This study problematizes the relationship between ICTs, gender and development, informed by the gap between high ambitions, and disappointing outcomes of ICT-enabled development programmes aiming for women’s empowerment. Using a critical discourse analysis approach, this study scrutinizes the underlying assumptions and interpretations of ‘women’s empowerment’ in the context of two Bangladeshi mobile phone programmes targeting women: the Grameen Village Phone Programme (VPP), and Maya Apa. This study is juxtaposed against Western-centric technofeminist scholarship, which scrutinizes the interplay of gender relations and ICTs, extending technofeminist insights beyond its Western scope. Informed by our analysis, we firstly identify a gap in ICT4D scholarship regarding women’s roles as ICT designers and active users, and therefore recommend more attention to women’s active engagement with ICTs. Second, we advocate for an expansion of technofeminist theory to go beyond the Western lens and recognize this is not normative across cultures and contexts. Last, we highlight the usefulness of low-cost, participatory forms of new digital ICTs to forward women’s empowerment in developing countries. Overall, we argue women’s empowerment is best realized by ICT projects that are local, grassroots, contextualized, and made by and for women.

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66th ICA Annual Conference
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Segers, I., & Arora, P. (2016). Smashing patriarchy with cell phones?. Presented at the 66th ICA Annual Conference. Retrieved from