Racism and Gender in ICT4D and Aid Work

Racism and Gender in ICT4D and Aid Work

This week we will continue exploring the different questions that have emerged in the ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development during the recent years.  My previous posts were centred on the intersections between racism and other of forms of discrimination based on dimensions such as poverty, ethnicity and religion. This week I will analyse another essential variable to the study – gender.  The intersections between gender and racism, and between the other elements that we have already viewed, makes the topic of racism in ICT for Development and Aid Work even more complex.

Gender is an essential dimension that should always be taken into account in the analysis of different types of discrimination such as racism. The importance of its inclusion in the analyses is acknowledged by researchers such as Denskus and Esser (2015). It is crucial to note that the concept of empowerment has, in fact, originated in work on community participation and gender relations. Gender and gendered social norms are signiticant topics to be considered when the capability approach is applied to development. Since this approach offers the tools to think not only on economic growth but also on individual freedom (Kleine, 2010).

In the study of visual methodologies in participatory ICT4D, Bentley, Nemer and Vannini (2019)  give the example of Gender Links, which is a regional civil society organization that activates in 15 countries in order to promote gender equality.  However, organisation such as Gender Links may experience important problems to balance the different requirements and goals their multiple stakeholder. For this reason, it is extremely important to analyse the materials that are produced by this type of organizations in a critical way. Bentley, Nemer and Vannini (2019) note that critical ICT engagement involves the use of a cultural identity lens. This lens always requires the consideration of factors such as race and gender.

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Authors such as O’Donnell and Sweetman (2018) allert us the fact that the new technologies have created not only new opportunities and advantages but also new challenges such as new modalities for gender-based violence.  O’Donnell and Sweetman (2018) also argue that marginalised groups and individuals need to be offered the opportunity to create content. From the point of view of ICT for development, content should be created by people of all gender, races and ethnicities. The study of the intersections between racism and gender may challenge the conventional discourses that are created by power holders and that dominate the communication processes.  Besides post-colonial power inequalities, racism and sexism are two of the most frequent forms of discrimination in the online environments and resources.

According to O’Donnell and Sweetman (2018), technology always mirrors the societies and communities that created it.  Equal access to technological resources and their effective employment is directly linked with the intersection between factors such as gender, race and ethnicity. As a consequence, digital tools should always have a special place in the reflection on the inequalities and injustices that happen in the contemporary world.



Bentley, C.M., Nemer, D. & Vannini, S. 2019: “When words become unclear”: unmasking ICT through visual methodologies in participatory ICT4D, AI & Society, 34, 477–493.


Denskus, T., Esser, D. 2015: TED Talks on International Development: Trans-Hegemonic Promise and Ritualistic Constraints, Communication Theory 25:2, 166-187.


Kleine, D. 2010: ICT4WHAT?—Using the choice framework to operationalise the capability approach to development, Journal of International Development 22:5, 674–692.


O’Donnell, A. & Sweetman, C. 2018: Introduction: Gender, development and ICTs, Gender & Development, 26:2, 217-229.


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