Evaluating how intensive Information and Communication Technology courses can help bridge the Gender Digital Divide

University essay from Lunds universitet/Innovationsteknik

Abstract: Inclusion in the digital society can lead to improved communication and access to information which increases informed decision making and productivity for individuals and businesses. In turn, this has a positive effect on the socio-economic development of a country. Worldwide, more women than men lack the knowledge of, and access to, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) such as computers and access to Internet. This occurrence is known as the Gender Digital Divide. Africa stands out as the continent with the largest regional gender gaps. There is no single solution found to tackle this problem and this thesis aimed to investigate if, and how, an intensive course for female university students or newly graduated students in Tanzania could be part of the solution. The study also aimed to explore which challenges and objectives the women pursuing ICT education had. The approach was a case study on an intensive computer course arranged by the Swedish-Tanzanian NGO Help to Help. The study consisted of a profound literature review, a questionnaire, several qualitative interviews and observations in order to triangulate the findings. The major objective for the studied women was to increase their ICT skills in order to be more competitive in the labour market. The most prominent challenge was finding time to practice or deepen their ICT knowledge due to other responsibilities such as domestic work. The women also encountered the gender norms of Tanzanian society where information technology and computers were viewed as a male area and was not encouraged for women. The major impact areas identified for former participants of the intensive course were, acquired ICT knowledge and skills, increased confidence, inclusion in an ICT network, and increased employability. A framework based on previous ICT research together with the findings from this case study was iterated and are presented in this thesis. The framework is suggested to be used to evaluate long-term impact of similar educational programs within ICT in low-income countries. The findings contribute to theory by filling the gap in literature on how the Gender Digital Divide manifests in Tanzania for urban women. The study primarily shows how intensive courses can help bridge the Gender Digital Divide and suggests a framework to decide the impact level of such initiatives.

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