It is widely acknowledged that 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, 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 access to ICTs is relatively low compared to that of men leading to a gender digital divide. In Uganda women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men (2006 ResearchICT Africa!).
A gendered division of labor is evident in the ICT sector and has resulted in women being mainly end users, taking up low skilled IT jobs, a small percentage of women engaging in maintenance and design of networks, operating systems or software development.
Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science and mathematics, largely contribute to the gender dimensions of digital divide. Women’s lower degree of economic security than men and gender-related constraints on their time and mobility also limit their access, use and participation in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts.
This calls for deliberate efforts to enable women benefit from ICTs, these include creating awareness about the benefits and opportunities offered by ICTs among women, building women/girls’ capacity in ICT use, setting up projects or initiatives aimed at increasing women’s access and use of ICTs, encouraging girls to take up science and IT courses as well as eliminating gender stereotypes and factors that prevent women taking up ICT opportunities.