Gender ICT divide worsens in Senegal
COMPUTING| Dec. 6, 2012, 4:44 p.m.
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Dakar, Senegal
The female illiteracy rate in Senegal stands at 61.3%, the World Bank says, while the World Economic Forum ranked this West African country 90th in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Index. Women overall have one chance in three less than men of benefiting from the African information society in Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali and Mauritania, according to the Gender Digital Divide in Francophone Africa: A Harsh Reality, a report jointly published by ENDA, OSIRIS and ARTP.
The six countries, described by ITU as being ‘on the worst side’ of the world digital divide, had very little data available on gender-ICT policy convergence, and their gender did not interconnect with ICT policies, the report said.
It is difficult to ascertain whether some progress has been made since the report was published in 2005. However, the lack of solid data monitoring the gender digital divide makes the issue even more complex to understand.
In Senegal, where the 2010 gender parity law that put 64 women in the newly-elected 150-member Parliament has been criticised by hardliners as ‘unfair’ and violating traditional and religious principles, the picture is somewhat bleaker, as one woman found out.
“I don’t know how bad it is in other African countries, but the gap in Senegal is widening year after year,” former telecommunications employee and feminist Fatou Diop told Biztechafrica, as she was busy teaching computer skills to three women in the back of her house in central Dakar.
“You don’t need any statistics to assess the impact of gender digital inequality in Senegal, all you need is to look around to see for yourself.
“We have made some inroads in ICT in the past five years or so, but there’s still no place for women, especially the poor and rural ones.”
The report noted that gender disparities are the most serious among poor and illiterate women.
The three women in their mid-thirties – rural-like, semi-literate, veiled and enthusiastic – seemed to enjoy their first experience in front of the two old, battered computer desktops fitted with Microsoft Office 2003.
“They can only write and speak a little bit of French, but they are getting there. Their fundamental aim is to land on Facebook and Skype, open email accounts and type a document, and I’m doing the best I can,” Diop said.
Diop blamed politicians and policymakers for failing to come up with ICT policies that enable equal access to both men and women in terms of content, connectivity, control and capacities.
The report deplored the systematic way in which gender aspects are being overlooked during the process of drafting and implementing ICT policies, saying that it is of concern to analysts of the information society’s development.
In the Bridge Gender and ICTs Overview Report, Anita Gurumurthy lists the following obstacles hampering women’s access to ICT:
- Unfamiliarity with the dominant languages of the Internet
- Lack of training in computer skills
- Domestic responsibilities
- Information delivered by ICTs not being valuable to them
- Infrastructure: mostly concentrated in urban areas whereas more women live in rural areas
- Public ICT facilities, which have a great tendency to become men-only spaces, are effectively inhibiting women’s access
A courtesy visit to an internet café in the vicinity of Diop’s house led to the discovery of grown-up men and schoolboys busy surfing the Internet, while a group of six schoolgirls surrounded one computer, checking videos on YouTube.
“Why would my wives worry about IT skills and for what good reason would they want to join Facebook or whatever you call it,” one polygamist man charged.
“They must stay at home to take care of the kids and cook for us, and study the Qur’an. This is Senegal! Women can’t just do things as they please.”
“Yes, my friends and I are all computer literate and we want to study IT at university to become computer wizards,” schoolgirl Jaineba Sarr said, laughing.
However, the Gender Digital Divide in Francophone Africa warned that while these ‘women of tomorrow’ with a secondary school education seem exempt from these gender disparities, they are still only being prepared for a secondary role as consumers and ‘helping hands’ in the information society.
MORE COMPUTING NEWS
Make way for VAS: The era of VM-aware storageAlong with DAS, SAN and NAS, storage now has another term, VM-aware storage (VAS). Read More
Trisat showcases online platform for schools managementSoftware development company Trisat Communications Limited has launched an online platform, nortify.com.ng, to provide digital tools to simplify school management. Read More
Transforming and maximising existing fibre networksMaximising existing optical fibre infrastructure is a challenge that needs tackling by network operators - both large and small. Read More
Technology leaders join forces to bring an open acceleration framework to data centresMellanox, ARM, Huawei, IBM, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, and Xilinx, Inc. have joined forces to bring a high-performance open acceleration framework to data centres. Read More
Why going paperless can make you more money – and save some tooThe environment and saving costs when moving a business to a paperless office are the two most popular benefits, but there are many more benefits to doing so. Read More
Airtel chief: Disruptive technologies vital to Nigeria’s GDP growthLeading telecommunications services provider, Airtel Nigeria, has said disruptive technologies can contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if ICT start-ups are encouraged to create innovations that deliver value. Read More
Youths gain fom ICT Dynamix supportBotswana based citizen owned company ICT Dynamix is upskilling and employing youths in the ICT industry. Read More
Acer to invest in BotswanaAcer, the global hardware, software and services company, announced its investment and growth strategy for the Botswana market. Read More
Rack Centre appoints Udoaka Business Development DirectorRack Centre has announced the appointment of Mr Frederick Udoaka as its new Business Development Director. Read More
Mellanox introduces new BlueField family of system-on-chip programmable processorsMellanox Technologies, a leading supplier of high performance cloud and storage networking solutions, has announced the local availability of the BlueField family of programmable processors for networking and storage applications. Read More
FEATURED STORYFirst-ever Africa Barclays Accelerator programme concludes
Ten fintech companies have concluded the first-ever Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars in Africa.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHEthical Hacking students can’t get a heck of a job
Botswana ethical hacking students report that they are failing to break into the local job market.
COMPANY NEWSSage Announces the Launch of Sage 50 Accounting in East and West Africa
Sage 50 Accounting Africa edition is a full business management solution for Small and Medium Businesses.