ICT for Women –Creating gender sensitive eSpaces for MGNREGA

The ICT Ecosystem project for the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act in Rajasthan was launched in the year 2009 by OneWorld Foundation India in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development (Government of India), Government of Rajasthan and the United Nations Development Programme. This project was officially known as the ‘Knowledge for Community Empowerment and Enhanced Livelihood Opportunities’. The primary objective of this project was to leverage ICT to improve the delivery of services under MGNREGA. The empirical reality in the villages where this project was launched was that women formed over sixty percent of the workforce. The thrust of this initiative was to empower this workforce by improving their access to information regarding their entitlements set out by the Act. An end-to-end ICT framework was created by user friendly technologies such as Soochna Seva Kendras (Information Kiosks), GPS verified attendance tracking tool, community radio and SMS job card. This ICT Ecosystem was designed and developed keeping in mind capacity of target users, primarily rural women with low levels of literacy and their contextualized incapacitation in access to information due to gendered patterns of knowledge and hierarchy in rural Rajasthan.

The project was launched as a pilot in 20 villages of the districts of Bhilwara and Udaipur in Rajasthan. This pilot proved the success of leveraging a combination of ICT tools for streamlining the implementation of MGNREGA particularly in terms of creating awareness about the Act amongst the intended beneficiaries and facilitating a transparent and accountable process of job demand, job allocation and wage payments. This ICT Enabled Ecosystem was highlighted as a successful model for upscale by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India (GoI) in the National Policy Framework on biometrically enabled end-to-end ICT applications on August 20, 2010.

This case study focusses on the manner in which ICT tools such as information kiosks, internet, mobile telephony, and community radio have been leveraged to enable access to information amongst the women regarding their entitlements, thereby enhancing their ability to demand their rights and improving the delivery of the services under MGNREGA. It builds on the idea that gendered patterns of hierarchy can be overcome by creating eSpaces for rural women to improve their access to information regarding their entitlements and thus make governance responsive to their needs and priorities. This project involved a section of society that has traditionally taken a backseat in demanding their rights and ensured increased outreach of the services and managing the information and records to enhance governance transparency and accountability.

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