2.3.2 The ‘Community responsiveness’ of the center must identify and cater to girls and women’s activities, interests and information needs

The center’s services and programmes need to be directly responsive to societal development priorities and needs. These may include offering literacy and related learning programs, expanding digital capabilities (including communication and accessing information), improving equal rights for minorities and the disadvantaged, or providing distance working, lifelong learning and citizenship and administrative services in the community. In some contexts, ICT training programs may need to consider providing all-female sessions. This can be further enhanced by engaging women as teachers, mentors and role models. Women sometimes lack confidence or voice in mixed-gender training sessions.

More often than not, women coming together for training will begin to articulate what their information needs and interests are, and some simple websites can be designed to provide timely and dynamic information of immediate relevance to the group. In this way, women can be organically involved in developing their own Beb-based content.

Content example: SEWA’s integration of ICTs in informal sector activities

India's Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) has been organizing women in the informal sector since 1972, and has a membership of over 215,000. One of the first organizations in India to realize the potential of harnessing ICTs for the productive growth of the informal sector, it organized computer awareness programs and offered basic computer skills to its team leaders and association members.

SEWA is implementing a well-considered strategic plan for integrating ICTs into its main activities. The organization uses software applications developed for its embroidery, watershed development, salt production, and savings and credit projects. The software can generate customized reports on artisan membership, and it can grade products, record market activities, and keep accurate, up-to-date information for efficient production planning.

SEWA has also used video as a tool for women’s empowerment. VIDEO SEWA has produced video footage on many issues affecting the livelihoods of poor women, using the medium to share information and raise awareness among members. Video is a tool for training and teaching new skills, as well as to reach policy makers, making the medium an integral part of SEWA’s activities. SEWA’s satellite technology program has enabled the organization to work in more than 10 districts of Gujarat, where it provides interactive training that links women to experts and policy makers.

SEWA’s Trade Facilitation Center has had some success in its e-Commerce endeavours, supported by its websites www.banascraft.org and www.kutchcraft.org. One innovative approach to reach producers and artisans who are under-served by connectivity involves putting women producers in touch with a cadre of computer operators, who perform a variety of supportive functions that enable on-line selling. ICTs can thus improve many organizational functions in a member-based organization like SEWA, including identity- and solidarity-building, linkages with, and access to, government offices, internal governance and capacity-building.