Round Table on "Women in the Information Society:
Building a Gender Balanced Knowledge-Based Economy"

Conference room "Le Kram", Tunis, 16 November 2005‎

The role of women is key for socioeconomic development and, therefore, women participation ‎should be promoted. According to the Secretary General’s report "In larger freedom", "empowered women can be some of the most effective drivers of development." The Round ‎Table on “Promoting the participation of women in the Information Society and the Knowledge-‎based Economy” aims at sharing experiences, exchanging good practices and creating awareness ‎about how ICT could be used to empower women, improve gender equality, enhance women ‎participation and narrow the gender gap. Additionally, three key issues need to be discussed, ‎namely, increasing women literacy, improving education and creating employment in the ‎Information Society.‎

ICT provide a main tool to reduce discrimination and to empower women for all type of ‎activities, since information and capacity to communicate and to enrol in decision-making ‎processes are the basic pillars of empowerment. As indicated in the Beijing Declaration, “ICT are ‎a powerful tool that women could use for mobilization, information exchange and ‎empowerment”. Moreover, ICT can contribute to increase primary and secondary education for ‎girls, to ensure access to reproductive health services and to provide employment in the ICT and ‎related sector. ‎

However, women are taking less advantage of the process of building the Information Society ‎and benefit less than men from this process. This is reflected in lower numbers of women as ICT ‎users, producers and policy makers. Structural inequalities and the existence of gender-specific ‎resource constraints, including income, time, educational bias and cultural factors appear to be ‎responsible for this situation. In particular, family responsibilities and lower incomes leave ‎women with less time and disposable income to access information technologies in particular ‎outside their houses. Women and girls on average receive less education and training, especially ‎in developing countries, and therefore may lack the language and other skills required for ‎engaging in activities leading to the creation of the Information Society. Finally, young women ‎may have less access to ICT, through public sites, especially when they are located in Internet ‎cafés, either because going to such places alone may be socially inappropriate in some cultures or ‎because the cafés are placed in areas where women may feel concerned about their personal ‎safety. ‎

Policy makers will have to address numerous challenges in building the Information Society, ‎including adequate supply of human, financial and institutional resources. The gender dimension ‎should, however, be part of this process from its very outset. Policy makers have to recognize the ‎need to build an inclusive Information Society, promoting the full and active participation of ‎women and men in this process from all walks of socioeconomic life. Only then will building ‎awareness, encouraging participation by all stakeholders and developing relevant ICT policies ‎bring results. It is only through full and balanced participation in ICT capacity building that an ‎equitable Information Society will emerge, ensuring equal opportunities and equal rights for both ‎men and women at home and in the workplace.‎

The World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) provides a useful framework for ‎mainstreaming gender into the process of building an inclusive Information Society and ‎Knowledge-based economy. The Declaration of Principles endorsed at the first phase of WSIS ‎reaffirmed the enormous opportunities for women provided by recent developments in ICT and ‎acknowledged the need to close the gender digital divide. The Declaration also underlined the ‎role of women as equal partners to men, in crafting the future Information Society. Full ‎commitment to and implementation of these principles is necessary to ensure that ICT empowers ‎women and leads to their full participation in the development process. This and other related ‎issues should be a focus for the gender mainstreaming agenda and, across all regions, for the ‎strategies for building the Information Society.‎

Though a commitment to mainstreaming gender in national ICT strategies is essential, a regional ‎perspective plays an important role in this process. The exchange of experiences and good ‎practices both within and among regions could help policy makers to establish effective ‎mainstreaming policies in a way that women perform an active role in formulating relevant ‎policies and strategic plans in the ICT area and that women benefit from the Information Society. ‎

The Round Table and its Themes:‎

The Round Table titled “Women in the Information Society: Building Gender Balanced ‎Knowledge-Based Economy” will address lessons learned and experiences gained by each region ‎in their gender mainstreaming efforts. The economic and social changes resulting from women ‎being given equal opportunities for participation, ownership, control and consumption of ‎information will be emphasised. As a result of this discussion, main directions for further actions ‎will be presented.‎

The Round Table will address the following themes:‎

  • ‎ICT as an effective tool for the promotion of gender equality in the Information Society.‎

  • Bridging the gender digital gap in the Information Society and knowledge-based ‎economy.‎

  • The role of women in building the Information Society and the gender mainstreaming ‎agenda for building the Information Society.‎

  • Lessons learned and experiences in gender mainstreaming.‎

  • Specific topics for women empowerment through ICT, such as e-networking, e-business ‎and combating e-pornography.‎

  • Initiatives and measures to leapfrog women’s participation in Information Society in ‎various areas: local, national, regional and international; and at all levels of the career ‎ladder: field-worker, executive, managerial and decision-making.‎

  • The way forward.‎

Organizational Issues:‎

  1. ‎The Round Table will be chaired by a Head of State or Government and moderated by a ‎leading Business Executive or a Civil Society Activist, who will each make a five-minute ‎introductory remark. ‎

  2. In order to have interactive discussions and full participation of the audience, each ‎panelist will make a presentation of not more than 10 minutes.‎

  3. At the end of the presentations by panelists, fifty minutes will be reserved for ‎contributions from the floor and "Questions and Answers".

  4. The Round Table will feature the Executive Secretaries of UNECE and UNESCWA - ‎who will make presentations - followed by interventions from a Government Minister, a ‎leading Business Executive and a Civil Society Activist.‎

  5. The Round Table will be conducted in several languages, at least in English, French and ‎Spanish, depending on the availability of resources. ‎

The Round Table will be held on 16 November 2005 from 15.00 to 17:00 hrs. It is to be ‎attended by senior participants and country delegates to the Summit.‎
‎ ‎


H. E. Dr. Leonel Fernández, President of the Dominican Republic

H. E. Ms. Nadia Alsaeed
, Representative of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al ‎Abdullah and Minister of Communications and Information Technology, ‎Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan


Ms. Cynthia Romero Mamon, President and Managing Director of Sun ‎Microsystems ‎ Philippines, Inc.‎


Ms. Mervat M. Tallawy, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and ‎Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA)‎
‎ ‎
Mr. Paolo Garonna, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Economic Commission ‎for Europe (UNECE)‎

Ms. Fatimata Sèye Sylla, Chairperson of Bokk Jang Bokk Jeff and Director of ‎Digital Freedom Initiative, Senegal ‎

Professor Natasa Gospic, Professor at the University of Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, ‎Chairperson of ITU Working Group on Gender Issues, and Board Member of Community of ‎Yugoslav PTT.‎




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