Talia Esnard, author of Entrepreneurial Women in the Caribbean: Critical Insights and Policy Implications, explores the dynamics that impact women’s access to digital technologies in the Caribbean.
The entrepreneurial imperative challenges one to, among other things, draw on digital technologies as the basis for growth and competitiveness in the global market. On a very broad level, a push is needed for technological innovations that allow for some level of scalability along the continuum of small- to medium- to large-scale enterprises and, relatedly, to that of regional and international markets. Of note, however, are the contradictions that continue to unfold within the entrepreneurship-technology-growth nexus. Related apprehensions exist for growing global disparities and for the ways in which these inequities differently impact access to, adoption and application of technological innovations within developing regions like Latin America and the Caribbean. Even with the acceleration of digital innovations during the COVID-19 pandemic, these structural barriers to and demands for value-added and sustainable production systems within these countries remain.
In the Caribbean, digital innovations within the entrepreneurial space are largely limited and situated within a complex interplay of structural-social-political considerations that are yet to be substantively addressed to positively impact the engagement of women. Important examinations, therefore, are needed for the connections between the political economies of the region and the social structures that follow. Related considerations are necessary for the nature of existing entrepreneurial ecosystems with specific assessments of the cultural, institutional, and infrastructural capacities and barriers related to digital transformation and technological innovations. At the macro level, these pressures raise more pointed questions around the types of resources, as well as access to and application of technology, physical and legal infrastructure, knowledge transfers, and resources that are necessary to support women in small- to medium-size businesses. At the micro level, these developments push for needed interrogations, which underscore some of the structural and social conditions that impact the positionalities and prospects for women who work in the SME sector. It is also important that we take forward some of the social imperatives for change, including that of addressing some of the other salient social markers, such as race, class, skin color, age, and education, which differently intersect to inform the experiences of and challenges for these women. Without this nuanced analysis of how these power structures are experienced across contexts and actors, the prospects for addressing inequalities and ambiguities for women will remain inadequate.
These contentions signal the necessity for more white space in innovations that support the need for diversity, sustainability, and scalability within the market. Crafting policies and interventions for technological adaptation using relevant data in the field, as well as building more collaborative governance structures and approaches to policy design and implementation, are key points of intercession that are needed to create more equitable environments for technological learning, applications and innovations in the market. This shift to more progressive and just conditions for creativity and innovation calls for policies and intermediations that close the gender gaps within specific fields, including those related to information, communication, and technology (ICT), and those of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). This collaborative policy direction also demands more deliberate engagement of women within the consultative process and in the establishment of initiatives that are developed, sponsored, and sustained to both recognize and advance diverse forms of creativity and innovations.
A way forward is for the use of an intersectional approach to assessing and changing the dynamics that impact women’s access to and adoption of digital technologies within the sector. Such a perspective can be considered as a stepping stone for changing the lenses and mechanisms through which we attempt to situate, acknowledge, and improve the lives of those for whom policies and interventions are designed to impact. This intersectional approach requires that we develop more inclusive and nuanced interventions that take into consideration issues of diversity and equity, and that directly push back against existing forms of inequalities within the broader market and society. By doing so, intersectionality becomes both an intellectual and political tool through which we can begin to reposition women and their access to and experiences with digital transformations and technological innovations. Even there, it is important to build on existing frameworks with the formation and endorsement of strategic priorities, structural, infrastructural, and institutional resources, training, cross-sectoral and institutional partnerships, networks, public awareness, and advocacy that are needed to drive this change agenda. Addressing these inherent gaps must be considered as critical aspects for optimization of the regulatory environment, with increased facilitation of innovation that leverages the advances in science and technology, whether locally or globally. The creation of key high-tech and other clusters in green, blue, and orange economies, which promote diversification and innovations within the market, also represent critical but initial steps towards the establishment of more supportive, collaborative, and equitable environments in the Caribbean.
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