Ditching techno-patriarchy and the ‘permacrisis’

What’s missing on digitalisation in the Commission on the Status of Women's CSW67 Zero Draft

As we find ourselves in what has been called a permacrisis of climate, food systems, and biodiversity, women are being severly impacted. This report takes a critical look at these crises through the lens of technology development and explores its gender based impacts. Often women are facing the impacts of the initial crises, but then are further impacted by the “technofixes” that are touted as solutions.

“Techno-fix” refers to the development of a profitable proprietary technological product or intervention, supposedly to address a social or environmental problem, that does nothing to resolve the underlying drivers of that problem – which in itself may have been created by an earlier technological failure.

The ongoing (but little known) digitalisation of all food and agriculture sectors, from breeding through to retail, is also expected to have extensive gender-based impacts, such as exacerbating land and resource grabbing, displacement of livelihoods and labour, marginalisation of traditional food processing and retailers, and violation of the human rights of farm workers across the world.

Digitalisation is not a panacea to development challenges nor is it a default route to societal transformation. The intensifying promotion of digital technologies as "technofix" solutions to current global crises around climate change (e.g. in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and biodiversity loss (e.g. in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity) are extremely dangerous false solutions, that distract from and delay real solutions and foster further corporate control, all of which will have further direct and indirect impacts on women and others across the world.

Big Tech Patriarchs driving digitalisation and the “techno-fix” agenda
Tech billionaires not only control critical digital infrastructure, but these companies are largely unregulated in most of the world and are often registered in tax havens. Increasingly tech billionaires are using their wealth to influence crucial policy making venues that impact women like the Convention on Biodiversity.

The environmental nightmare behind the “cloud”
The material reality of cloud computing is that it is resource and water intensive. Data centres are not without environmental costs - especially those related to the extraction of minerals and rare earths found in the territories of local and Indigenous communities - deeply impacting women around the world.

Big Brother and the Food Barons
Digitalisation of the industrial food chain erodes the rights of women, who are already barely recognised as farmers or barely hold land rights, despite being crucial food producers. As the industrial food chain moves increasingly into digital marketplaces the inequality produced by this food system is intensified.

Aiming to block sunshine and “farm” carbon
As the climate crisis deepens risky solutions are being proposed and funded by tech billionaires. Carbon markets create dangerous incentives for geoengineering schemes such as solar geoengineering and carbon farming solutions that risk disrupting earth’s systems.

Towards democratic technology development
Technofixes are not the only options for the multiple crises we face. Democratic technology development - guided by prioritising the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, participatory technology assessment and the global regulation of big tech, could contribute to finding real solutions.

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