ITID Publishes Special Section on Gender, Mobile, and Development

Information Technologies & International Development Publishes a Special Section on
Gender, Mobile, and Development

Information Technologies & International Development is delighted to announce the publication of a new Special Section on “Gender, Mobile, and Mobile Internet: Opportunities and Challenges in Mobile-Centric Use” which features five articles from international scholars and guest-edited by Savita Bailur, Silvia Masiero, and Jo Tacchi.

What exactly is “Gender, Mobile and Mobile Internet”? 

Women in low- and middle-income countries are, on average, 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translates into 184 million fewer women owning mobile phones, per the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association’s (GSMA) latest Mobile Gender Gap Report (2018). The report also states that some 1.2 billion women in low- and middle-income countries do not have access to mobile Internet. These are thought-provoking figures in an increasingly digital age, but what happens when we go beyond access as a metric when it comes to women, mobiles and mobile Internet? SDG 5 (one of the 17 “sustainable development goals”) aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030, and specifically, to enhance the use of enabling technology to promote the empowerment of women. This Special Section asks what “empowerment” through technology, especially mobiles, means for women and how it is achieved.

ITIDnairobi pix
An interviewee from Kibera, Nairobi in
Caribou’s Digital Lives in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda research. Photo: iHub/Caribou Digital

We discuss both the opportunities and challenges of mobile and mobile Internet for women. Ronda Zelezny-Green, looks at secondary school girls in Nairobi and how they access educational content after work; Becky Faith’s paper focuses on unemployed and low-income women in Brighton — an English seaside resort town — rather than a “developing country,” showing that development is a broader process; Susan Wyche and Jennifer Olson share the realities of women and mobiles in rural Kenya; and Bushra Hassan, Tim Unwin and Akber Gardezi explore online gender harassment in Pakistan.

Our argument throughout all papers is that “empowerment” is not a given for women once they have access to a mobile or mobile Internet. We borrow gender and development theorist Andrea Cornwall’s matrix of empowerment as a framework to show that access is merely the start of women’s journeys with mobile and mobile Internet. Once on mobile, after access, other challenges need to be negotiated (e.g., from finding a place to recharge a phone battery if you are homeless to facing gender harassment online).

This Special Section of Information Technologies and International Development is guest-edited by Savita Bailur, Caribou Digital and the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics, Silvia Masiero, Loughborough University, and Jo Tacchi, Loughborough University. The papers presented here employ both quantitative and qualitative methodology to critically question the concept of empowerment which is often unproblematically equated with women’s access to mobiles.

We invite you to read these ITID papers that published March 7, 2018. To access these papers, please Ctrl+Click on the article titles below for direct linking or go to itidjournal.org____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gender, Mobile, and Development: The Theory and Practice of Empowerment — Introduction
Savita Bailur, Silvia Masiero, Jo Tacchi

Mother, May I? Conceptualizing the Role of Personal Characteristics and the Influence of Intermediaries on Girls’ After-School Mobile Appropriation in Nairobi
Ronda Zelezny-Green

Maintenance Affordances and Structural Inequalities: Mobile Phone Use by Low-Income Women in the United Kingdom
Becky Faith

Kenyan Women’s Rural Realities, Mobile Internet Access, and “Africa Rising”
Susan Wyche, Jennifer Olson

Understanding the Darker Side of ICTs: Gender, Sexual Harassment, and Mobile Devices in Pakistan
Bushra Hassan, Tim Unwin, Akber Gardezi


Savita Bailur, Silvia Masiero, Jo Tacchi
Guest Editors

François Bar, Kentaro Toyama                                  

Arlene Luck
Managing Editor