A Case for Telecenters Empowering Rwandan Women

Allarfrica recently posted an article about how telecenters have actually been doing some good things for women in rural Rwandan communities. The Rwandan Telecentre Network (RTN) has launched an ICT literacy campaign, designed to help both urban and rural women improve their businesses. The idea behind this program is that RTN puts telecenters in rural villages, teaches women how to use computers, and then, consequentially, women will be able to digitally access market information and sell their goods at better prices. RTN also believes that telecenters are beneficial because they allow women to connect with other rural areas via social media and email. Some women in the program also aspire to start their own computer related businesses or pursue careers in ICTs. Paul Barera, the director of RTN is optimistic that ICTs will continue to rapidly spread but acknowledges that “illiteracy and poor purchasing power are the main challenges that hamper rural people from fully benefiting from ICTs opportunities.” These are both very valid issues and the article does not go into depth about how RTN is addressing them.

RTN has also partnered with Telecentre.org to help rural women improve their digital literacy.  Telecentre.org is partned with the UN Telecommunications Union and is an organization that seeks to empower women through ICTs. Its three main goals are:

-Wide-scale digital literacy training for grassroots women

-Enlistment of partners and supporters as champions for the cause

-Recognition of telecentre women-achievers.

These telecenters have definitely provided some success stories of women running more efficient business through the incorporation of computers and other ICTs. Furthermore, there are currently 30 telecenters in every one of Rwanda’s districts and the country and hopes to increase internet penetration by 15% in the next year. Rwanda is clearly a leader in effective ICT use in Africa and it seems that their telecenters may actually be producing some positive results. It will be interesting to see how things change for rural women who now have access to telecenters and if their successes are sustainable.

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