ICT and its related infrastructure is increasingly shaping our world, as well as our interactions and societal structures. Access to ICT forms an important component of women’s economic empowerment in Africa as it has the potential to expand women’s economic opportunities, promote their political participation, improve social welfare, enhance safety and provide access to new sources of information and knowledge. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), however, notes that while Africa has recently experienced rapid growth in internet access, it currently has the largest internet user gender gap. It is therefore essential that there should be a focus on the gender dimensions of information and communications technologies to prevent and mitigate any adverse impact of the digital revolution on gender equality.
The NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women Empowerment facilitated ICT development in Africa by funding projects which enabled over 32,000 African women to partake in ICT related activities and training. These projects not only provided ICT training, but also invested in ICT products such as computers and the development of mobile banking technology for micro finance delivery. The establishment of an online web portals considerably aided national trade promotion and facilitated access to new markets for women exporters. The development of electronic databases, improved the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of statistical information on domestic violence against women. Women were motivated to engage with social media and were assisted to effectively use these technologies for business development. Furthermore, ICT has become a tool to strengthen national and international networks of African businesswomen.
Key lessons learned from projects:
- Account for the differences in educational attainment when conducting training in ICT
- Recruit suitably skilled staff to ensure the successful implementation of ICT initiatives
- Cognisance of existing ICT infrastructure ensures better alignment to project goals and outcomes
Account for the differences in educational attainment when conducting training in ICT
An important component of the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) project in Uganda was to provide ICT training to capacitate female entrepreneurs to use ICT to effectively manage their business operations and enhance their income generating potential. The project team, however, observed that differences in the women’s education levels impacted the progress of the training. Women who were semi-literate were eager to learn about ICTs and technology while those who had low or no education feared learning about these aspects. They therefore recommend that future projects managers should be aware of these problems and that training interventions should be more flexible and individualised to cater for variation in educational levels to ensure meaningful and equitable learning. For example, the WOUGNET team found it helpful to split the groups and focus on different skill sets for different groups.
Recruit suitably skilled staff to ensure the successful implementation of ICT initiatives
The need to recruit suitably skilled staff to ensure the successful implementation of ICT initiatives surfaced as an important lesson learned by the Teen Challenge project in Cape Town in South Africa. They found that it is vital to recruit capable professional staff across all training sectors as this is a significant factor for the successful implementation of programs. It was also noted that volunteers could be a great asset if explored properly and managed appropriately.
Knowledge of existing ICT infrastructure ensures better alignment to project goals and outcomes
An important factor to ensure the success of any ICT project is to be fully cognisant of the ICT infrastructure that already exists in the country and the specific region of implementation. Such knowledge will determine whether project goals and outcomes can be attained. This was particularly relevant in the project by the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA) where they implemented a user-friendly micro finance delivery technological system. The WOUGNET (Women of Uganda Network) project team found that it was useful to explore what technology was locally available to the women participants prior to teaching the them about ICTs.