Blockchain and gender digital inequalities in Africa: A critical afrofemtric analysis

Date created: 
Gender digital disparities
ICTs for social change
Technology adoption

Advances in the technological sphere are synergistic with society’s progression. Technological innovations result in social realities, and these correspondingly remodel technologies to reconcile their functions and values with society’s needs. The birth of blockchain ushered in euphoric pronouncements about its disruptive potentialities for low-resourced societies. While dominant discourses frame it as a tool for enabling grassroots participation in socioeconomic activities, they ignore the societal embeddedness of innovations. A central premise of this study is that the modalities of blockchain’s adoption reflect, and to an extent cement, the inequitable gender power dynamics of its context. Drawing on principles of gender justice from my original critical theory afrofemtrism, technofeminism, and the social construction of technology, I examined the adoption of blockchain technologies in Ghana and its engagement with gender digital inequalities. My empirical data is from 33 qualitative interviews with participants in the blockchain economy. I found that investing and trading in cryptocurrency are the principal blockchain activities in Ghana. This evinces the perception of low entry barriers without needing specialized education. Additionally, participants are overwhelmingly male, and the women in the space navigate a complex existence of relegation and comity. Their presence in this male-dominated space opens them to ridicule, and yet they benefit from better transactional opportunities as people perceive them to be more trustworthy than the average man. Blockchain could engender financial emancipation for women and other marginalized social groups. However, conditions like the compound effect of inhibiting familial, societal, and cultural socialization on gendered interests and progression undercut these affordances. Blockchain in itself is, therefore, not a panacea. Interventions for social change must include gender justice-conscious policymaking, as well as nationwide conscientization of the underpinnings of gender digital disparities. This study’s findings are integral to advancing studies in gender disparities in a sociotechnical arena. It also contributes to knowledge emanating from the Global South, particularly regarding emerging technology.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Peter Chow-White
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.