African women’s disinterest in ICT cause for alarm

The small number of female students enrolling for ICT courses in Africa is a cause for alarm, with the trend seeing the advent of a number of initiatives focused on encouraging women to pursue courses and careers in technology.

According to Women of West, East and Central Africa (WOW), poor policies have hindered women in competing for ICT training aside from the employment opportunities.

“Women are missing the increasing number of technology-related job opportunities and run the risk that technological developments will not be relevant to their needs. A country cannot compete in an increasingly global ICT market if half of its talented citizens are not participating,” Microsoft Wow Chapter Leader Marietjie Tshoopara said.

In Africa, ICT is not immune from the problem of gender discrimination. Reports shows women are less aggressive in the ICT sector as a result of the perceived masculine nature of the work. A recent study carried out by European Schoolnet on behalf of Cisco found that women with great interest in tech and excellent ICT skills still go for non-technological careers.

According to University for Peace, Women have watched the benefits of technology “accruing to men for a long time from a distance”. For example, in Africa’s giant economies like South Africa, a mere 17 percent of women have access to ICT-related services. Less than 20 percent of Zambian women use the Internet, and only 12 percent in Senegal.

According to some experts, the inclusion of women in the ICT spheres is necessary for national growth and prosperity, yet they remain marginalised in knowledge, networks, and economic and political matters. The International Centre for Research on Women says that, in developing countries, technology can be used as a transformation tool by women to boost their economic status.

Some African countries are working towards empowering women using ICT.

In April this year, at least five countries acrossAfricamarked Girls in ICT day, aimed at encouraging girls and young women to concentrate on ICT-related careers.

In Senegal, the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Technology is working with private sectors to facilitate local awareness campaigns in rural areas. Senegal, like Liberia, used the ICT day to stimulate equality in the sector to increase innovation and creativity.

In Nigeria, female staffers at the United Nations inspire female students through an outreach programme, the UN Women National Programme. Adekemi Ndieli said the programme would help young girls to “explore the challenges of the high school years and prepare them for the independence and responsibilities that they will encounter as young adults.”

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