Africa: Governments should create computer literacy programs, targeting women to boost equality in the tech sector
Author: Palesa Libe, CGTN, Published on: 28 July 2020
‘Opening the tech sector to Africa's women’ 26 July 2020
From Women in Tech conferences to Girls Who Code programs, initiatives aimed at enabling girls and women to enter the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have proliferated in recent years. But change has been slow to arrive: while the percentage of women in the labor force has gradually increased, it remains significantly lower in the tech sector. Given that sector's central role in driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this amounts to a major drain on economies' potential.
…In today's digital economy, women's relative lack of connectivity undermines their capacity to reach their economic potential. Even women with their own "analog" businesses, such as dressmakers or hairdressers, suffer when they cannot advertise online, let alone use technological tools to monitor, measure, and optimize their operations. These women can often afford to buy mobile phones and data. It would be easy for mobile providers to offer basic digital-literacy workshops, showing users how to perform basic online tasks such as creating email accounts.
…But women can fulfill this role only if they have the right knowledge and tools. To that end, African governments should create computer literacy programs, targeting women from rural areas, in particular. Improving access to information and communications technologies (ICT), especially internet-enabled mobile phones, would go a long way toward supporting these efforts. Initiatives aimed directly at African primary- and secondary-school students – such as computer coding and robotics courses – are also needed. But, given enduring gender gaps in education – as well as the gender-based social pressures that perpetuate them – extra attention must be devoted to ensuring that girls are not left behind.