To the extent that our definition of openness is informed by the concept of egalitarianism, it exposes new spaces to advance feminist and social justice movements within the information society. The definition of openness outlined here parallels the common definitions of gender equality – the focus not being on sameness but rather on the equality of opportunities to participate in the Information Society, particularly as it relates to inclusion and citizenship at household, community, national, and transnational scales within the increasingly networked global world. In the past, gender and ICT debates have been framed around discussions of the “gendered digital divide,” limiting much of the engagement to questions of access and to interventions which aim for equity of services but do not necessarily challenge underlying social norms and practices that lead to inequality. Working from within an openness paradigm, which organizes social activities favouring universal access, participatory decision-making and collaborative production, the debates about women in the information society can be reframed in terms of “digital equality” as opposed to the binaries of the “haves” and the “have nots”, “users” and “non users”.
This orientation raises questions about the ways that women and men participate in the information society. For example, how are public spaces redefined through ICTs? Given the prevailing normative association of female-private sphere and male-public sphere, does the potential for the public sphere to be redefined in an information society challenge these gender norms or reinforce them, and to what effect? Here the focus is on the quality of participation and inclusion which allows feminist and development researchers to examine how social relations of power are reconstituted through the information society and therefore address strategic gender considerations.
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