Lifting the Gender Veil on ICT Indicators in Africa
41 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2013
Date Written: September 5, 2013
Gender equality has been identified as critical to the realisation of knowledge societies. This has been reflected in policy commitments at both the global and national levels. The increased take up of ICTs, particularly broadband, has increasingly been linked to economic growth and social inclusion. Yet, the uneven nature of such developments is widely known. In acknowledgement of this in relation to gender the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 called on governments to find ways of providing opportunities for women to and empowering them to ensure their full and equal participation at all levels. Yet despite these rhetorical undertaking there has been little systematic collection of sex disaggregated data on ICT access and use and even less which analyses the descriptive data which exists. Without such analysis descriptive data is not only incomplete and can mislead policy makers on the correct points of policy intervention aimed at encouraging greater gender equity in ICTs.
The conceptual framework of inclusivity provides a lens through which to explore the findings of the survey in order to provide a descriptive and empirical analysis based on gender disaggregated data. The analysis seeks to unmask the gender dimension of the limited sex-disaggregated ICT indicators available. Using the dataset from the 2011/2012 RIA household, individual survey conducted across 11 African countries, the purpose of this paper is to look at the gap in ICT access and use from a gender perspective both at the national level and comparatively across countries. Building on the 2008/2009 RIA gender and ICT report it seeks to examine whether the gap between men and women with regard ICT access and use diminishes as the greater the equality in education and income between men and women.
With the increased access to the Internet through mobile phones by those at the bottom of the pyramid, which this study confirms is where women are concentrated, the skills barrier to accessing the Net has dropped. While this has improved access, the unevenness in use and the skills to optimise the informational and educational, and indeed entertainment value of the Net, may be as wide as ever. Focusing on mobile phones the study highlights the differences in ICT use patterns from a gender perspective and further explores empirically the factors that impact ownership, use and access of ICTs, particularly income and education. The methodology and questionnaire adopted for the data collection takes into consideration the various factors that are likely to influence ICT access and use in developing nations, specifically addressing the issue of disaggregation. The gender split is integrated into the design of the study and methodology, facilitating gender analysis. In this way this study is able to contribute to the limited body of literature on African ICT access and use on the individual and household level, using disaggregated data.
The descriptive findings show that women generally have less access to ICTs than men and this increases as the technologies and services become more sophisticated and expensive requiring greater levels of income and education to access and to operate. An analysis of the data demonstrates however that the reason for this relates to them being more concentrated among lower income groups, lower education levels and in rural areas, or more generally at the base of the pyramid. Where there is greater equality between men and women as reflected in education and income, there is generally greater access and more equitable use.
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