The development of Web 2.0 has changed the way that society works. Not only does it promote creativity and self-expression, it changes the way that governments and the private sector interact. New media has facilitated the grassroots uprising, allowing individuals and social groups to significantly influence the behaviour of decision takers.
But this is not the exciting part.
I love the rapid expansion of Web 2.0 because I see the potential it has to change the world by its nature, not just its content. Increasing dependency on new media for real time news and widened social networking will mean improvements in access to supporting technology.
It is hoped that by bringing Web 2.0 to rural and remote areas, literacy rates will be improved. Access to global networks such as World Pulse will encourage women to challenge underlying behaviours that propitiate gender stereotypes and denigrate women. Personally, I would love to see networks devoted to maintaining the culture and languages of indigenous peoples. In Australia and the Pacific, many indigenous cultures are matriarchal and women would naturally play a large role in passing on traditions and languages. Such an network could be used to share training and educational opportunities. This would promote sustainability and reduce the need for outside intervention to meet skills shortages. Though the world is striving for globalisation, I believe the community, online or otherwise, still has a role to play and that it is infinitely strengthened by Web 2.0.
User-generated content and participatory information sharing has allowed contribution of personal stories and ideas from people whose voices were not previously heard. Such information crosses borders, both geographical and cultural. Hopefully, this power can be used to celebrate multiculturalism and promote tolerance worldwide. This is the way that a peaceful world will emerge.
However, the effectiveness of these tools for women's empowerment will rely on the commitment of governments to provide access to technology. The emergence of 'smart phones' has encouraged strengthening of the 3G and WiFi networks that allow wireless internet access. In Australia, the government is rolling out a National Broadband Network that will bring high-speed internet to rural and remote as well as metropolitan areas. Such programs show forward thinking and will hopefully be undertaken worldwide.
Web 2.0 empowers me, as a change-maker, to more readily identify the needs of girls and women. It helps my organisations and networks ensure that current and future programs are really meeting the needs of women and communities. Data is now easily shared to large amounts of people via social media. By sharing shocking statistics about economic participation of women and gender based violence, issues are frequently raised on the agendas of decision takers. I use Web 2.0 for inspiration - both warm and fuzzy and project oriented. By sharing in the successes of women worldwide, I am constantly amazed and challenged by what we can achieve. Seeing the struggles of women world wide also inspires me to generate projects that will improve their lives.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Empowerment and Web 2.0.