|Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 p.)|
|2. Information technology and working women's demands|
There is scope for discussing the appropriateness of new technology in the context of a number of countries. Yet it seems to me that the flexibility and speed of communication which computer technology offers could become instruments of change for disadvantaged groups, even in poor countries. The facilities provided by computerized data-bases and e-mail are increasingly being used in developing countries for effective communication among grassroots women's organizations.20 Desktop publishing helps such groups to produce relevant literature and materials at a low cost and to attain professionalism.
For women and for countries, the question is not whether to accept or to reject the new technology: rather it is to demand the appropriate use of new technology for the benefit of the majority. Such a demand is linked with the challenges of distributive justice - between genders as well as among races, classes and regions.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, to attain the goal if we give up the ideals of collective action in the name of relativism, contextuality or postmodernism. There is of course some truth in the claim that for the disadvantaged 'partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard' by the dominant group (Collins, 1991: p. 236). Yet, in the field of technology as in other spheres of life, there is scope for negotiation and international understanding. It will be important to transcend the politics of gender to include the dimensions of race, class and other disadvantages in discussions of the employment implications of new technologies. To be aware of other factors is not to belittle the role of gender. Women in all societies, irrespective of their race or class, have to adjust to a pattern of work that, to a greater or lesser extent, is incompatible with their needs and aspirations. The new technology itself offers some possibilities towards redressing the past gender imbalance in the quantity and quality of work; but for these possibilities to become realities certain changes will be required in the division of labour in domestic life. There too, the solution lies not in confrontation, but in achieving greater cooperation and understanding. Man's consciousness, at home and at work, has been formed by his tradition and heritage. The hope lies in freeing him from the myth of an unchanging tradition. 'The image of his woman', to quote Fatima Mernissi (1991: p. 195), 'will change, when he feels the pressing need to root his future in a liberating memory. Perhaps the women should help him to do this through daily pressure for equality' - with or without new technology.