1. An overview of the context under study

The UN e-government development survey 2014, which assessed the performance of countries along three dimensions – online service delivery, e-participation and infrastructure provisioning – ranked India 118 out of 193 member-states and identified it as a country with a middling level of e-government development.1

The report also noted that India is one among 7 countries which have “clearly advanced their e-government despite their relatively lower national income”.2 For India to continue on its upward trajectory towards building a mature e-government institutional ecosystem, it is vital for the country to work on the larger agenda of enabling all sections of its population to capitalize on the gains of the digital revolution. This is a major gap at present, as the Global Information Technology Report highlights:3

“Despite many clusters of excellence and its knack for frugal innovation, India is not leveraging ICTs for the benefits of its entire population. (...). Uptake of ICTs is among the lowest in the world. When accounting for multiple SIM-card ownership, approximately one-third of the population owns a mobile phone. Smart-phones are the privilege of the very few, with 3 mobile broadband subscriptions for every 100 population. Only 15 percent of the population uses the Internet. By international standards, technology adoption by businesses remains limited, as it does within the government”.

In particular, this divide in the access to the benefits of the Internet and other ICTs is amplified along gender lines. The Intel Women and the Web Study 2013 found that a woman in India is 27% less likely than a man to have Internet access.4 Also, less than 40% of India’s Internet users are women, a sex ratio that is far lower when compared to other countries.5 On a similar note, a research study by the GSMA Foundation found that “only 28% of Indian women own a mobile phone, compared with 40% of men”.6

As other research scholars have pointed out, this gender divide in access is symptomatic of other underlying structural divides between women and men, especially in relation to education and employment.7 Only 26.6% of adult women in India have completed some secondary education, as against 50.4% of their male counterparts.8 Moving on to the area of women’s economic participation, we find that a mere 28.8% of Indian women are in the labour market, compared to 80.9% of men.9 Further, women are increasingly concentrated in a smaller portion of the economy, as agriculture is steadily becoming feminized due to the outmigration of men into non-farm work.10

Even in survival and health indicators, gender inequality persists. The maternal mortality rate in India is 190 per 100,000 live births, and though it has been steadily falling in the last decade, the rate of decline is not adequate for the country to meet its Millennium Development Goal targets, by end 2015.11 More worryingly, the child sex ratio has been steadily declining in the past two decades.12 In fact, this issue of ‘missing girls’ in the age group of 0-6 years, that can be traced to the rising incidence of sex-selective abortions, is now seen as a ‘national emergency’ that warrants immediate attention.13

The dimension of women’s political participation is more promising. Though the current parliament has only 12.15% women representatives, far less than the critical mass of 33%, the percentage of women members of parliament has been steadily increasing in every successive general election, since the first parliamentary elections.14 At the lowest tier of governance, within the village self-government bodies and the municipal bodies, the percentage of elected women representatives is far higher, thanks to a constitutional amendment mandating one-third of seats in such bodies to be reserved for women.15 But there is a long road ahead before women’s presence can translate into substantive participation, as socio-political structures determine local politics, and control women’s exercise of their political agency.16

On the whole, there is a high level of gender inequality, and a large gap between women and men in terms of social development attainments, in the Indian context. This assessment is corroborated by global studies. The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 ranked India 114 out of 142 countries with respect to attainments in gender equality, based on a composite measure that assessed the relative gaps between women and men in four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.17 Similarly, India was ranked 132 out of 148 countries covered by the UN Gender Development Index 2014, a gender-disaggregated measure of human development attainments along three main axes, health, education and command over economic resources.18


  1. United Nations (2014), United Nations E-government Survey 2014: E-government for the Future We Want, http://unpan3.un.org/egovkb/Portals/egovkb/Documents/un/2014-Survey/E-Gov_Complete_Survey-2014.pdf, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  2. Ibid, pp 20.
  3. World Economic Forum (2015), The Global Information Technology Report 2015: ICTs for inclusive growth, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_IT_Report_2015.pdf , Retrieved 17 November 2015, pp 26.
  4. Intel (2013), Women and the Web: Bridging the Internet gap and creating new global opportunities in low and middle-income countries, http://dalberg.com/documents/Women_Web.pdf , Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  5. Hindu (2013), India is now world’s third largest Internet user after US, China, http://www.thehindu.com/scitech/technology/internet/india-is-now-worlds-third-largest-internet-user-after-us-china/article5053115.ece, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  6. GSMA (2010), Women and mobile: A global opportunity – A study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries, http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GSMA_Women_and_Mobile-A_Global_Opportunity.pdf, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  7. Deen-Swarray,M., Gilwald, A. and Morrell, A. (2012), Lifting the veil on ICT gender indicators in Africa, http://www.researchictafrica.net/publications/Evidence_for_ICT_Policy_Action/Policy_Paper_13_-_Lifting_the_veil_on_ICT_gender_indicators_in_Africa.pdf, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  8. UNDP (2014), Human Development Report 2014 – India country note, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/IND.pdf, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Desai, S.(2014), Declining sex ratios seen in gender scorecard, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/declining-sex-ratios-seen-in-gender-scorecard/article5801673.ece , Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  11. Ramachandran, S.K. (2014), India may miss U.N. Millenium Development Goal for maternal mortality rate, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/india-may-miss-un-millennium-development-goal-for-maternal-mortality-rate/article6455727.ece, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  12. Census of India 1991; 2001; 2011.
  13. UN Women (2014), Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection – History, Debates and Future Directions, http://asiapacific.unfpa.org/sites/asiapacific/files/pub-pdf/Sex-Ratios-and-Gender-Biased-Sex-Selection.pdf, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  14. Rao, B.(2015), Women M.Ps in Lok Sabha – How have the numbers changed?, https://factly.in/women-mps-inlok-sabha-how-have-the-numbers-changed/, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  15. Government of India (1992), 73rd amendment to the Constitution of India, http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/amend/amend73.htm, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  16. Jayal, N.G. (2006), Engendering local democracy: The impact of quotas for women in India’s panchayats, Democratization, 13:1,15-35, DOI: 10.1080/13510340500378225.
  17. World Economic Forum (2014), Global Gender Gap Report 2014, http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/, Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  18. UNDP (2014), Human Development Report 2014 – India country note,op.cit.