Research to increase women’s economic engagement
Particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic began, digital technology has enabled crucial access to information, markets, and services relating to improving health. As a result, expanding mobile access is necessary for low- and middle-income countries to navigate recovery from the pandemic and allocate talent in the economy. But, while smartphone and mobile Internet access have expanded in recent years, persistent mobile access gender gaps in some parts of the world threaten to leave women behind. Pre-existing gender norms, creating gaps in education and the perceived acceptability of women using phones, may perpetuate those gaps, limiting the ways in which mobile phones and Internet access can improve women’s opportunities.
In a new initiative, researchers at Inclusion Economics will explore how access to mobile technology influences economic activity – including employment and human capital accumulation – access to (mis)information, and gender norms.
In a multi-year policy-research engagement, the team at Inclusion Economics at Yale University, in collaboration with Inclusion Economics India Centre, is seeking to understand and improve women’s mobile access in India. In one study, the research team has focused on how a norms-compatible phone-based use case – an information service known as Mor Awaaz – affects women’s mobile use, access to information, and views men and women hold on women’s acceptable phone use. Results from this work are forthcoming.
Another study, focused on a program that distributed smartphones to rural women, will examine the impact of increased access to mobile technology on economic activity, women’s employment and gender norms, and access to information and misinformation. In India, as in other countries, the spread of misinformation about the nature of Covid-19 and its prevention has compounded the cost of the pandemic. Understanding the role of mobile technology in the distribution of internet and social media-based misinformation may help bridge knowledge gaps and point to appropriate policy responses. Evidence from these studies will also provide crucial understanding of how policy can address gender gaps in technology access, and the relevance of mobile internet access to other dimensions of gender inequality. Currently in its initial stages, this study will run through 2024.