Last week a 2004 article turned up on Eldis: a consideration of how to measure the impact of ICTs in women's lives. The article begins with a great discussion of what a gender perspective means for people working with technologies of communication. (It cites the United Nations as finding that ICT access is the third most important issue facing women, after violence and poverty.)
The conclusion of the study is essentially that those who implement ICTs must take into consideration the real lives and conditions of women, else they are liable to perpetuate inequaliy.
"Computer technology (like any technology) is shaped by the values, assumptions, goals and prejudices of those involved in its design, engineering and financing. Its use and influence in society is shaped by the roles, values, assumptions and goals of those who own it and those who can access it. Technologies introduced into environments characterised by inequality tend to reinforce and even exacerbate it."
I found it especially important that they emphasize the necessity of involving women (indeed all stakeholders in the program equally) in the design and implementation process.
This connects fundamentally with a participatory evaluation approach, the concept that you have to (in the author's words):
- Involve stakeholders as the evaluators of your program (those who determine the meaning of success).
- Link evaluation findings to action.
- Encourage evaluation that is truly "participatory (by all stakeholders): involvement of all types of stakeholder in the evaluation process, particularly at the grass roots level, and support for accountability."
- Be context sensitive to the reality of the user environment.