power to the Grass root women in ICT
It’s the tenth time Mama mboga (Lets call her Charity) is rushing to the cyber cafe her baby strapped on her back. The net is down is the response she gets from the cyber attendant. What this means for this lady is that she cannot access the site she wanted to because her phone does not have the facility either. This is story replicated in Kenya and am sure the world over. Other than other setbacks like electricity black outs (if the village is lucky to be connected to the national grid) waiting for a whole 20 minutes for a page to upload. Few facilities that support internet access. With introduction of mobile phones in the Kenyan market those with cyber cafes thought they would be out of business therefore few were willing to invest in the cyber leaving Charity and her ilk at the mercies of middlemen. If Charity becomes very desperate to use internet she may have to use a smart phone for her neighbor teacher but this will be at a fee and lack of privacy. Charity had wanted to access internet to see how to grow melons thus her dream of growing melons might just be "stolen".
Lack of sufficient knowledge on the importance of internet in support of Women's Programs eg Marketing of the self-help group businesses online. Online access has numerous challenges. The illiteracy levels do not make matters any better.
There's also society's perception that the internet is meant for young people and not the elderly women therefore every time Charity shows up the cyber the attendant does not take her seriously like he would another young customer. Lack of knowledge on how to create websites and Market businesses on line. Supply of electricity is not succifient in rural areas, high cost of modems and routers to enhance internet connectivity is also another big challenge.
We also have another big impediment which is taboo and religious perception that internet is evil and bad influence to the society. The rural has no network reception especially on phones thus barring mobile internet connectivity.The potential of increasing access for women and girls is exponential
What should be done at grass root to make it easier for women access internet is conduct capacity building session on importance of internet in support of women programs and educate women oh how to use internet access tools to benefit their programs. In my local church they have started low cost internet classes and they have a cyber they are running for the church members and the community around. This helps greatly especially for those who are not computer literate. The other useful way would be to use simple slide tutorials in the church halls to ensure easy leaning on how to use internet. Where possible provision of free WI FI zones and infrastructure. In my Country Kenya l have seen some public service vehicles with "Free WI Fi" which am sure can be enacted in grass roots.
Internet access is not a luxury anymore its a necessity to everyone. In Kenya for instance we have revolutionized the way we transact by what we call money transfer via mobile device. This noble innovation has changed the lives of many people especially women in grass roots. A farmer in the remotest part of the country can be able to send her goods to the buyer in another corner and the cash changes hands via phone. Those with sophisticated phones can upload pictures of their product and market them but this can only be possible through continuously educating the grass root women through the avenues l have listed since technology is changing by the second.
Teaching women on how they can market their groups' small business online and avoid exploitation by middle men. Farmers especially have been the biggest casualty in this when they have toiled and grown their potatoes middle men come and chart away their goods at through away prices yet when they bring the same products to the Cities they make more money than the farmers! Integrating women groups on line that support women activities and concerns like maternal health, women rights, child care and women groups. The other way also is to encourage women to invest in cyber cafes and internet business.
To encourage accessing of internet safety technology companies and Government would use firewalls to bar cyber hackers and audit content, Using of security codes when accessing private sites like yahoo and Gmail accounts. We could also avoid risky sites with suspicious contents or unidentified site managers. This has made a lot of people even the internet savvy lose money.
The respective ministries in ICT can introduce WI-FI zones within administration e.g. chief's camps, market areas etc. Equipping of the lowest wards in the community with at least a fully equipped internet Centre that is accessible to every citizen at a low subscription fee. There is need to introduce internet in adult learning this will be useful for those adults who some reason did not have education. We also need to introduce computers in our primary school. The model in Rwanda should be replicated in all rural schools at grass roots.Currently in Kenya we are moving into that direction. Am sure this will have a ripple effect as we move into technology operated gadgets everywhere. Grassroots government representatives should partner with women groups to supply them with gadgets and wi fi at a subsided price.
Service providers in technology should lower the price of internet infrastructure like fiber cables, servers, computers etc. and also telecommunication companies to lower the cost of internet bundles and services on internet solutions. The technology companies could also partner with women groups and give them internet offers and call the bundles to enable them access internet during their meetings. Am sure this can fly off the shelves pretty fast. The local banks can partner with women groups in purchase of routers and computers on subsidized loans and encourage them to start cyber cafes or put their business on line. They should also ensure there's good connectivity and network in per urban and rural areas thereby allowing access to internet on phones.
There's a need to come up with mobile phones that are reasonable in price that are conducive to internet access and support on line application