Gender Equality in the Digital Economy: Emerging Issues

This is the first issue paper, co-written by Anita Gurumurthy, Nandini Chami and Cecilia Alemany, for the Digital Justice Project -- 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.

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