ICT, Gender Balance, and Poverty ReductionJanette Toral
Last January 28 and 29, 2003, I was a participant at the “Expert Group Meeting on Information Communication Technologies (ICT) for Rural Poverty Reduction: Developing National Policies” that took place in Thailand. One important lesson I learned from it is the significance of gender balance towards poverty reduction.
I always believe that e-commerce, if done right, can play an important role in alleviating poverty. There are five (5) developmental policies that must be advocated in order for it to happen.
- We should clamor for efficiency gains through transparency in government spending, procurement, aid coordination, and knowledge sharing. Deploying e-government services to help facilitate trade and deliver basic public services using the Internet is one means where ICT can play an important role.
- Private sector and government should help in connecting more Filipinos to the global economy by developing rural areas to bridge existing divides. Funding should be given to poor provinces in the country by putting up tele-centers (like Internet café), which the public can use and get them connected.
- Human resources development through adequate training should be provided to ensure that skills of people in rural and urban areas are at par with each other.
- Overcome ignorance and isolation through the propagation of content using modern means such as the Internet and other multimedia devices. Local content development should also be fostered for education and sector development purposes.
- Foster entrepreneurship and competitiveness through technical training, business trade missions, and skills development. Trade and marketing opportunities should be helpful and friendly to SMEs. Micro-finance facilities should be made friendly to small entrepreneurs and be available as well for ICT investments. Tele-centers can be a medium in giving micro-finance opportunities. Government should ensure that its bid project awards be made available to both SMEs and big companies to ensure balance and help promote growth.
Reading through the 5 items above, I hope it makes sense to you as it did to me. However, something important needs to be added. The Philippines is always known as a country offering fair competition and opportunities to men and women. I always say that there’s no gender discrimination for I had always been able to do what I want, when I wanted to.
During the deliberation of policies in the said conference, one of the experts emphasized the need to highlight that all poverty reduction measures and programs should ensure that women are given equitable access to it and be benefited. I asked, is that necessary? He said that if such provision does not exist, deliberately or unintentionally, women get aside and hardly benefit compared to men. Hearing such became an eye-opener.
It is important that if one country wishes to reduce poverty, it must start by ensuring that both men and women are given equal chance to avail of leadership positions and various benefits. If one gender sector is not competent to be given such equality, they must be developed in order to attain it. All policies from this forth on must be sensitive in ensuring equal power and opportunities be given to both genders.
Take the case of ICT in our country. Globally, the Philippines is very much noted for having a high population of female Internet users compared to other countries. In fact, there are more women Internet users today than men.
However, when you look at our ICT policy development, you’ll hardly find women leaders being given the opportunity to play an active role in developing this sector. Take the case of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), you won”t find any female commissioner since its creation. Although lately, a female Deputy Commissioner was appointed and that is Consuelo Perez. Whether she would ensure that all opportunites should be balanced across gender remains to be seen.
If we recognize the fact that the majority number of ICT users in the country, particularly Internet users, is composed of women, then such gender sector should have every right to be given leadership opportunities to help shape the direction of ICT development in this country. It is sad to note that majority of grant providers in this country fail to point such when their organizations are known as champions for gender development.
Is there discrimination? Perhaps none. Women don’t intent to hype so much about their gender sector rights to be recognized for fear of being accused as feminists. Therefore, such silence lead to acceptance that it is ok for men to take majority of leadership positions even though women bring as much (or even higher) dollars in this country, that women are also financial providers to help cope up in daily living requirements. In short, women in the Philippines worked as hard as men do in keeping the country’s economy afloat.
With such reality there’s more reason why each one of us should be sensitive in ensuring that equal opportunities are being given to both genders. All of our laws should be explicitly gender-sensitive. If there are scholarship programs, leadership positions, grants, government projects to be awarded, the dissemination of such should be gender-biased. We live in a time where we can no longer be gender insensitive. Our current state of poverty is partly contributed by such.
Becoming gender-biased in our policies and programs are important steps towards poverty reduction. I hope that such will become a reality soon.
Related articles and blog posts:
– Gender-balance blogging networks
– ICT growth and pains
– Women and e-commerce
– Digital Pinay and the meaning of Power
– Women-owned enterprises
– New environment for software developers
– Women in the New Economy