2.1    Rationale and Research Questions

Despite the development of global gender indices and greater awareness of the importance of mainstreaming gender in global indices, there has been little development of indicators, data collection and capacity to measure and capture the gender dimension of e-government. Any outcome-oriented analysis of e-government should be able to throw light on gender-based progress. Sex disaggregation of data at the national level — on the components of service delivery, citizen uptake and connectivity architecture — can be seen as an important starting point towards this. This will enable tracking questions such as “How many women-only online services are available?”; “Is women’s participation in the online spaces of state-citizen interaction equal to that of men?”; “How many services target women beneficiaries through mobile phones?”; or “How many women use the Internet compared to men?”. However, measuring the overall efficacy for gender equality would also require yardsticks that capture both institutional capacity and commitment, as well as the gains women experience in terms of shifts in their social status. Any robust analysis of e-government for women’s empowerment should therefore be able to reveal the underlying factors contributing to differentiated outcomes for women and men, and evaluate the contribution of e-government to shifts in women’s autonomy and well-being.

It has been argued that the raison d’être of e-government is good governance.73 Proceeding backwards from this goal, any gender-based assessment of e-government will have to examine whether and how the constituent characteristics of good governance are gendered and if this produces empowering outcomes for women. In relation to e-government, Parthasarathy (2011)74 argues for the need to tie the concept of good governance to the critical governance literature, in order to ensure that the concept of e-government is restored to its full integrity. Good governance would thus refer to both the technical dimensions of administrative simplification and political aspects of promoting transparent and accountable institutions in a democracy. Gender equality is a core dimension of such good governance, as gender constitutes a key axis of marginalization of citizens from governance structures.75

The United Nations Development Programme’s framework identifies good governance as comprising the following characteristics: fostering citizens’ capacities for participation, enforcement of the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, equity, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, successful mediation of competing interests, and a strategic vision for human development.76

Using this working definition, this research has sought to examine how in the contexts under study, the design and implementation of e-government has enabled the realization of good governance that encompasses the political goal of women’s empowerment and gender equality. The three constituent components of the e-government institutional ecosystem, online service delivery, citizen uptake77 and connectivity architecture, were studied separately to answer this question. The research adopted a social constructivist and historical perspective on e-government in relation to women’s empowerment and gender equality. It studied why 78 processes of the e-government system developed in particular ways, and how they evolved, and unpacked the norms, rules and practices that shaped its gender-responsiveness.79

The overall questions that the research study sought to answer are as follows:

  1. What new norms are introduced (in e-government systems) with the introduction of technology? How are emerging norms impacting women’s empowerment and gender equality?
  2. What are the new rules legitimizing the structures and procedures of e-government? Do they have a legislative mechanism? How do they impact women’s empowerment and gender equality?
  3. What new, everyday practices and cultures of interaction between state and citizen are evident with the introduction of technology? How do they impact women’s empowerment and gender equality?

2.2    Matrix for Institutional Analysis of Gender and E-Government

An analytical framework, represented in Table 1, was developed to examine the institutional ecosystem of e-government for its responsiveness to women’s empowerment and gender equality. The framework was used to study the state of play with regard to gender and e-government in the countries of study and to evaluate good practices and case studies for the changes they have effected in gender norms, rules, identity and relations.

The table elaborates certain ‘pegs’ to facilitate a nuanced understanding of why and how institutional shifts that have effected women’s inclusion in governance systems have taken place. The pegs are indicative, rather than exhaustive, in scope, and presented through a matrix that brings together the key components of e-government of a) online service delivery, b) citizen uptake and c) connectivity architecture, together with the 3 key dimensions of institutional analysis, a) norms, b) rules and c) practices.

The methodology used for the case studies is further elaborated in Chapter 3, Methodology.

While institutional transformation can advance gender equality, and is necessary to sustain women’s empowerment over time, it is important not to conflate the analysis of such systemic shifts that impact institutional inclusion of women, with the end-goals and outcomes of empowerment.80

Therefore, as part of the research framework, a suitable evaluation model was also proposed.

Table 1
A matrix for gender analysis of the e-government institutional ecosystem

What new norms are introduced (in e-government systems) with the introduction of technology?
How are emerging norms impacting women’s empowerment and gender equality?


Service delivery

Analytical Peg

Probing questions

1.1 Shift in the room for human mediation 81

In e-service delivery, is arbitrariness in decision-making reduced? What is gained?

Is there room for human discretion reduced at the local level? What therefore is lost?

Is there a tension between gender equity and efficiency, when things become automated/digitized or when human mediation is eliminated/minimized?

1.2 New frameworks of mediation/new intermediaries

What are the premises of intermediation of service delivery in the e-service delivery system?

What protections exist for women’s rights with the virtualization of service delivery? How is accountability envisaged and built into the present system?

1.3 Shifts in the predictability of state-citizen interaction

How is the issue of building women’s trust addressed in e-service delivery?

How is the issue of ensuring the predictability of the new digital system being viewed? Is it seen only as a supply side issue — about assuring technical robustness of the new platforms/portals supporting digital service delivery? Or is it seen as a larger normative concern about trust, emerging from the changing role of the state in public service delivery?

1.4 New norms in interdepartmental and government-citizen-private sector arrangements

In the development of e-service delivery systems, what are the new intergovernmental and interstakeholder partnerships that are emerging?

What are the ensuing normative shifts with respect to guaranteeing women’s rights in public service delivery?

1.5 Convergence in service delivery

How does the e-service delivery framework address the question of making last mile convergence effective and efficient for marginalized women?

Citizen uptake

1.6 Shift in the norms of citizen use of/access to services, and citizen feedback

How do existing policy frameworks address the question of using the digital opportunity for women’s participation?

How are inclusiveness and contextual issues addressed in the design of e-participation initiatives?


1.7 Assumption about ICT access and connectivity

What is the vision of ICTs and the Internet that is guiding mainstream policy in the context being studied? Are they seen as public goods?

How does this vision impact affordability, access and meaningful use?

Are existing ICT and broadband policy frameworks responsive to the need to address sociocultural barriers that hinder women’s access to the Internet and ICTs?


What are the new rules legitimizing the structures and procedures of e-government? Do they have a legislative mechanism? How do they impact women’s empowerment and gender equality?


Service delivery

Analytical peg

Probing questions

2.1 Authority to process, authenticate and modify transactions

In the e-service delivery system, where is the authority to modify and authenticate transactions located? What are the changes in the location of such authority, when compared to the pre-digital system?

How have such changes impacted the interface of women and marginalized groups with public service delivery?

Are the new locations of authority with respect to transactions clearly visible to citizens?

2.2 Transparency mechanisms in e-service design and entitlements processing

Does the e-service delivery system provide clear information on work flow processes?

What laws/policies/rules govern transparency?

Are there mechanisms for public audit of platform architecture underpinning the e-service delivery system?

2.3 Mechanisms for responsiveness to citizens' concerns in entitlements processing

What are the guarantees in place to ensure that minimum service level standards are guaranteed to citizens?

Is there a grievance redress policy?

2.4 Data security law/policy

How do legal and policy frameworks ensure that data-based tracking in e-service delivery does not compromise privacy?

How do existing data systems impact women in situations of high vulnerability (both positively and negatively)?

Citizen uptake

2.5 Policies on openness of the technical architecture

Is there a clear open standards policy directive for e-government?

How are vendor lock-ins in e-government public-private partnerships addressed?

2.6 Rules/laws on right to information and proactive disclosure of public information

How are existing laws on citizens’ right to information addressing the issue of proactive disclosure of information through online spaces?

What is the existing policy framework on open government data?



2.7 Policies for universal and affordable access of ICTs

How do existing policy frameworks address the question of taking connectivity to remote and disadvantaged populations? Are they informed by perspectives on gender-based exclusion?

How is the question of public access infrastructure being taken up in policy frameworks? Is there a national broadband plan?


What new everyday practices and cultures of interaction between state and citizen are evident with the introduction of technology? How do they impact women’s empowerment and gender equality?


Service delivery

Analytical peg

Probing questions

3.1 New forms of intermediation

Do the new forms of intermediation in the digitalized service delivery systems empower women in accessing government? Or are they merely replacing traditional middle-men?

3.2 New forms of stakeholder arrangements

What kinds of practices (including coordination arrangements) have been put in place in new partnerships in the e-service delivery system to ensure accountability and responsiveness?

Are there mechanisms for social audit in place?

3.3 Practices for making tacit work flows explicit in virtualized service delivery.

What kind of practices have been put in place to ensure that women and marginalized groups are made aware about the eligibility criteria for various entitlements provided by government?

Is the status of their claims/applications clear to citizens?

Do all citizens (including those from vulnerable socio-economic groups) receive timely updates on the status of their transactions? Is the rejection of applications for service delivery communicated in a timely manner?

3.4 Practices to promote equity considerations in service implementation.

What has been the impact of e-service delivery on the time and other costs of marginalized women accessing the service?

What are the practices that have been put in place to build the gender-responsiveness of e-service delivery? (Management Information System for sex-disaggregated data on entitlement allocations, women-only time slots in one- stop-shops etc.) Have they led to the intended outcome?

Citizen uptake

3.5 Offline mechanisms to strengthen online uptake (including digital literacy efforts)

What are the offline mechanisms that exist for strengthening online uptake? Are these offline mechanisms responsive to the issues/concerns women raise?

What kind of digital literacy efforts exist? What is their impact in building women’s capacity to use e-services?



3.6 Use of techno-platforms for wider and gender-inclusive reach (SMS outreach)

What digital possibilities are being harnessed for citizen outreach? Is there any attention to specific strategies for reaching out to women?


2.3    Evaluation Model for E-Government and Women’s Empowerment

A specific need that this study has tried to address is the development of a measurement tool that will allow particular e-government ecosystems to be assessed for their actual gender-based outcomes. Even when designed and implemented to be gender inclusive or targeting women citizens, services may or may not bring gains for women and realign gender relations. Knowing the pathways to and place holders of intended and actual change therefore becomes important.

Scholarly explorations see women’s empowerment as an enhancement of women’s control over resources, material and symbolic, which transforms power equations in gender relations.82 Even if end-goals and outcomes of women’s empowerment may be best captured through initiative-specific indicators, empowerment indicators must be underpinned by a “recognition of the universal elements of gender subordination that underpin local gender systems”.83

The study uses the Domains of Change framework,84 provided in Figure 1. This framework captures the multidimensionality of women’s experiences of empowerment, and traces gender-based power at the individual and systemic/institutional level, and across formal and informal domains. The framework was adapted to the context of e-government, as outlined below, to gauge the gender-related shifts observed in each case study. For the application of this evaluative framework for each case study, please see the case study synopsis in Annex II.


Source: Developed by Rao and Kelleher (2002) and modified by Batliwala (2008).


In this framework, the y-axis captures the scale at which change takes place — from the individual to macro-level systemic shifts. The x-axis maps the continuum of change from the informal to the formal socioeconomic, cultural and political domains. Each of the quadrants maps specific changes at the intersections of these 2 axes. The quadrants are discussed below:

Quadrant 1: Individual-formal

This refers to changes in individual women’s access to, and control over, resources. This includes access to assets, symbolic resources as well as entitlements guaranteed under state laws. E-government programmes can contribute to such shifts by enhancing women’s access to digital literacy, public information and entitlements.

Quadrant 2: Systemic-formal

This refers to institutional shifts that further women’s empowerment and gender equality. An effective policy framework for e-government needs to address women’s digital citizenship, combining traditional rights to information and participation with new entitlements that ensure effective and meaningful access to e-services.

Quadrant 3: Systemic-informal

This refers to traditions, beliefs, practices etc. that are deeply embedded in a culture and the deep structures that inform gender norms in a society. These are extremely difficult to change, and need action that goes beyond the legalistic. E-government interventions in the area of enhancing women’s public participation and political voice have the potential to challenge hegemonic gender discourses, thus enabling a cultural shift.

Quadrant 4: Individual-informal

This refers to attitudes, beliefs and capabilities of individual women and men — in other words, their consciousness. E-government interventions, especially those in the area of digital literacy and skills training for women, can contribute to an expansion of women’s information and communicative capabilities and self‑esteem.

The quadrants are not mutually exclusive. A single intervention has the potential to lead to changes across all these domains. Notably, changes that occur may not only be those desired by the initiative under scrutiny, but also those that are unanticipated.


  1. Kettani, D., Moulin, B., & Chakiri, H. (2014). Towards a computational model of eGovernment for good governance. International Journal of Societal Applications of Computer Science, 3(3), pp. 502-520. Retrieved from, 21 April 2016.
  2. Parthasarathy, B. (2011). Book review – E-governance for development: A focus on rural India. Information Technologies and International Development, 7(4), pp. 81-83. Retrieved from, 21 April 2016; Madon, S. (2009). E-governance for development: A focus on rural India. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. Roy, A. (2013). Gendered citizenship: Historical and conceptual explorations. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
  4. United Nations Development Programme. (1997). Governance for sustainable human development: A UNDP policy document, cited in Kettani, Moulin & Chakiri, op.cit.
  5. In this study, citizen uptake is understood as a composite idea that includes uptake of e-services among citizens as well as e-information, e-consultation and e-decision-making.
  6. Heeks, R., & Bailur, S. (2006). Analyzing e-government research: Perspectives, philosophies. theories, methods and practice. Government Information Quarterly, 24(2), pp. 243-265. Retrieved from’Analyzing_E-Government_Research_Perspective_Philosophies_Theories_Methods_and_Practice’, 21 April 2016.
  7. Kim, S., Kim, H.J., & Lee, H. (2009). An institutional analysis of an e-government system for anti-corruption: The case of OPEN. Government Information Quarterly, 26(1), pp. 42-50. Retrieved from English_Transleted Articles/English/HR Management/An institutional analysis of an e-government system for anti-corruption_ The case of OPEN.pdf, 21 April 2016. In institutional theory, the following mechanisms are considered to be at the core of institutional systems: normative, regulatory/coercive, and cognitive/mimetic. Normative mechanisms refer to the norms underpinning the domain in which a particular institution operates. Regulatory mechanisms refer to rules and other mechanisms for legitimation of institutional functioning. Mimetics or cognitive mechanisms are the practices that shape institutional systems. Hence, an institutional study of e-governance has to focus on norms, rules and practices.
  8. Malhotra, A., Schuler, S.R., & Boender, C. (2002). Measuring women’s empowerment as a variable in international development, pp. 4-5. World Bank. Retrieved from, 21 April 2016.
  9. In e-governance literature, human mediation is a concept that is used to emphasize the fact that the transition to digital governance may not imply complete virtualization of state-citizen interaction. In developing country contexts especially, human intermediaries/facilitators (for instance, at the last mile – in telecentres, public access points, one-stop-shops etc.) play a critical role in mediating citizen interaction with state structures.
  10. Batliwala, S. (1993). Empowerment of Women in South Asia, Concepts and Practices. New Delhi, FAO.
  11. Malhotra, Schuler & Boender, op.cit.
  12. Rao, A., & Kelleher, D. (2002). Unraveling Institutionalized Gender Inequality, modified by Srilatha Batliwala, cited in Batliwala, S., & Pittman, A. (2010). Capturing change in women’s realities: A critical overview of current monitoring and evaluation frameworks and approaches. Toronto: AWID. Retrieved from, 21 April 2016.