Women's Political Participation in the 21st Century: Using Communication Technologies

Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 20:00 to Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 20:00
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Women and men around the world have been using different technology platforms during their political campaigns and to continue dialogue with their constituencies as elected representatives. The recent United States elections and victory of Barack Obama displayed to the world innovative usage of new technologies for political campaigning, mass mobilization and fundraising. Political leaders are catching on to the crowd sourcing possibilities that these technologies offer, many politicians have their own weblogs, facebook pages and twitter accounts. Use of text messages to alert journalists and to create viral campaigns during public rallies, televised debates and press conferences has gained currency. Youtube videos are supplementing paid television spots for political messages without depending on mainstream media sources. Political activists are using these social networks to organize in person rallies and disseminate information on public policy issues. Citizen-government interactions through online surveys, discussion forums and platforms are being increasingly employed to increase public engagement and accountability.

The 21st century has seen an unprecedented increase in the percentage of internet users around the world. Out of China's 1.3 billion people, 29 percent of are now internet users, 48.5 percent of Iran's population are internet users, in Latin America and the Caribbean 30.5% of the current population use internet, the increase in internet users from 2000 to 2009 has been the highest in the African continent approximately 1392.4%. Over 350 million users of facebook communicate across borders every day, spending close to 10 billion minutes on the social networking site every day. According to a recent report, at least one-half of the world's population has a mobile phone which is increasing every day. These are just some of the statistics that show the ever increasing presence of some form of technology in our daily lives. According to statistics provided by the International Telecommunication Union, the digital divide in 1994 between the developed and developing countries was 73 times more, where as in 2004 it was only 8 times more, “the most stunning feature of the divide is not about how large it is, but how rapidly it is closing”.(Fink, C. and Kenny, C 2003).

The impact of this increasing penetration by technology has already been felt in the development sector. For instance, African entrepreneurs are obtaining microcredit loans, doctors from India can diagnose patients in Ethiopia and the recent ‘green movement' in Iran was largely organized online and via SMS messages, to name a few. The staggering distribution channels available through youtube, podcasting, facebook, twitter and other networks, the reach of technology to masses has never been so pervasive.

iKNOW Politics members have vast experiences in using online platforms and we want to take this opportunity to invite our members to share their experiences of innovative examples in which women are using technology in politics; to get elected, build constituency or dialogue with each other to enter politics and enhance their effectiveness in public life. We are looking for your input on the following questions:

  • What are some examples of women candidates supplementing traditional communication technologies (i.e.: radio, public address system, television) with new technologies (mobile phones, youtube, social networks) in order to get elected?
  • How are political parties using viral effects of technology for fundraising, volunteer recruitment, , messaging and outreach to voters – and how can women in these parties benefit from these innovations?
  • Please share some examples of women leaders and governments using technology to engage their constituencies and channel public voices within legislative processes.
  • How are women's groups and civil society organizations innovating with technologies to disseminate information and generate discussion to influence public policy?

We look forward to hearing your views on some/all of these questions and sharing your experiences on this important issue with our users worldwide. To submit your contributions on one or several discussion questions mentioned above, please visit iKNOW Politics and register for the E-Discussion.