There is a division between men and women, not only in terms of pure economics, but also in the realm of technology. Women’s lack of technological access is caused by many factors, and it will ultimately hurt them.
Though there is currently a wide range of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) available, there is still a division of who is allowed access to it. Women are deprived not only economically, but also in terms of information.
During an address at the Africa Launch of the Digital Diaspora Initiative and Global Advisory Committee Meeting, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda (2003) stated that the “gender divide within the digital divide” reinforces economic and social divides due to lack of access to development information made available by ICT. This has resulted in a divide in which women are poorer than men, not just in terms of wealth but in terms of ideas and information. Even developed countries have a gender-based divide.
What are ICTs?
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) refer to a broad range of technologies, including methods of communication, transmission techniques, communication equipment, media as well as techniques for storing and processing information (computing, data, storage, e.t.c.). They include technologies that provide an enabling environment for physical infrastructure and services development for generation, transmission and processing, storing and disseminating information in all forms, including voice, text, data, graphics and video. ICTs consist of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ technologies including radio, television, video, mobile and fixed telephones, letters, posters, brochures and computers, among others.
The power, speed and global reach of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) provide unprecedented opportunities for sharing information and knowledge.
How are women deprived?
H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni notes that “when we talk about the gender digital divide we are recognizing a fundamental obstacle to development in our countries. Without access to information and knowledge, women, who are the majority of our population are at risk of permanent economic backwardness, which in turn makes our countries poor.”
Women’s ability to contribute fully towards shaping the development of the global knowledge, economy and society is usually constrained by many inequalities.
In virtually all developing countries, communications infrastructure is significantly weaker in rural areas and poor urban areas, where the majority of women tend to live. In Africa, Internet connectivity is frequently available only within the major cities, while the majority of women live outside these cities.
Education and skills
Women in poor countries are less likely to have the education and technological skills to use ICTs effectively. Two thirds of the world’s 900 million illiterates are women.
Women are less likely than men to know the international languages that are used on the Internet. Moreover, given their limited education, women are much less likely than men to have computer skills.
Women tend to have less access than men to those ICT facilities that do exist. Information centres or cyber cafes are often located in places where women may not be comfortable frequenting or where it is culturally inappropriate for them to visit. Women’s lack of access to transport and inability to leave the home also hamper their access to information.
Almost all communication facilities, such as cyber cafes or information centers, cost money.
Women are also less likely than men to own radios and television sets. In households where TV and radios are found, women usually don’t have as much access to them as the men.
The available Internet content often does not meet the information needs of women, especially in developing countries. It also is rarely in a form that these women can use.
If ICTs are to be useful to all women, then they must be relevant, or they will remain of little value and interest to women living in developing countries.
Intern with Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy, Women of Uganda Network