JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 19 August 2005
ICTs, or information and communication technologies, offer immense possibilities to reduce poverty, improve governance and advance gender equality in Africa. But this will happen only if these technologies are made more accessible and consciously applied to achieve these objects. This is the conclusion of a paper on the role of ICTs in the development of African women.
Written by Jennifer Radloff (of APC-Africa-Women), Natasha Primo (Women’sNet) and Alice Munyua (APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor Project), the 50-page paper commissioned by APC in August 2004 highlights key issues and challenges faced by women in Africa and to a smaller extent, globally.
It touches on a whole range of issues in doing so.
From literacy and education (rather, the lack of it), to language and content, indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights, and socio-cultural and institutional barriers … there are among the identified obstacles to women’s access to ICTs.
There are other barriers too — access, control and effective use; pornography, trafficking, violence against women and censorship; cost, time and mobility; gender segregation in employment; ICT policy and governance
and even the absence of women from decision-making structures.
This paper emphasises current issues. It also lists examples of good practice and includes recommendations to Civil Society Organisations on how to create an enabling environment for women to access and use ICTs for development.
One message underlined is the potential ICTs have to boost the economic, political and social empowerment of women, and to promote gender equality.
Useful appendices point to examples that count. This paper’s appendices look at community-based access points, schoolnets, and telecentres. There are recommendations for civil society organisations, and a separate appendix explaining ‘what are ICTs’.
For those intending to go deeper, there’s also a link to recommended resources and "stories for the field" — including a Uganda-based CD-rom project on giving ideas to rural women in Africa on how to earn money.
From Sierra Leone comes the ‘story’ of development through radio. The Flamme/Flame initiative teaches the lesson of regional outreach and networking. APC’s Hafkin and Betinho prizes encourage innovators usage of
Then, the Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) offers a way of evaluating the impact of ICTs on women’s lives. Women’s Electronic Network Training (WENT Africa 2003) and the Women’sNet and WOUGNET women’s networking initiatives are also pointed to.
There are also examples of hope. By way of ‘examples of African processes’ come UNIFEM’s Digital Diaspora Initiative, the NEPAD or New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the work of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), specifically its Africa Information Society Initiative (AISI).