Women in ICT: Myth and reality in developing regions
NOWADAYS IT is well-known that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can give new opportunities for development to everybody. Yet lack of access to in developing countries creates difficulties to people for individual and social advancement as well. Women in developing regions occupy the highest level of the digital gender divide because of huge responsibilities for their families and kids at home that causes challenges for them in education, employment, participation in governance and business.
Women have always had an important role in educating our young children and developing our societies. It is obvious that empowering them with new tools and values will surely help them contribute to the competitiveness of our economies and to building new generation which can fully understand the new challenges of the technological world of the developing regions. Needless to say that today there are many barriers to womens access to ICT especially in developing regions because ICT is considered by the majority of people as a primarily male industry. Women are underrepresented among ICT users and very rarely work as developers. In some countries cultural norms and even concerns over personal safety may make it difficult for women to attend training courses.
Over the last 20 years many intervention programmes have been implemented to increase the number of women in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) profession. In 1995, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) recognized the growing influence of ICT in development and the importance of womens participation in discussions regarding its integration globally. To that end, they established a Gender Working Group to address the significant gender issues from access to control.
The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and UN ICT Task Force Secretariat released a report in 2002 that focused on ICTs as tool to advance and empower women. When the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was established, a Gender Caucus was created to ensure women had a seat at the table and a voice in the room. The research showed that in developing countries women enjoy fewer benefits from ICTs than men, it is also found that gender-based obligations, societal biases, and even physical strength can restrict womens ability to learn about or use of new technologies. i.e;
• Women are responsible for running households, they are less mobile and have less free time than men, and therefore cannot easily take advantage of training and other resources;
• Male students discourage female students from accessing computers in labs by pushing them out of line;
• ICT use can shift family dynamics and the balance of power, causing conflict in the home which can lead to arguments, violence, divorce, and even death;
• Women often feel uncomfortable or annoying when visiting internet cafes on their own.
Women in developed countries are using ICT to expand their mission, drive their passion to improve the world form the grass roots. There is a growing reality that womens engagement in ICTs is important for multiple forms of development, including social and political justice as well as economical development. However presently, the ICT sector does not take full advantage of female talent in developing countries. This is bad for the sector and bad for those women who could create new opportunities for themselves and their families with the ICT jobs that deliver better salaries and career paths than most other sectors. Despite the obvious benefits, many women never consider a career in ICTs particularly in developing countries because there is a lack of awareness among students, teachers and parents on what a career in ICT could offer.
Women in ICT: Myth and reality…