Globally, 43 per cent of the world’s population has some form of regular access to the internet, leaving 4.2 billion people without connectivity and access to enjoy the same opportunities. Across Asia and the Pacific, only 36 per cent of households had a computer and 42% had fixed mobile-broadband subscriptions1. Women in particular are at a disadvantage. It is estimated that women are 14 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than men, a proportion that rises to as much as 38 per cent in South Asia2. In recognition of the potential contribution of ICTs for women’s empowerment, target 5b of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to ‘enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women’. More specifically, the United Nations General Assembly has highlighted the role of e-government for women's empowerment, urging Member States “To improve and broaden women’s access to information and communications technologies, including e-government tools, in order to enable political participation and to promote engagement in broader democratic processes, while also improving the responsiveness of these technologies to women’s needs, including those of marginalized women” (A/RES/66/130, sub-paragraph 6 (h)).
Governments in Asia and the Pacific have been proactive in harnessing ICTs to enhance their governance systems and service delivery through e-government. However, there is little awareness and capacity to address the gender dimension of e-government. Only 28% of countries in Asia and 29% of countries in Oceania offered some sort of online services for women in 2014.3 It is vital that governments in Asia-Pacific ensure that their e-government strategies provide opportunities and equal benefits to women through gender-sensitive public service delivery and inclusive decision-making processes.
The 2014 United Nations E-Government Survey highlighted the potential of e-government to facilitate participatory decision-making and inclusive service delivery for vulnerable groups, including women, through e-participation and a multi-channel approach. E-government can advance the rights of women through better institutional coordination and gender mainstreaming across line ministries; more gender-responsive service delivery; accountability mechanisms that help respond to women’s needs, as well as online channels to engage women in co-creating or co-producing services that better serve their own needs.
In light of the above, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with the United Nations Project Office on Governance (UNPOG) of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, has implemented a project on “e-Government for Women’s Empowerment” to enhance a) knowledge sharing and raise awareness of good practices and b) skills and understanding of strategies and actions required to promote e-government for women’s empowerment.
To this end, the project is developing analytical and capacity development resources to promote gender-responsive e-government, which feature:
- Asia-Pacific Regional Report on E-Government for Women’s Empowerment, which builds on 12 good practices identified in five countries (Australia, Fiji, India, the Philippines, Republic of Korea) to review three dimensions of the e-government ecosystem (online service delivery, citizen update/participation and connectivity) and examine how the potential of e-government is being used to address the needs of women.
- Country overviews of the gender dimension of e-government institutional ecosystems in Australia, Fiji, India, the Philippines, Republic of Korea.
- Online training toolkit and modules on e-government for women’s empowerment will be developed based on the findings of the regional report and country overviews. (forthcoming)
This project has been made possible with the generous funding from the Government of the Republic of Korea, through the ESCAP-Korea Cooperation Funds.
- Key 2005-2015 ICT data for the world, ITU http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx ; The State of the Broadband 2015, The Broadband Commission for Digital Development, ITU and UNESCO, 2015
- Bridging the gender gap: Mobile access and usage in low and middle-income countries, The GSMA Connected Women Global Development Alliance, 2015
- United Nations E-Government Survey ‘e-Government for the Future We Want’, 2014, UN DESA, figure 6.13, Page 138