Nations have made great strides in providing physical access to digital technologies and educational opportunities, yet barriers still exist that prevent those who have strong physical and intellectual access to information and communication technology from taking full advantage of the information and opportunities the technology offers. Women in particular are affected by social barriers which may be quite subtle and are easily excluded from taking an active role in the information society. This study explored how Indian women incorporate information and communication technology (ICT) into their daily lives and what aids or barriers they face in the process.
Previous research has found that factors such as culture, attitude, belief, habit, infrastructure, environment, and social expectations of Indian women are likely to affect their adoption and use of ICT. This exploratory qualitative study aimed at an in-depth understanding of the lives of twelve middle class Indian women and their use of ICT in their everyday lives. The twelve participants were all Indians from similar cultures of the state of Kerala. All the participants were interviewed using unstructured interviews of at least an hour and then engaged in follow-up phone calls to clarify data if needed. The interviews particularly focused on social access in terms of cultural norms, roles and relationships that enable or restrict women’s use of ICT. NVivo10 was used to code the interview responses.
The results confirmed the strong role of the social and cultural context in forming Indian women’s use of ICT. Personal and tangible factors, such as early interest, confidence in ICT skills, ability to use ICT in everyday life and usability and convenience of devices or services influenced the way these women used ICT. Higher engagement in use of ICT was, however, also related to social and cultural factors such as encouragement to engage with ICT and opportunities to help or to be of assistance to others through the use of ICT.
Our study contributed to an understanding of factors that lead to Indian women’s current use of ICT, reasons why Indian women choose to use ICT, and barriers to this usage. More ICT studies on specific profiles of women understanding their barriers to digital use can help formulate education and policies that enhance digital inclusion and lead to a better understanding of women-specific needs that hence can be incorporated in developing better ICT that is relevant for women. Education and policies cannot be developed in vacuum, however, but need to build on an understanding of the interwoven context between women and their social and cultural environment.
Paul, A., Thompson, K. M., & Heinström, J. (2015). After Access: An Inquiry into ICT Use Factors for Indian Women. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology Conference, St. Louis, USA, 6-10 November 2015