« Previous | of | Next »

ICT and gender equity policy: lessons of the Mali telecentres

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Dumas, Josephine Helen Ann (main author / Penn State University)
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois Box: 139
Subject Term:
development, development communication, distribution, farm women, gender, roles, rural development, telecommunications, traditional knowledge, women, information technology, telecenters, information knowledge, male
211 pages, There is an urgent need for a better understanding of the interplay of information and communication technology (ICT) and the role of women in facilitating social, political and economic development. This research examines engagement of women with ICT in traditional poor, rural, communities of Mali, a least developed country (LDC). Mali was selected as the focus based on its broadly representative LDC challenges and the availability of locally and internationally collected data. This research applies the theoretical framework of international regime theory and development as freedom theory to help explain how ICT diffusion can be an empowerment tool for women in development. Women of Mali face low literacy rates, high birth rates, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and low incomes. This research found ICT applications facilitated positive change in health, education, politics, and the economy in Mali. The relationship between international and national regimes in the process of negotiating problem solutions is particularly important to policy analysis of telecommunications and of gender equity. Policy in each of these areas permeates every sector of society. Challenges, obstacles, solutions and benefits of ICT development with gender equity in Mali can inform policymakers' understanding of ICT diffusion and its benefits to people in LDCs. This analysis was based on a literature review, a survey of existing relevant research studies, a country study and a case study of the Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT) model for rural ICT development. The country study includes data and reports from the UNDP, ITU, IDRC, USAID and the World Bank. It incorporates history, policy, existing research, statistical human development data over time, ethnographic data, and reports of other ICT projects in Mali. Analyzed together, these data strongly suggest positive and directional change in Mali during 1990-2000, a period of dynamic telecommunications and gender equity policy liberalization. The case study of the MCT in Timbuktu includes baseline communications research, on-site ethnographics research, interviews and the MCT Directors' report. The Mali MCT was one of five African pilot projects intially supported by ITU, UNESCO and IDRC funds and developed with national and local community support. The MCT is a social communication center that provides ICT education and services. This research focuses on the MCT as an ICT knowledge gathering and distribution center. Influenced by international regime policies for gender equity policy in communication access. Women participated in the design, implementation and operation of this MCT. The community open access design was found to be particularly conducive to ICT development through women's social networking. Research indicates women are keepers of indigenous knowledge systems in cultural communities. Content developed from this local knowledge base can contribute to global knowledge systems, cultural integrity and substainability as well as to economic development. Conclusions of this study are based on findings that Malian ICT development with gender equity in the context of national and international policy engagement contributed to the positive growth in the political, educational and social sectors.