Friday, September 21, 2012



The rationale behind this article stems from research done by Prof Hiroshi Ono and Prof Madeline Zavodny  (2002) on Gender and the internet. Even if the research is 10years old, we assume that the results can still be generalized. These researchers concluded that “there is little reason for concern about sex inequalities in Internet access and usage now, but gender differences in frequency and intensity of Internet usage remain.”We think this assumption remains paradoxical even ten years later. Even if ICT is not just the net, the net plays an important place in the ICTs. ICTs include the internet/net, mobile phones and computers. However, since 2002, a lot of things have changed in the ICT world, for example:

 "At the Plenipotentiary Conference 2010 of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) held in Guadalajara, Mexico, the Republic of Serbia proposed and the Conference adopted the newly revised Resolution 70 Gender mainstreaming in ITU and promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women through information and communication technology setting a base for the creation of a Global Network of Women ICT Decision Makers under the auspices of ITU” Global Network of women in ICT 2011.

This posits that albeit appearances, women are getting more involved in ICT. However, two years later after the conference, the problems identified by the Women and ICT Status Report in 2009 still remains and resists change. Since our objective is to enhance and promote ICT knowledge and ICT awareness in women through education using ICT, it was necessary a reflection be made on the relationships that exist between Women and ICT. Moreover, we hope through this article to highlight the paradoxes, challenges, and controversies women engaging in ICT might face in our African/Cameroonian context. Nonetheless we are aware that women elsewhere engaged or wanting to engage in ICT face the same difficulties because women are women everywhere.

Most of the information we provide to you in this article comes from the Women and ICT Status Report 2009 in which Neelie Kroes European Commissioner Information Society said in its introduction  

“… As use of ICTs spreads we need to bring people together rather than divide them. By promoting eSkills we will be fighting the digital divide. This is true whether we are supporting more secure, connected and convenient futures for all women, or in opening up new career options for women who are passionate  about working in the ICT sector.  Currently, the ICT sector does not take full advantage of female talent. This is bad for the sector and bad for those women who could create new opportunities for themselves and their families with the ICT  jobs that we know deliver better salaries and career paths than most other sectors. Opening up the sector in this way is very important at a time when  employment is so precious and when Europe is under pressure to lift its competitiveness.   We can get there. Total employment growth for women scientists and engineers is around 6.2% per year from 2002 to 2007 whilst the equivalent for men is only 3.7% - but we shouldn't be prepared to wait decades for change.  As we hit the road to recovery; it would be great to meet the new demand for IT skills with capable women, and all the talents,  innovation and creativity these women can bring into the work place. We have the statistical evidence which tells us we need to act. We have an economic imperative to do so. I hope this brief report assists you in understand the challenge before us. “
From this, it is clear that the role of women in the ICT sector is crucial because their involvement and engagement is not just an advantage for their national economies but for their families as well. However, there remains cultural specificies for which We have the right to highlight.

Women and ICT Worldwide Statistics

There is a general consensus among ICT organizations (International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS)) that gender and ICT statistics and indicators are important. Nancy J. Hafkin cited in ITU (2003) assumes that there are a number of areas where sex-disaggregated statistics and indicators would be useful for example in:
-          access and usage 
-          Content 
-          Employment
-          Education
-          ICT telecommunication/policy
-           Representation in telecommunication/ICT decision making
-          Impact of telecommunication/ICT on men/women.

For the purpose of this article we have only focused on access and usage, content, and education. For Hafkin (2003), these indicators are:

1        -  Internet access and usage is the one telecommunication/ICT indicator that is found disaggregated by sex with increasing frequency. This is the most important indicator on which to establish regular and standardized data collection internationally. Telecommunications access is especially important in relation to the right to communicate. To date there is no available telecommunications access statistics or indicators disaggregated by sex, except for mobile phone subscribers in some countries.

- Content refers to the differences in the kinds of material on the Internet that men and women access and want. This data is available in sex-disaggregated form for many developed countries as market research firms are interested in sex-differentiated content access patterns.  For developing countries, content access data is completely unavailable. The data could be in the form of specific sites or types of sites most commonly accessed, differentiated by sex. 

 - Education refers to women’s technical education and their participation in Science and Technology professions are important ones for national sustainable development. While more governments are collecting data on the use of information technology in public education, it is still not possible to obtain data on the number of men and women studying information technology and computer science in both formal and non-formal educational settings. Although very little sex-disaggregated data is collected concerning women’s participation in science and technology education, the data available indicates consistently low participation by women and girls, with exceptions in some developing countries. This data on differential access to and participation in education for use of and employment in telecommunication and ICT is very significant in determining the future of the gender digital gap. However, some very interesting corrective actions took place at Carnegie-Mellon University in the US, in response to data on continuing and increasing declines in the numbers of women studying computer science.
More over , percent female Internet users and female Internet users as percentage of female population are key Gender indicators of the Telecommunication/ICT sector which have been identified (Hafkin and Huyer, 2007). In addition statistics from recent studies show:  

-      If the current number of women computer programmers in Western Europe were to double to 94,000, women would still constitute only 7 percent of the total workforce.
-    No European Union member state has more than 1/3 women researchers in engineering and technology, while the average is 10 percent.
-   In the US, women make up:  9 percent of mid- to upper-level IT engineers,  28.5 percent of computer programmers, 26.9 percent of systems analysts,85 percent of data entry workers.
-    In Asia, women constitute 20 percent of programmers (mostly in lower-skilled, low-value-added positions), while making up the majority of workers in data processing (especially outsourced work).
All of these information shows us that worldwide , women are  very less  involved in ICTs be it through access and usage , through content, education or science and technology jobs.  What about women and ICT in Europe?

Women and ICT in Europe

Even though there are fluctuations in the ICT sector growth pattern, there is a general consensus that on average there is still growth in the sector even with the current economical crises ( See the European Information Technology Observatory  EITO cited in Women and ICT  Status Report 2009 ). Researchers estimate that between 2006 and 2020 there will more than 105 million jobs to be filled in European Union 25. Irrespective of this massive economical potential, there are hindrances which might affect the ICTs growth if solutions are not anticipated and envisaged. In fact, there is lack of skilled and qualified labour and the existing ones are gradually retiring from the labour market. The involving of women in the economical process seems fundamental and an imperative but we assist a lack of women in the ICT sector. The low percentage of women in the ICT sector is due to educational and decision making factors. Few women in the academia have leading positions in the ICTs and very few looking at the business sector globally; occupy the boards of the 500 top listed companies by Fortune. This has drastic consequences:

-          Waste of talent and potential.

-         Young women have difficulties achieving professional status due to serious lack of role models

-          In academia the lack of women teaching ICTs or related ICT subjects can create an unwilling bias towards the access of younger women for further studies especially PhDs, post-docs and research work.

-        The lack of women at the decision making levels might result again in introducing   a bias when shaping policies for research and development.

Cultural factors have a great role to play in the status that women want to occupy in the society.And the more we move from one culture to another the same difficulties repeat themselves. Nevertheless, the involvement of women in ICT has several implications so as the inherent nature of ICT -that is change. Since ICTs are a vehicle of change , has globalization one of its best avatar and/or metaphor changed something in the way African women engage into ICT?

Women and ICT in Africa

It is not new that ICTs in Africa is one of the lowest globally. In fact ,  The World Telecommunicaton/ICT Development Report (WTDR) 2010: Monitoring the WSIS targets paints a somber picture of the current state of affairs in the continent. In our context( access and usage , content and education) ICT-related fields  is the appropriate expression to be used  it includes all programmes that comprise any of the following four fields of education and training (Eurostat 1999, UNESCO-UIS, 2009a, cited in WTDR, 2010).That is audiovisual  techniques  and media  production, computer science, computer use, electronics and automation. One of the fundamental challenges for researchers is to have an image of the situation of women and ICT particularly in developing countries which make up to a great extent the African continent.The reason for this is because the data for sex-disaggregated statistics and gender indicators on ICTs ,in many cases are absent ( Hafkin and Huyer , 2007).

The Gender Digital Divide in Francophone West Africa is salient. The Gender and ICT network, undertook research in six francophone countries of West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali,Mauritania, and Senegal) that are among the region’s leaders in the widespread use of ICTs ( Hafkin and Huyer , 2007, p.30).In the research, four indicators were evaluated , decision making and policy, content (use of virtual products and percentage of electronic products - lists, websites, telephone services- in the country dealing with gender, in French or the national language, adaptation of virtual content to needs expressed by women), skills  (ICT training and professions), and connectivity (use and access to ICTs). The study  concluded that generally, men in Africa have greater chances than women to benefit from ICT (Hafkin and Huyer, 2007, p.31). In addition other findings were ; 

-          a gender digital divide exists in the six francophone countries ; 

-          there was no negative gender gap in connectivity or usage among young women educated to secondary school level and beyond ; 

-          while young women who are secondary school graduates have become the majority of those working using ICTs in these countries, they tend to remain at the level of users and do not become managers or technical analysts; women tend to use the Internet and cell phones more for personal and social use in the six West African countries, while men use them more for professional or work-related reasons;

-           Men in West Africa tend to feel threatened when women used cell phones and accessed the Internet, seeing it as destabilizing to relationships and viewed such unsupervised activity
by women as inappropriate;

-          The major connectivity obstacles for women relate to place of access (particularly safety and security of location), time constraints, and technophobia;

-          Very little local content was available on gender issues;

-          Few people were aware of gender issues in ICT;

Even if the researchers did recommendations, non-focused on the education of individuals relating to gender issues and ICT. ICT and Kulture aims at enhancing and promoting ICT knowledge and ICT awareness through education.

Despites all of these , some African women have managed to distinguish themselves from the rest by their accomplishments in the ICT industry  and sector.On the 9th of August 2011 , IT News Africa published the a list of Top 10 African women  In ICT

1-  Nombulelo Moholi  was appointed Telkom SA CEO in March 2011

2- Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe CEO of Kutana Investments Group.

3- Felleng Sekha non- executive director of Business Connexion.

4- Zandile Mbele was appointed as Executive: Public Sector for Internet Solutions in 2010 and as Executive Director of Transformation for the Group in 2008.

5- Dr. Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane has 25 years experience in the broadcasting, film and telecommunications sectors in the US and in South Africa. Currently she is a member of the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development.

6- Doreen Ramphaleng-Motlaleng is the MD of Infomatix, a software technology company based in Gaborone, Botswana.She is also President of Citizen Owned Businesses in Information Technology (COBIT) in Botswana.

7- Betty Mwangi-Thuo joined Safaricom in December 2007 and is charged with managing the New Products Division comprising the globally acclaimed M-PESA business and Safaricom’s Value Added Service roadmap for product innovation and GSMA projects. In June 2010 she was featured by MCI (Mobile Communications International) as one of the top women in mobile.

8- Isis Nyong’o is InMobi’s Vice President and Managing Director for Africa.She also led Google’s business development initiatives in Africa.

9- Funke Opeke leads Main One Cable Company in Nigeria.She has also worked  as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN Nigeria Communications (MTN) after a twenty-year career in the United States.

10- Angela Gahagan  is the MTN Business managing executive and a twice-nominated candidate for the Business Woman of the Year award.

It is interesting to realize that all these women come from English speaking Africa and basically from South and east Africa.

In Cameroon, recently, Dorothee Danedjo Fouba was recognized by Telkom Highway Africa New Media in the category « Best African Ict Blog » 

Woman and ICT In Cameroon

Being a multimedia Journalist as she calls herself , Ms Danedjo's blog is full of suprises

Women and ICT in Cameroon

Other Cameroonian women have also created blogs with interesting content. We have choosen just a few based on the four indicators highlighted by Hafkin and Huyer (2007) : Decision making and policy, content (use of virtual products and percentage of electronic products - lists, websites, telephone services- in the country dealing with gender, in French or the national language, adaptation of virtual content to needs expressed by women), skills  (ICT training and professions), and connectivity (use and access to ICTs).

  Women and ICT in Cameroon

   the blog you see above is dedicated to cuisine .The one below is decidicated to cameroonian arts.

Women and ICT in Cameroon


This other ICT woman made a blog relating to her passions.

Women and ICT in Cameroon


Following these examples we encourage women and girls students, women and girls passionate by any topic to use ICT to vehicle their savoir faire and talents for the ICT world needs You.
The problem that remains to be solved is how to form new attitudes with respect to the use of ICT especially the internet by young Cameroonian women and girls.

1 comment:

  1. This article is very well written, there are so many informations and statictis. In my opinion, the topic is interesting but also hard. I guess that here it should be a huge discussion ! Girls and womens should know the new opportunities.



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