Gender — LIRNEasia

Gender and more broadly, inclusion, are lenses that we apply to almost all of our work. Through this cross-cutting theme, we try to measure and understand marginalisation in technology access and use that can be attributed to gender.

Our survey work from over the last two decades has played a crucial role in shedding light on the gender disparities in access and connectivity across the developing Asian region. Early on, we recognised the importance of understanding and quantifying these disparities to address the digital divide effectively. Through surveys like Teleuse@BOP and AfterAccess, LIRNEasia was among the first to quantify the gender gaps in access and use in the developing Asian region. The lack of reliable gender-disaggregated data has often been a key challenge in identifying gaps and developing solutions to narrow those gaps, whether it be on access, use, skills, etc. Our nationally representative, face-to-face surveys are designed to enable gender disaggregation of data at the national level, and often at other sub-sample levels also (e.g., urban/rural), enabling intersectional analyses of quantitative data.  With data collected from large sample, rigorously collected surveys, we have shed light on the role of gender in determining the likelihood of mobile adoption, getting online, using mobile data services, skills capabilities, and experiencing online harassment.

Our qualitative work has provided invaluable insights into the challenges faced by women in accessing and utilising digital technologies. Through qualitative methods, we have been able to understand the specific barriers that hinder women’s participation in the digital economy, whether it be limited access to infrastructure, cultural norms, or socioeconomic constraints.  Through careful research design and implementation, these areas of work have also led us to a nuanced understanding of how gender manifests in different socioeconomic contexts, for example Pakistan vis-à-vis Myanmar. It has also enabled us to explore beyond the binary conception of gender, to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities that digital technologies bring about for gender and sexual minorities. Through qualitative methods, we have also explored in depth, the empowerment impacts of work and earning opportunities in the digital economy among women, challenging the widely accepted narratives around the positive empowerment impacts of flexible work.

LIRNEasia’s expertise in this domain has been recognised through the joint receipt of the inaugural  EQUALSinTech 2018 Research Award for its contribution to bridging the digital gender gap through its research on Digital access & use in 6 countries in Asia (After Access).  LIRNEasia along with Athena Infonomics and Research ICT Africa led the design and development of a toolkit for World Bank task team leaders on gender mainstreaming in  ICT projects in 2017.  We were also invited to review the GSMA, APC, A4AI and the Web Foundations ‘Toolkit for researching women’s internet access and use’ in 2018.

We continue exploring the gender dimensions of technological change in Asia as the Asian research hub administrator of IDRC’s FutureWORKS initiative over the next five years. We aim to understand the gendered impacts of and responses to the macro shifts underway in the region related to technology, climate, and demographics, towards a more inclusive and sustainable future of work.


  • Gender gaps in internet access and digital skills in India and Sri Lanka (draft report)

    This working paper explores the effect of gender on the likelihood of internet access and the likelihood of possessing digital skills capabilities among Indians and Sri Lankans, based on nationally representative survey data from 2021.

  • Digitally-enabled work opportunities and women’s empowerment – Draft 1

    The technological advancements of the recent decades, including the expansion of the gig economy have given rise to increasing numbers of opportunities for flexible work for both men and women across the globe. Opportunities range from ridesharing to online freelancing to running home-based businesses with the help of social media and logistics platforms.   The growth in opportunities for digital work have expanded considerably after the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Flexible work arrangements – such as those offered by the gig economy—have long been argued as an enabler of women’s increased and sustained participation in the labour market. This is particularly pertinent for countries like Sri Lanka, which have tussled with low female labour force participation (LFP) rates over the years. Many have argued that these opportunities are especially advantageous for women, enabling flexibility in terms of time, location, and the conditions of work, allowing for greater LFP and wide opportunities for socio-economic empowerment. This paper seeks to explore the impact that such opportunities are having on women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

  • Research report: Digital platforms and women’s work in Sri Lanka and India

    We know from our previous qualitative work that women see online work and the flexibility it entails as a way to earn their own income while balancing childcare and other domestic responsibilities. However, many barriers and challenges remain to women’s participation in the online workplace, including gender gaps in internet connectivity and digital skills, as well as constraining social norms. To better understand women’s engagement with the ecosystem of digitally enabled work, between 2020 and 2023 we conducted further qualitative research in  collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research, India,  the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and World Resources Institute, India, and. The research aimed to assess the ecosystem within which women are engaging with digital work in India and Sri Lanka and the kind of impact that online platforms can create for women’s economic empowerment in order to inform updated labour market regulation and business practices. The final project report can be found below. Suggested citation: Centre for Policy Research, LIRNEasia & Indian Institute for Human Settlements. (2022). Ecosystems of Engagement: Digital Platforms and Women’s Work in Sri Lanka and India.   

  • “Now we are Independent”: Female Online Freelancers in India and Sri Lanka (Conference Paper)

    Ramathi Bandaranayake presented the following paper at the 3rd International Conference on Gender Research, held July 16 – 17 2020. The conference took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper discusses the findings of our qualitative research related to female online freelancers in India and Sri Lanka.   Bandaranayake, R., Iqbal, T., Galpaya, H., Senanayake, L., & Perampalam, S. (2020). ‘Now we are Independent’: Female Online Freelancers in India and Sri Lanka. In K. Jones, C. Collins, M. Davies, M. Della Giust, & G. James. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Gender Research (pp. 40-47). Reading, UK: University of Reading. DOI: 10.34190/IGR.20.121    

  • AfterAccess: ICT access and use in Sri Lanka and the Global South (Presentation)

    Presented by Helani Galpaya, Ayesha Zainudeen and Tharaka Amarasinghe on 22 May 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

  • AfterAccess Asia Report 3.0

    AfterAccess: ICT access and use in Asia and the Global South (Version 3.0)

  • ICT access and use by women in the Global South (Presentation)

    Presented at “Imagine a Feminist Internet: South Asia” on 21 February 2019 in Negombo, Sri Lanka

  • Internet and gender in Myanmar: findings from research

    Presented by Gayani Hurulle at Myanmar Digital Rights Forum. 18 January 2019, Yangon.

More Documents →


More Events →


Blogs and Updates