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Role of information and communication technology (ICT): Women's empowerment in rural Bangladesh

Laizu, Zebunnessa (2014) Role of information and communication technology (ICT): Women's empowerment in rural Bangladesh. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Rural women in Bangladesh have limited access to resources and public spheres (e.g., educational, health, law and human rights institutions, and many public services) due to socio-cultural restrictions. Women also suffer severe discrimination, thought to be due to lack of access to information. Information and communication technologies (ICT) can reach rural women and have the potential to address knowledge and information needs. The aim of this research was to examine the situation of rural women in Bangladesh in using ICT provided by Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and investigated whether empowerment was enabled or enhanced through ICT intervention.

Since empowerment is a complex phenomenon to measure a model – Women’s Empowerment Measurement through ICT (WEM-ICT) – was developed to take into consideration the socio-cultural norms and context of rural Bangladesh. Using a structured questionnaire based on the model, data was collected from both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in two villages where different ICT projects have been introduced. A second data set was collected two years later using the same instrument for longitudinal as well as new participants.

This research explored the impact of ICT intervention in women’s lives in the micro (individual or domestic), meso (village or community) and macro (global, national or regional) environments through an investigation of material, cognitive, perceptual, relational and technological dimensions. Since it is important to make women aware of the benefit of their empowerment through information and knowledge sharing, this research focused on the information gap and suggested possible ways to reduce the gap at the implementation level.

The results indicated that the context of the villages, culture, awareness, maturity and engagement affected the empowerment process. ICT intervention impacted positively on many empowerment factors in both villages but other factors did not change due to cultural and traditional aspects of rural Bangladesh. This thesis concludes that consideration of the socio-cultural context at the policy level of ICT intervention for women’s empowerment is a key element for the success of an ICT intervention.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor: Armarego, Jocelyn and Sudweeks, Fay
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