Access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) today is more often than not an essential aspect that can propel the business forward for women entrepreneurs running small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s).
This access is becoming more and more necessary for grass roots women as well where many countries in Africa having a growing Mobile Money movement empowering their citizens economically. Without access to ICT’s particularly mobile, women are not only being left behind but they are being systematically excluded from participating in the local and global economy.
When this is brought back into the development space this leaves communities at great risk because women are the agents of change and often play leading roles in developing their communities. These communities through globalization and the Internet are affected by the rapidly changing global society, which by default these same women are being excluded from participating in. Africa must move to ensure that that women, as well as men, at all social and economic levels have equal and fair access to ICT’s.
Mobile and information technologies can help African women become more financially independent and economically empowered if they are easily accessible and affordable. This access to ICT’s for women will have a direct positive impact on the communities in which they live and work which also benefit economically.
"On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet, and the gender gap soars to nearly 45 percent in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, - Women and the Web Report by Intel. This coupled with the fact that the International Telecommunication Union estimated that by the end of 2013, 2.7bn people (40% of the global population) were using the Internet however, men are twice more likely to have access to the Internet than women.
The prospects of ICTs for development and women’s empowerment having a sustainable impact on the African continent is very desirable yet slow in become a reality. The reasons for this are multifaceted stemming from lack of access due to infrastructure and coverage of mobile and internet across the continent to women not sharing the stories of how they have been empowered through ICT’s from a grassroots level all the way to the boardroom.
This article is sponsored by SNV Zimbabwe for the Stimulus Africa Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016: ICT for Development – 31st March – 1st April at The Stimulus Innovation Centre, 171 Fife Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe.