Problematising the digital gender gap: invoking decoloniality and intersectionality for inclusive policymaking
The digital economy is seen as the latest phase in the socioeconomic development trajectory. There has been a proliferation of policy documents on ensuring gendered inclusion and addressing the ‘gender gap’ in the digital economy. Particularly in the context of the ‘third world’, there are large volumes of ‘evidence’ reported linking economic welfare through digital inclusion and gender equality. Drawing from capabilities, intersectionality, and decolonial scholarship, we analyse how the problem of the ‘gender gap’ in the ‘digital economy’ is constituted through particular discourses. We employ an approach termed ‘problematisation’, which contends that policies produce and articulate ‘problems’ in specific ways rather than solve pre-ordained ‘problems’. We take ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ articulations within the most recent reports by multilateral governance bodies, including the World Bank, UN Women, and the World Economic Forum (WEF), among others. Our findings indicate that digital gender gap policies are formulated through interlinking assumptions of the capabilities approach with neoliberal rationality. Accordingly, the ‘gender gap’ is produced as a problem of rights and economic development to be solved through neoliberal ‘empowerment’ and ‘entrepreneurship’. In an attempt to produce universal cross-cultural frameworks, these policy documents ignore the intersectionality of gendered power relations and reproduce colonial frameworks of development, modernity, and progress. The latter is accomplished through the technologies of statistical scientificity (generalised causality) and temporality (‘developed versus developing’ discourses of modernity). We, therefore, argue that developmental policymaking, particularly the capabilities approach, must incorporate intersectionality and decoloniality to be effective, inclusive, and unsettle colonial universalisation.
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