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Women in ICT - Moving up the Value Chain

Are there opportunities for women in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry? Or is the ICT profession a male affair? ICTs are indispensable tools used by all to deal with the limitations of time, cost and distance. In addition, many are using ICTs to solve problems and create new opportunities.

Take a look at how mobile telephony and the Internet have revolutionized in the way we work, learn, interact and relax. Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications are changing our way of life. ICTs are here to stay because we live in the age where quality access to information and knowledge is key to survival and performance. Individuals, organizations and governments all need and use ICT to be faster, more cost effective and efficient. ICT is the infrastructure of the knowledge economy.

Gender Equality 

However there are various challenges associated with ICTs. Inconsistencies in the exploitation and deployment of ICTs are a major concern. For example, what has been the impact of women in ICT? In many societies, women are still unable to realize their potentials. Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to "Promote gender equality and empower women" - the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. What is the role of ICT in the economic and social development of women? This issue touches all facets of society. Obviously, there is a direct relationship between the empowerment of women and reduction of poverty. Because of its unique benefits, ICT has been recognized as a tool for empowering men and women. But is this notion grounded in reality? Is ICT hurting or helping women?

How empowered are women to make their contributions in society? Women play a vital role in society so can we really create wealth and provide opportunities through ICT if women are digitally excluded? Can women really be empowered without quality access to information? Already these information and knowledge gaps exist in society and the majority of women - rural and urban - don't appear to be on the right side of the divide.

Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), 2003, had this to say, "There is a gender divide, with women and girls enjoying less access to information technology than men and boys." 

Let's face it ICT is nothing without access. We cannot underestimate the importance of access. To get the benefits of ICT, you must have access. Availability or physical access isn't enough. Access means usage - ability to utilize it, ability to work, learn, interact and create with the information and resources provided. Fewer women are accessing and using computers and the Internet compared to men. The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, September 2005 publication, "Women 2000 and beyond", confirms that "Women are in the minority of users in almost all developed and developing countries".

ICT is for ALL

ICT is the key resource of the information society. Without real access to technology, there is a limit to how and what women can contribute. Access needs to improve - availability and quality. More women, especially in the rural and informal sector, need to use ICT to get things done in their lives and work. Women must be active ICT participants - users, professionals, creators, producers and entrepreneurs. To make a difference, women must engage in productive ICT and ICT-driven activities - usage and production. I'm always bewildered when I receive or hear comments about "ICT professions or areas for women". ICT has no gender restrictions! Let us smash these stereotypes once and for all. There are no female or male professions of ICT.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with ICT consumption if used to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Or if it gives you advantage in terms of creative options. If we don't want to go the way of the dinosaur, we all need to use these knowledge tools to get ahead. You can't solve tomorrow's problems using yesterday's tools.

The scope of ICT has expanded through the phenomenal growth of the Internet, advances in technology and increasing global dependence on ICT. ICT isn't just for ICT professionals. The knowledge revolution demands knowledge professionals, knowledge workers - ICT savvy individuals in virtually all sectors.  ICT makes it possible for information to travel faster and much cheaper. And size of information and distance are no longer barriers. 

Empowerment  - Moving up the Value Chain

In different fields and professions - commerce, law, medicine, agriculture, accountancy, sports, entertainment, media, etc - women can use ICT to enable growth, create wealth, increase productivity and create new opportunities.

Better access to information and the ability to tap into the benefits of ICT enables women to be more competitive. Because ICT is so critical to the knowledge economy, you simply can't function at your best if you don't understand, adopt and grasp ICT. Are you a driver in the knowledge system? Then you should use ICT to drive your career and business up and your cost and challenges down. The issue is not consume or contribute - it's consume and contribute

Usage of ICT is important but it's not just about consumption. Any nation that wants to be taken seriously in the knowledge world must have high value capabilities in the global value chain - highly skilled human capital that develops, creates and supports technology products and services. Success in the knowledge driven economies of the developed nations has been due largely to the skilled workforce. Characterizing the Information and Knowledge-based Economy (IKE) - Prof. Dzidonu of UNECA: "An economy based on a rich pool of highly skilled human resources in critical skill areas relevant for developing and maintaining a competitive edge on the global market".

To fully empower women, usage of ICT will not be enough. Women need to move up the ICT value chain. Women must become active players in the ICT industry - the industry that drives the knowledge revolution. ICT professionals are needed in all segments of the economy. With local and global dependence, there are enormous opportunities - paid employment and entrepreneurship - for women in the ICT sector.

 

Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com

 

 

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Feb 14, 2007

Temitope James from Ibadan says:

 

 

Good. But will the men allow? How practical and great it would be if this were possible. Thanks. 

 

 


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