Toward a gender-inclusive innovation pattern in ICT: the case of Vietnam


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Toward a gender-inclusive innovation pattern in ICT: the case of Vietnam

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Toward a gender-inclusive innovation pattern in ICT: the case of Vietnam

  1. 1. Toward a gender-inclusive innovation pattern in ICT: the case of Vietnam1 (paper to be submitted to the 9th Globelics International Conference on “Creativity, Innovation and Economic Development”. Buenos Aires, 2011). Tran Ngoc Ca National Council for S&T Policy Vietnam Bo Göransson Research Policy Institute Lund University, Sweden Abstract The paper explores the opportunities for ICT entrepreneurs in Vietnam to develop ICT products and services in response to demand by women users. More specifically, the papert investigates gender differences in ICT demands in Vietnam and identifies major obstacles to gender-specific technological development - all in order to explore the viability of business models aimed at women end-users. It is our contention that the capacity for technological1 The study was made possible with the collaboration of several other researchers, inparticular Le Thi Quy, the Research Center for Gender and Development, Universityof Social Sciences and Humanities, and Mr. Hoang Manh Cuong, NISTPASS. 1
  2. 2. development in a national system of innovation is not fully utilized if the quantitative as well as qualitative innovation potential represented by women researchers is not tapped.Introduction and backgroundIn developed as well as developing countries, women are poorly represented inscientific research and particularly in the fields of engineering and natural sciences.Moreover, the male perspective is frequently the norm in technological R&D and thearticulation of demand for new products is often the prerogative of men. Genderequality may be on the political agenda in many places in the world today but ishardly addressed in technological R&D.Partly due to this lack of women as developers and innovators in technologies, womenas end-users have been poorly taken into account. Their needs have mostly beenconsidered when the inventor has been a woman herself.This may be surprising, given the fact that women represent a growing proportion ofcustomers of everyday techniques. In a global perspective, women tend to be moreeducated and economically more independent than the women of previousgenerations. Also in traditionally patriarchal societies, women constitute an importantand growing user-group of ICT products and services.It is also clear that women use ICT for different purposes and have different demandsthan their male counterparts. Many studies confirm that women are more likely thanmen to use ICT for family-related purposes, such as health and education, as well asfor small-scale social business activities (see e.g. Gurumurthy 2008, James 2004, andThioune 2003). It is no coincidence that the microcredit movement, initiated by theNobel Peace Prize winning Muhammed Yunus, focuses its lending to women. InFebruary 2007, the Grameen Bank had 7 million borrowers in rural Bangladesh, 97percent of whom are women (Grameen Bank 2007). 2
  3. 3. The Grameen Bank and its off-shoot Grameen Phone are two of few examples ofbusiness models aimed at women in developing countries. Given the differences indemand for ICT services, we would expect to see this demand being catered for byICT manufacturers and service providers.From the perspective of national systems of innovation this would imply that thecapacity for technological development is not fully utilized and that there is a pent upinnovation potential in the innovation system. Moreover, it can be argued no countrycan afford to miss out on the quantitative as well as qualitative innovation potentialrepresented by women researchers.It is our contention that there exists an opportunity for ICT entrepreneurs to developproducts and services to cater for women demand for ICT products. This opportunitycould be translated into a competitive advantage for an innovating company or evenfor a country as a whole. Given the differing economic and cultural situation indeveloping and developed countries there appears to be plenty of scope andopportunities for innovators in developing countries. This paper explores howrepresentatives of the ICT industry in Vietnam are reacting to this challenge as well ashow how gender issues are reflected in the business orientation of firms in ICT sectorof Vietnam.The contextCompared to many other countries in the world, Vietnam has instituted many policiesto support gender agenda. These policies have been enacted in such laws as Marriageand Family Law (1959, 1986), Citizenship Law, Code of Labor, Ordinance onInheritance, Penal Code, and recently Gender Equality Law (2007), DomesticViolence Prevention Law (2008). Through laws, the Government has recognized andaffirmed men’s and women’s equal rights in both the society and the family.In 2006, Vietnam ranked 91st of 177 countries at an index of 0.732 and was at theposition of a country with average gender-related development (UNDP, 2007 – 2008).Nowadays, gender equality is implemented in every area from family life to the 3
  4. 4. society at large. This has changed the economic basis, patriarchal conceptions onmoral issues, customs and traditions and has especially changed women’s outlook andstatus.Specialized agencies which take care of women’s interests, such as Department ofGender Equality, National Committee For the Advancement of Women, Women’sUnion, governmental and non-governmental organizations on research and actionshave been very active in protecting and implementing women’s rights. Especially, theratified Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW) has been put into implementation every year with clear and specificstrategies.Women have been more and more active in accessing the advances in sciences andtechnology, and in participating actively in protecting ecological and environmentalprotection. 1/3 of job trainees are women. According to statistics in 2004, womenmade up for 36.64% in natural sciences, 33% in scientific techniques, 38.27% insocial sciences and humanities, 41.80% in medicine and pharmacy, and 14.9% ofthem are scientific philosophy doctors (Scientific Record, 2004).During the years after Doi-moi since the mid 1980s, industry was the key productionbranch, and has become the face of Vietnam’s new economy. Since its beginning,industry has been considered an area mainly for men. However, nowadays, womenhave contributed more and more to industry not only with a high number of womenparticipation but also with high quality, which has helped to change prejudices in thisrespect. For instance, women account for 36.69% in industry and construction.According to several investigations by IFC, business women in Vietnam haveoccupied more and more important positions in the economic development process,and have created unique, flexible and effective business models. In 2006, Hanoi hadmore than 4000 female-headed businesses, mostly small and medium-sizedbusinesses. According to documents by Hanoi Club for Business women the club hasnow about 700 members. A majority of businesswomen taking part in the club’sactivities have a high education level. They are active in introducing new products,widening the markets and cooperating with other businesses in the country andabroad. For example, they are participating in a program for commercial promotion,building business brand names, training skills and knowledge, and job skills (NguyenMinh Hai, 2009). According to World Bank, in 2008, female labour force in Vietnam 4
  5. 5. accounted for 48.72% of total. Interestingly, the same 48% rate is applied to rate offemal student enrolnment in higher education organizations (World Bank, 2008).ICT and gender equality in VietnamThe ICT sector is mainly dominated by men, but there is some notable progress. In1996, only 10% of all university computer graduates were female. But in 1998, 21.6%of all students enrolled in IT faculties were female (VWU, 1999). ICT is the firstVietnamese tertiary education sector which has set up a scholarship program forexcellent female students and professors. In 1998, the first scholarships were awardedto 15 students and 5 university teachers (Vietnam News, 6/11/1998). Signs from theIT tertiary sector promise that women participation in IT sector will grow in coming syears. Due to the government computerisation program the number of IT ,professionals in the line ministries at the central and provincial levels tripled betweenthe period 1995-98, of which proportion of female IT staff increased from 12.6% to16% (McDonald 1999).Ideally, ICT which reduces importance of distance and location, would bring men andwomen to a more level playing field, open new opportunities for empowerment ofwomen and mainstreaming them in national economic and social development.However, there is limited evidence for this expectation so far. Gender gaps persistboth in getting employment opportunities offered by ICT industry and in opportunityto generate economic benefits using ICT; in ICT education and training opportunitiesand capability to master ICT facilities and network. The lower representation bywomen in current decision making structures result in their voice and interests oftenbeing ignored in ICT development policies and decision, and this, again, re-enforceswomen lack of opportunity to gain benefits from the new technology. sExisting gender pattern of labour division is hampering choices and capabilityformation of men and women in the ICT industry.In general, Vietnamese women face specific barriers in entering the ICT professionallabour force and their opportunity to get benefits from ICT applications are muchmore limited and fragile than that of men. 5
  6. 6. Overall in IT sector women work in lower skilled and lower paid positions than men.Many IT companies do not hire women as IT professionals. A survey of 30 topprivate IT companies in Vietnam conducted in 1998 found that 1/3 of them have onlymale professional staff. Among female IT professionals, 85% work as programmersand only 15% are software designers. Fewer women work as hardware specialists(about 1% of all hardware specialists) (McDonald 1999). Encouragingly, thesestatistics have improved significantly since then as the survey presented in thefollowing will show.The barrier for women carrier in the IT sector is reinforced by a gender prejudice swhich is quite strong in Vietnamese society that men are technically more competentthan women. Women are often hired for sale, marketing and administrative positionseven when they bear same degrees as men in software or hardware. sWomen have fewer opportunities in ICT due to lower attainment than mens at alllevels of education and training system.The educational gap between men and women in Vietnam is rapidly being reduced. Insome academic fields, such as social sciences and the humanities, women are in aclear majority of the enrolled students. However, the divide remains large in technicaltraining and between rural and urban areas, leading to different potential capabilitiesin ICT application.The share of women in the total number of people having certification of technical orprofessional skills of various levels has increased, however, remains lower than men s.Gender stereotypes in education programs re-enforce labour division by genderThe selection of specialisation in Vietnamese universities and technical schools isstrongly influenced by gender. Women are concentrated mostly in social disciplines,such as pedagogy and social science, and account for about 70 percent of all studentsin these fields. Men are concentrated mostly in technical and technologicaldisciplines, such as engineering and electric technicians, and account for over 70percent of all students in these fields. Existing specialisation of students by genderreduces women opportunities to work in ICT related sector in particular, and in snatural science and technology in general. Limited options of specialisation likewise 6
  7. 7. reduce the human development potential of men as they are equally capable in socialscience as women.Low representation of women in decision making throughout the ICT sectorIn general, women role in planning, policy making or management of ICT sector at sall levels is not clear compared with men Little attention has so far been paid on s.women empowerment in this sector. Moreover, a number of human resource sdevelopment and management policies tend to work towards limiting women srepresentation in decision making level. Women retirement age is set by 5 years searlier than men and this policy excludes many women from promotion sopportunities, especially when chief management position of an agency is considered.As a result, men often dominate decision making processes at all management levelsin the ICT sector and ICT related development areas.Women representation in leadership of all agencies is low compared with their scontribution in the labour force. Moreover, most female representatives often holdvice rather than chief management position, therefore their voice among decisionmakers is very weak.At the provincial and the program/project management level, men domination in sdecision making is even more serious. For example, in all 61 provincial Departmentfor Science, Technology and Environment (DOSTE) of the country, there are only 25female out of 195 directors and deputy directors (about 12%).The lack of female leadership often creates an organisational culture which is morefavourable to men.Lack of gender awareness and sensitivity in ICT developmentAlthough progress has been achieved in fostering gender equality and improvingwomen status, there remains insufficient gender awareness and sensitivity of sdecision makers, public service providers and professionals in the country in generaland those responsible for technology development in particular. This may causegender discrimination to be ignored or efforts for gender equality be difficult.As far as social attitudes regarding gender roles, gender equality and labour divisionin Vietnam remain to be biased by traditional values and gender stereotypes, women 7
  8. 8. face more challenges than men in sharing the opportunities and benefits brought aboutby ICT.A survey of ICT companies on gender perspectiveMethodologyAfter the above general discussion of the situation for women as producers and usersof ICT goods and services, we will present data from a survey on gender perspectivesin ICT companies in Vietnam. The aim of the survey was to provide a base for aquantitative analysis of the participation of women in the development of ICT.Moreover, the survey explored the opportunities for ICT entrepreneurs in Vietnam todevelop products and services in response to demand by women for ICT services andproducts and examined whether or not this opportunity could be translated into acompetitive advantage for an innovating company.For that purpose a questionnaire was developed, targeting as many ICT companies inVietnam as possible. Moreover, the questionnaire was designed to be compatible withsimilar studies in other countries, in particular the WOSISTER project examininggender-specific technological development in China, Poland and Sweden (Göransson2011). The questionnaire was tested in pilot interviews in December 2009. Based onthe results of these interviews, the questionnaires for the survey as well as for the casestudies were revised. The pilot interviews indicated that some questions related to sizeand turnover were considered very sensitive by the companies. Accordingly, thesequestions were reformulated and made voluntary to respond to. On the whole, thequestionnaire worked quite well; the respondents understood the questions andresponded to most of the questions. This indicated that the questions were relevant.The full-scale survey started during Spring 2010 with companies in Hanoi andcontinued with companies in the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) area.The method for the survey included considerable work on identifying the relevantcompanies to include in the survey. No complete list of ICT companies exists inVietnam. The work started with identifying relevant sources for the construction of a 8
  9. 9. complete list of ICT companies with a main product line in software, hardware or ICTservices. List of company names were retrieved from the Vietnamese Association forInformation Processing (VAIP), Vietnam Information Development Company(VIDC) and the Quang Trung Software City in HCMC. In addition, businessdirectories as well as previous studies allowed the researchers to construct a list ofpossible companies to be included in the survey. In total, over 500 companies were onthis first list. However, closer examination revealed a number of overlaps, companiesthat had gone out of business, that were un-contactable (no website or telephone),were branch offices or was wrongly classified as ICT companies.After weeding out non-relevant listings, 100 companies remained in the Hanoi areaand 107 in HCMC, all in all 207. All these companies were contacted by telephoneand asked to participate. Some refused to participate already at this stage and somecompanies agreed to be interviewed but never completed the questionnaire even afterseveral reminders. In total, 117 personal interviews were carried out successfully at hecompany sites, giving a response rate of over 56%. This must be considered quitegood for this kind of survey. The research team is also conducting an analysis of thenon-respondents to make sure there is no bias in the responses.The gender balance in the sample was fairly equal with 52% of the respondents malesand 48% women. In Hanoi, the majority of respondents were women (57%) whereasthey constituted a lower share in the HCMC sample (45%). 9
  10. 10. The position of the respondents were distributed as follows: directors 16%, generalstaff 75%, researchers 4%, ICT users, 9%.Survey resultsMost of enterprises were established 5-10 years ago (Hanoi: 40% ; HCMC: 64%).The number of enterprises that was established over 10 years ago is smaller – forHanoi 24% and for HCMC 27%. The number of enterprises that was established lessthan 5 years in Hanoi is higher than in HCMC - for Hanoi 35% and for HCMC 9%.This is perhaps surprising, given HCMC’s general reputation as being a moreentrepreneurial and dynamic region than Hanoi. Overall, 26 % of the companies wereolder than 10 years, 51% were 5-10 years old and the remaining 23% were establishedless than 5 years ago. 10
  11. 11. Note: Nam = YearIn terms of ownership, most of the ICT survey enterprises are private joint stockcompanies (84%) while the rate of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) (5%), joint-venture (6%) or transnational companies (3%) are lower. This obviously does notreflect the general industrial structure in Vietnam, but points to the fact that the ICTsector in Vietnam is market driven and attracting private capital to a higher degreethan the economy in general. 11
  12. 12. Note: Cong ty co phan tu nhan = private shareholding companiesDoanh nghiep Nha nuoc = State owned enterprisesCong ty lien doanh = Joint ventureCong ty xuyen quoc gia = MNCThe survey results on the size of the companies should be interpreted with somecaution. Because of tax reasons, most companies hesitate of divulge data on theirturnover. In the survey, we found that most companies in the ICT sector are SMEswith a turnover between USD 50 000 to USD 500 000 (1 billion to 10 billion dong).Companies with less than USD 50 000 turnover are few in the sample (1%), while the 12
  13. 13. larger companies with a turnover of over USD 500 000 constituted 10% of thesample.Note: The three kategories areLess than 1 bln. VND (equivalent to USD 50 000)1-10 bln. VND (USD 50 000 to 500 000)More than 10 bln. VND (USD 500 000In terms of products, the ICT enterprises are mostly working on software productionand outsourcing activities followed by communication, services and website design…Distribution of main products: 13
  14. 14. Hanoi HCMC OverallWebsite designer 23% 20% 21%Management software 27% 33% 30%Communication, services 18% 27% 22%Other 52% 71% 61%(Other: software; computer software; outsourcing; hardware provision, network;Value added products; software solutions).Note: The four categories areWebsitePhan mem quan ly = Management softwareTruyen thong va dich vu = communicaiton and servicesKhac = Others 14
  15. 15. Turning to women participation in ICT, the survey shows that the overall share ofwomen in ICT is 32% of the workforce. This figure is a bit higher in Hochiminh Citythan in Hanoi (37% vs. 31%). Moreover, it is interesting to note that if we look atwhat work they perform, they account for 40% of personnel working with differentaspects of developing technical solutions in R&D departments. This share is lower inmanagement where 26% of personnel are women. ! "Note:Tham gia ICT = overall participation in ICT activitiesQuan ly = of which management works 15
  16. 16. Trien khai = of which development worksICT enterprises in Vietnam predominantly focus on developing and improvingsoftware as well as services; 82% of the companies reported that they engage inimproving software while 78% of them worked with improving ICT-related services.Few companies endeavour to develop or improve any kind of hardware; only 11% ofthe companies engage in some kind of hardware development. Most of these areconnected to the telecommunications equipment industry. ! Developing hardware Developing services Improving hardware Developing software Improving services Improving software Product designIf we apply a gender perspective on these development activities, we find that theshare of women engaged in product research and development broadly defined is 21%of the personnel. We can also notice that the share of women engaged as managers ofthe development activities somewhat lower, 18%. Still, it means that almost one fifthof managers of developmental activities in the ICT sector in Vietnam are women. 16
  17. 17. Turning to the question of if, and in that case how, companies deal with gender intheir interaction with end-users, it is clear that most companies gather generalinformation on their customers and on their interests and preferences. 73% of thecompanies report that they actively conduct different types of customer interaction.These activities range from processing customer comments on products and servicesprovided to actively seeking the opinion of the users by holding events andworkshops, sending surveys through e-mail to old customers and potential customersand conducting in-house customers’ research.It is interesting to note, however, that most enterprises do not differentiate betweengenders in their interaction with users. The reason for this is that, in their perception,the products and services they are offering are gender neutral and equally demandedby the genders. Some enterprises, due to the specific characteristics of their services,acknowledge differing demand patterns and do indeed distinguish between theircustomer’s preferences although, the number of those enterprises is rather low. Thisis not particular to Vietnam; indeed a comparative study of ICT and agriculturalimplements in China, Poland and Sweden concludes that “(i)n the interaction betweenproduct developer and end-user, gender is generally not regarded as an importantissue. This is particularly true in the telecom sector where gender is generally notconsidered a factor and technology is regarded as generic or gender-neutral(Göransson 2010, p. 256). 17
  18. 18. Note: Co= YesKhong = NoIn the cases where companies did distinguish between gender in their interaction withusers, 25% of them reported clear differences in end-user preferences with respect togender, i.e. they got significantly different results from men and women. However,these differences do not appear to influencing the product development work or to betranslated into gender-specific products. On the contrary, 75% of the companiesreporting significant differences in end-user preferences did not attempt to developproducts aimed at a specific gender. 23% of the respondents reported the developedproducts specifically for men and only 3% engaged in any product developmentaimed at women. 18
  19. 19. # $ ! Product for women Product for men Product for both No result Products for women Product for men Product for both No result Products for women Product for men Product for both No resultOf the total number of companies surveyed, only 9 % stated that they had everengaged in gender-specific R&D. Most of these companies can be found in the Hanoiarea where 15% reported such activities and only 2% in HCMC. Of the companiesthat so far had not engaged in gender-specific product development, an additional 9 %of the companies responded that they had at one time or another considered suchactivities, but decided against it. The main stated reason for not venturing into thisarea for these companies was the perception that demand for specialized productsaimed at one gender is not sufficiently developed to warrant investing in suchactivities. Clearly, the general perception is that gender-specific projects are either awaste of time or having uncertain financial outcomes or both. 19
  20. 20. ! $ YesFor 18% of the companies engaging in gender-specific development of products orservices, this has been a one-time activity whereas 46% of the companies havepursued between two and five projects, and as many as 36% have worked on morethan 5 such projects. Moreover, the projects have been aimed at both women and menas end-users, but with slightly more projects geared towards women customers. 20
  21. 21. % $ &Box 1 : The Case of IFI Solution JSCIFI JSC was set up in 2003, having offices in Hà N i and àN ng. The company has 10 years of experiences in softwareoutsourcing services. Main products and services includeembedded and industrial software, development of managementsoftware, testing and certification of software underinternational standard and consultancy services for technicalsolutions and assistance. It is ranked 10th in production forEuropean market in Vietnam (rate of success is more than 100projects) and is the number one company in serving embededsoftware for French market. 88% of clients of IFI areinternational, coming from France, Itlay, Denmark, US, Korea.The remaining 12% are Vietnamese clients. The companyadopted the quality control system under ISO 9001:2000 in 2008and got certificate from TÜV NORD (Germany). For period2004-2010, the company grew from having 18 members up to 95staff, of which with university degrees: 77%; Masters: 20% and3% are Doctors. The company also trained in teams, andcontracts they conduct are in teams, independent from eachothers. IFI set up R&D unit in 2008, but business activities of IFImainly conducted under request of clients, or subcontrated byforeign customers. As such, products and services in particular,and general development trend in software production of thecompany totally depend on the buyers, the company cannot beindependent in selection of services and products to bedeveloped. As a result, the company has no products with genderspecific features or orientation. The company did not considerany gender issues in its activities. Software products of thecompany are serving both male and female customers. 21
  22. 22. When we look at the rate of success for gender-specific development projects – wheresuccess was defined as the project having resulted in a marketable product – we cannote that surprisingly many of the projects have been successful. Around 60% ofgender-specific projects aimed at women and 69% of project aimed at men wereclassified as successful by the respondents. This indicates that the few companies thatindeed venture into gender-specific product development, may have a potentiallylarge market niche to exploit. 22
  23. 23. Box 2: The Case of VietsoftwareVietSoftware, Inc. was established in March 2000 as a software companywith business in international outsourcing for foreign companies as well assoftware development for Vietnam market. Since 2004, the company hasbeen re-structured as a group of companies in information technology with250 employees, operating in most dynamic fields of informationtechnology, with location in Hanoi and HoChiMinh City. After that, thecompany is referred to as VSI Corporation with the following membercompanies: Vietsoftware; Viesoftware International, Alliant, MobizCom,Viettech and Cyber Vietnam: VietSoftware in software development andservice, VietSoftware international in software outsourcing and BPO,Alliant in software and IT training, Viettech in CAD/CAM/CAE,CyberVietnam in Internet business and e-commerce, and MobizCom inonline payment technology. The company has its unique features such aslong term Vision: to become the leading information technology companyin Vietnam with business expanding beyond borders of the country. TheMission of company is to serve enterprises and consumer markets with bestquality, innovative software and IT products and services in the mostdynamic technology fields for maximum returns of value for customers,employees and shareholders. With the aim to inspire Vietsoftwareemployees to meet corporate goals, the company set up many culture andcorporate values in various format to distribute to staff. The company seesitself as the company with culture to help each other, strong teamwork andcooperation. To make it easier to understand, CEO and other managersfor human resources have talked, explained and advocated directly to staffabout this culture. The company organized various company common days(such as football sport, dancing, hobbies like flower arrangement,camping, etc.) for all staff to make sure culture is embedded in their mindand spirits. Again, managers responsible for human resources take care ofthese common company activities with many slogans, stories andcompetition among staff. In this context, the issue of gender specificorientation is well thought by key managers, many of them are women. Afemale human resource manager agrees that gender should be high on theagenda for the company planning and business performance. There wereeven some attempts to make it more explicit to incorporate genderconsideration into business planning and implementation. However, thisdeliberation tends to be on the human resources side, rather than onproduct development. Even the focus on gender aspect of company sticksto the equality in using and training female working staff rather thanproducing and offering products and services that incorporate theperspective of potential female users. 23
  24. 24. Concluding remarksThe survey of the Vietnamese ICT industry shows that the level of womenparticipation in the ICT field in Vietnam is still low, but also that it is growing.Particularly in the Hanoi area, the number of women in corporate R&D andmanagement is substantial with women accounting for 37% of the work force in theindustry. Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of women in R&D is higher than atmanagement level; with women constituting 40% of the product developmentpersonnel, Vietnam would appear to have higher than average participation in theproduct development process in the ICT sector compared to most other countries. Thetotal size of the companies surveyed in terms of number of employees was almostthirty thousand, with a small number of large enterprises dominating the sector andwith a mean size of around 25 employees per company.The ownership structure of the ICT companies is dominated by private joint stockcompanies. Apart from the few large scale companies, they are tend to be small sizedenterprises with a turnover of USD50,000 – USD 500,000 per annum. The mainproducts are development of software and services, and improvement of existingsoftware. The production and development base for hardware is still quite weak.Most of the companies are incorporating a user perspective in general in their workbut the number of companies concerned with development of gender-specificproducts is low. The information derived from different kinds of user-interactionindicating differing gender preferences, apparently has not translated into gender-specific product development activities other than in exceptional cases. Consequently,the share of companies developing products for a particular gender is as low as 9%.The reasons given by companies for not engaging in development projects aimed at aspecific gender differ but are all concerned with doubt on either the risk of theprojects or doubts if a market for such product exists. The perception is that it isdifficult to determine a clear aim, goal or benefit from such projects since the demandfor the products and services for a particular gender is uncertain. Gender has never 24
  25. 25. been considered to be a major factor in demand for ICT products and companies areslow to move into new fields. Moreover, many companies function as subcontractorsand produce what they are contracted for without being concerned with gender-specific demand. Finally, technology is traditionally regarded as gender-neutral in thesense that preferences for it do not differ between genders.However, some enterprises have welcomed specific project for particular genderbecause, as one responded stated, “as society grows, demand is expanding anddiversifying day by day and daily-life activities are more and more individual. Allpersons want to be able to express their own special personalities”. The success rate ofsuch gender-specific projects appears to be quite high, indicating that these companiesare early adopters of a business model based on tapping the potential of women asproduct developer and as users of technology. Some of the companies that already areactively pursuing such projects do not have a detailed business plan, although theyhave the human resources and instruments needed for further exploring this field.Overall, Vietnam is seen as a quite pro gender development and equality. The issue ofincreasing female participation in job positions, in S&T activities as well as businessis well on the agenda for many policy makers. In fact, there are many existingdocuments and legal frameworks in place aiming at promoting this cause. However,in reality, things depend on many other factors.Participation of female workers, managers in business activities of firms sometimescan exert influences on the orientation of firms’ activities.Market factor is one of the most important in deciding the firms’ decision ondevelopment of gender specific products and services. However, there is nosystematic market survey aiming at this niche area. Hence, it is difficult to know ifthere are any market opportunities for this or not.In addition, dependence on the customers and markets can make firms less ready totake on any initiative for gender specific activities, either design or production ofgender specific products and services. However, there are early signs that companiesare beginning to look into this issue and tapping into gender specific activities. as 25
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