THE NIGERIAN WOMAN: WHAT IT WILL TAKE FOR WOMEN IN THE RURAL AREAS TO BENEFIT FROM EVERYTHING THE INTERNET HAS TO OFFER.
The internet is a tool of empowerment which provides men and women, old and young access to a world of networks, communities, health education, information, financial advice and business skills training.
The growing access of the internet has allowed people especially women to empower themselves by using various tools on the web. With the easy accessibility of buying and selling, e-learning etc, women can now study, and transact businesses from the comfort of their homes anywhere, anytime and thus empowering themselves financially and educationally through new technologies; and learning new skills which come in handy in today's globalized village.
It will be practically impossible to talk about this subject matter without first all looking into the thought provoking challenges women in Nigeria rural areas globally face in the world of ICT.
I will also highlight what it will take for them to benefit from all what the internet offers.
The 3 major challenges hindering the Nigerian Rural Women from accessing the web are:
1. DEARTH OF ICT FACILITIES IN NIGERIAN RURAL AREAS.
One of the major challenges militating against women and globalization in Nigeria rural areas is the dearth of ICT facilities. The problems hindering adequate provision of ICT facilities and services in Nigeria rural areas are classified under this category as thus;
* Lack of basic education: 70% of Nigerians do not have basic education while 39% of the women fall under this category. The rural women in Nigeria today are mainly into small scale agriculture and they do not have the zeal to learn computer operations due to the fact that the cannot read and write. The depth of knowledge and skills in the use of the internet is a challenge. Many women spend huge money to cyber cafés and hiring those who have good knowledge of computer and the internet to help them download, type, print and send emails.
* High cost of networking technologies: high cost of computers, smartphones, and laptops in Nigeria is also seen as a hinderance hence the largely exploitative local computer and phone market and unsatisfactory after sales maintenance and support.
* Internet connectivity: Internet service providers in Nigeria are highly exploitative because there is little competition. In addition, their services are not the best in the world. Lack of effective government regulation is one of the factors that give the service providers open check to exploit in all sectors. They don't care much about the quality of their services because they can break the rules and get away with it.
* Poor level of awareness of internet facilities in the rural areas.
* Inefficacy of service providers: the few service providers do not have the ability to provide quantitative internet service to all those that need it.
* Ignorance of decision makers of the power of information network on the economic and industrial growth of the country.
2. POOR OR EPILEPTIC POWER SUPPLY:
The general low power supply in the rural areas in Nigeria is seen as another set back to those who are willing to setup private cyber cafes. Not all of them have the finance required to back up the power supply with generators due to high cost of petroleum products in Nigeria and the high cost of maintenance of the machines.
3. GENDER INEQUALITY: this is seen as one of the major problems women face in accessing the web because in Nigeria today, it is observed that the womanhood is reduced to a mere infidel and a second class citizen. Women in Nigeria rural areas feel very insecure to visit the cyber cafés within their vicinities because they will be labeled or classified as "loose, disrespectful or lousy". The average Nigeria woman in the rural areas lag behind in information network technologies and facilities, and this has contributed to Nigeria been classified as having the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.
THE WAY FORWARD
These challenges could be resolved in various ways and basically a good environment for the rapid growth of ICT in the rural areas is very important.
The issues can be dealt with when the government creates the right environment for the operators to extend their services to the rural areas.
The need for incentives like tax rebate and subsidy on roll out cost to operators of cyber cafés in the rural areas among others are of equal importance too.
Power supply needs to be improved on and made available 247 to enable the women in the rural areas in Nigeria have unimpeded access for powering their computer systems and charge their phones anytime the need be.
In Nigeria high prices for internet access disproportion affect women since they have less income than in other parts of the world. Still it is important to raise awareness of the need for equal access to information for all parts of our society.
Gender equality is growing on the world's agenda, as it's vital importance is recognized. Equal access to the internet may not sound as significant as inequality of poverty or illiteracy; but it is an increasing barrier to progress.
Gender equality aides greatly in highlighting the importance of girl-child education and it's benefits.
Gives women the opportunity to access the various amenities of the ICT and allows free flow of information.
It also helps in improving the quality of life of women in the rural areas hence self empowerment and awareness of ICT.
In the Nigerian society today, not all educated girl-child / women are computer literate and most of the ones who are computer literate have their knowledge limited to word processing. This automatically means that the internet literacy especially amongst Nigerian women in general is almost not in existence.
It is for the government to come up with a policy that guarantees that every Nigerian school from Primary to the tertiary level has computer education added to their school curriculum as well as having internet connectivity.
E-libraries should be situated both in the urban and rural areas in Nigeria and women should be encouraged to always try to widen their knowledge of the internet and it's benefits through reading and awareness campaigns etc.
The one essential and major player is the government both at the grassroots and federal level. When the 3 tiers of government in Nigeria join the computer/internet literacy awareness that is when the internet connectivity in the rural areas and Nigeria as whole will be a reality.
I went to a university where the library had no computers and the school in general. As a Library and Information Student, We were taught use of computer and library automation theretically. I discovered the internet and it's benefit after my university days when I registered with a computer school; although we were taught more of word processing after which I got a job in an oil servicing firm in Lagos as a Document Controller with full access to the internet, I learnt to use some of the various document control softwares on the internet which made my work easier and faster. The internet was some sort of a class room for me then and still is.
The internet is a tool that has helped me in all aspect of life and work. The internet:
.....makes my work easier and quicker
.....enables me to search for things much faster than normal
.....saves me huge time and money by making it easy for me to obtain information at almost a lightening speed
.....helps me connect with friends and family, meet with people of great importance via Linkdln, twitter and Facebook
.....has made job hunting very easy for me and several others
.....makes traveling very easy, the days of staying on long queues to make travel arrangement is far gone.
.....has kept me better informed especially on health issues and news of what is happening around the world etc.
.....has given me the voice to encourage young girls who lack self confidence via my various posts on Facebook.
The internet has brought much easy to my life
ONLINE EMPOWERMENT LEADS TO OFFLINE EMPOWERMENT
I believe online empowerment can lead to offline empowerment but this also depends on what exactly an individual wants.
The internet to me is the greatest invention ever which has brought more information and easier access to resources for every one.
Online empowerment leads to offline personal empowerment which helps develop confidence to set realistic and fulfill potentials. In politics, it leads to patterns of participations that develop offline empowerment like political campaigns and rallies. This is where the social media plays a crucial role.
Online empowerment electrifies morale, faith, stamina and enables the whole being actualize predetermined goals, follow dreams and work hard. It gives support to the less supported, educates and transforms in a positive offline manner.
In our world today, women have become more aware of the internet and it's usefulness in their works, education, advocacy, training, and networking thereby breaking the barriers of gender inequality and freedom of speech.
The internet since invention has been the ultimate democratiser, which has given women a voice via blog sites, social networks etc that have the power to affect decisions.
HOW IMPORTANT DIGITALLY EMPOWERING WOMEN IS
Digitally empowering women is an important contributing factor to achieving equality between women and men, but economically strengthening women who are half the world's workforce is not only a means by which economic growth is gingered, but also an approach of advancing women's human rights.
With the introduction of the World Wide Web , many women have began to use social network sites like Facebook, Twitter, and blog sites for their online businesses, e-learning and activism. Through this, women are able to empower themselves, voice their opinions of equality rights without feeling oppressed, organise campaigns/rallies and acquire knowledge/information.
When women are digitally empowered to do more; economic growth becomes apparent. The level of poverty reduces hence women representing most of the world's poor population. Inclusion of women in the formal workforce increases economic output of a nation when they are able to use the right knowledge and skills.
Women when fully empowered digitally tend to increase their enterpreneurial ventures, encouraging them to become stronger leaders and to more effectively contribute financially to their families, communities and countries.
Finally; investing in women helps speed up the development of local economies and create more equitable societies.