTs)themselves, since mobile phones are considered a tool for dating in the case of girls. Cultural norms may also represent an obstacle, especially in regards to Government efforts to provide affordable access to ICTs to the rural population through telecommunication centers. Apart from the e-literacy (computer literacy) issues involved in making telecommunication, computers and Internet useful for women and girls in rural areas, they usually cannot move freely outside of their homes.
The findings from the study were disseminated through a Panel in the Sustainable Development Conference, 2007, the 55th Meeting of the Study Group on Information Technology and Telecommunications in August 2009, the Stakeholder Workshop in August 2009 and the Associated Press Briefing from the Workshop platform.