Gender and Economic Empowerment: The Role of ICTs

As part of the Sustainability Development Network week from Feb 19-29, World Bank had an educational and inspiring seminar on how ICTs can play a role in the economic empowerment of women. Yeah, OK, I am probably biased because the event incorporates three of my favorite areas – ICT, women, economic empowerment. But it really was all that and more.

Lots of real-world examples and case studies from all over world were presented at the seminar. Here is my brain (and link) dump from the event.

Lauren Rawlings presented on IFC’s Village Phone Program being successfully implemented in Nigeria. It is modeled after Bangladesh’s Grameen Phone and its successful replication in Uganda. She also had a video highlighting the stories of women who were benefiting from the program. The video is embedded below, click to watch and enjoy.

Homira Nassery followed with a case study of the village phone project in Afghanistan. This one stood in quite dramatic contrast to the Nigerian village phone project. Review the presentation to get a sense of ground realities as well as the extreme conditions that the in-country staff had to face. The geopolitical and social conditions were harsh as well as risky, leading to the project’s failure.

There seems to be a lot of interest in replicating the success of Grameen Phone which reminded me of the Wired article that I had blogged about a while ago. See GrameenPhone’s Success, Phone Ladies’ Loss.

This was followed by Maria Del Carmen who presented from Dominican Republic using the Bank’s video conferencing network. She talked about Tortas Peru, a cake making business with a very cool twist. Tortas website takes online orders from Peruvians living abroad. A network of moms makes and delivers the cake. The business model is similar to but with a social component – it is run for and by women who want to work from home to generate an income for their families. The outcome of the story is not happy though. Tortas Peru is not operational now because they could not combat online credit card fraud, which ended up being about 30% of their transactions! They are currently looking for affordable transaction service provider and working capital. The presentation containing the details behind Tortas Peru is online.

Ann Holmes presented on Gender Based Analysis in Canada which showcased how the Canadian government has a separate division called Status of Women Canada dedicated to promoting women’s empowerment and participation. She recommended that everyone check out the World Bank’s ICT Toolkit (Engendering ICT Toolkit: Challenges and Opportunities for Gender-Equitable Development).

Barbara Waugh from Hewlett Packard described how the emerging markets initiative in HP started as a feel-good initiative, but has grown because it makes good business sense. She pointed out how China and India are aggressively investing in women’s education in ICT, South Korea provides a great example for advancement of women, and Rwanda is taking a systematic approach to improve education.

Accompanying our lunch were a few short videos — Two from infodev’s Incubator Support CenterBusy Internet from Ghana and Tianjin Women’s Business Incubator (TWBI) from China (unfortunately the videos are not online). One on Opportunity for Women in Renewable Energy Technology Use in Bangladesh. And that also climaxed in my startling discovery for the day – the World Bank is on YouTube! See sample below.


Categories: africa, asia, latin america, middle east, regions

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