WISAT’s work on Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society originated from its collaboration with Orbicom and Statistics Canada on the project, Women in the Information Society, a component of Orbicom’s project From the Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity: Measuring Infostates for Development. The project:
- collected and assessed existing national level sex-disaggregated data on women’s participation in the information society in both developed and developing countries;
- generated and analysed qualitative and quantitative data on women’s participation in the information society at the national level;
- and provided qualitative analysis on the factors affecting women’s participation.
The project demonstrated that contrary to what might be expected, gender patterns in Internet use did not correspond to Internet penetration and that women’s rates of Internet access and use did not automatically rise with national rates of Internet expansion. A range of socioeconomic and political factors were identified which affect and frame the gender digital divide, including social and cultural barriers to technology use; education and skill levels; employment and income trends; media and content; privacy and security and location/mode of access.
WISAT continued its work with the 2007 publication of Engendering the Knowledge Society: Measuring Women’s Participation, which made the case that good data was needed: data that provide the best and most useful information on gendered opportunities and challenges, data that allow the best decisions to be made. The Gender Equality in the Knowledge Society (GE&KS) framework emerged from this work, based on a gendered analysis of the major indexes of science, technology and innovation (STI), information and communication technology (ICT) and the knowledge society. The framework starts with the base conditions for socioeconomic and political development which determine the ability of both women and men to contribute to the knowledge society: health status, social and economic status, level of opportunities available, level of political participation, access to resources and the enabling policy environment. The framework builds on this foundation to incorporate indicators relating to the ability of women and men to participate in the knowledge society: access to science and technology education, access to and use of technology, decision making in knowledge society sectors, participation in science, technology and innovation systems and access to lifelong learning.
A major finding of this work underlined the importance of consistent and systematic collection of sex-disaggregated data at the national and international levels is necessary to develop the policies that will allow countries to profit from the underutilized potential of their female population.
The report was co-sponsored by Orbicom, the National Research Centre of Canada, and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and WISAT.
Country studies based on the GE&KS framework was initiated in 2012, the results are found at National Assessments on Gender and STI. The latest studies were done in 2017 in Nepal and Senegal.