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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nweke urges African women to embrace ICT

African women have been challenged to embrace Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and eschew the apathy they currently display when issues come up in their various domains.

The Executive Director, Digital Sense Africa (DSA) Limited, Mrs. Nkemdilim Nweke, made this call at the weekend in South Africa during a three-day 2010 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ICT Women Empowerment Africa Summit organized by CorpTrain at Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand-Johannesburg, while delivering a paper on ‘Challenges Faced by Women in ICT: A Nigeria Perspective.’

Mrs. Nweke said that women should engage in more enlightened programmes, noting that access to knowledge is an indispensable right of an individual for socio-economic empowerment.

According to her, attitudinal change among African women is an apathy factor that must be dealt with head-on, because it encourages laziness and lack of interest if the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) must be attained with women in the right place and frame.

She also listed poor saving culture and wrong perception of ICT by African women, citing for instance, that some women still see the Internet at this 21st century as avenue for fraud and pornography.

This kind of notion, she said, must change if African women must achieve the expectation of MDGs beyond political assertions.

Outlining some of the challenges facing African women in adaption of ICT with particular reference to Nigeria, Mrs. Nweke said that poor and uneven power supply militate against African women determination to self-reliance.

“If it is not erratic, it is the uneven distribution and there is high cost of alternative sources of power such as generating sets, inverters and solar,” she said.

She buttressed her point by saying that currently, poverty level on the continent remained a discouraging factor with low per capita income in addition to illiteracy and unemployment levels respectively.

She noted that with the Gross National Income per capita at less than a USD $1 per day, African women stand a lesser chance to make relevant change in their lives.

Citing the World Bank report of 2009, Mrs. Nweke said that the high rate of unemployment, stood at (0;0.6), while the high cost of ICT facilities such as computers, Internet access and fake products to name a few have not been helpful.

She said that the adult illiteracy rate from the age of 15 and above for women was scored 61 per cent according to World Bank by year 2000, decrying that high cost of education in primary and post-primary schools in terms of books and tuition fees among others have formed literal Berlin wall between those who want to get education and those who can afford it.

“Averagely primary tuition cost about N20,000 = USD130.548 in Nigeria,” she said, while lack of computer labs in most primary, post-primary schools and non-adaption of computer education, which Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) and Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) since worked on remain a disturbing challenge.

Lack of adequate infrastructure and poor internet services in most schools, coupled with time constraint and ignorance, she highlighted have kept African women at distance with ICT.

While urged relevant government authorities to give waivers on taxation and import duties, she called for a change of heart as far as adaption of ICT is concerned, especially in Nigeria and across the continent of Africa.

Free and compulsory primary, post-primary education, she said, is imperative for African countries and women precisely to attain the require figures anticipated in the MDGs by 2015, just as inclusion of ICT education in all academic core curriculum cannot be over-emphasised.

“Training is an indispensable component of an organisation or society,” Mrs. Nweke said, even as she said that provision of internet connectivity in all schools, beginning with primary and post-primary, would be a good omen.

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