In 2017, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) commissioned IT for Change to undertake a research study critically analysing the government's Digital India programme, assessing the key gaps and opportunities for gender equality in relation to the programme and recommending a strategic action plan in this regard.
The mandate of the study comprised the following concerns:
- What is the Digital India programme/ campaign and what perspective on gender does it espouse?
- How does Digital India integrate with various other Government projects like Smart cities, skill mission, Aadhaar and so on?
- Will the ease of acquiring information and knowledge and better connected markets, have an impact on women? How would livelihoods be impacted?
- How has the government’s push towards a cashless society, through a combination of demonitisation, introduction of m-banking, setting up digital infrastructure (like Aadhaar Enabled Payment System, paperless authentication or eKYC using Aadhaar card, BHIM app etc), impacted women’s financial inclusion?
- How does surveillance play out in gendered terms? What is the emerging picture telling us about cyber violence and violations of privacy, autonomy and dignity that women suffer online?
- On the positive side, can women use digitization to renegotiate gender relations in their favour? Can networking possibilities be used socially and politically, and in turn, enhance women’s position within home and outside?
- How can women’s digital capabilities (including developing skills for financial inclusion, interfacing with the government, employment etc) be built?
- In the final analysis, does a ‘Digital India’ result in women’s increase agency and productivity? Is women’s structural marginalization likely to impede their digital equality or can digital technologies provide a way to negotiate traditional disadvantages?
- What is the regulatory framework related to digital technologies, and what recourse mechanisms are provided by the State / independent institutions/ judiciary, when rights are violated?
- How are women’s organizations engaging with debates around digital access, rights and justice in the information society?
- How does India fare on digital policies for women’s empowerment compared to other countries (Asia, Global North/South)?
The final research report can be accessed here.