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”