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Brown Bag: “African Women, ICT and Neoliberal Politics: The Challenge of Gendered Digital Divides to People-Centered Governance “

Event Type
Center for African Studies
101 ISB; 910 S. Fifth St.; Champaign
Feb 27, 2019   12:00 pm  
Dean Assata Zerai (Educational Equity, Sociology, UIUC)
Free and open to the public.
Terri Gitler
Originating Calendar
Illinois Global Institute Event

Written from an African feminist scholar-activist perspective, this work emphasizes the voices of women and demonstrates how their framings are important when we consider science and technology in society. A mechanism that impedes the influence of African feminist thought and decelerates its impact on governance is examined, namely that encumbered access to information and communications technology (ICT) among women on the African continent (and in its Diaspora) creates barriers to communal discourse and problem solving.

Cell phones/ICT are shown to be linked to neoliberal understandings of more democratic governance structures, defined by the World Bank governance indicators as: the rule of law, corruption-control, regulation quality, government effectiveness, political stability/ no violence and voice and accountability (Asongu and Nwachukwu 2016). However, this definition deviates from bottom-up governance/public administration. I seek to understand if ICTs are attached to governance structures that serve the most marginalized members of society, and especially women. Are they attached to collective aspects and individual aspects of society that are most important to women? The most marginalized members in society would be people with disabilities and the poorest of the poor. So, pro-poor policies and attention to disability services would be a part of a governance structure that serves the most vulnerable. Amina Mama (1998) talks about those issues that are most important to women. Some issues are marriage and safety in marriage, socioeconomic status, children’s wellbeing, and women’s health. Finally, a focus on addressing the needs of single mothers would also be a part. Another question to address is the types of information and even continuing education that people can access with ICTs in African societies, especially information and education that is most relevant to women at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Above all, it is important to understand locally definitions of good governance.

This work promised to contribute importantly to the social scientific literature because it adapts the vibrant intellectual work of African feminists to a quantitative methodology. It enlarges the scope of empirical and theoretically grounded studies within the field of science and technology in society by addressing ICTs, improved governance, and impacts on women’s lives in an understudied region of the world. Further, this work elicits results that give rise to useful development effectiveness and ICT-related policy recommendations.

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