ICT-driven development is a recognised poverty alleviation strategy by many donor organisations and governments. Much promise is held regarding the potential these strategies may have in enabling developing countries and the disadvantaged in particular to lever themselves onto a sustainable economic footing and participate in rather than fall outside of the global economy. Women in particular are seen as potential beneficiaries. Yet little evidence has a yet emerged to deliver these promises. Studies to-date indicate that a gender division of labour persists globally among ICT-related employment and a general lack of recognition of the link between gender and ICTs persists, despite efforts via international organisations to address this issue.
Many initiatives introduced to address these issues are aimed at reaching the disadvantaged (for instance, in rural areas) and on enabling access to ICTs. Yet little appears to be targeting disadvantaged women to become ICT shapers. Additionally some research indicates that even with a gender-focussed strategy in place, the approach used for ICT-driven interventions can have significantly different gender impacts. Without a suitable gender-focussed strategy can these initiatives reach disadvantaged women and help them to realise long-term sustainable employment?
Even considering the existing ICT workforce who are indeed enjoying a privileged position in an often boom area of the economy, it appears that the sustainable lucrative professional opportunities that ICT-driven development offers are available only to certain sectors of the population, whilst those who Castells refers to as the 4th World inhabitants risk deeper entrenchment in an internal digital divide. How can ICT-driven initiatives reach the disadvantaged and enable sustainable transformative change in African settings-that will be the focus of this session.