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THE CHALLENGED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WOMAN AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

“Is it a mindset, is it lack of access to knowledge and skills or is it sheer lack of interest that makes it hard for women to embrace the digital technology?”

This is a question I ask myself because I am also a woman and I find myself lagging behind when it comes to using the digital technology. I will share of my very latest challenge with this digital technology. About three weeks ago, I bought me a home theater and a HED television after using the analogue television and radio for over 10yrs. My 20yr old son encouraged me to buy the digital systems because the analogue was now obsolete and it was getting harder to view many channels or even listen to radio stations which are now transmitting using the digital technology. So I took my new possessions home but it took me three weeks to open the boxes and attempt to connect them. I removed the manuals but after 2hrs, all I had were cables running in and out of the systems but nothing was working. I had to call my sister Janet to come and help me connect them. She has this thing with computers and systems, a love affair I must say and she connected the two systems in under one hour and the television was connected to the home theater and my DSTV decoder was functioning and she was able to go round the different applications that I can use on my new telly including Bluetooth, Skype, facebook among others. My concern still is whether I will venture to see how I can use this technology to the fullest or will I just enjoy the surround sound and that’s it.

Where am I going with this story? I am trying to show that as women, we are surely encountering challenges when it comes to using this digital technology. I am a victim of this phenomena. Up to a point I believe that it is a mindset. As women, it appears that we have already set the limits up to where we can go with technology and assume that it is meant for men and the younger generation. As a women, keeping up with the fast moving technology poses a challenge because just when I am learning how to use a particular internet application, a new upgrade of the same application comes up and before long I feel so overwhelmed because many people and companies are trying to come up with a new thing to outwit the inventions of others and this makes it hard to keep up with and soon or later we give up. We also have so many responsibilities from being sisters, mothers, wives and even workers and keeping up with technology becomes a challenge because we tend to attend to the more traditional responsibilities before we focus on technology.

Power outages, especially if the computer the woman is using is not connected to a UPS to give her a few minutes to complete what she was doing is a challenge that affects women especially in the developing counties. I have heard that there are countries especially in Africa that have constant power outages and yet the digital technology is powered mostly by electricity. So if there are constant power outages, it means even if they have smart phones, once the battery power is gone, they will only be able to get online once power is back. The constant power outages usually discourage women to shy away from using internet because even main servers are usually powered by electricity so in the end a woman will go and attend to other matters and forget about the internet for a while.

In Kenya, it is not cheap visiting a cyber café to use their internet services. The charges per minute are so exorbitant and then they have very slow internet speeds so you find a woman is forced to take too long at the cyber and at a point she will utilise the minimum time she can give to internet and off she goes to mind other responsibilities and duties. Then we have other internet service providers like Safaricom, Airtel and Orange who have made it easy to access internet via the smart phones and using modem but it is not a free service. One has to buy MBs in order to use the internet services and it is not cheap at all. So you find that financial constraints will make a woman have to determine whether internet bundles are more important in comparison to food and of course food will take preference. This means that a woman will prefer to feed her family or herself and ignore her need to enter the internet for information etc.
It is not strange that many women in the world but in Africa especially give technology very little preference because she has so many other problems to deal with. A woman in the developing county has to grapple with poverty, hunger, lack of proper shelter for her family, drunkard husbands, troublesome teens etc and visiting the internet will be the last thing on her mind. But we have the other kind of woman who is employed, in a good job and she can access internet but you will find that some employers prohibit access of internet during working hours, some even block access to certain websites and this hinders how much a woman can access the internet. Others do have access to internet but they do not have the knowledge of how to get information using the search engines and are afraid to ask for assistance. So you see they have access to internet but they do not know that there is so much information in there that they can access and be of much use and help.

I like going to the internet based social dating sites and I am usually there to just chat and make my work a little interesting but all the men you meet there think that you are there to solicit for sex. This really makes it hard to socialise with men because they cannot believe it that a woman can be in a dating site and just be there for chatting and chatting alone. Yet this can be used as a forum for exchanging great ideas and networking. There are many women who have fallen prey to conmen and tricksters and they have found themselves in a lot of trouble and some have lost property, money and others go on dates with these men and get date raped. But this is not to say that there are no women who have the agenda of meeting men for money and sex in the internet. No!! They are there and the internet has become a place for meeting many men who are willing to enter into a prostitution kind of relationship with women they meet in the internet.

I believe the internet has so much to offer but most of the women know just the tip of the ice berg of the importance of internet. I feel that there should be internet tutorials that are written in simple and easy steps that can be used to train women on how to use all the different sites in the internet. Unlike the younger generation and those who are in white collar jobs, most women who are either self employed or stay home mothers do not have much time to read though the content of the websites trying to make head or tail of what is in there. But if sites were written and arranged in an easy way for women to understand and utilise, this would allow women to enjoy the joy of the internet. I may not be an internet guru but I have had to teach many of my women colleagues at the office on how to access information on the internet but I have encountered women who at a certain age (especially those over 40yrs) complain that they do not understand what the internet is all about and this in a mental barrier and only they who can embrace digital technology for them to be up to speeds with it.

In the end, this is what I tell myself and my fellow women:

“If you do not change with technology, technology will change you and it will not be fun”

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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The irresistible development of the world independence expressed by the term “globalisation” compels world to interconnected, as said by Zygmunt Bauman ( a sociologist and professor at Varsovie and Leed Universities), “Globalisation is inescapable and irreversible”, we are already living in an interconnection and interdependent world at a planetary scale. Whatever can happen somewhere affects the future of people everywhere else. Whenever steps to take in a given place have to be assessed, reactions in the rest of the world have to be taken into account as well. For instance, no sovereign state, however wide, populated and rich it may be, is able to protect alone, its life conditions, its security its long term prosperity, its social model or the existence its inhabitants. Our mutual dependence operates at a world scale (….)”.
In fact, it’s difficult, even impossible, to be interconnected if there is no common communication tool which allows interlocutors to listen and understand one another. This tool is obviously the English language, which plays this role at the world level. Indeed, language is a tool which vehicles culture, living ways, economic and political systems. It should thus be acknowledged that English has become today a language used worldwide and that English words can be noticed in sectors such as computer science, telecommunication, etc. as was (and still is) Italian in music). Even the new technologies often use English in the globalisation context through internet and its components.
Since 1951, English has been used in aviation on demand of OACI. Besides, scientific research works are more and more written in English, and other are simply translated into English.
In some non English speaking countries, English in used when they have to speak about economics of finances, otherwise they use their own languages including a great number of English words to the extent that the massage is hardly understood by those who do not speak English. Definitely, the language of finances is English.
Even though Chinese is the most important language in the world, numerically speaking, with 1.2 billion speakers, English comes first in the commercial domain and it is the official language in many countries. It is one of the six languages of the United Nations namely Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, Russian and French.
Given the universal use of English and the socio-economic supremacy of the United States, which generates a cultural hegemony, English has undoubtedly a language of universal communication. No other language has ever served this end, except Latin, from the end of the Antiquity to the Renaissance period.
The predominance of English replaced that of French during the 20th century due to the two world wars at to the strengthening of the United States’ political and economical weight.
Bukavu population in particular, and that of south- Kivu in general, is greatly involved in commercial activities and is concerned way the effects of globalisation given its geo-strategist location, that is in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With three English speaking neighbour countries namely Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The population of Bukavu also carries out very fruitful commercial exchanges with the U.S.A, China, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Kenya and Uganda. Considering its import statistics, the Province of south- Kivu in general, and the town of Bukavu, in particular, strongly need to speak English, the language of world. It should be mentioned that the existing classic structures have not happened to integrate this issue which should have consisted in promoting the leaning of English to women, children and to the other members of the community who do not have access to formal training such as the one organised in universities and other specialised institutions where languages are taught.
Therefore, Anglo Congolese Alliance ACA DRCongo intends to contribute to the promotion of cultural values in general and the improvement of English language in the south Kivu province in particular, thanks to its English centre named “Bukavu International English Center/BIEC ”whose project in partnership with different local institutions consists on training Bukavu’s women in terms of English language from 2014 up to then and to intensify exchange between learners and other users of the English language all over the world.

can the English language increase women influence to fight violence against women?
Yes it can

DAVID

Ashleigh Lauren's picture

Good points

Thank you for offering insight about a major stumbling block for women in digital literacy: the mindset.
We often focus on physical hindrances rather than mental. Your suggestions about making simple to use internet tutorials are brilliant. With so many women focusing on families, careers, the day- to-day business of putting food on the table, they don't have time for navigating a complicated, digital world.

Thanks for sharing.

Best wishes,

Ashleigh

boughnea's picture

a true challenge

This is a real issue and a sometimes overwhelming challenge to face. It sometimes feels that we open the door to ten new challenges by solving one issue. In this case, as you said, only the tip of the iceberg has been exposed. Perhaps a good solution or step in the right direction would be through support groups or people that get together and use the internet and talk about technical problems or new discoveries. Maybe one person is struggling with an issue that someone else is also struggling with and they can help each other, or maybe someone else has the answer and has already gone through the same thing. This might also lend support for things outside of just internet use.

I hope you will continue to challenge yourself and your community members so that you can be proactive and not reactive in this technological age : )

Best of luck!
Amanda

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