Given the circumstances of women’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa, it may appear that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are only for wealthy, well-educated, urbanized women with time to use them, and that they are irrelevant for other women in sub-Saharan Africa. However, this is not the case: women see ICTs as providing opportunities for change, by giving them access to the information which will help improve their circumstances, as the abundant research shows (Hafkin & Taggart, 2001; Huyer & Mitter, 2003; Morna & Khan, 2000; Pacific Institute of Women’s Health [PIWH], 2002; Rathgeber & Adera, 2000). This article presents an overview of women as ICT users in sub-Saharan Africa, covering the challenges and the success stories. Since there is a large body of literature covering this area, only a representative subset is surveyed. The focus here is usage. Information technology (IT) professionals and more technological topics are considered elsewhere in this volume. Much of the literature about usage in developing countries takes a broad definition of ICTs because of the lack of the latest technologies. For example, Holmes (2004) includes computers, the Internet, mobile phones and wireless technologies as well as telephone, radio, television, print media, listening groups, and community theatre. This article will consider all electronic technologies, from computers and networking to radio and television. When considering ICTs and developing countries, the digital divide is often mentioned. This term is sometimes used specifically to refer to the Internet; for example, see DiMaggio, Hargittai, Neuman, and Robinson (2001). In line with the broad definition of ICTs given above, in this article, the term digital divide will be used to refer to inequality in access to ICTs and ability to use them. There are multiple divides: men vs. women, urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor, young vs. old, developed vs. developing. When considering developing countries, there is an underlying information divide—people do not have access to information sources they require, electronic or otherwise, due to poverty and lack of infrastructure. This is the real problem that needs to be solved—ICTs are a means to this end.
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