Are women using IT to learn, connect and improve their work and businesses? There has certainly been growth in terms of usage by women, especially in usage of cell phones, laptops, internet, ATMs, online social networks and the acquisition of basic computing skills. But is this the reality in rural communities?
The IT usage trend is really restricted to women in the urban areas, in particular those in the formal sector, the educated and the rich. The majorities in the urban poor (women and men) are still largely excluded and are not fully using technology to improve themselves or contribute meaningfully. And in fact most people living in the rural areas, especially women, live in a different world, where IT does not exist. The bitter reality is that excluded groups however constitute the majority in the populace.
Beyond usage, what is the truth of women in the IT sector?
This is the sector that drives innovation? How many women are IT entrepreneurs or professionals? Even though there is relatively improved participation of women in Nigeria’s IT sector; growth has been however an urban experience. How many women run businesses that provide IT and IT enabled products and services compared to men?
Very few women are IT entrepreneurs. Visit most IT firms and you find most women work in customer service, admin, marketing, clerical, data entry positions while only a few work in core technical areas of programming, networking, web development, database management, etc. Please note that there are exceptions; I’m painting an overall picture. There are great women making impact in IT but women are largely underrepresented in this sector. The overall state of affairs regarding women in IT is far from what it should be.
Progress in IT without Women?
Women are simply not visible enough in the core, creative and critical areas of IT. If Nigeria is to grow as a nation and become globally competitive, IT must be strategically deployed for development.
- We cannot be serious about IT for development if we depend on foreign IT expertise.
- We cannot be serious about IT for development if we are not building local human capital required in this age of innovation and technological change.
- In view of the strategic role of entrepreneurship and innovation Nigeria must have sufficient numbers of people with IT expertise.
Seriously, can we fulfill our potentials in IT if 50 percent of the potential workforce is ignored and excluded? Seriously?
Join the Women in ICT blog in celebrating the achievements of women in IT. And let's keep pushing. There is still a lot of work to be done.