Women in technology in sub-Saharan Africa

V. Galpin

In E.M. Trauth, (ed), Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology, 1279-1285. Idea Group Publishing, 2006.


International research has shown that in most countries, there are few women studying towards information technology (IT) careers (Galpin, 2002), and there is much research, particularly in the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK) and Australia into why this is the case (Gürer & Camp, 2002). This article considers the situation in sub-Saharan Africa and focuses on women’s involvement in the generation and creation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to ICT use in sub-Saharan Africa, which is considered elsewhere in this volume. There are a number of aspects to the generation and creation of ICTs: how women are involved in this process as IT professionals and how they are educated for these careers, as well how technology can be used appropriately within the specific conditions of sub-Saharan Africa. ICTs will be considered in the broadest sense of the word, covering all electronic technologies, from computers and networking to radio and television. Women’s participation is important: The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Gender Caucus (www.genderwsis.org) has identified women’s involvement in the design and development of technology as well as technology management policy, as key principles for the information society. Marcelle (2001) emphasizes the necessity for African women to become involved in technological and scientific areas, including “computer science, software engineering, network design, network management and related disciplines” (Marcelle, 2001, para. 15) to create an information society appropriate for African women. The diversity of those involved in design leads to higher-quality and more appropriate technological solutions (Borg, 2002; Lazowska, 2002). Background Sub-Saharan Africa has a population of 641 million, young (almost half under 15) and rural (35% urban). Significant problems are undernourishment, poverty and HIV/AIDS (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2004). All the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are classified as developing countries. Some countries are relatively wealthy, such as Mauritius, South Africa, and Nigeria, but have large wealth disparities within their populations. Women in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to focus on the home, they have less access to education and health, and their contribution to family and community is not valued (Huyer, 1997). 


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