Key Recommendations

Gender equality and women’s empowerment may be seen as policy goals intrinsic to any e-government endeavour aspiring to deliver good governance. Based on the critical insights of this study on e-government and gender, this chapter presents recommendations for overall policy coherence in e-government design. It seeks to abstract the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the e-government roadmap for gender justice based on the above discussion. Using, as relevant, international policy benchmarks, reports of key international development agencies, and policy research, the chapter draws out the normative underpinnings, legislative and policy frameworks, and implementation imperatives corresponding to the findings and conclusions of the study.

Taken together, these recommendations represent the key elements characterizing any gender-responsive e-government ecosystem (see Table 5). This may not be an exhaustive set, but comprises the insights rooted in this study.

Table 5
Key elements of a gender-responsive e-government institutional ecosystem


Service delivery

Citizen Uptake

Connectivity Architecture


Promote e-government as a public policy instrument for pro-poor, gender-sensitive development

Guarantee women’s digital citizenship

Ensure that gender and e-government policies go hand-in-hand

Balance effectively technology and human elements in service delivery design

Guarantee women’s rights to fully participate in the information society

Promote universal access to the Internet


Formulate clear rules to cushion e-services from political volatility

Institutionalize the partnership between national women’s machinery and e-government agency

Promote robust governance of Public Private Partnerships in service delivery

Support open data frameworks that promote the right to information

Develop gender-responsive open standards for public data architectures

Ensure that online citizen engagement is tied to women’s ‘right to be heard’

Actively involve women not only in implementation, but also design and co-production of e-government services

Deploy multiple policy instruments towards universalizing Internet access

Make connectivity policies gender-responsive


Build awareness and capacity of e-government officials on gender issues

Monitor e-government through a ‘digital citizenship index’

Promote effective management of metadata of individuals

Invest in partnerships with public interest intermediaries in open data initiatives

Promote digital literacy as a strategic pathway to women’s citizenship

Promote the effective use of mobile phones in citizen outreach

Catalyze meaningful cultures of use through a public access, telecentre model


8.1    Service Delivery


Promote e-government as a public policy instrument for pro-poor, gender-sensitive development: The information society offers the building blocks to bring women into democratic processes within an architecture of good governance. Access to public services is a lifeline for the poorest and most marginalized women. The first SDG on Ending Poverty emphasizes the role of new technology, pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies to address poverty in all its forms everywhere.154 Target 5.b exhorts governments to “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”.155 The current moment of technological flux however holds the risk of exacerbating gender-based exclusion, as access to the Internet and level of digital capabilities vary widely across sociostructural locations. Given this challenge, e-government can signal a fresh mandate for gender-responsive governance and address the interests of the poorest and most marginalized women, thus furthering the CEDAW vision of eliminating “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex”.156

Guarantee women’s digital citizenship: E-government should address the social, cultural, economic and political issues impacting women’s active citizenship, as the necessary starting point for reaching e-services to women. The unique opportunities of the digital age can enable women to find their rightful place as equal citizens in processes of governance and democracy. This calls for specific steps by governments to guarantee women’s digital citizenship. Towards this, and as highlighted in the 2008 UNDP Primer, the goal of gender justice needs to inform the various dimensions of e-government, ranging from “(1) design of e-governance policies and strategies; (2) delivery of basic e-services; (3) e-participation; (4) access to ICTs; and (5) access to public information via ICTs”.157

Ensure that gender and e-government policies go hand-in-hand: A well designed and comprehensive e-government policy is important. Such a policy needs to spell out the role that e-government can play in redressing women’s historical exclusion from governance and democracy. Explicitly connecting gender and e-government policy objectives will result in improved gender equality and women’s empowerment outcomes.158 Additionally, strong institutional ownership of the gender mainstreaming agenda in sectoral e-government policymaking processes (across agriculture, health, education and other domains) is key to create the overall momentum and sustain women’s empowerment through technology.

Plans and programmes to roll out e-government need to align gender-based considerations to the stages of e-government development159 (see Annex III for details). A roadmap for addressing gender equality across the different stages of e-government, proposed by UNPOG, is outlined below:160

  1. Emerging stage: There should be efforts for creating an online presence for the national gender machinery and putting gender policies online.
  2. Enhanced stage: When e-government proceeds to this stage where applications for schemes and programmes are downloadable, care should be taken to ensure that such applications for initiatives of the ministry of women are available.
  3. Transactional stage: Individualized services for women should be available.
  4. Connected stage: There should be one-stop-shop portals for women-directed services as well as integration of such services with generic one-stop-shop portals.

Balance effectively technology-human elements in service delivery design: The introduction of technology in service delivery systems can lead to a shift in existing social accountability relations between beneficiaries, service providers and government. Research on the Conditional Cash Transfer programmes in the Philippines and Latin America reveals that contextually responsive human intermediation mechanisms can enhance local accountability. The programmes were able to effectively tackle inclusion-exclusion errors that creep into digital processes of beneficiary enrollment and authentication, and thus achieve effective targeting, thanks to agile human intermediation.161 Virtualization of service delivery does not automatically lead to gender based inclusion. The design challenge in e-services delivery therefore is to find a middle path to maximize technological and human elements, reaping the advantages of both universal, standardized procedures and localized, unique needs.


Formulate clear rules to cushion e-services from political volatility: It has been the experience of the past two decades that e-government development, and gender-responsiveness to e-government in particular, are contingent on political will and commitment in the highest echelons of government. Things have moved in the direction of special programmes for women, interministerial coordination and cooperation, infrastructure development and digital literacy, where specialized, high powered agencies have been set up with time-bound targets, along with appropriate resource allocation. The findings from this research also show that commitments to gender equality can lose momentum where incoming governments may not be sympathetic to their predecessor governments’ efforts.

The predictability and quality of services for women requires that clear rules are evolved through due legislative process in order to insulate e-government from political change. E-government maturity scores tell us that this is an area central to the digital divide between nations. Unless developing country governments put in place the legal and policy measures to promote digital citizenship for women, the qualitative gap between women and men in use of ICTs is bound to persist.

Institutionalize the partnership between national women’s machinery and e-government agency: The vanguard role of the national women’s machinery in leading e-government implementation cannot be overemphasized. The role of the ministry of women can be to roll out plans and programmes appropriate to emerging gender issues and women’s empowerment challenges in the wider society, as well as evolve policy guidelines on ’women’s digital citizenship and e-government’ as a basic protocol for other departments and ministries across levels of government. The ministry of women should undertake efforts to ensure that decision-making structures in e-government include women, while engaging the participation of women’s organizations in service delivery, policy making and monitoring processes. The partnership between the e-government department and the national women’s ministry should also be institutionalized to ensure sustainability and credibility. The joint programmes developed through such partnerships will be effective if a multitrack approach that combines a mix of gender-integrated and gender-targeted interventions is adopted, as recommended by UN Women in its 2014 guidance note on gender mainstreaming in development programming.162 The Philippines is a leader in this area, and as the country case for this research shows, it has institutionalized gender mainstreaming across all sectors of government, including e-government, through the 2009 Magna Carta of Women.

Promote robust governance of Public Private Partnerships in service delivery: Public-private partnerships have gained traction as a vehicle of implementation design of e-government systems. Favourable outcomes depend very much on the governance of such arrangements so that there are service quality guarantees that protect women’s rights. Partnership choices and innovative governance structures and mechanisms that support greater efficiency, while safeguarding accountability, become important. The separation of substantive (domain-related) functions from that of technological management, in the experience of the Cyber-mentoring Initiative, Republic of Korea, illustrates how different agencies come together with complementary strengths in the partnership.

Penalty or recourse in the event of noncompliance by the private partner(s) in PPP arrangements becomes necessary for a citizen-responsive and women-friendly e-government. As observed by the International Finance Corporation in its 2012 Synthesis Report of the gender impact of Public Private Partnerships, project conditionalities that are included in the financing agreements of such arrangements should specify the realization of gender-based outcomes as part of the contractual requirement.163 More research is required to understand the conditions under which public-private partnerships in e-service delivery can lead to the development of sustainable interventions for gender equality.

Support open data frameworks that promote the right to information: The full realization of the right to information will also depend on the digitization of government data, back-end integration and proactive dissemination of public information. The experience of applications designed for women’s safety for instance, indicates the need for systematic, robust, public data systems as in the case of government spatial data in the Republic of Korea, for a coordinated institutional response to women’s safety. Promoting user-end measures alone may be simplistic. The role of real time data must encompass possibilities for effective policing, interagency coordination and emergency services. This calls for extensive digitization that deepens availability of data in and for the public domain. Partnerships with local organizations can be useful in building and sustaining open data and local information processes for local level use and empowerment.164

Develop gender-responsive open standards for public data architectures: Technical standards for publishing in non-proprietary formats are crucial to ensure unrestricted use of government data by citizens. It would not be possible to recombine data sets165 to tease out gendered patterns without such standards. Standards that support local language content is another priority area for governments, so that women who may be unfamiliar with the dominant languages of the Internet can access information online and also engage in consultative processes with government.

Decisions on the data architecture are closely tied to inclusiveness and accessibility outcomes in e-government.166 Choices pertaining to the features of data architectures (such as selectivity, coding for display, nature of tagging, language) have important social implications.167 The process of informatization involves capturing lived social reality in the language of data.168 To contain the seeds for transformative change therefore, data related decision making processes in government need to ‘think gender’. To illustrate with an example, the Indian state of Tamil Nadu came out with a welfare policy for transgenders, and also introduced provisions for gender dysphoric individuals to record their ‘third gender’ status in official food ration cards issued by the public distribution system,169 and in application forms for college education.170



Build awareness and capacity of e-government officials on gender issues: Training public authorities, local government officials, parliamentarians, law enforcement agencies, and other relevant stakeholders is critical for a committed and concerted approach to women’s empowerment through e-government. Such training must include those in leadership positions as well as those at the last mile in e-service delivery systems to include all levels of officials involved in implementing e-government. For instance, from publicizing e-service delivery arrangements to helping women navigate online spaces and alerting them to the implications of virtual transactions, officials and authorities at different levels hold different responsibilities.

Monitor e-government through a ‘digital citizenship index’: The efficacy of e-government for women’s empowerment depends very much on adequate and reliable statistics. At the national level, it would be useful to build the data capacity for collecting and collating sex-disaggregated data for an index like the EGDI. For example, Mozambique is partnering with, the UNESCO Regional Centre for Studies on the Development of the Information Society, to explore how the collection of gender based statistics in the country’s new household ICT survey can be made robust.171 Furthermore, monitoring gender-responsiveness would also require attention to a) service delivery aspects including the number of women-oriented services and number of women accessing m-services; b) human capacity issues like digital literacy; c) telecommunications indicators like individual data subscription; and d) institutional maturity dimensions like gender policies in services and infrastructure, ICT policy integration in the women’s machinery and the gendering of data protection laws. There is a strong case for developing a ‘digital citizenship index’ that corresponds to the EGDI for agile and gender-responsive monitoring of e-government.

Promote effective management of metadata of individuals: Increasingly, state agencies are embarking on large scale projects with sophisticated management information system backbones. The conditional cash transfer programme in the Philippines is one example. State agencies are required to safeguard women’s privacy and ensure that confidentiality of their data is guaranteed. Many countries guarantee the right to privacy under the Constitution. More recently, countries have also passed data protection legislation. It is important that e-government initiatives recognize their duty to protect the private information of women when it is digitized. Personal data security requires adequate thinking about the legal safeguards to address vulnerabilities that digital platforms bring. The Sex Offender Alert initiative of the Republic of Korea uses both technical sophistication (such as identity authentication for data access and software that restricts the creation of local copies of information at the user-end) and legal checks (legal restrictions on republication of information accessed through this service) in an effective manner. The WEF’s report on Rewards and Risks of Big Data recommends that:

“large data systems should store data in a distributed manner, separated by type (e.g., financial vs. health) and real-world categories (e.g., individual vs. corporate), managed by a department whose function is focused on those data, and with sharing permissions set and monitored by personnel from that department. Best practice would have the custodians of data be regional and use heterogeneous computer systems. With such safeguards in place, it is more difficult to combine data types without authentic authorization. Similarly, data sharing should always maintain provenance and permissions associated with data and support automatic, tamper-proof auditing. Best practice would share only answers to questions about the data (e.g., by use of preprogrammed SQL queries known as Database Views ) rather than the data themselves, whenever possible.” 172

Invest in partnerships with public interest intermediaries in open data initiatives: Research reveals that in developing country contexts, open data intermediaries play an important role in building the data capabilities of citizens, especially those belonging to socially marginalized groups.173 Additionally, in some instances, such intermediaries also become valued partners for local governments, supporting the latter’s accountability efforts. For example, in 2012, in the southern Indian metropolis of Chennai, ‘Transparent Chennai’, a data intermediary organization, took up the issue of urban poor women’s right to sanitation. Using the existing right to information law, they persuaded the municipal government to open up its data sets on the availability and quality of public toilets in different wards of the city. The organization then held community consultations in urban-poor neighbourhoods, documenting errors and discrepancies between the official data and on-ground reality.174 Subsequently, Chennai Municipal Corporation approached Transparent Chennai to sign an MoU that would enable the governmental agency build its data management capacities and integrate community-based data systems for updating of its records.175

8.2    Citizen Uptake


Guarantee women’s rights to fully participate in the information society: Rights-based international declarations and instruments in recent years have emphasized the importance of women’s access to ICTs as a key instrument of their empowerment. The WSIS plus 10 outcome document called for immediate measures to achieve gender equality in Internet users by 2020, especially by significantly enhancing women’s and girls’ education and participation in information and communications technologies, as users, content creators, employees, entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders. Countries reaffirmed their commitment to ensure women’s full participation in decision-making processes related to information and communications technologies.176

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly, through its resolution 66/130 on women and political participation, sub-paragraph 6 (h), urged 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”.

In 2013, the outcome document for the Commission on the Status of Women’s 57th session, for the first time, included the issue of technology and violence, calling for states to: “support the development and use of ICT and social media as a resource for the empowerment of women and girls, including access to information on the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls; and develop mechanisms to combat the use of ICT and social media to perpetrate violence against women and girls, including the criminal misuse of ICT for sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, child pornography and trafficking in women and girls, and emerging forms of violence such as cyber stalking, cyber bullying and privacy violations that compromise women’s and girls’ safety.” In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), passed a resolution reaffirming that the human rights that people enjoy offline, including the right to freedom of expression, also apply online. These global norms lay the foundations of citizen participation in governance and alert national governments about the rights in the information society that need to be reflected in national policy. Harmonizing laws and regulations such as on free speech, the right to information, universal access to the Internet, as well as balancing the right to privacy with the right to know, are key steps to enable women’s participation in e-government.


Ensure that online citizen engagement is tied to women’s ‘right to be heard’: E-participation is an ideal that many governments have adopted in the transition to a digitally mediated society. E-consultations must be backed by policy instruments that guarantee citizens’ ‘right to be heard’. It is important to use methods that combine offline and online processes and use emerging opportunities for online participation to bring women and girls into discussions in the public domain. The role of local women’s organizations in helping women develop digital capabilities for political communication may be important, especially as recent research reveals that for the majority of marginalized women in developing country contexts, such capabilities do not come merely through the experience of going online.177 Government-led ICT-mediated public engagement efforts can be effective only when they take into account the fact that differences in gender-identity, sexual orientation, race and social class differentially impact the public-political participation of individuals.178 More context specific research is needed to illuminate the necessary conditions for successful and inclusive e-participation.

Actively involve women not only in implementation, but also design and co-production of  e-government services: For most women, in addition to subsidized access to connectivity, the availability of information via channels and platforms that are accessible and affordable is an important consideration for the uptake of services. Older and differently-abled women have an unprecedented opportunity to engage with government through online platforms. Technical standards such as the W3C standards can bring to the design of services greater accessibility that includes women who have auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual disabilities.179

Design principles in e-government are also critical for the very conceptualization of e-services. Taking women’s information and knowledge cultures into account in the design process of e-government will lead to sustainability in e-services uptake.180 The experience of the Kudumbashree self-help group (SHG) programme in Kerala state, India, that uses the Sreesakthi Portal studied under this research testifies to the power of participatory methodologies in e-government design. Women who are part of the SHG network Identify issues and co-create content for gender modules. As market forces lead to greater diffusion of ICTs, the relevance of e-government for women from remote and marginalized social groups depends on a dedicated budget and concerted action at national and local levels to be adaptive and contextual.


Promote digital literacy as a strategic pathway to women’s citizenship: In and of itself, digital literacy is important to realize the rights of women. A digital literacy effort must not merely provide technical skills, but also help expand equality of opportunity for women. Being digitally literate should bring a sense of empowerment so that women perceive themselves as active consumers of information and content. Digital literacy is also a moving target; with emerging technological innovations, and over time, citizens need to keep abreast of the latest e-government developments. Comfort and confidence with online spaces is intrinsic, in the current context, to participation in the public sphere. Digital literacy must address a wide array of literacies, including informational, data, media, and instill in women a reasonable degree of awareness about security and safety online. Curriculum design, module development and teaching-learning processes must be informed by the perspective that digital literacy is a strategic pathway for digital citizenship. Targeted efforts in this area that address marginalized women and young girls are particularly important. These must include programmes in partnership with different stakeholders and integration of digital literacy into school curriculum in the public education system.  Chile’s Biblio Redes digital literacy campaign, which was rolled out in the early 2000s is a path-breaking initiative, whose effective use of the country’s existing public library network and effective targeting of women offers a number of lessons for other country governments.181 Similarly, as the country study of the Republic of Korea shows, between 2002 and 2008, women’s informatization was one of the critical focus-areas of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and as a result, there were a number of women-directed digital literacy efforts implemented during this period. Policy development should also recognize the interconnections between digital literacy, accessible and affordable connectivity and eservices availability. Effective digital literacy depends on a dedicated budget and concerted action at national and local levels to be adaptive and contextual.

8.3    Connectivity


Promote universal access to the Internet: In 2011, asserting that the Internet is an indispensable tool for the realization of human rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression observed that “without Internet access, which facilitates economic development and the enjoyment of a range of human rights, marginalized groups and developing States remain trapped in a disadvantaged situation, thereby perpetuating inequality both within and between States”.182

The Internet has come to mean multiple things today; it is a public sphere, a global market place, a space for social interaction, a knowledge commons, and more. The role of the Internet in contributing to people’s basic social functionality and personal wellbeing therefore is increasingly evident. This fact has assumed significance in national policy and legal debates on Internet provisioning. In Europe, countries like Estonia, Finland and Greece have enshrined citizens’ right to Internet access in national law. In Asia and Africa, the debate on the right to Internet access has captured popular imagination in the wake of zero services offered by telecom operators in partnership with Internet companies (the most recent example being Facebook’s Free Basics service).

In the current context, where affordability and social barriers remain a serious concern inhibiting women’s access, these developments put the spotlight on the need for ensuring universal access to the Internet as a public good. Additionally, guaranteeing access to women, especially from marginalized groups, becomes a prerequisite, so that they can seek and claim their rights and entitlements.183


Deploy multiple policy instruments towards universalizing Internet access: Different policy options have been used by governments to finance connectivity infrastructure and achieve universal access. Existing experiences reveal that effective use of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and local government investment in the creation of broadband networks are tried and tested strategies towards this. For example, in India, the Department of Telecommunications has used the gender budget of USOF to subside private sector and civil society efforts that aim at providing public information services over SMS and IVR networks, to marginalized women.184 In the United States, there is an increasing trend where municipal governments are investing in the establishment of local broadband networks to ensure that low-income neighbourhoods are adequately serviced.185 Policy experts are also examining experiences of public utility provisioning to explore the feasibility of universal data allowance,186 for instance, through a Direct Benefit Transfer model.187 These and other ways to reach connectivity to the last woman is a cutting edge priority for government, in the coming years.

Make connectivity policies gender-responsive: Broadband access is fundamental to the reliability and quality of connectivity. As the Broadband Commission notes, National ICT/Broadband Plans need to incorporate gender perspectives.188 Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan (2013–18) aims at closing the gender gap in access by monitoring specifically the number of women without access to the Internet; providing incentives for private educational centres and civil society organizations to train more women in the use of the Internet; and running dedicated centres at local government headquarters to serve as safe technology access centres for women.189 Courses on safe use of the Internet for girls are also planned using ICTs. Similarly, the Dominican Republic recently revived efforts to formulate a gender-responsive national digital agenda.190

Promoting affordable access to mobile broadband is imperative to make Internet access an entitlement. By reducing licensing fees, spectrum prices and interconnection charges and lowering device-costs through measures such as removing luxury taxes, governments need to create the incentives for women mobile users to go online as active citizens. The development of fixed broadband is also seen as a precondition for institutional development in developing countries191 and for informational and public service needs of marginalized women. The participation of local government in last mile models for broadband penetration is an emerging area for policy, with tremendous potential for enhancing women’s and girls’ access to local public services.


Promote the effective use of mobile phones in citizen outreach: Smart phones are a promising platform for online citizen engagement. Given that mobile phones break the accessibility barrier for women, m-services are likely to be a critical frontier for women’s access to information, services and participation. The Philippines has 99 per cent mobile coverage192 and in Metro Manila alone, 45 per cent of mobile phone users use their phones to browse the Internet.193 Internet access on mobile phones can be a tipping point for women’s digital citizenship. Mobile phones have been used to address VAW;194 SMS updates are being used to inform women about subsidized monthly food rations in local outlets;195 and IVR messaging reaching health information to women. The game changing possibilities of mobile phones for women’s empowerment depend on active thinking and action on the part of telecommunications authorities with regard to emerging regulatory issues on equitable access to quality Internet.196

Catalyze meaningful cultures of use through a public access, telecentre model: Public access points are a vital place to foster women-responsive e-government in developing countries. The local information worker or knowledge intermediary, often times associated with public access points, acts as a critical link to women’s digital citizenship, by facilitating access to government services and public information, and helping women ‘make sense’ of connectivity. Even with mobile access, public access centres remain meaningful for a variety of reasons, including as a space for media and data literacies, skill development, knowledge creation, reporting point for extension workers, and learning hubs for young girls. The multifarious, gender-transformative affordances of public access points and their potential for generating innovative cultures of use calls for a fresh look at telecentres and the role of local authorities, local private sector and women’s civil society organizations, in these models. National and global networks (such as that enable knowledge sharing and exchange of ‘good practice’ models in telecentre design for women’s empowerment can be leveraged towards this.


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