The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by Member States during the 2015 United Nations General Assembly affirmed that “The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies.” (paragraph 15, A/70/L.1). However, against a backdrop of rapid growth in access and technology, many segments of the world’s population are still being left behind. Although mobile phone use and mobile internet use by women is increasing, there remains a gender gap. Globally, women in middle and lower income countries are 10 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone and this gender gap rises to 23 per cent for mobile internet usage. The largest mobile gender gap is in South Asia. Across Asia and the Pacific, only 47 out of every 100 inhabitants use the internet. The proportion of women using the Internet is 8.2 percentage points lower than the proportion of men in Asia Pacific, with an internet penetration rate of 39.7 per cent. In recognition of the potential contribution of ICTs for women’s empowerment, target 5b of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to ‘enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women’. Governments in Asia and the Pacific have been proactive in harnessing ICTs to enhance their governance systems and service delivery through e-Government. The high-demand for ESCAP capacity development services in e-Government highlights the increasing interest and demand in this area. It is, therefore, vital that governments in Asia-Pacific ensure that their e-government strategies provide opportunities and equal benefits to women through gender-sensitive public service delivery and inclusive decision-making processes. E-Government can advance the rights of women through better institutional coordination and gender mainstreaming across line ministries; accountability mechanisms that help respond to women’s needs, as well as online channels to engage women in co-creating or co-producing services that better serve their own needs. To address the gender deficit and raise awareness of governments and strengthen their capacity to develop and implement policies that promote e-Government as a tool for women’s empowerment, ESCAP has developed an online toolkit “eGov4women”.
Strengthening Capacity on e-Government for Women’s Empowerment:
The eGov4women toolkit draws on findings and case studies of original research conducted for this initiative, which are presented in the report on “e-Government for Women’s Empowerment in Asia and the Pacific”, as well as input from an expert consultation (4 -5 October 2016) on the training outline. The online toolkit aims to enhance the capacity of national policy-makers and civil servants to design and implement policies and strategies to promote e-Government for women’s empowerment. Through a set of 5 comprehensive modules (Gender, governance and e-government; Gender-responsive e-service delivery; Gender-responsive e-participation; Gender-responsive connectivity architecture; Assessing gender-responsiveness of e-government ecosystems), it provides key pointers for policymakers on gender-responsive design of e-service delivery, e-participation and connectivity initiatives, and introduces a capabilities-based approach to outcome evaluation of e-government for women’s empowerment. The training modules enhance understanding of gender implications of e-government and also suggest strategies and actions to promote gender-responsive service delivery, citizen participation as well as connectivity. Training modules have been developed to also be multi-functional. For example, they can be taken as a self-contained online training course, with mini-quizzes to reinforce learning and capacity development. The modules can also be reconfigured to design tailored training courses, such as by national training institutes. To this end, a trainers’ manual is included to suggest different modalities for different types of training. ESCAP has partnered with the UN Project Office on Governance (UNPOG), a project office of UN-DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management as well as worked in collaboration with IT for Change in implementing this initiative.