Technology and social inclusion: challenges for policy makers

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Professor Katy Campbell, University of Alberta, examines social inclusion through a gender lens, particularly as it relates to technology

We have been interested in the impact of gender on the design, adoption and use of technology since at least the 1970s. We have investigated the experiences of girls and women in learning and working with them. technology, but more recently we have taken a broader, gender perspective.

Over the past 10 years or so, we have explored gender issues more frequently through an intersectional lens, and even more recently as a social inclusion issue. An intersectional lens helps us understand the inclusion and exclusion of multiple dimensions of difference, such as ethnicity, age, sexuality, socioeconomic class, location, and health. For example, the experience in a computer classroom or in an engineering company may be very different for a middle-class Caucasian woman living in an urban setting than an Indigenous woman living in a vulnerable rural environment with a limited broadband access.

What is a “gender perspective”?

Gender is both understood and realized in different ways across cultures and at different times. In North America, gender and sex have become almost interchangeable, although “gender” refers to social roles while “sex” refers to biological attributes. This is important from an intersectional perspective, as a ‘gendered’ approach opens up our understanding of the challenges faced, for example, by transgender learners or workers.

When we began to examine issues of gender and technology, from the 1970s to the 1990s, we focused on designing technologies and tools that reflected a mainstream Western culture. In the education sector, we looked at delivery models such as distance education; design of software and games; access to technology (ie the “digital divide”); the design of computer labs in primary and secondary schools and psychological barriers to participation. In other words, we thought that once the girls and boys read the same books, were exposed to the same curriculum, taught by the same teacher, and had an equal chance to practice, all the remaining problems were the ‘fault. From the girl. Reflecting the “culture deficit” model, we have designed interventions to reduce gaps in access, capacity or attitude.

The cultural deficit model stems from negative beliefs and assumptions about the capabilities, aspirations and work ethic of systematically marginalized peoples. For example, once the digital divide is resolved, girls and boys would have equal access to family computers. In fact, decades of research have shown us in general that boys have always had greater and better access to computers at home, men tend to dominate computer resources in school, male teachers predominate. in these environments, and computer spaces, software and games have been designed primarily by men and tend to reflect “male” interests. The unfortunate effects of this inequitable situation include the lack of self-efficacy among girls and women and fewer women in STEM disciplines and workplaces, perpetuating the problem of digital resources, curricula, spaces. learning and work and ill-conceived and exclusive policies. If race, location, age, or religious beliefs are included and overlap with gender, the problem becomes much more complicated.

The digital divide

An intersectional approach gives us more tools to understand and hopefully solve the challenge of the digital divide of the 2020s which recognizes that equitable access is more than technological. The World Bank defines “social inclusion” as “the process of improving the conditions in which individuals and groups participate in society – enhancing the capacities, opportunities and dignity of people disadvantaged by their identity”. Exclusion on the basis of social identity may involve discriminatory or stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs or values, as well as on the basis of legal systems, land and labor markets. Social exclusion deprives individuals of their dignity, security and opportunities, and occurs in all dimensions of gender, age, location, occupation, race, ethnicity , religion, citizenship status, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), among other factors.

Likewise, UNESCO’s vision of an inclusive society as a “society for all”, in which every individual actively participates, has been reaffirmed in the Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. In the document Education 2030 (2016) that emerged from this statement, more than 1,600 participants from 160 countries concluded that “inclusion and equity through education are the cornerstone of a transformative education agenda, and we therefore commit to fight against all forms of exclusion and marginalization, disparities and inequalities in access, participation and learning outcomes … recognize the importance of gender equality in the realization of the right to education for all ”, And are“ committed to supporting gender sensitive policies, planning and learning environments; integrate gender issues into teacher training and curricula; and eliminate gender-based discrimination and violence in schools ”(p.7).

A commitment to lifelong learning opportunities for all includes equitable and increased access to “quality technical and vocational education and training, as well as higher education and research … adult learning, education and training opportunities ”(p.7). Information and communication technologies (ICT) are highlighted as strengthening education systems, dissemination of knowledge, access to information, effective and quality learning and more efficient service delivery ”(p. .7).

In this series of editorials, we will continue to examine social inclusion, through a gender lens, as it relates to ICTs and digital media for learning, work and inclusion in civic processes. In particular, we will examine policies and learning frameworks with technology in public and higher education and continuing and vocational training, working in technology-related areas and participating in governance opportunities.

* This is a trading profile.

© 2019. This work is under license CC-BY-NC-ND.

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