The Gender “digital divide”:World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2012

“If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we
educate a girl, we educate a family and
a whole nation.” African proverb

Today is World Telecommunication and Information
Society Day 2012. The theme for 2012 is “Women
and Girls in ICT.”
Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the
U.N. Charter.  The United Nations
designates May 17 to remind the world each year of the benefits that the
Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) can bring
to societies and economies worldwide.
Talking to female student teachers in Bushenyi on role of  ICT4Eudcation

May 17 also marks the anniversary of the creation of the International
Telecommunication Union, the United Nations’
specialized agency for information and communications technologies. Along with
other activities, the agency strives to improve access to ICTs to underserved
communities worldwide.Access to ICTs,
the United Nations says, empowers women and girls to take their rightful place
as equals in the world. 
the obvious benefits, many girls never even consider a career  in ICTs.  There is a lack of awareness
among students, teachers and parents on what a career in ICT could offer.
 Attitudes can change when girls are invited into companies and government
agencies to meet  ICT professionals and
see what life is like on the job”.
For this reason, ITU members agreed to recognize
Girls in ICT Days on the 4th Thursday of every April in ITU Plenipotentiary
Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010)
Information Communication Technology
(ICT) has the potential to transform social, economic, and political life
globally. ICT presents unique and timely opportunities for women
and girls. It promises better economic prospects, fuller political
participation, communication with the outside world, easy access to
information, and an enhanced ability to acquire education and skills and to
transcend social restrictions. ICT is especially important to poor women
because it can provide increased access to resources, the absence of which
defines poverty. Hence, ICTs are tools that facilitate access to a variety of
development resources.

However, the uneven
distribution of ICT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a
“digital divide” between those who have access to information resources and
those who do not. Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to
men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science
and mathematics, contribute to the gender dimension of the digital divide. In
addition, women across the world enjoy a lower degree of economic security than
men and face gender-related constraints on their time and mobility. Without
access to information technology, an understanding of its significance, and the
ability to use it for social and economic gain, women in the developing world
will be further marginalized from the mainstream of their communities, their
countries, and the world (Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart 2003) [1].

According to the
MDGs established in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit and signed by
189 heads of state around the world, a list of eight overarching goals for
developing countries to achieve by 2015 is outlined. Among this list, Goal 3a
is to ‘eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education,
preferably by 2005, and at all
levels by 2015’. Indicator 9, to
measure the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, is the ratio
of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Boys too need the ICT skills. I spoke to some at a youth  camp-2011
However, the
targets set by MDGs and other global foras have largely been missed on the African
continent. According to Peninah Mlama, Executive director of the Forum for African
Women Educationalists (FAWE), “A lot of girls are dropping out of school or
being sent at all because of the poverty of parents. Traditional
cultural attitudes are still
very strong, especially in rural areas. The
little money parents have to scrounge for
sending children to school is
seen as too big an investment to risk on the girl child”

The uneven
distribution of Information and communication Technologies (ICTs) within
societies and across the globe has resulted in a ‘DIGITAL DIVIDE’ between those
who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’s low
levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as the negative
attitude towards girls achievement in science related fields contributes to the
gender dimension of the digital divide. Women still have a low degree of
economic security than men and face gender related constraints on their time
and mobility. They are therefore less likely to access, use and participate in
shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts
In Uganda more men than women access/make
use of ICTs because most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas or townships,
whereas majority of the women/populations live in the rural areas. 
Given women and girls multiple roles
and heavy domestic responsibilities, their leisure hours are few and therefore
need tools that can effectively reduce the
“distance” between them as individuals and institutions thereby making sharing
of information and knowledge easier and more effective. ICTs come in handy.
[1] Nancy Hafkin
and Nancy Taggart (2003), An Analytical Study on Gender, Information Technology
and Developing Countries, Office of Women in Development, USAID, Washington DC.