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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


The Internet and women

As per available data, India has 300 million Internet users from a population of 1.2 billion. The country is the second largest market for Facebook and LinkedIn, while there are over 55 million Youtube users and over 18.1 million Twitter users.
Yet, how many of these social media netizens are women? And how are women and their issues represented in the vast, information saturated Worldwide web? While access and affordability continue to remain major issues for all Internet users, irrespective of gender, the experiences of women who do use the net have been mixed.
An excerpt from Sage Publication's India Connected: Mapping The Impact of New Media. Meera, one of the women protagonists in the 2006 Nagesh Kukunoor film Dor, climbs a mound in the middle of an open space in Rajasthan and reaches out for a mobile phone to make a monthly phone call to her husband in Saudi Arabia. While the scene ends tragically, with the news of her husband's death, the mobile phone becomes a potent symbol of the power of new media technology to connect this simple village woman to a larger world (Dor, 2006).
But the tragic and chilling death of Ambika due to a malfunction in the manual loader machine in Nokia's mobile phone handset factory in Sriperembudur in 2010, brought into sharp and chilling focus the other role of gender in the making of new media (Dutta & Radhakrishnan, 2011). The Nokia factory, which began in 2006, was then one of the largest handset manufacturers in the world and employed over 7,000 people, 70 percent of whom were women. Recruited from the neighboring villages and towns, the young women were seen as a privileged lot as they were given training, transport, and crèche facilities and a substantially higher salary than that of an agricultural laborer. Nokia, unable to keep up with a changing market, gave way to Samsung and was bought over by Microsoft. The factory closed down in 2014 and for the women, unemployment and poverty once again circumscribed their lives.
The story of the access women have to new media can be located in these two narratives—that of the promise and the potential of new media to transform lives and the paradoxical reality of the manner in which women help produce the tools of new media but are still distanced from its benefits.
In 2000, in what was called the first wave of the dotcom boom in India, venture capital poured into sites that promoted gaming, share market news, matrimonial sites, recruitment and job sites, and B2B services. A number of websites were launched for women users too, and a newspaper report put the figure of websites for women at a staggering 14,000 in the year 2000, a high figure by any standards (Dinakar, 2000). The sites for women largely replicated the content and concerns of women's magazines and the focus area of traditional media—lifestyle, fashion, interiors, parenting, health, cookery, beauty, and relationship concerns—predominated new media too. In response to the changing service environment of postliberalization India, career concerns were high. Sites like, redforwomen,, and, tried to re-invent content to suit a digital medium and vainly tried to garner eyeballs from women users. realized quickly enough that the problem was not so much with increasing eyeballs and getting people to stay on their site but in getting more women to use the internet! It held a number of offline events, from taking computers and laptops to newly developed departmental stores to holding workshops and discussions with women. Soulkurry involved wellknown celebrities and experts in different fields to answer questions and provide guidance and tied up with artists in an effort to both educate internet users on art as well as create an online market for artists.

Women's access to internet and their experiences of the worldwide Web have so far been mixed. In 2000, the personal computer was still a novelty and internet connections with dial up numbers, even less prevalent. The governmentowned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), which had begun five years earlier, had only around five million subscribers by 2000. Other Internet Services Providers (ISPs) entered the market and Tata Teleservices Ltd acquired VSNL. In the big metros in urban India, the dotcoms held great promise but business plans were poorly conceived and connectivity was dependent on servers hosted through VSNL.
With the already negligible internet penetration, the dotcom burst in barely a couple of years, was inevitable. Several of the sites started for women and women's issues, folded up without a trace. By the second wave of the dotcom revolution in 2006, much had changed.
Private players had entered the market; e-commerce began to take off with travel sites doing mass ticketing. Google, which began in 1996 as a small search engine, accessed billions of websites. It launched its Gmail service in 2004, acquired YouTube in 2006, and became the premier search engine on the internet. Facebook, which began in 2004, soon displaced other social networking sites like Orkut and Myspace, allowing people to share their lives and newsfeeds, discuss issues and happenings, and announce personal and professional details to wider society. If Google allowed people to seek out the larger world online, Facebook achieved the reverse: as people sought to connect with the inner lives and concerns of individuals and groups.
In India, there were an estimated 300 million claimed internet users by the end of 2014, a hike of 32 percent from the previous year. Active internet users were 213 million as of October 2014, and were expected to reach 269 million by June 2015. Not unexpectedly, the majority of active internet users are in urban India, but rural India's active Internet users were 61 million by October 2014, a 33 percent increase from October 2013 (Shah, Jain, & Bajpai, 2014).
But what did this explosion mean for half the population? How many women who were users of the internet, owned and operated mobile phones and accessed the internet on their mobiles? Definitive figures are hard to come by but, in 2013, a Google India survey put the figure of women online at 60 million, 24 million of whom accessed the internet daily. The IAMAI report for 2014 put the number of active women internet users at 10 percent of the total, at 20.77 million in 2014. …
There are several efforts underway to close India's digital gender gap from governmental and non-governmental organizations and corporate bodies, often working in partnership. …
On their part, internet companies keen on getting more people online, have launched a number of initiatives, from providing access to services and developing apps that will work in adverse conditions to making the internet more affordable.
Facebook, along with six mobile and wireless technology companies, started an organization,, to work together to "to bring the Internet to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn't have it" ( by Facebook, 2013). A Google India initiative entitled 'Helping women get online', believes that better access to information about health and finance will help lower maternal and infant mortality rates thereby leading to a rise in GDP (The Hindu, 2013). …
In February 2015, Facebook tied up with the telecom, R e l i a n c e Communications, in India and signed up 38 websites to provide access to these sites and to Facebook to Reliance subscribers. The idea was that Facebook, with the telecom operator, would offer a limited, stripped down internet to subscribers along with their mobile service plan.
The basket of sites offered news, travel, employment, cricket, health and even astrology! Only three of the 38 sites available were specifically targeted at women (BabyCentre and MAMA on pregnancy and child care, the Nike Foundation sponsored NGO, Girl Effect, targeted at adolescent girls and UN Women's platform, iLearn, for women entrepreneurs). The first is listed under the health category while the latter two are listed under the category of women empowerment. (WFS)