|Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 pages)|
|2. Information technology and working women's demands|
Women's experiences of the effects of new technology depend also on their position in the international economy. Decisions regarding formulation, implementation and transfer of technologies are predominantly taken by transnational companies, mostly located in the West. Access to networks of power related to global technical transformations eludes some groups and economies.
In contrast with the seventies and eighties, it has now become less common to describe the world economy in terms of a 'core' and 'periphery'. In the context of information technology, perhaps, it makes sense to revive the dichotomy, especially for understanding the specificities in the needs and demands of certain groups of women. The dichotomy is no longer spatial. There are groups, even within the western economies, who have extremely limited access to relevant political and economic networks. Migrant workers, especially from the developing world, are such an ex eluded group. With the political upheavals in Africa, eastern Europe and parts of Asia, it is difficult to estimate how many million migrant workers are looking for employment in the official and the clandestine economy of the West. It is not possible to assess the effects of new technologies on their job prospects. The impact of new technology is, however, already visible among those groups of immigrants who came to Europe and the United States in the postwar period to meet the demands of labor-intensive industries. In the fields of clothing, textiles and electronics, where migrant women workers provided the required cheap labour, labour-replacing robotic technology now makes much of their skill redundant. They demand and need access to relevant training for sustained employment.
Just as certain groups face special challenges, so do certain countries in the new economic world order. For most of the ax-communist countries of central and eastern Europe, a linkage to the international economy is a new experience. Transitional phases to a market economy have not been easy: as the countries grapple with the difficulties of operating in a new way, the 'woman' question, as well as forming assessments of new technology, receives less importance among policy-making bodies.18 Yet women in that part of the world feel a need for international networking for the exchange of information. Such an exchange is relevant for the women as well as for the region.
Whereas economic and political changes have lead to the linking of central and eastern Europe to the world economy, the debt crisis, war, and structural adjustments have resulted in uncoupling Sub-Saharan Africa from the global economy. This makes it perhaps the most problematic of all regions for realizing the potential advances that IT can offer to women workers.19