Women and men around the world are increasingly taking advantage of
new technologies - in particular information and communication technology
(ICT) - to start and develop their business, acquire new knowledge, seek
advice and participate in social and political life.
New technologies can be thus a tool to promote gender equality and
enhance the economic, political and social empowerment of women as
recognized by the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action as well as
other documents. At he same time, however, ICT may perpetuate existing
gender-based inequalities in opportunities and resources and create new
forms of inequality between women and men.
1. The ongoing process of the World Summit on the Information Society
offers a unique opportunity to address the gender issues, searching for
ways and means to raise the awareness on trends and issues related to
gender and ICT development, to identify the obstacles and barriers
hampering an equal access of women and men to ICT, to establish a platform
for dialogue among major stakeholders and recommend concrete follow up
activities for improving women's access to new technologies.
2. The Pan European Ministerial Conference in preparation of WSIS -
the Bucharest Declaration
The Bucharest Declaration is a consistent step ahead in stating the most
significant principles to be followed in building the Information Society,
as well as in identifying the main areas where priority action is required.
- The Information Society offers great potential in promoting
sustainable development, democracy, transparency, accountability and
- Full exploitation of thenew opportunities provided by information and
communication technologies (ICTs) and of their combination with traditional
media, as well as an adequate response to the challenge of the digital
divide, should be important parts in any strategy, national and
international, aimed at achieving the development goals set by the
- The Information Society is based on broad dissemination and sharing of
information and genuine participation of all stakeholders - Governments,
private sector and civil society.
- Their contribution is vital in the efforts to bring full benefits of
the Information Society to all. Governments and other stakeholders should
also provide the necessary conditions to ensure women's equal access to
information and knowledge, as well as equal opportunities as participants
and decision-makers in all aspects, related to the shaping of ICT policies
3. Elements to be underlined in relation with the "gender sensitive
Information Society" issue:
Gender equality refers to all ICT areas (users, producers and decision makers):
Attention to gender equality is critical for building IS based
on human rights and economic arguments.
- It reflects not only core UN values embodied in international standards
of human rights, and conventions (CEDAW) but is also critical for economic
- Women represent 50% of potential consumers for ICT products and
services and labour force in ICT sector bringing ideas for new products,
services and management styles.
- Economic arguments are especially relevant to the ECE region, where
women are well educated, including in math and science (as seen in Romania
and other countries).
Gender digital divide:
- The situation in transition countries needs attention due to the
deterioration of women's position in the economy during the 1990s.
- Disproportional cuts in employment and shifts of women's jobs to the
lower end of the labour, cuts in family benefits and social protection,
and persistence of traditional views of women's role resulted in lower
income /wages, less time for learning ICT related skills and
unfavourable social climate for using ICT-related opportunities.
Gender specific barriers in access to ITC:
- High access costs and technology choice;
- Limited access to learn new skills (lack of information and
encouragement to apply for ICT training);
- Insufficient networks and perception of ICT as a "male" sector.
- Differences among women in access to ICT are determined by geographical
factor (urban-rural areas), family status (single mothers) and age
(difficult access for women over 40-45 years old).
Opportunities for using ITC as a tool for advancing gender equality:
- Advancing gender justice (awareness raising, discrimination,
- increasing women's employability (best practices in using ICTs for
developing women's businesses, improving access to jobs and markets);
- Using ICT for networking at national, regional and global levels;
- E-learning and increasing women's political participation through
Recommendations for action (to all stakeholders: governments,
private sector, civil society and international community) :
- Including a gender perspective into a debate and preparation of
national ICT strategies and fully involving women in the development
of e-governance systems;
- Building and developing women's capacity to use ICT for
entrepreneurship and business development;
- Encourage gender mainstreaming in telecommunication institutions,
especially for infrastructure development and related projects ensuring
the affordable access especially for disadvantaged women, such as those
living in rural areas, single mothers and older women;
- Launching the process of preparation of national reports to assess the
situation of women and men as users, producers and decisions makers in the
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