Women’s Day Special: Digitization to Accelerate Women Empowerment

Rachna Dhaka is one of the leading women in the Indian telecom landscape. She plays a proactive role when it comes to women empowerment and has been instrumental in alleviation of rural women. On professional front, as Marketing Leader for Service Provider Business in a Global IT & Telecom Company, she brings 360 degree perspective and brand innovation to the fore, and outside that she tries to blend technology and empathy for women empowerment

One of the transformational initiatives of modern India has been the Digital India (DI) movement led by Prime Minister. Our honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been championing Digital India initiative to drive empowerment, transparency and accountability.

In conjunction with Digital India initiative, the Prime Minister has been focused on women development having started national initiatives like Beti Padao Andolan (educate the girl child) and Sukanya Samridhi Yojana (girl child prosperity scheme); His reformist vision aptly covered in his 41st edition of Mann ki Baat. “India is heading towards women-led development from only women development. We are discussing development under the leadership of women”.

The two progressive charters of Digital India and Women Empowerment, if implemented as envisioned can truly weave in ‘multiplier effect’; accelerating India towards a true Societal Transformation contributing to the nation’s progress in social as well as economic sphere.

Digitization is a positive move for both India and its female population, because its very foundation lies in social and economic progress. It provides a ubiquitous platform to enable equal opportunities transparently across all Indian social strata, with equal access to knowledge, skills and workforce readiness across all domains.

Ironically, according to the UNDP’s Human Development Report (2016) India ranks 131 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) and 125 out of 159 countries on the Gender Inequality Index (GII).

The GII is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievement between women and men in three distinct dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labor market. With India ranking so low, it has become imperative that women clearly understand the benefits of Digital India, while understanding the significance of digital access and connectivity for every Indian.
We should also acknowledge that technology by itself is not empowering; it must be inter-linked with broader policy interventions across social sectors to bring about the change.

Three Tenets of WAT

Woman Empowerment Actualization Theory (WAT) lays the foundation on how we drive women upliftment in India through three fundamental tenets:

– Self- realization
It is the realization within every woman for establishing one’s individuality, for greater sense of actualization. The focus of digitization should be to usher in greater awareness, right exposure and market reach to open up the world for the marginalized women and bring about tangible change. Access to information technology across social units will act as the cornerstone of self-realization, thereby empowering women.

– Education
According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB, India has recorded 481 million Internet users as of December 2017. Of this, only 30% of the user base is women. This is about to change.
With Digital India targeting broadband access to 2.5 lakh villages by 2019, along with various government programs like Skill India, STEM, Aarogya Sakhi¸ Internet Saathi, W2E2, it is time for a cultural shift. Amongst all these campaigns the one gaining the largest traction is the ‘Beti Padao Andolan’. The impact of this shift is gradually shaping the future of the country as educated women become the torch bearer of our nation’s high productivity, increased employment opportunities and higher income.

– Aspiration

It is imperative that for the transformation and growth to happen in a patriarchal society like India, women will need to have aspiration. This is important to bring about a change- in their own lives, in their homes, in the society, and finally in the country.

In the words of CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant,” India can grow at over 10-11% if we include women in the economic process. They can contribute to building new businesses – from traditional industry to start-ups.” With digitization in infancy, today we already have a small section of upwardly mobile urban/rural Indian women privy to new employment opportunities. These avenues created through digital platforms promote shared economy, permitting them to sidestep barriers of physical mobility and balancing work-home commitments.

The Road Ahead: Women Empowerment Matters

With the power of digital technology and growing opportunities, there is a revolution materializing in the way women are emerging as the harbingers of the next frontier in India. Some of them are already running successful enterprises, vital government missions, and many more are joining the bandwagon. For India’s story to be a success, it is important we invest in women while considering them as equal partners, starting today.

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