In the developing world, there are many barriers to access to technology, including infrastructure, language, geography, and gender. One Zambian women’s group has been making important strides in improving women and girls’ access to information and communication technologies. The Asikana Network, founded in 2012 by developers Ella Mbewe, Regina Mtonga, and Chisenga Muyoya, seeks to “level the playing field for women” in ICT and bridge the gendered digital divide. Some of their activities include a mapping project of all ICT women’s organizations in Africa in order to achieve their goal of building a Pan-African Women in Technology Network.
The Asikana Network seeks to improve girls’ access to technology through outreach programs in high schools and universities. One of their other main objectives is to build a continent-wide support network for women in ICT professions. According to co-founder Ella Mbewe, ICT is still considered a male-dominated field and women often have to work twice as hard and be extremely resilient in order to be successful. In her words, “we aim to change perceptions and behavior towards women in ICT and to level the playing field for those young women who come behind us.”
The Asikana Network, though small, is making important progress in increasing women and girls’ access to technology in Africa and bridging the gender gap at the professional level. These women are using technology to change cultural perceptions and improve the quality of life of their peers. Perhaps they can serve as an example for ICT4D professionals looking to break down more barriers to access to technology.