New social media refers to digital technologies that are both collaborative and dynamic, allowing users to access and direct information to others over the internet or through mobile devices. Examples include social networking sites – facebook, twitter, Blogs, Wikis, new mobile phone technologies, online broadcasting sites like You Tube, Websites etc
Rather than using the Internet as a passive tool for viewing content, new media technologies enable users to take an active and collaborative role in communication and information exchange. Users/audiences do not simply read information with a new technology; they access, interact, create and often promote the news.
The strength of social media lies in altering the meaning of geographic distance, allowing for a huge increase in the volume of communication, providing the possibility of increasing the speed of communication – real time communication, opportunities for interactive communication/feed back, creative participation and community formation around content, on demand access to content any time and allowing forms of communication that were previously separate to overlap and interconnect.
Gender gaps in using new media
Women play a critical role in the development, however, newly established ventures in developing economies fade out with out women effectively utilising them. There is an information gap -fewer women than men regularly get news and information from a range of available sources; TVs, radios, new papers, brochures, SMS etc. This gender gap extends to information gathered via new media – cell phones and the internet. Women are less likely to use internet to get news and information compared to men. Women also lag behind in the use of SMS services for the same purpose. Women are less likely to use computer-based new media than men (AudienceScape 2009; African Development Research Brief).
There are access issues both in terms of ownership and use patterns- more men than women are likely to own a phone. While ownership is not a prerequisite for cell phone use since many people can and often use borrowed or rented phones, use patterns between owners and non owners are starkly different.
Women are also said to use telephones in a different manner from men — making and receiving more calls, spending more time on calls and using telephones primarily for ‘relationship maintenance’ purposes. Gender gaps persist for every non voice phone functions – sending and receiving SMS messages to listening to the radio, to accessing the internet.
Other constraints to women’s access & use of new media and information technologies include; lower education or literacy, Education and skills – literacy, language, computer skills especially for rural women, social and cultural reasons (that generally influence women’s use of ICTs – multiple roles and heavy domestic responsibilities, limited mobility),more anxiety about using computers that is linked in part to “technophobia” and most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas – majority of the women live in the rural areas.
It is important to ensure that women have the same opportunity as men to own phones not merely access them, and its is critical to raise their awareness of the internet and develop women’s web skills. Mobile phones have indeed exploded onto the scene but not yet become a key source of news and information.
To fully benefit from opportunities that new media provides women need to go beyond access to new media and use associated functions and services which empower them in their individual ventures and contribute to sustaining their livelihoods. This capability to function starts from exposure, educating and training in the use of new media.
It is also important to note that there is a growing increase use of new media by especially young women – in doing so challenging some of the stereotypes about the way that women relate to media technology. Young women are less concerned about the problems that new media might create and more optimistic about the purposes that it might serve. The number of ICT related initiatives being established in rural areas is also increasing and social media are becoming part and parcel of our daily lives and citizens in urban and rural areas are in position to have their voices heard!