How new tech is empowering women in the developing world

OLPC's new tablet PC concept should be launching by 2012
OLPC's new tablet PC concept should be launching by 2012

A new survey of 35,000 people worldwide suggests that access to computers, the internet and communications devices such as mobile phones increases people's sense of happiness and wellbeing.

The latest research, carried out on behalf of BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT, claims that information technology has an "enabling and empowering role", that leads to increased "life satisfaction".

Access to communication tools was most valued, particularly amongst women in developing countries, and those struggling below the poverty line on low incomes or with limited access to educational opportunities.

Researcher Paul Flatters of Trajectory Partnership, which carried out the research on behalf of the BCS, noted that this was because women have a more central role in family and other social networks.

"Our hypothesis is that women in developing countries benefit more because they are more socially constrained in society," Flatters told the BBC.

"The next phase of our research is to test that."

Empowering the disempowered

"IT appears to empower the disempowered," adds the report. "In fact, much of the improvement in life satisfaction that arises from information technology flows to those who are less well-placed in society.

"Those on lower incomes or with fewer educational qualifications appear to benefit more from access to IT than those on higher incomes or with higher educational backgrounds. This appears to be the case across the globe.

"The research indicates this relationship, but not the mechanism; this is an area for further study."

"Anything that increases the sense of personal control in our lives, such as IT, will reduce anxiety and stress and keep us mentally well," psychologist Donna Dawson told The Telegraph.

"Through giving us choices, allowing is access to information, and putting us in touch with others, IT can increase feelings of security, personal freedom and power, which together give us greater life satisfaction.

"This is especially true for women, who are usually at the hub of social communications in their families, societies and work. Social networking and gathering information online can help women to successfully juggle and manage all the different roles that fill their lives."

Via BBC and The Telegraph

Adam Hartley