This is the first issue paper, co-written by Anita Gurumurthy, Nandini Chami and Cecilia Alemany, for Feminist Digital Justice -- a collaborative research and advocacy initiative of IT for Change and DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era).
Digital platform companies have emerged as neo-feudal overlords profiting from a brutally extractive data regime. They monopolize markets using the intelligence harvested from vast and varied data sets as the key driver for locally responsive innovations and targeted marketing.
The ‘no governance is good governance’ rhetoric that has gained ascendancy in the discursive arena of the digital also exacerbates the challenges.
The Global North is pushing for e-commerce, arguing that it will open up opportunities for women entrepreneurs from the developing world. This ‘pink herring’ distracts from the real issues of the gender divide in techno-social capabilities and the wider socio-economic challenges faced by women’s enterprises.
Hard won gender equality gains in pay and job status are at risk of being reversed by automation-led job displacement in various sectors, even as the welfare state is shrinking.
This paper outlines a strategic road map focusing on new legal institutional frameworks and data governance models to counter data extractivism and women’s exploitation while envisioning alternative data-based development approaches that work for women from the South to carve out a new global social contract for the digital economy, founded upon feminist ethics.