Mobile Phone: A Public Tool (Civic Participation, Education and Health)

20 October 2016

By Digital Empowerment Foundation

The study analyses 14 projects that are active in India in the arena of civic participation, education and health, and examines its impact on women stakeholders. One of the objectives is to understand how mobile phones are benefiting women frontline workers (teachers, auxiliary nurses) and mothers; however, the study’s main findings are that accessibility and availability of local content are two major challenges of using ICTs among women.

The use of ICT tools to increase civic participation faces a number of challenges such as: (i) lack of consistent and affordable electricity in designing infrastructure for rural civic participation and, where available, such power is usually unreliable; (ii) bad rural connectivity hampers economic, social services and citizen participation; (iii) lack of affordable connectivity and bandwidth is the primary obstacle to most promising civic participation initiatives. Beside these physical and infrastructural challenges, human factors and institutional obstacles include: (i) inexperienced Internet and mobile phone users; (ii) lack of trained technical support: (iii) absence of action oriented citizen participation indicators; (iv) uncoordinated or absent governance mechanism; (v) inadequate incentives for staff; and (vi) widespread poverty and associated security risks.

It is in this difficult context that the study aims to look specifically at the ways in which the gendered digital divide plays out, especially in relation to women frontline workers such as teachers, nurses and ordinary women, mothers etc. Fourteen specific case studies from 12 states in India were looked at, and these projects are varied in nature but deal with civic participation, education or health. Some eventual findings indicate that language is very important in the use of ICT tools whether for civic participation or education, and local networks are important for health related ICT tools.

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