Labouring Women, Enterprising States – A Research Study on Women, Information Technology and Narratives of Entrepreneurship

Labouring Women, Enterprising States – A Research Study on Women, Information Technology and Narratives of Entrepreneurship

This document explores the structural-institutional facets of the relationship between women entrepreneurs, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the mainstream discourse on entrepreneurship. The research focuses on women entrepreneurs in the two Indian states of Karnataka and Kerala – representing two contrasting ICT ecosystems – the former dominated by big private players and the latter dominated by a welfarist state. One of the key findings of the research is that, for ICT enterprises to fulfill the feminist agenda of empowerment and agency, the notion of enterprises has to be re-conceptualised. So far as the concept of 'ICTs for women's enterprises' remains bound to instrumental approaches, the socio-political agency of women as workers and citizens entitled to economic justice will not be realised.

The research also points to the need for women's civil society organisations to play a key intermediary role in enabling women to effectively harness the economic empowerment possibilities opened up the emergent techno-social paradigm, going beyond the 'ICTs-as-tools' approach. Currently, women entrepreneurs – in neither state – are political in their public presence. They confront the market as entrepreneurs but lack the power, collective and individual, to negotiate with dominant forces. They occupy specific positions in the global and local hierarchies owing to their flexible labour, but do not enjoy the privileges of the much touted flexibility of being IT entrepreneurs.

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