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''Digital Dividends for Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE)''

July, 2019

Roundtable with 12 -15 participants from diverse sectors

Participants :

  • Women's NGO like SEWA and PRADAN
  • Academics and Researchers like ISST and ICRW
  • Women centric startups like safetipin
  • Corporates such a Facebook and She the People


  • UChicago Delhi Centre,  3rd Oct, 2018


Part I: Identify opportunities for Women’s economic empowerment in the informal sector using digital technology

Part II: Identify current barriers leading to the digital gender divide and ways to overcome them


Digital Dividends for Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE)



The gender digital divide has been the subject of much research and debate in the last few years. What has been lost sight of, however, in some of this discussion, is what women stand to gain from the closing of this gap. In light of this, the University of Chicago’s International Innovation Corps (ICC), the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), would like to invite policymakers, corporations, researchers and practitioners to explore the opportunities that the digital age may provide for women in the informal sector, and what barriers currently remain in place to the realisation of these goals in India. Through this workshop, therefore, we are looking to explore how digital interventions can achieve this economic empowerment for women.


In 2016, the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment identified access to financial, digital and property assets as one of seven primary drivers of women’s economic empowerment. While the spread of digital technology is rapidly transforming the world of work and creating benefits for many, there are concerns that these changes could exacerbate existing social inequalities and reinforce gender hierarchies. Due to social, cultural, and economic barriers, women in the world's least developed countries will be one-third less likely to benefit from these opportunities accrued by ICT. In India, the gap in mobile phone ownership is 46%, much higher than the South Asian average of 38%, and the gap in Indian internet usage is even greater, at 57% (LIRNEasia, 2018). Entrenched patriarchal norms continue to act as a barrier to progress in this regard.

This is not to say that the current course should be reversed. In fact, the range of potential benefits that the changing digital landscape may offer to women, if utilised properly, is huge. Evidence from rigorous studies suggests that mobile phone usage can transform women’s household agency and workforce participation. Digital technology may allow employment on a more flexible basis, providing opportunities for those traditionally excluded from formal labour markets, as women often are. Digital platforms, in particular, can provide ‘leapfrog opportunities’ to help women overcome physical immobility and care duties which may impede work (OECD Report 2017). In addition, information and training in all areas could become much more readily available online. Beyond the digital divide, therefore, there are numerous dividends available, which today remain largely unrealised.

The objective of this event will be to understand these opportunities for women’s economic empowerment in the Indian context, and produce concrete proposals for digital interventions which move us towards these goals.