Market Assessment

Information and Communication Technologies for Women Entrepreneurs: Prospects and Potential in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan

    Women’s entrepreneurship development (WED) is an important strategy for increasing gross domestic product, creating jobs, and narrowing the gender gap in a country. However, statistical data show that women entrepreneurs in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan are not reaching their full potential. The majority of women entrepreneurs in these countries own micro or small businesses in low-income, low-growth sectors. Even in Kazakhstan, which has the highest gender equality rating of the four countries, women still lag behind men in management positions in business, representation in legislative and executive bodies, labor force participation, and access to jobs.

    Information and communication technologies (ICTs), in particular mobile phones, the internet, and computers, play an important role in accelerating business growth. ICTs are particularly suitable to help overcome constraints that are unique to women entrepreneurs, or that affect them to a greater extent than men, including limited access to skills training; limited time (double time burden of family duties and business); mobility restrictions; limited access to information, markets, and finance; and attitudinal and cultural barriers such as perceptions of the role of women and entrepreneurship. The governments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan appear to recognize the importance of ICTs for business and some are making significant investments in projects that improve ICT infrastructure.

    This study uses the assessment framework and guide of the International Labour Organization (ILO)/United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ICTs for Women’s Entrepreneurship Development (ICT4WED) to assess the extent to which the countries’ environments are conducive to leveraging ICTs for WED, identify gaps in the environment, highlight the unmet needs of women entrepreneurs, and make evidence-based recommendations to address these gaps. The assessment followed the six conditions of the ILO/UNCTAD ICT4WED framework and guide.