INFORMATION and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are radically transforming how we live and work, our future opportunities, our societies, and our economies.
But what if fifty percent of the population doesn’t have the same access to education and technologies as others? Education and ICTs have been two of the most powerful forces of change in the last century, opening the doors to knowledge, opportunity, and better quality of life for people in all corners of the globe.
Education of girls and women has numerous benefits, including better health, lower fertility, and reduced infant mortality. ICTs enable women to increase their productivity and economic opportunities, improving their lives and those of their families and contributing to their communities and economies in the process. Educational systems are rapidly changing with the use of ICTs in schools.
The integration of ICTs in schools has enabled new methods for teacher training, new pedagogical approaches, new assessment techniques, and new ways to organize courses and schools. ICTs are considered one part of the broader context of educational transformation.
Findings from the eLearning Africa Report 2015 reveal that, despite rapid growth in internet and mobile usage across the region, women are much less likely to get online than men. And they are still largely unrepresented in the technology sector.
“These two facts could have serious implications for the ability of African economies to use technology to catapult themselves ahead of their competitors,” said Harold Elletson, Co-Editor of the eLearning Africa Report, an annual review of the impact of technology on education and development.
“Africa needs to address these issues now or it will miss out. Surveying women from throughout the continent, the report paints a picture of the realities of this situation – 55 per cent of women say they believe there are equal opportunities for men and women to gain digital skills, but a lack of individual confidence and access holds many women back. Affordability was also amongst the main barriers hindering women’s ICT usage.
Nnenna Nwakanma, the World Wide Web Foundation’s Africa Regional Coordinator, and contributor to the report, says women’s chances of benefiting from the advantages of ICTs are one third less than men’s. She attributes this divide to the high cost to connect.
“Exorbitant internet costs drastically affect the potential for women to benefit from the increased access to information and empowerment that the Internet offers. All women and girls deserve the opportunity to take part in the technology that is transforming our world. While recent years saw important progress, today there are still 25 per cent fewer women and girls online than men and boys. In subSaharan Africa, this gap is over 40 per cent.
The need to tackle the digital gender gaps is especially urgent because technology is such a powerful tool to empower women to address other persistent inequalities. Through cooperation between governments and partnerships among all stakeholders, we are already seeing how effective national policies can unlock the potential of ICTs to achieve gender equity and advance global and national development goals.
Over the years in Tanzania, we have seen more and more usage of computers in the day to day running of schools and whilst they have had an impact, it hasn’t been significant.
The call for cooperation between organisations and stakeholders needs a bigger push like the case of Jangwani Secondary School in Dar es Salaam, which with help of Tigo Tanzania is making headways in bridging the existing vacuum.
In this school which is one of Tigo’s e-schools model project centres, girls are developing their own Apps, making robotics and websites relevant to the current technological requirements.
Surveys have shown that girls make up only a small percentage of students who take highlevel computer courses that might lead to mouth-watering technology careers. As a shot in the arm of the school’s digital advancement, Tigo last week donated ten computers out of thirty the company promised to Jangwani Secondary School.
The company also provides free access to the internet in the school’s computer lab that Tigo established a couple of years ago. Tigo, driving digital lifestyle to Tanzanians has not only provided internet to the schools but others have benefited as well.
Tigo donated the computers during the commemoration of this year’s, The International Girls in ICT Day, a gesture that contributes in bridging the gender gap in ICT sector. The theme for this year is “Expand Horizons, Change Attitudes”.The International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative of International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which aims to empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the growing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM/IT) sector.
Speaking during the donation event held at the Jangwani Secondary School, Tigo’s Chief Technical and Information Officer, Jerome Albou said that Tigo is committed in contributing to enabling students, especially girls, to tap into the global mainstream of information and knowledge, where they will learn, expand their creativity and collaborate with peers across the world through ICT-based initiatives.
“The donation of these computers underlines Tigo’s commitment in supporting the empowerment of women and girls through information and communication technologies”, said Albou, noting that Tigo was keen in implementing the government’s vision to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy by the year 2025, through promotion and attracting women to achieve greater workforce diversity.
The chief guest at the event, Mrs Dorosela Rugaiyama, Assistant Director of Communications, Ministry of Works, Transport & Communications, commended Tigo for the donation, saying that the computers will go a long way in imparting modern ICT skills and knowledge to the youth, enabling them to face the challenges of the ever-changing information trends in the society and global sphere.
Other activities that took place at Jangwani Secondary School, one of Tigo’s e-School’s Project Centres since 2015, included computer programming presentations by award-winning young students, working under the Tigo’s Digital Change-makers’ winners, Carolyne Ekyarisiima whose ‘Apps and Girls Project’ bridges the gap in ICT through digital technologies, and Faraja Nyalandu, founder of Shule Direct, a digital social enterprise that provides education content to help address the challenge of the shortage of teachers.
Tigo e-Schools Project is one of the company’s strategic social investment projects whereby through the project, Tigo has been able to connect more than 60 public secondary schools in Tanzania with the fastest and reliable 4G LTE internet.
Tigo’s digital project is seen as a much-needed boost to the government’s efforts in enabling public schools and other institutions to be at par with their counterparts in the private sector in the fast-changing trends in the ICT domain- an undertaking that other organizations, companies and stakeholders should emulate.
The government requires schools to teach basic computer lessons but with only 5 per cent of schools having computers, ICT competence remains a mirage but with Tigo’s shot in the arm, coupled with other stakeholders’ support, the goal-posts are bound to change and might motivate other stakeholders to act and achieve the target set by the government aimed at equipping more than 700 schools with ICT tools including computers.