Creative Writing

Role of ICTs and eGov to promote gender equality in the Asia Pacific

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How can the perceived gender neutrality of egovernance be overcome? Due to the technocratic vocabulary and direct private sector involvement, egovernance is generally not perceived as an area of governance reform or public administration. Gender equality advocates are still unsure about how ICT-mediated transformation can dovetail with the ambitious steps in law and policy for governance reform in general. The egovernance opportunity for gender equality is in the potential for policy to effect foundational changes to existing power structures. To go this direction however requires a strong understanding of how new social equations are born out of the ICT based re-engineering process. ICTs need to be embedded in ongoing policy efforts to promote women's access to entitlements; community monitoring and social audit; financial inclusion and access to banking; right to livelihood; participation in local planning; right to information and local community action for transparency and accountability. Having an overarching policy on egovernance that is led by the IT department is imperative. While mainstream efforts and innovations will continue and can provide new generation alternatives for integration and convergence, the National Mission for the Empowerment of Women, must become the champion for women's empowerment and gender equality through egovernance, providing the technical guidance for how best to serve the cause of gender and social justice when IT meets governance. (itforchange.net)
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  Role of ICTs and egovt to promote gender equality in the Asia Pacific - Input for the research by United Nations Proect !ffice on overnance #UNP! $ on Role of e-Government to Promote Gender Equality in the Asia Pacific  IT for Change% Aug &th% '()'A one-si*e fits all strait-ac+eting method to evolving policies and programme guidelines for achieving gender equality through e-gov ,ill not ,or+ Therefore principles of egov that see+ to address inclusion and social ustice ,ill need to also enable creativity% fle.ibility and conte.tual innovation The content of egov has so far been heavily techno-managerial% driven by the IT department ,ith little focus on transformatory impacts through egovernance In the absence of principle level articulations of the ,hat% ,hy and ho, of egov% there is little vision that connects the roadmap of proects to visions of change Assuming gender neutrality of technology is another big blindspot ,ith egovernance in general /ince egovernance initiatives have had a heavy slant to,ards mystified technocratic vocabulary and direct private sector involvement in basic direction setting% they are not perceived in the public eye as an area of governance reform or public administration #The debates on privatisation not,ithstanding% the areas of public health and public education are still seen as intrinsic to public service delivery and hence to citi*en rights$ 0ider public debate around this arena is thus lac+ing Civil society actors% including gender equality advocates% have commented on large scale proects li+e UI1 and have raised questions about privacy and data protection% and bemoaning the rise of the 2informational state2% but the nuts and bolts of ho, ICT models can pave the ,ay for effective and accountable governance have not really been articulated by civil society Therefore% ,hile gender equality advocates are at the cutting edge of grassroots organising around basic governance areas such as the Right to Information% access to livelihood rights under the 3 NR4 /% access to health% and do perceive the bottlenec+s in e-services and +ios+ based approaches% they are still unsure about ho, ICT-mediated transformation can dovetail ,ith the ambitious steps in la, and policy for governance reform in general !n another note% gender equality itself is seen merely as a subset of 2inclusion policies2 by policy ma+ers and so% efforts to ta+e ,omen2s needs into account have been fe, and far bet,een% and even ,here they e.ist% are more or less formulaic% and dont go the ,hole distance to ensure systemic shifts in gender ideology or social roles 4arly initiatives li+e e-seva in 0est odavari and more recently% A+shaya% have used ,omen as entrepreneurs for their +ios+ oriented models% bringing ,omen into ne, age service delivery This has had some positive impact in terms of incidental gains ,rt ,omen2s public presence% ,or+ participation and e-literacy 5et% transformatory impacts in terms of structural change and marginalised ,omen2s participation in governance and democracy through ICTs remains an ideal The entrepreneurs of A+shaya do not enoy the status of government employees% nor are they able to compete on an equal footing in the mar+et as entrepreneurs They do not have institutional support for access to finance% mar+eting and mentoring and in the current scheme of things% they are part of the state government IT 3ission2s frontline soldiers ,hose investments provide the government a good last mile infrastructure !n many counts% 6erala2s egov initiatives and panchayat based computerisation endeavours are ahead of the rest of the country and incorporate a citi*en-oriented approach The government also does actively encourage tertiary and technical education among girls 5et% the vision to empo,er the poorest and most marginalised ,omen through appropriate institutional mechanisms to enter public life and engage ,ith governance in the ICT age% seems to fall short)  The C/C scheme of the dept of IT has raised pertinent questions about ho, governance logic can be subverted in the ,holesale privatisation of public service delivery 7or gender ustice% a public goods orientation to ICTs must precede e-governance efforts 7urther% ICTs need to be embedded in ongoing policy efforts ,rt ,omen2s access to entitlements8 community monitoring and social audit8 financial inclusion and access to ban+ing8 right to livelihood 9 3 NR4 /8 participation in local planning8 right to information and local community action for transparency and accountabilityThe egov opportunity for gender equality is in the potential for policy to effect foundational changes to e.isting po,er structures To go this direction ho,ever requires a strong understanding of ho, ne, social equations are born out of the ICT based re-engineering process :arge scale efforts to computerise land records or provide online trading 9 mar+eting platforms for agriculture% li+e e+rishi tend to mirror social structures in their digital architectural design 0here ,omen do not enoy de facto o,nership of land nor can easily assume public roles in agricultural mar+eting% such efforts tend to benefit men 4+rishi has bhoomi clubs ,hich function as support groups ,here ,omen are simply not present 1igitisation can create a moment of social discontinuity through ,hich gender relations can be renegotiated 7or instance% a simple disaggregation of grievance related data by se.% can ma+e an 3I/ system produce deeper insight for the administration about ,omen2s needs and governance agenda !r% having ,omen2s names registered as co-o,ners of houses and land% during digitisation efforts% can enable a small% but important shift in the ,ay asset o,nership is gendered It ,ould also be pertinent to e.amine more closely through policy research% ho, gender plays out in ICT innovations in core sectors li+e health% public distribution system% grievance redressal% 3 NR4 / that have been underta+en as pilots or as state-government initiatives ;iccups and teething trouble are bound to be there in innovations that attempt to bring ICTs for greater accountability ;ere% political commitment to ensure cross-sectoral net,or+ing is vital 7or instance% in 6arnata+a% pilots have been initiated in some districts ,here every ob card holder in the family under 3 NR4 / is required to have a separate ban+ account This measure is based on the insight that men control ,omen2s ,ages and therefore it ,ould be useful for ,omen to have ban+ accounts in their o,n names ;o,ever% procedural delays at the ban+ing end have placed constraints on ,omen2s access to obs at ,or+ sites% ,here the local panchayat% e.ecuting the scheme denies ,omen the right to get a ob till she can have her ban+ account Ne.t generation initiatives need to e.plore ho, best the learnings from mainstream% core sector -led innovations can provide blue prints for convergent approaches P1/ trac+ing systems using sms can also be a platform for health information or for angan,adi related entitlements 3ainstream efforts li+e 3ission Convergence have demonstrated ho, ICTs can provide the building bloc+s of a ne, citi*en-oriented intermediation and coordination for poor ,omen to see+ access to entitlements and public services Using an N !-government partnership approach% the model brings together N ! outreach to marginalised ,omen ,ith IT based trac+ing of entitlements for effective and accountable governance% through creative institutional mechanisms for targetting 4merging insights from efforts li+e 3ission Convergence and also panchayat level computerisation in 6erala% and N ! initiatives li+e Abhiyan indicate that the future of ,omen2s participation in governance lies in creatively engaging ,ith local information and data in ta+ing to the higher echelons of governance voices and e.periences from the ground 1igital processes are +ey to this <ut they presuppose digital literacy and capability of a different +ind8 one that enables ,omen to use community ICT infrastructure as spaces not only for ma+ing claims% but also for trac+ing and monitoring local development and demanding accountability Unless digitisation can also ma+e data transparent enough for assessment by geo-political urisdictions% proactive disclosure of data in the public domain ,ill not ma+e immediate sense '  for civic monitoring and action% and ,ould be redundant from the standpoint of marginalised ,omen2s participation in governance The future of egov in India does have to engage ,ith the piquant problem of privacy and data protection 0hile specific conte.ts of service delivery also need to be rec+oned ,ith #li+e the benefits of the 3aternal and Child ;ealth trac+ing system$% an umbrella egov policy is indeed important 3oving beyond the generic gains approach% a deeper systemic opportunism for allo,ing gains for gender equality is required and as discussed above% it entails creative thin+ing on convergences ,ith multiple areas of governance% piggy-bac+ing and integration ,ith different ideas and policy measures for governance reform and a non-conventional approach to e-literacy ;aving an overarching policy on egov% that is led by the IT department is imperative 0hile mainstream efforts and innovations ,ill continue and can provide ne, generation alternatives for integration and convergence% the National 3ission for the 4mpo,erment of 0omen% must become the champion for ,omen2s empo,erment and gender equality through egovernance% providing the technical guidance for ho, best to serve the cause of gender and social ustice ,hen IT meets governance=

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