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Women in ICT - Moving up the Value Chain (1)

Aug 2007 (2011 update) - 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.

Technology has the way we work, learn, interact and relax. Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications are changing our way of life. ICTs are here to stay. In today's quality access to information and knowledge is critical 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.

 

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However there are various disturbing challenges associated with ICTs. Inconsistencies in the exploitation and deployment of ICTs are a major concern - the digital divide. 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? It is an issue that 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 is regarded as a tool for empowering men and women. But is this notion grounded in reality? Is ICT hurting or helping women?

 

 

Digital Gender Divide? 

 

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 the emerging knowledge 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, 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". In 2011 has the situation improved?

 

ICT is for ALL 

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. The mobile phone is a start, but ICT goes beyond receiving and making calls on the mobile phone. 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.

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. 

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.

 

Consume or Contribute?

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

ICT has become so important; in fact 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 raise your career and business up and push your cost and challenges down.

However, while the usage of ICT is important, it's not just about consumption. The issue is not consume or contribute - it's consume, contribute and create. Any nation that wants to be taken seriously in the global world must have 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 and thoughtful ICT policies.

 

Women in the ICT industry

How many women are building careers in this interesting and exciting field? Make no mistake; there are women making great strides in ICT. Indeed we must acknowledge and commend the efforts of women who are contributing immensely in ICT such as Mrs. Florence Seriki, CEO, Omatek Computers, Nigeria and Dr. (Mrs) Adenike Osofisan, Former President of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN).

But the issue has never been that there are no women making a difference in ICT.

Rather, are there women in sufficient numbers to make a difference? What proportion of women compared to men are active participants in the technology sector? And in which areas do they predominate? Where are the majority of women in the ICT value chain? What do women do where they are? Are women in ICT realizing their potentials? Do women in ICT benefit fully from the career and entrepreneurial opportunities in ICT?

Of particular interest, are specialist areas which include Software development, Database, Web development, Network infrastructure, Technical support, Telecom engineering, etc. There is high and steady demand for experienced professionals and entrepreneurs in these fields. And these "high tech" areas tend to be well-respected, very creative, and rewarding, with excellent opportunities for growth.

In this respect, what page are the ICT firms on? How many women work in the specialist areas, and in what proportion compared to men, for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Computer vendors, Software providers, ICT support centers, IT training companies, Telecom firms and ICT related organizations?

Even in organizations with heavy information needs that invest heavily in ICT such as government agencies, banks and oil companies, how many women work as ICT specialists and in what proportion compared to men, in such organizations?

The situation in most ICT and ICT-driven firms is that fewer women work as ICT professionals in the specialist areas mentioned. There are also fewer women at the top, i.e. top-level management positions within the ICT sector, as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), IT Directors or IT Managers. Not many women can be found in positions where they can influence ICT management and policy.


Continued on Women in ICT - Moving up the Value Chain - 2

 

Continued on Women in ICT - Moving up the Value Chain - 3

 

Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com

 

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Comments

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May 12, 2008

 

Esiobu Jennifer Ifeyinwa

 

 

I'm your future. There is more to me than just a working class woman. GOD Bless.
 

 

February 15, 2008

 

Nnedi Orakwe from Abakaliki, Ebonyi state

 

 

I'm a lady, People say that course field of computer networking and administration is not for us only guys; but that is what I have passion for though it is stressful but i really want to be a network administrator and what is the difference with a network engineer?
 

 


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