In the early wave of optimism surrounding "ICTs and development" beginning 2000, much attention was paid to the potential of ICTs for empowering women. It was suggested that new technologies could help marginalized women in developing countries in areas ranging from agriculture to education, empowering women both economically and socially. However, subsequent research illustrated that such a straight outcome was not always the case. ICT interventions could equally result in a negligible or even negative impact on existing gender relations. This research argues a third point: In many cases women decide the extent to which they will adopt a particular technology on the basis of how they think it will affect the gender equilibrium. Based on our respective doctoral fieldwork on the use of mobile phones by female street traders in urban Uganda and an IT center and community radio in rural India, we ask: How strategically do women in developing countries negotiate agency through ICTs? Through these two case studies, we apply two concepts of agency, namely, "adaptive preference" and "patriarchal bargain" to understand how women decide to adopt ICTs. Empowerment through ICTs is not unproblematic, nor is it impossible; it is, however, illustrative of contextual, situated agency.
- gender and development