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Reconfiguring Gendering Relations


Vijay Baskar

GENDER AND THE DIGITAL ECONOMY: PERSPECTIVES FROM THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Edited by Cecilia Ng and Swasti Mitter
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 264, Rs. 540.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 3 March 2007

The title captures the scope of the book. Placed in the context of claims and counter-claims about the ability of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to reconfigure gendering relations in favour of women, the book brings in empirical and theoretical material to this debate. The geometric progression and diffusion of ICTs literally force policy makers to privilege ICTs as agents of both social and economic change. While hopes of social transformation and fears of destroying of livelihoods have always accompanied the arrival of new technologies, policy makers and developmental activists tend to view ICTs with greater optimism concerning its ability to contribute to human development. They are seen to be much more open in terms of innovative trajectories and users can play an important role in pushing them towards socially equitable ends.   Anxieties however persist. Given the hegemony of the north in trade and technology, there are doubts over whether ICTs can alter existing divisions of labour across nations or aggravate international inequities. Similarly, given the historical association of technology with perpetuation of patriarchal control, traditional feminists are skeptical about its ability to undermine existing gender relations. However, certain feminists argue that the greater space for users in technological innovation and growth of a wide range of services have transformed patriarchy into a more contested domain. ICTs, they contend, has the potential to transform gender relations. The authors of the book under review seek to validate the claims and do concede the liberating effects of ICTs, albeit, with a note of caution. They call for a need to pay attention to locale-specific institutions, modes of macro-economic regulation and the need to strengthen human capabilities to take advantage of the opportunities that ICTs can bring.   Based on a set of papers published in various issues of the journal Science, Technology and Development, the book maps the possibilities of economic empowerment of women as ICTs diffuse rapidly in low-income regions. It does by examining case studies of women in low-income regions and their various modes of participation in the new economy; as workers, as users in trade (e-commerce), and as participants in global virtual networks that enable dialogues across different regions and ethnicities. The book ends with a look at efforts to build such networks and the impact of power relations that undergrid use of a technological artefact like ICTs.   The editors also highlight two important features of the book; one, ...


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