New age women: Women and their approach towards internet connectivity in rural India

Image: Warli art depicting tree foliage and people doing different things below the shade. Photograph source: Authors

By Sarbani Banerjee Belur and Ritu Srivastava for GenderIT.org 07 November 2019

In the fast-changing world that we live in today, our lives are dominated by the internet and connected devices. Technology has revolutionised our lives, bringing about far-reaching changes, impacting society and enabling economic growth. A large part of the global economy is majorly benefited through contributions from the digital economy. However, in the midst of this, women still face challenges and constraints in accessing, using and utilising technologies to enhance their quality of life. Economic, cultural and social factors play an important role in determining how effectively women can benefit from and contribute to this technological advancement.

As women comprise half of the world’s population, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need to address each of the SDG goals through a gendered lens. This will enable us to achieve the 2030 Agenda's goal of a "better world for all". One of the important ways by which this goal will be addressed is through improving access to innovative technology universally. Hence, we focus on better understanding this through women and new technologies alongside the role of gender in technology and innovation. The new technologies are an interesting paradigm that has not only broken various barriers and divides in society, but has also created new barriers and divides as well. This is because there are obstacles and challenges in the acceptance of new technologies that hinders enablement and women's empowerment.

In this study, we define "new technologies" as technologies that are a result of the innovation of older technologies and aim at transforming lives. These technologies are often considered as threatening and unfamiliar and are often viewed as "unacceptable". However, with new sustainable innovation, technology has become an empowering agent in the lives of people, especially the rural population. This article concentrates on women and their interaction with internet connectivity which is largely accessed through mobile phones. The work bases itself on case studies of our interactions with women in community networks, such as Janastu and Gram Marg, in India. We focus on how these women use the online and offline connectivity provided by these community networks on their smartphones and contribute to the digital economy.

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