What you need to know:
- According to a 2021 study, Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective, only 35 per cent of women were found to use advanced digital services.
- Further, a Mobile Gender Gap Report conducted by Groupe Speciale Mobile Association indicated that women were 39 per cent less likely than men to have access to mobile internet.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme on technology exposed the gender digital divide that limits women’s access to technology and digital services. Experts now believe there is no silver bullet other than addressing the gap using an array of solutions.
According to a 2021 study, Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective, only 35 per cent of women were found to use advanced digital services.
Further, the Mobile Gender Gap Report by Groupe Speciale Mobile Association indicated that women were 39 per cent less likely than men to have access to mobile internet.
In a collaborative forum hosted by Mawazo Institute last Thursday to celebrate Africa Day, experts from different industries floated solutions to the gender digital gap. Most participants agreed that the major hurdle in access to technology is lack of infrastructure.
Selemani Kinyunyu, a legal and tech expert, recommended that the government set aside at least two per cent of the budget towards developing technology infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
“The gender digital divide is a much wider social and cultural problem that is also influenced by our societal norms. One of the solutions could be providing tax reliefs to organisations that employ young women in technology sectors,” Mr Kinyunyu said.
Jael Walukwe, the founder of Exhale Coaching, was of the opinion that digital literacy for women should be the first step towards bridging the divide.
Ms Walukwe suggested setting up technology hubs such as Huduma centres where women can acquire digital skills and including technology studies in the curriculum so that women and girls are exposed to technology as early as possible.
“We need to acknowledge that currently, 60 per cent of the workforce is made up of women, especially in informal sectors and agribusiness. Technology can be an accelerator to improving the lives of women since they can access new methods of conducting business or agriculture through the internet,” Ms Walukwe said.
“When it comes to young girls, there are programmes that target young women to teach them coding skills. This is an important skill to learn at an early age. Remote learning can help young women in rural areas access the same.”
Noting that technology is not a foreign concept in Africa, Mawazo Institute director of programmes Caroline Mose said women were involved in indigenous technology.
“Women had access to indigenous technology that existed before the advent of colonialism. For instance, women in what is modern-day Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda were involved in the first successful caesarean surgeries where they used palm wine to keep the surgery sanitary,” Dr Mose said.
However, for modern day technology, Dr Mose maintained that the gender divide cannot be bridged without empowering women economically.
“The first time I used a mobile phone was when I was in my third year of university and it was only because my brother had joined me in the school. My parents bought us the phone to use jointly. Technology does not exist in a vacuum.
"If women are to fully access technology, their social and economic needs should be addressed. Mobile phones are still too expensive for most women. If they cannot afford such devices, they cannot be part of the digital world,” she added.
Mr Kinyunyu also believes that it is helpful to create a safe space for women working in tech. He insists that mentors are also important to support younger women entering into a male-dominated space.
“We are entering such a pivotal space in technology with the entrance of artificial intelligence, machine learning and block chain technology. If governments are not committed to women's inclusion, a lot of them will be left behind.”