This week in class, we learned about the relationship between gender and ICT4D. We read a report highlighting the restricted access many women face all across Africa in terms of ICTs. While we mainly discussed their restrictions in ICT consumption, it seems evident that even greater disparities exist in terms of ICT production.
While searching the Web, I ran into this online platform called Women who Mentor and Innovate in Africa (WMIAfrica). WMIAfrica is working on combating the lack of access to information, role models and skills facing young women interested in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies and careers. It hopes to provide a platform for virtual & physical mentoring for girls and young women interested in STEM by professional Women Mentors working in STEM fields. On the website (www.wmiafrica.org), it claims to be doing so by:
WMIAfrica Online platform will :
- Recruit and Register members. Professional women, girls and young women interested in STEM
- Encourage mentoring through the sharing of stories, innovative projects and successes by Mentors to motivate , inspire and challenge the Mentees.
- Showcase Africa’s women innovators in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)
- Provide resources such as , useful materials/templates for women having innovative projects to use in their startups or individual projects, opportunities, jobs and scholarship announcements in the science related sectors for women to apply and relevant event information.
This seems to aim to help ambitious girls with entrepreneurial ideas, so-called innovators. Should this platform be expanded to cater to more women with different interests?
My other concern is that this only has the means of helping those who already have access to these ICT devices and internet, and who are situated in relatively wealthy urban areas with access to these types of institutions and events. How are other women, let’s say in rural settings or abject poverty, supposed to access an online platform?
There also seems to be a movement here in the United States to introduce more women into the rapidly expanding and highly demanded field of programming. Many non-profits in the United States are emerging to shrink the programming divide among genders, including BlackGirlsCode (www.blackgirlscode.com), WebStartWomen (http://webstartwomen.com/) and many others. There are more and more emerging free online coding courses available for anyone with access to internet without the constraining costs of higher institutions. Are these free online coding classes also a viable solution for integrating women into ICT production in the developing world (in this case Africa) or are restricted to the same limited population of women as mentioned above?