The findings of this research are informed by a country overview of the e-government institutional ecosystem in the five countries covered and country-based case studies of ‘good practices’ in the area of gender-responsive e-government. The country overviews covered a gender analysis of the historical evolution of egovernment in the country, the current status of e-service delivery and an assessment of the legal frameworks on a range of issues implicating e-government (see Annex I). Country overviews are issued separate to this report at http://egov4women.unescapsdd.org/files/documents/country-overviews.pdf.
Desk research and key informant interviews served as the main information sources for the country overviews. The desk research covered the following:
- Global reports on the status of e-government, ICT development, and gender equality in the country-contexts, such as the United Nations’ biennial e-government development surveys, the ITU’s annual reports on “Measuring the Information Society Report”, the “Global Information Technology Report” and “Global Gender Gap Report” of the World Economic Forum.
- National level policy documents on the strategic vision guiding e-government and the design and implementation guidelines underpinning service delivery, citizen uptake and connectivity architecture (such as national e-governance plans and policies; ICT and broadband plans; digital literacy programmes/campaigns; and laws governing data security and privacy, right to information, open data, public-private partnerships in service delivery, open standards, citizen charters etc.)
- National statistics on status of women, country level reports and assessments highlighting key priorities for women’s empowerment and gender equality in the country, and policies at the intersections of gender and ICTs.
Where feasible, policy makers involved in the design of e-government systems, and research scholars and civil society actors engaged in e-government and gender issues were interviewed as key informants.
In addition to the country overviews, in each of the countries under study, two or three case studies on good practices in the area of e-government for women’s empowerment and gender equality were undertaken. A synopsis of these case studies can be found in Annex II.
The following criteria informed the case selection process:
- The initiative should be a government-led one that meets at least one of the following criteria:
- Incorporate a vision/mandate for women’s empowerment and gender equality
- Seek to mainstream gender in its core strategies
- Cater mainly to women beneficiaries
- Government-led initiatives here refer to initiatives that are completely owned and operated by state agencies as well as initiatives implemented by state agencies through partnership arrangements with private sector or civil society organizations.
- The initiative should be able to offers insights about good practices in at least two of the three components of the e-government institutional ecosystem: service delivery, citizen uptake and connectivity architecture.
Based on these criteria, twelve case studies were selected across the five countries.
During the implementation of the study, the lack of initiative and awareness on this issue within governments in the region became apparent. Moreover, as a thematic area that is relatively underexplored in the theoretical literature, there were very few guiding tools through which to analyze e-government for women’s empowerment. Given the very scarce availability of data, information and research in this area, the report can be seen as one attempt to build some systematic evidence. It does not claim to present a comprehensive account of the issue but offers a normative approach to look at e-government through a gender lens.
With regard to the case studies, although consistent criteria for the selection of case studies were applied for all countries, in the case of Fiji, despite consultation with multiple stakeholders, there were very few initiatives that mapped clearly onto the research criteria. Two initiatives were nevertheless selected after some modification to the criteria.
The lack of initiatives and availability of information indicates that further efforts are required to develop capacity and understanding in this area. Despite these shortcomings, it is intended that this project will contribute to much-needed dialogue and capacity development to promote e-government for women’s empowerment.
Initiatives with a mandate for women’s empowerment and gender equality
Our Watch, a joint initiative of the State Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government of Australia (Our Watch)
This is a joint initiative of the state government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government of Australia that seeks to create a “sustained and constructive public conversation with the aim of improving the public’s awareness of violence against women in Australia”.85 Our Watch has used a combination of traditional and social media-based outreach and community events to challenge the prevailing culture of silence on gender-based violence. It has adopted a number of innovative strategies such as: creating a safe social media space for survivors of violence to share their stories, a social media-based campaign targeting youth that aims at changing attitudes and behaviour that condone violence against women, and a national media engagement project for sensitive reporting on gender-based violence.
Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) Reporting System for Gender Based Violence (GBV) of the Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), Government of Andhra Pradesh, India (IVR-SERP)
The Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) works towards lifting rural women out of poverty through a collectivization and skills-development approach. Addressing gender-based violence is one of its critical priorities, and towards this, it has created a network of Social Action Committees at the village, sub-district and district levels, comprising representatives from its women’s collectives. The IVRS-based reporting system set up by SERP enables women volunteers of the Social Action Committees to bring instances of gender and social injustice to the attention of the officers of the Gender Unit of SERP, in a timely manner, and effectively coordinate follow-up action.
Sreesakthi Portal of the Kudumbashree programme, Government of Kerala, India (Sreesakthi Portal)
The Sreesakthi Portal aims at providing a web-based open space for dialogue and discussion, for members of the Kudumbashree programme’s women’s collectives spread across 1072 local government units of the state of Kerala. The portal aims at creating an online forum where women can develop informed perspectives on gender issues, and question/challenge prevailing gender norms. The portal also enables dialogue between women members of Kudumbashree collectives, and public authorities and political leaders.
Cyber-mentoring for Women via Web Portal, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Republic of Korea (Cyber-mentoring Initiative)
The Cyber-mentoring Initiative provides a space where young women who are fresh graduates or in the early stages of their careers can seek mentoring and guidance from senior women professionals. Using its online database of mentors, the portal matches applicants with mentors, based on shared professional interests. Each mentoring arrangement is for a period of 60 days, and is renewable twice, at the behest of the mentee.
Safe Return Home Mobile App, Ministry of Security and Public Administration, Republic of Korea (Safe Return Home)
Safe Return Home is a personal safety app that provides users the means to share information about their whereabouts. Features of the app include:
- Notifications about user’s geolocation in real time with select contacts via text messages or SMS platforms.
- Auto-notifications to key contacts when the user passes through areas that she has marked as ‘dangerous’.
- Information about key emergency services such as hospitals/clinics, pharmacies, police station, fire stations, emergency shelters etc. in the neighbourhoods that the user is passing through.
Sex Offender Alert, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Republic of Korea (Sex Offender Alert)
Sex Offender Alert is a public alert system that alerts members of the public to the presence of ‘known’ sex offenders in their neighborhoods through three channels: a website, a mobile app and a mail notification service. The service effectively balances survivor-confidentiality and the offenders’ right to privacy, with the larger public interest of issuing alerts about sex offenders, through legal and technical safeguards that restrict republication of the data shared on the service.
mWomen e-service, Department of Women and Vodafone, Government of Fiji (mWomen)
mWomen is a subscription-based SMS service that seeks to provide free advice on women’s and children’s legal rights, family law and gender based violence. The service also has an additional SMS Counsellor component — a free short code number where individuals can phone in to seek legal advice and counselling. Callers who access this service are referred to ‘Empower Pacific’, an NGO partner in the initiative.
Initiatives that have sought to mainstream gender
Blended Learning Programme of the TESDA Women’s Centre, Philippines (Blended Learning programme)
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the Philippines aims at shaping policies and programmes for quality technical education and skills development. The Women’s Centre serves as TESDA’s lead training institution for integrating gender and development perspectives in technical and vocational education programmes. The Blended Learning Programme is an innovative initiative of the TESDA Women’s Centre that has complemented traditional classroom-based methods with online learning, to support women learners pace their own learning and benefit from peer-support.
Initiatives in which women are a large proportion of beneficiaries
SA Community, Government of South Australia
SA Community is an online community information directory in South Australia that informs citizens about governmental and non-governmental services in the areas of “health, welfare, housing, education, community participation, information, legal services, arts and recreation”.86 The information for the directory is compiled through a process of crowdsourcing, with some verification checks in place. Older women constitute a large proportion of the users of the service. Moreover, SA Community serves as the key information resource for the Women’s Information Service run by the Office of Women, Government of South Australia.
Grievance Redress System (GRS) of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (Conditional Cash Transfers) programme — Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino programme is a cash transfer programme of the government of the Philippines, with health and education conditionalities for the participating households. Women constitute over 82 per cent of the beneficiaries, and a major proportion of the cadre of community leaders (‘Parent Leaders’) recruited by the programme for community monitoring and facilitation of grievance redress processes. The Grievance Redress System underpinning the programme is a basic but critical e-government service that enables community members in effectively demanding accountability from concerned authorities.
Community eCentres in the Municipality of Malvar, Philippines (CeCs)
The Community eCentres (CeCs) programme is a national initiative for digital inclusion in the Philippines. As part of this, over 1400 telecentres, which provide access to ICT infrastructure, digital literacy training and e-government services have been set up in remote municipalities. At the national level, the programme adopts a gender-neutral approach. However, Malvar Municipality, due to the efforts of two e-government ‘champions’, has been able to make inroads in encouraging women from local communities to use the centre. The municipality has made dedicated allocations in its annual budget for the skills training of marginalized women through the CeCs, and taken special efforts to reach the benefits of the programme to women health workers, daycare teachers, and young women who want to enroll in alternative education courses.
Community Telecentre Initiative, Government of Fiji (Community Telecentres)
The Fijian Government Community Telecentre Initiative aims at enhancing access to IT services and e-government for rural populations, especially members of socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Most of the 26 telecentres set up under this programme are located in rural schools. Access is free and there are lab assistants to provide technical support. Though the design of these telecentres is gender-neutral, there is empirical evidence of women comprising a large number of beneficiaries.
- Our Watch. (n.d.). About our watch FAQs. Retrieved from http://www.ourwatch.org.au/Who-We-Are/About-Our-Watch-FAQs, 21 April 2016.
- SACommunity. (n.d). About. Retrieved from http://sacommunity.org/about, 21 April 2016.