How Technology Can Empower African Women #BeBoldForChange

How Technology Can Empower African Women #BeBoldForChange
5 min read

According to Intel’s report women and the web, “on average across the developing world, nearly 25% fewer women than men have access to the internet and the gender gap soars to nearly 45% in regions like sub Saharan Africa.”

Technology and access to the internet are essential to women’s empowerment. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are integral tools for advancing gender equality, women and girl empowerment and a developed world. Without access to ICT, women are at a greater risk of being left behind as agents of positive change and leaders in a rapidly evolving global world.

Challenges surrounding access to technology and the digital gender gap persist in Africa due to the following factors:

  • Affordability: Women are less likely to own technology assets such as computers, mobile phones, etc. Most women have less income than men. There is low purchasing power to get equipment needed to perform tasks in easier ways. High broadband prices scare them away from using the internet effectively.    

 

  • Inadequate Digital skills: According to the Web Foundation’s 2015 global report on women’s rights online, women are almost twice more likely than men to report lack of skills as one of the main barriers to internet use. Women also reportedly have limited opportunities to improve their digital literacy through skills like coding which could help women and girls improve their livelihoods and empower themselves to become innovators.

 

  • Psychological Barriers: Most women and girls have less self confidence in their ability to use technology or they believe that they should not use them at all. They become ‘Technophobic’. Gender stereotypes may make the female gender think that technology is reserved for men only.

 

  • Time Availability: The girl child has enormous tasks to be done daily. There is little or no spare time for her to be involved in extracurricular activities such as learning ICT skills.

 

  • Unfamiliarity:  African women are known to be industrious, and most small medium enterprises (SMEs) are run by women. Small scale businesses have been able to harness the opportunities provided by ICT and leverage use of the internet in their businesses. Some women don’t realize that becoming technologically skilled can play a major role in getting jobs, being competitive in the job market, contribute positively to the society and enabled them to pull themselves and family out of poverty.

Bridging the digital gender gap is a critical step towards the vision of a thriving Africa. The need to tackle the digital gender gap is essentially urgent because technology is such a powerful tool to empower women to address other persistent inequalities. By focusing on incorporating ICT into our lives, we will take a giant step towards development.

HOW TECHNOLOGY EMPOWERS WOMEN

  • ICT can be used as a tool for women to learn and gain knowledge through access to information. Studies report that digital ICT can provide women and girls with the basic inputs for enhanced decision making power such as new information, learning opportunities and technical/ practical skills. Women and girls’ ability to make better informed decisions has been found to increase their control over their education, finances, businesses, safety and health.

 

  • The process of learning to use technology can increase self confidence. It gives them a sense of independence and freedom  to pursue activities of their own including those outside their “traditional gender roles”. 

 

  • Technology may also increase women’s ability to control how they use their time. It enables them to fulfill their social obligations and get tasks done quickly; tasks that would probably be done manually. Examples include the use of washing machines, blenders, etc.

 

  • ICT provides a new channel of communication and engagement that can make networking easier, increase social capital and facilitate the creation and growth of women’s movement. Women who would not ordinarily participate in traditional media can create blogs and use social media to share their views publicly. Gaining access to ICT provides women with alternative channels for self expression and engagement. 

 

  • ICT, used as an advocacy tool, can empower African women to demand true reform that will bridge the gap between their legal rights and their enforcement. It gives women the opportunity to communicate their needs in their own way. 

 

The benefits of using technology are enormous. The African woman must be supported in becoming technologically competitive. They must gain proper understanding of how to use technology safely and effectively. Technology helps women in becoming bold to make positive change. This can result in giants steps to reduce inequality and be at pace with the sustainable development goals.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s put women at the heart of technology. #BeBoldForChange

Precious Ozemoya is an educator, writer, gender and youth activist and advocate for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She is passionate about gender equality for African women. She helps reduce inequality through research, writing, advocacy and dialogue.