Gendering of assistive technology / welfare technology in Norway

“About the Technology that was not Allowed to be a Technology – Discourses on Welfare Technology“
Article by myself and Kari Dyb, available online here:
It’s in Norwegian though, and the title as well: “Om teknologien som ikke fikk være teknologi – diskurser om velferdsteknologi”.

Abstract: Inspired by Foucault, we explore meaning created by the health authorities’ policy documents on welfare technology. We explore the meaning construction of a «technology-reducing» claim stating that «welfare technology is not about technology, but about human beings». The scientific essay illustrates how this and similar claims have gained widespread acceptance and discusses some of the effects this type of policy statements has for the users of welfare technology.

In the article, we are touching on the (difference in) gendering of health care and technology. Our starting point is critique against a slogan often repeated in Norway: “Welfare technology [assistive tech] is not about technology, but about people”.

We don’t deny the complexity of assistive technology, however, we criticise the way technology is almost removed as relevant in this discourse. One effect of this is that health care personnel (most often women [75% in Norway], but certainly most often people without technical education) and health care leaders in municipalities (in our rural region, this is also often health care personnel) find themselves responsible for dealing with technology. *Corneliussen, Strandos & Hove 2016 found that home-based health care can indeed become more efficient with technology, but also that a) health care leaders complained that they suddenly had to act as if they were the ICT department (and this can be critical for small rural municipalities that might not have their own ICT dept, but share one with several other municipalities, thus there can be restrictions on what they can actually ask the ICT dept to help with) and b) nurses and others providing health care in the home suggested that if the technology doesn’t work, it was easy to just do things like they used to do before new technology was introduced, and c) even the simplest of technological appliances can be experienced as complicated for someone not used to dealing with technology.

Coming back to the argument: the claim that assistive tech has nothing to do with technology does recognize the complexity of people, services, routines etc., which is very good. However, it also has the effect of covering up the actual need for ICT competence / ICT support when introducing assistive technology. Thus, we argue, the policy documents in Norway, by not taking into account gender and by pushing the slogan that it’s not about technology, contributes to cover up the complexities in which health care, technology, competence, work cultures, gender and more, all are aspects that need to be taken into account.

*Corneliussen, H.G., Strandos, M., & Hove, M.H. (2016). Evaluering av pilotar i prosjektet velferdsteknologi i kommunane i Sogn og Fjordane: eit prosjekt for å etablere lokal erfaring med velferdsteknologi. VF-rapport 8–2016.

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