The root causes of the gender digital divide and its consequences on the adoption and use of app-based climate warning systems in rural India

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen

Abstract: In the wake of climate change to provide timely information is a must to ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected, and development gains secured. Particularly in agriculture and food security, providing information on time is vital to secure people’s livelihoods. Many actors in the development and humanitarian field have therefor adapted seemingly neutral technologies in their programs to ensure localised and timely information. However, passive technologies are actively implemented into intersecting local power dynamics. Gender among race, class, ethnicity and caste is an essential determinant of the access to power and resources. In India, women contribute up to 80 per cent of the work in rural settings if accounting for care work and unpaid labour on the family farm. However, women are also significantly less likely to own and operate a smartphone or generally benefit from the digitalisation process as they lack digital skills. This study explores the root causes of this disadvantage, detangling economic and social drivers through qualitative expert interviews. Primarily, it investigates the importance of social norms as the main driver. The interviews were analysed through thematic coding with the program Atlas.ti. The results strongly indicated that gender norms lead to the minimisation of women’s contributions in the rural economy while reverting their existences to their reproductive functions. Economic barriers, such as economic dependency, meanwhile can be primarily attributed to strict social norms rather than being own determents of inequality. The financial dependency then again leads to structural imbalances which consequentially solidifies already existing marginalisation’s. While India in recent decades has not needed mayor humanitarian interventions, the learnings from this study are equally applicable in the humanitarian setting as technology important. Technology is not neutral or passively adapted. Only when interventions combine their work with gender-sensitivity measures, it can reach the ones most in need. On the other hand, if programs lack to consider these implications, their programs the interventions are not gender-neutral but solidified inequalities and power imbalances. In the last sections, I, therefore, provided recommendations on how to make a technology-based intervention more gender-inclusive. These recommendations are easily adaptable and applicable to other fields of intervention.

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