This consultation was designed to address issues relating to two of the most critical components of the digital divide, namely rural communities and women, and to explore with partners, the processes, designs and models that can have a positive bearing on these issues. There are a number of studies documenting the disparity between rural and urban locations in access to ICTs. Far fewer studies are available on the gender specific impact of ICTs, especially on women living in rural areas. A position paper prepared earlier this year analysed selected pilot initiatives in various countries in Asia. From its findings it emerges that any new initiative in information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) needs to reflect on the following issues:
Enabling participation of rural women in an information economy and knowledge society.
Facilitating skill and expertise development among rural communities, particularly rural women, in the context of the introduction and spread of new rural micro enterprises, ICTs, and Integrated Natural Resource Management. These development interventions are technical skill and knowledge intensive, and aim to foster the adoption of improved management approaches to rural production and employment.
Enabling rural womens organisations in the use of ICTs for networking opportunities.
Improving opportunities for distance learning (including an emphasis on instruction at a basic level) to address the inequity in rural educational access.
The position paper titled Programme approaches for Asian rural women in knowledge society that guided the consultation was included as FAO and ICRISAT background paper in the consultation resource package. A general conceptual view developed in this paper illustrating the links on programme approaches to create opportunities for Asian rural women in knowledge society is presented below in Figure 1:
Figure 1. Gender and Class in ICTs Access and Opportunities
The following are the consultation outcomes:
Publication of a summary of the proceedings of the consultation in electronic and hard copy format for global access.
A regional network to monitor the efforts in the area of ICTs and Rural Women.
Recommendations to strengthen FAOs work in the technical area of harnessing ICTs for the advancement of rural women.
Regional experts recommendations to guide FAOs technical input to the global dialogue on Gender and ICTs with specific relevance to rural women, as well as to advise the FAO member countries in gender mainstreaming in ICTs policy and programme spheres relevant to rural women.
Consolidation of the recommendations of the proceedings to form the basis for a multi-stakeholder, multi-partner regional project on Asian rural women in knowledge society.