Women's inclusion in digital Bangladesh

Jude William Genilo, Marium Akther, Monami Haque
2015 Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development - ICTD '15  
Introduction. The study is about women's inclusion in Digital Bangladesh. It argues that enabling policy environments instituted by the Government of Bangladesh over the past six years have not necessarily improved digital inclusion, particularly with respect to women. Rather, the digital inclusion of women is facilitated by both the individual's socio--demographic context (age, education, occupation and civil status) and the citizenship status of her local community in ethnic, religious and
more » ... ological terms. As a background, the paper discusses the origins of Digital Bangladesh, the initiatives towards digital inclusion and the digital divide among genders. The slogan "Digital Bangladesh" was popularized by the Interim Awami League (AL) Government during its 2008 election campaign. The slogan resonated with young voters (comprising one--third of the electorate at the time) as they saw digitization as being synonymous with being modern and forward looking (Genilo, Islam and Akther: 2013). As a consequence, AL won the election and the euphoria over ICTs ensued with various sectors developing their own interpretations of the buzzword. The government then furthered the conceptual development of "Digital Bangladesh" and published three documents on building an information society --Digital Bangladesh Strategy in Action, National ICT Policy 2009, and Strategic Priorities of Digital Bangladesh. These documents set into motion the roadmap for Bangladesh's ICT development. Six years after, the government reports on its achievements vis--à--vis digital inclusion in its National Web Portal (accessed 14 October 2014). It has established digital centers in 99.4 percent of the country's 4,545 union parishad (lowest government service office). These centers are run by 9,032 local entrepreneurs who provide public and private e--services. Asad--Uz--Zaman (2012) provides a list of public and private services of digital centers. Public services include downloading of public exam results, application for land copy, online application for passport, electricity bill payment, birth and death registration, testing of water, life insurance, telemedicine, etc. Private services include email, Internet browsing, ICT training, mobile banking, photo ID, scanning, photocopying, knowledge services, online job applications, etc. He likewise presented cases of poor people who benefited from the digital centers under the Prime Minister's Office Access to Information (a2i) programme. The first is about a doctor providing health services from a digital center in Jamlapur District. The second is about an unemployed youth who became a successful digital center entrepreneur in Jessore District while the third is about how a digital center entrepreneur in Meherpur District helped his fellow community members. With an enabling environment on "Digital Bangladesh," several corporate and non--government institutions have undertaken initiatives towards making ICTs reach and improve the lives of those living at bottom of the pyramid. The authors, in reviewing literature, found at least 25 of these projects that sought to make basic services (such as digital access, safe drinking water, health care, medicines, computer literacy, weather updates, flood forecast, online education, agricultural extension, nutrition information and life insurance) available to poor people. In particular, Grameenphone, one of the country's largest telecommunication companies, has more than 550 Community Information Centers (CIC) (also called digital centers or telecentres) in rural areas. Each CIC provides internet access and other information--based social services. Each is equipped with
doi:10.1145/2737856.2737857 dblp:conf/ictd/GeniloAH15 fatcat:anafitkkk5fqrat4im2iubmcn4