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Status of Women's Organisations in their Use of Information and Communication Technology in Asia and the Pacific: A Research Proposal

Prepared by Yukie Horie (1)


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is becoming more and more a part of our daily life. Numerous women's organizations are discovering the effectiveness of the Internet. The number of web sites established by women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national machineries for the advancement of women has increased rapidly in recent years. Through the new information technology women's organizations are now able to network with one another beyond national boundaries and share information and resources with less expense. Local groups have become part of regional and international group networks, and have strategized networking and strengthened their capacity for institution-building.

For example, of the 83 NGOs which registered in 1999 for a regional high-level intergovernmental meeting to review regional implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the Asian and Pacific region, 68 had their own email address, which was used for communication with ESCAP, the meeting organizer. Considering that in 1995, at the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women e-mail communication among the majority of women NGOs in the Asian and Pacific region was virtually non-existent, that number is significant. At the time, of the entire United Nations system, only the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) maintained a server with web and gopher sites. The Beijing Conference was in fact the first UN world conference to actively use on-line information dissemination.

On the other hand, while new information technology has given women the opportunity to share information and interact on a scale that was hard to imagine at the time of the Beijing Conference, in terms of political, economic and social participation women's worldwide presence in this new information technology remains low. Women in developing countries, among other minority groups, are especially challenged in terms of effectively accessing the information highway to reach alternative sources of information.

In order to promote women's groups' participation in this rapidly changing global society, there is a need to identify current status of women's groups in terms of their ICT use - where they stand, and how they take advantage of this new technology in their vigorous effort on promoting the status of women.

The Asian Women's Resource Center (AWORC), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Isis International Manila are conducting a research which seeks to assess the situation of women's organized groups in Asia, the Central Asian Republics, and the Pacific; their level of ICT use, how ICT is used in their work, and what their training and networking needs are, towards furthering women's empowerment through the use of ICT.

My presentation is a brief introduction on what AWORC, ESCAP and Isis International Manila planned together, and we would appreciate your feedback on this research proposal that would give us an opportunity to refine and improve its substance.


The research, as mentioned earlier, is going to assess the current situation of e-mail and internet use among women organizations in Asia and the Pacific, which is presumed to be varied among the region. At a research ESCAP conducted in 1997, it was clearly shown that there were large gaps among subregions in terms of the access to and the knowledge of the computer networking technology. Therefore, this research proposes two separate approaches; one targeted to the Central Asian Republic and the Pacific, and the other targeted to the rest of Asia, namely, Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Asia subregions. For countries in the Central Asian Republics and the Pacific subregions, which are less developed than other subregions in terms of the Internet accessibility for women's organizations in-depth, subregional studies are conducted to make situation analysis on the Internet use and access among women's groups. For conventional purpose in this research, we categorize the sub-regional studies as the Central Asian Republics (including Caucasus), the Pacific and the Asia which includes the rest of the Asian sub-regions.

Due to the time and financial limitations, the research will cover 8 selected countries for each sub-region. These countries are;

  1. Central Asian Republics - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
  2. Asia - Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Republic of Korea
  3. Pacific - Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu

In each region, we considered sub-regional characteristics for fair representation. In addition to the geographical representation, for Asia, the countries were selected based on the network AWORC currently reaches.

The research outline is presented as follows;

  1. Introduction: country and regional profiles, including population, geography, economic, social and political structure, etc. Regional profiles discuss the similarities, and differences, among the countries selected for Asia, Central Asian Republics and the Pacific. Each country profile includes internal differences, for example, differences between capital cities/major urban cities and rural areas are reviewed.
  2. Infrastructure on ICT profile: number of providers, IT access, IT industry, etc.
  3. Women's organization profile: number registered as women's organizations, and profile of their activities. Where possible, history/background of the development of women's NGO's
  4. Women's organization and their ICT use: based on the sample survey
  5. Conclusion and recommendation: recommendation in general but focused on training and networking needs

The research paper will be prepared based on two sets of data proposed as follows;

  1. A set of baseline data to visualize the environment surrounding women's organizations in terms of accessing and utilizing ICT in their country.
  2. A set of data collected from sample survey of women's organizations on their use of ICT in office settings.

Women's organization in this research is defined as non-profit and non-government women's groups at grassroots and national levels which work on any aspect of women in development. Academic institutions could be a collaborator for the research but are excluded from the survey sample as their ICT environment differs from that of NGOs. In Asia, the target groups are limited to those women's organizations with a minimum of access to e-mail. This limit does not necessarily apply to CAR and the Pacific, where a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research to grasp the entire picture of women's organizations in relation to ICT is crucial.

Baseline data from each country will be used as background of the study, for example, data on national plan and policy in relation to ICT, ICT infrastructure, censorship policies, internet accessibility and language barrier, women NGO activities and support provided for ICT promotion. Secondary data will cover reports in the countries concerned, including any reports with gender perspective.

As for the survey of women's organizations, a set of questionnaire is being prepared to target women's organizations. The questionnaire mostly consists of multiple choices with some open-ended questions regarding the use of information technology at office setting which includes data collection and dissemination, skills and comfort level, difficulties and success stories, and training needs. It also asks about sources of funding to assess sustainability. The research questionnaire should be carefully but simply designed, considering the language barriers in many countries of the research and the needs for translation of questionnaires.

The research team consists of three researchers (Central Asian Republic, Asia and the Pacific) and representatives from APC, ESCAP and Isis International. The team members reside across the region and therefore will contact each other through the mailing list discussion group set up by Isis.


The findings of the research will be used to identify the ICT training and networking needs and gaps of women in the region. A set of recommendation will be made on training and networking needs for vis a vis women and ICT in the 3 regions. The research team hopes that the result will raise awareness among policy makers of the linkage between ICT and the basic concerns of women. The research result of each region will be combined and planned to be published in October this year.


APC - Association for Progressive Communications
CAR - Central Asian Republics
ESCAP - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
ICT - Information and Communication Technology
NGO - Non Governmental Organization
ISIS - Isis International-Manila - A feminist regional information and communication NGO.

(1) Social Affairs Officer, Women in Development Section, Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Bangkok, Thailand. This paper is based on the discussion and terms of reference prepared for the same subject by APC (Chat Garcia Ramilo), ESCAP (Yukie Hori) and Isis International Manila (Merceditas Cruz and Luz Maria Martinez).

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