Together with UN Women, UN Global Pulse Jakarta took a close look at the many Indonesian women who start and run micro businesses to support their families, while also juggling their duties at home. We needed to understand the women themselves and why they are not taking greater advantage of digital tools that could improve their businesses and make their lives easier.

We went back to our earlier joint policy research with UN Women that had already highlighted the need to enhance women’s access to technology. We applied behavioural science to data that showed female owners of micro businesses were much less likely than male owners to use digital platforms, even when they were useful to offset the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the women did not use the Internet at all. We found invisible barriers –  sometimes called sticky floors – that keep women trapped at the bottom of the job scale or, in this case, hold them back from growing their businesses.

Our impact

Guided by behavioural economics, we identified the women’s attitudes to technology along a spectrum from Tech Anxious through Tech Novice and Tech Apprentice to Tech Practitioner, looking particularly at their needs, desires, experiences and problems they’d had with technology. We proposed different approaches for each group that could help the women overcome fear and hesitation and begin using digital tools such as instant messaging, social media and online marketplaces to grow their businesses. 

The findings contributed to the 2021 UN Behavioural Science Report and can be used by service providers and other technology companies to place real people at the heart of their work, design better products that generate value, and change behaviours.

Our lessons

  • Human-centred design principles and behavioural economics improve research and intervention design. 
  • Identifying behavioural archetypes made it feasible to use behavioural economics principles to craft effective interventions to overcome specific barriers. 
  • More broadly, the research pointed to the need for gender-sensitive policies in Indonesia’s entrepreneurial sector.