Women, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Education
An Analysis of the 1998 Internship Program at University of Jos, Nigeria
Lenis Saweda Liverpool
"Basic literacy and numeracy are needed to read and compose simple messages,
navigate the Internet, and execute commands in software applications…
Women make up nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterates, and one out of every two
women in developing countries is illiterate…
Consequently, women are more likely than men to lack the basic literacy and computer
skills that would enable them to take advantage of new global communication
(P. Fraser-Abder and J.A. Mehta, 1995)"
The potentially instrumental role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in development is gradually becoming a universally accepted fact. Likewise in the education sector, the numerous benefits of ICT adoption and utilization have been realized and are being revealed, proposed and disseminated the world over. While the benefits of ICT extend beyond its exposure of staff and students in the education sector to vast amounts of information, there are some potentially disturbing implications being put forward about embracing ICT in education. The widely spread positive effects of ICT in education range from the provision of an environment, which permits self-paced learning with sensitivity, to the sustenance of different learning styles and the continuous assessment of student progress. ICT is said to provide access for students to the best teachers in their desired fields without the need for actual physical contact. Conversely, the typical areas of concern include the inadequate and unequal access to these ICTs, the high cost of their acquisition
and maintenance as well as the possibility of consequent capital-labor substitution. (Massy, F.W. and Zemsky, R: 1995).
In many developing countries, especially in Africa, though the adoption and use of ICT generally has been relatively slow, it has been recorded that where access to ICT exists, those in the education sector have been among the prime movers and shakers in its use and spread. (Missen. C, 2002). Over the years, there has been a record of low female representation and declining participation in Science and Technology, generally. This phenomenon and its existence in education, has been the topic of numerous discussions, conferences and research papers. Over the same period, numerous reasons have been offered for this persistent trend. These range from the more embracing issues such as the biased nature of "science" itself where it is considered to be a human activity influenced by prevailing social, economic, political factors (IDRC: 1995) and the gender stereotyping of professions, to more specific ones to deal with issues like the natural disposition of the various genders and their perception of ICT at various stages of development.
The highly acclaimed saying goes "if you educate a woman you educate a nation". It is an established fact that investment in women is of value not only to her individually, but to the wider society. It is said that the children of educated mothers are more likely to succeed in school, more so than if only the father is educated. Their daughters are more likely to attend school, do well and graduate. It is almost impossible to conceive of the children of an educated mother being illiterate (GC women's
ministries). . http://wm.gc.adventist.org/Pages/literacy_2.html). Given
this fact and the instrumental role of ICT in education, one may ask, What difference would it make, if any, if women actually participated in this field at a commensurate level to their male counterparts?
In this paper, I hope to extend my analysis beyond the disclosure of this already conceived and established fact that women (though instrumental in development) are highly under represented in ICT, to look at this phenomenon as it is revealed in the education sector and propose a case why women should be encouraged and embraced in the field of ICT and how this may be addressed. To foster this argument, I will be focusing on The Internship Program run at the University of Jos, in Nigeria under the supervision of a visiting Fulbright scholar from the University of Iowa in 1998. This was a program organized at the University of Jos where about 27 students from the University were randomly selected to participate in a 10 month internship program involving series of classes and trainings. I was actually a participant in this program, thus my keen interest in understanding the intricacies of how such a program is structured and organized as well as its long term effect with regard to the larger issue of female participation in ICT.
The aim of my research is to bring out the issues around women, ICT and education, to argue the case on why women should be embraced in ICT in the education sector and to investigate some possible paths and perspectives that could be taken so this can be done to ensure maximum productivity in the use of ICT for the ultimate goal of development.
The methodology used in this research is basically descriptive. This work is being done as a paper that will serve as a preliminary report geared towards bringing out the prevalent issues with regard to gender, ICT and education in Africa, which are of direct interest to me. It will disclose the issues as I see them presented in existing literature, to prepare the way for a more in depth and critical analysis of this topic in the future. I will start this paper by looking at the role of ICT in development generally and then education specifically as it is presented in available literature. Then, I will look at what the
literature discloses about women's participation in ICT in the same manner. I will also look at some success stories around the world from which I hope to be able to dig out some potentially viable strategies. Subsequently, I will take a close look at the Internship program of 1998 held at the University of Jos. Here I will be briefly looking at The Internship program's effect on the participants and the institution, the nature and allocation of responsibilities amongst the interns and the final selection process of successful interns to be apprentices. To foster my analysis, I will be administering 2 sets of questionnaires; one to the internship program participants and the other to the group of University Personnel responsible for the selection of the apprentices from the interns. I will attempt to divulge the prevalent conception of gender issues, ICT and education in the University of Jos and to disclose possible reasons for the unequal representation of females in the apprenticeship program Finally; I will draw some conclusions based on the findings from my analysis.
(Given the dearth of statistics on gender issues in Nigeria and Africa generally, I will be drawing more from statistics available from studies of Western scholars hoping that a broader picture of what is going on world wide and in these regions would provide a useful guide not only for the future possibility of gathering such important statistics, but also offer a framework from which recommendations can be made on possible strategies that could be implemented in Africa or Nigeria taking into account obvious peculiarities and necessary contextual considerations.
My objectives in this research are:
1. To discuss the role of ICT in development and education
To discuss women's participation in ICT and how it plays out in the 2.
3. To briefly discuss the Internship Program at The University of Jos
4. To find out why out of 10 students chosen from the 27 interns (12 Female
and 15 Male) only 2 were female and the implications of that situation.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Development
Information has been described as the catalyst, fuel and product of the transformative process seen as necessary for development. As a source of knowledge, access to and the spread of information play an important role in the promotion of change in an economy; whether economical, cultural, legal, social political or technological. (IDRC, 1995). Information and Communication Technology has been defined as a generic term referring to technologies that are used for collecting, storing, editing and passing on information in various forms. (A.K. Jager and A.H. Lokman, 1999) In this paper, ICT refers to those technologies that foster the natural process of communication that occurs between and amongst human beings worldwide. Though the term generally refers to technologies such as the personal computer (PC), the Internet and, other multimedia devices such as videos, CD-ROM's, floppy discs and interactive software, for the purpose of this research we will try to move beyond the prevalent emphasis on the physical aspect of ICT, focusing rather, on the instrumental role it plays in this communication process. Indeed, data provides information that is said to lead to knowledge, and knowledge, when applied (correctly), results in wisdom. However, the information business isn't just about information! Generally, people want to add value to what they already
know. In both urban and rural communities, there is a lot of local knowledge and wisdom, which has never been processed and represented to others as information. Equally, there is external information available that can help local people become more knowledgeable and wiser. (Richard Fuchs, 1997). Thus we are faced with an intangible gap possibly bridged by one thing…communication!!
Over the years, ICT has been discovered to be an indispensable tool in the development process with its great potential for expanding economic growth, improved human welfare, and stronger forms of democratic government. Indeed, the information revolution, along with its attendant explosive growth of knowledge, and the related phenomenon of the globalization of the world economy, has brought about the Information Age. This in itself affects all aspects of human activity. (allafrica.com: 2002) http://allafrica.com/stories/200201210016.html.
ICT has the potential to create earning opportunities, improve delivery and access to health and education, facilitate information sharing and knowledge creation, and increase the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of government, business and non-profit organizations — all contributing to an
enabling environment for development. Thus, by making ICT an integral part of development cooperation, developing countries and their partners can more effectively address economic and social divides. (UNDP.2002)
Women, ICT and Development: The Trend over time
Issues of gender and development on the international scene can be traced back to the 1970's. Since that time, there has been steady progress with regards to the development of the discourse, aided, to a large extent and somewhat guided by the various International Women Conferences in Mexico (1975), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995). Other critical issues that contributed to the development of the gender and ICT discourse include the industrialization of agriculture and the supportive activities of several other conferences and organizations. The first linkages between gender and ICTs for development started with the work of
NGONET, in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development’s Earth Summit, in Rio, 1992. NGONET’s aim was to use ICTs to give women and groups from the South a chance to use an innovative process of information exchange to express their views to a global development forum. Linking gender with ICTs did not occur easily. Initial dealings with the role of ICT in development failed to include gender considerations with many of those concerned considering gender to have little to do with Science and Technology (IDRC, 1999).
A major contributor to the inclusion of gender into ICT was The Global Knowledge Conference, held in Toronto, 1997 (GK97) organized by the World Bank and the Government of Canada. The initial agenda for this conference made little or no reference to gender issues. However, as gender emerged as a vital theme in the electronic discussion list that preceded the conference, its organizers quickly responded by giving substantial space to the gender issue throughout the conference. This conference thus gave women a platform to advocate an increase in their share in the benefits of the information-technology revolution and to argue for ―connectivity for all.‖(IDRC, 1999). On the
African continent, operational ICT activities began in 1995 preceding the International Women's conference in Beijing with Kenya, Senegal and South Africa in the lead. (IDRC, 1999). Over the years the relevance of ICT to African women has continually gained significance, though its impact and effect remains slow.
With the advent of globalization, contemporary dealings with development can no longer ignore the increasing importance of Information and Communication's Technology. Furthermore, given that women comprise over half of the world's population, development cannot be possible without their inclusion and support. In developing countries, the level and participation in Information and Communication Technology is generally low with less than 1% of these populations having access to the Internet. Most times available figures show
women users comprise 22 percent in Asia, 38 percent in Latin America, 6 percent in the Middle East, and an unknown –but likely low– percentage in Africa, given
Internet penetration. General, these users are urban dwellers from the educated elite class, and primarily use computers in the workplace for routine office work.
http://www.aed.org/news/news_release_ITGenderStudy9-(AED Study document).
The majority of available literature on gender and Information technology, especially in developing countries appears to depict a disturbingly dismal situation as far as female access to, use and participation in the development of ICT is concerned. However, more thorough research reveals that indeed there are successful cases of ICT adoption and use by women (not ignoring the many persisting problem which still subsist). Such cases include The Grameen bank provided phones used by women in Bangladesh, téléboutiques owned and run by women in Senegal and Morocco, the phone shops in Ghana and Senegal as well as the case of a woman in Malawi who owns an Internet service provider company). (USAID and IDRC, 1999) Though on a limited scale these projects have shown clearly, the possible roles women play and could play in the information economy ranging from them taking advantage of the economic opportunities created by ICTs in the primary information sector (telecommunications and informatics industry, software, libraries, etc.) to using ICT to enhance productivity and growth in other sectors. (USAID and IDRC: 1999) http://www.usaid.gov/wid/pubs/it01.htm
Recent Developments in Gender and ICT
Presently, with the numerous activities, programs and strategies aimed at incorporating women and young girls into Information technology, girls are using technologies in new and creative ways. Accordingly, it is felt to be of immense importance for the society as a whole to understand these current
activities as well as discuss new initiatives that will ensure girls have an opportunity to be technologically literate and reach their educational goals. There is a general concern especially amongst educators on the need to create and maintain an avenue for new thinking about how girls and boys relate to technology and science more broadly and how teachers can use this information to ensure a more inclusive technological future for all students. (AAUW: 1998)
Statistics show that more than 90 percent of the engineers who make Internet systems work are men. (Kendra Mayfield, 2002). It is said that, traditionally, scientific and other types of knowledge have been socially and politically constructed with negative consequences to those not involved in the construction of this knowledge. (Carol Burger, National Science Foundation, 1999) In most countries of the world and especially African countries, women, along with the rural poor tend to belong to this category.
Generally, it is quite difficult to come across reliable statistics on women and ICT use in developing countries. Where available, the standard indicators are not normally disaggregated by sex. This makes any attempt at comparison practically futile. With regards to ICT as a whole, and in terms of information infrastructure, South Africa has more than 90% of the connectivity of the entire continent, while the teledensity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is still less than 1 line per 200 inhabitants, with a poor-quality network still in place (Jensen 1996).
The significance of ICT is still a fairly recent phenomenon in Africa like most parts of the developing world. However, even where acknowledged, the existence of gender inequality is already visible. A study carried out by the Association of Progressive Communication (APC) Women revealed several interesting points with regards to females and ICT. Some of these, along with other discoveries are briefly discussed below:
; Women seem more reluctant than men to use ICTs. It is said that women
normally need to understand what ICTs can do to support their work
before they make the effort to learn. Men, on the other hand seem to be interested in the gadgets and gizmo of the technology and are more exploratory in their approach to learning. "It is also said that "Many women ... don't know what to do if something unexpected happens. They feel that they are in foreign territory and are afraid to experiment. "However, once women get online and are comfortable with the technology, the exploration starts!
"Men are confident even though they know as little and
understand as little as women ... they are more likely to
play around and thus learn faster, women often enough
don't dare to ask the right questions - they just take what
"Women also generally have less access to electronic communications ;
and less ownership of necessary equipment. Even where women
belong to gender based organizations striving to promote their well
being, most of these organizations have little equipment and little
money." Thus, it was suggested that women need more
encouragement and training, at the initial level. The study considers
women less active in learning the new technologies, though once
having learned them work very effectively;"
; "Women, simply have less time to spend learning new programs, how
to install things, what to do when there is a problem and hanging
around on the Internet to see what it has to offer. This is not due to any
direct dislike of such activities but rather basically due to their inability
to indulge in them. Largely, though not exclusively, women tend to
have more and varied responsibilities (work and home) and this
simply doesn't allow the time you need to do that kind of exploring
that makes you really comfortable with the technology. .