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ICTs and Empowerment of Indian Rural Women

There has been a lot of interest during the last two decades in employing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for achieving development. While many of these initiatives have benefited rural women by way of access to new information and new employment opportunities, women still face a number of constraints in accessing ICTs. This paper explores the role of ICTs in empowering Indian rural women, through a review of ICT initiatives in India. The paper concludes that, while most of the ICT initiatives are disseminating new information and knowledge useful for rural women, many are not able to make use of it, due to lack of access to complementary sources of support and services. Among the varied tools, the knowledge centres and the community radio were found to have the greatest potential in reaching women with locally relevant content. There is immense potential for ICTs to create new employment opportunities for rural women and to contribute significant gains in efficiency and effectiveness in rural women enterprises. While ICTs can
play an important role in empowering rural women, women’s access and use of ICTs and empowerment clearly depend on the vision and operational agenda of the organization applying the ICTs. Therefore, strengthening the ICT initiatives of such organizations can go a long way in empowering rural women. Besides generating locally relevant content and
enhancing the capacities of rural women in accessing ICTs, efforts are also needed to bridge the different types of the digital divide (rural-urban; men-women).

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