BIC NEW YORK — Rapidly shifting global realities have prompted a deeper appreciation of humanity’s interconnectedness, and with it a greater reliance on digital technologies. For many women, including those who lack access or the ability to determine how such technologies will impact their communities, this has resulted in greater exclusion and marginalization.
This observation is at the heart of a new statement by the New York Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC), and forms part of its contribution to the 67th session of the United Nations’ (UN) Commission on the Status of Women, which will be held in March.
The statement, titled “Values in Innovation: Women’s Engagement in Re-Imagining Digital Technologies,” explores why it is essential to integrate diverse perspectives, especially those of women, in the process of designing and distributing digital technologies.
“Extending women’s participation will ultimately need to be based on the recognition that a multiplicity of perspectives is a prerequisite for building a future responsive to the whole range of human experience,” states the BIC.
“…Yet fair representation,” it continues, “far from an end in itself, also serves as a condition that enables dominant patterns of competition and inequality to give way to collaboration, collective inquiry, and a concern for the common good.”
A central idea put forth by the statement is that digital technologies are not value-neutral and can either perpetuate or address existing inequities, depending on how they are designed and applied.
The BIC explains that many technologies are designed with distorted notions about human nature, identity, progress, and purpose, and are often underpinned by materialistic values. Therefore, a candid examination of the values and intentions informing the processes of innovation is necessary if digital tools are to promote a more just and equitable society.
Saphira Rameshfar, a representative of the BIC, states: “Advances in digital technologies have the potential to greatly enhance human capacity and connecting communities, enabling people to accomplish tasks and access information that was previously difficult or impossible. However, this raises important moral implications that need to be considered.
She adds: “For example, how can the perspectives of communities, particularly women, be taken into account early on, engaging them in consultations that identify relevant values and priorities within their local contexts?”
The issue of technological advancement is among several other topics that the New York Office of the BIC will explore at the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women, including governance and redefining notions of power, social cohesion, and the role of young people in collective transformation.