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Generational Gaps: Women, Rural Traditions and Community Networks*

Lacunas Geracionais: Mulheres, Tradições Rurais e Redes Comunitárias

Abstract

Community Networks (CNs) can provide access to telecommunications in low-income rural areas that are excluded by dominant connectivity models. Women and older people often constitute relatively higher proportions of these populations, thus this paper explores interactions between technology, gender and age in three CNs in rural Africa, Latin America and South Asia. All cases are situated both in local governance structures dominated by men, including a tribal authority, indigenous assembly, and a village council; and in collectivist cultures where women are involved in community work but not in decision-making. I generated data about people’s everyday practices and opinions in relation to their local CNs in focus group discussions and interviews of different sorts with 76 men and 60 women, including network initiators, champions, operators, users and non-users. Older women significantly contributed volunteer labour but were less likely to use their CN, for instance because they did do not own/know how to use devices, or because the location of hotspots was unsuited to their daily lives. Meanwhile, younger women frequently used alternatives to the CNs for connectivity and sometimes established their own enterprises in this; which contributed to some older women’s perspectives that younger women were increasingly separated from communal traditions. This has the potential to amplify generational gaps amongst women and patriarchy within CNs. Such divisive potential may be further exacerbated by masculine bias of priorities in global discourse on telecommunications technology and policy, which tends to emphasise certain concerns about access over concerns about power relations embedded in infrastructure.

Community Networks; WiFi; Rural; Global South

Núcleo de Estudos de Gênero - Pagu Universidade Estadual de Campinas, PAGU Cidade Universitária "Zeferino Vaz", Rua Cora Coralina, 100, 13083-896, Campinas - São Paulo - Brasil, Tel.: (55 19) 3521 7873, (55 19) 3521 1704 - Campinas - SP - Brazil
E-mail: cadpagu@unicamp.br