Among the first things which come to mind when you think about Kenya and technology, is Silicon Savanah. The idea about Kenya being called Silicon Savannah came from the perception that Kenya is the leader in the region when comes to technology. But at this point there is huge digital dive in this country. It is an issue that we need to work tirelessly to sort out and the problem is more pronounced with women across the country. Digital divide refers to the gap between those who benefit from digital technology and those who do not. It is the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those without or limited access to it.
The private sector players are doing their part to help bridge the digital divide the country. Early this week, Intel Corporation announced a collaboration with Joyful Women Organization (JOYWO) – a Non-Governmental Organization that seeks to empower women economically and socially – to train over 1M Kenyan women in digital literacy by 2020. The digital literacy training will be spearheaded through the Intel She Will Connect program which aims to bridge the technology gender gap in Africa. The aim of the intel She Will Connect is to reach over 5 million women and girls by 2020.
Intel has trained JOYWO trainers on the Intel She Will Connect digital literacy curriculum and equipped them with technology devices to enable them carry out face to face training with women and girls across the country. Talking of the technology devices, it is great to see BRCK tablets being used for this project. BRCK was among the companies that were shortlisted for the laptop for kids Government program but were not picked in the final selection. At that point I thought they would find it hard to operate outside the formal education system. It is more on how the Kenyan system is structured, like for example if you write a book and it is not picked by the Government as one of the course books, then you like doomed. The use of BRCK technology devices here is a clear illustration that Private sector is increasing playing a crucial role in the different sectors of Kenyan economy. It is also shows that Kenyans are capable of coming up with technology that can be used to sort out some of country pressing problems.
While announcing the collaboration, Intel Corporation’s General Manager for East Africa Mr. Danie Steyn said Intel aims to empower women to leverage the internet and technology to pursue their goals, while providing them with an opportunity to learn, connect and share online.
“We believe that empowering women will give them an opportunity to positively impact their communities.” said Mr. Steyn.
He added: “Collaborating with JOYWO will allow us a unique opportunity to tap into their extensive network, reach more women across Kenya and eventually augment our efforts to bridge the internet gender gap.”
So what is in this for women? There a number of areas in technology that the training will cover. Number one and the most important one according to how we see it, is learning how to use the Internet safely. The opportunities online are limitless but at the same time the dangers online are also countless. It is important for people who are coming online for the first time and even for those who have been there for a while to understand how challenging internet can be. Cyber bullying is real and women faces serious threats online than other groups. Knowing how to navigate through the challenges is very important. Women are also better trainers for kids or let say more in touch with the young ones than men for example. Educating the women also means educating the future generations as well.
The second area that will be covered is how the women can apply technology in their businesses. The way the world works now, it is impossible to see how one would be successful without applying technology. Technology is now everything when comes to business, that include how to make payment, communication, tools for the basic production itself and many more. The great thing about this is we know that Kenyans are able to adopt technologies both as individual levels and for businesses. Case in point being Mpesa and the use of mobile phones generally.
To understand the extent of digital divide in Africa , Intel She Will Connect was introduced as a direct response to findings of the Women and the Web Report, which examined women’s access to and use of the Internet in low and middle income countries. The Report found that, on average, there are nearly 25% fewer women than men are online in developing countries. This represents 200 million fewer women than men online today. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the gap is 43%— the largest across all the regions in the study.
It sad to note that the fund set aside to help bridge the digital divide gap, Universal Access Fund has not been used at this moment to sort out the issue. When I asked Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore about the Fund, his response was that the money has not been used at all. This despite the fact that the Government pressured the telcos to release the money. Safaricom alone paid over Ksh.2 Billion and that should tell Kenyans the amount of money we are talking about and what can be done when the people in charge get serious. The only hope at this point is that the new CS Mr. Joseph Mucheru understands the need to sort out the digital divide issue . Kenya’s Deputy President, H.E. William Ruto, who graced the launch of the program, said the government is proactively working with the private sector to engrain the use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) so as to boost productivity and positively grow the country’s economy.
“Supporting women to learn and use technology will go a long way in pushing our country to grow and improve the lives of our people,” said Mr. Ruto.
Before I go, it is important to note at this point that JOYWO, which was established in 2009, is a brainchild of Her Excellency Mrs. Rachael Ruto- the spouse of Kenya’s Deputy President – and runs various empowerment programs for women, among them table banking, livelihood activities, market access and capacity building.
According to Mrs. Ruto, who is the organisation’s patron, the programs offered by JoyWo are designed to empower the group members in a wholesome manner. JOyWo works with women groups in rural and informal urban areas in Kenya to teach them on Iife -skills with a view of enabling them achieve financial independence.
“We are excited to be collaborating with Intel Corporation as both organizations have a mutual interest of empowering women in Kenya. I believe empowering women will go a long way in unlocking the potential of our country to achieve sustainable economic growth. We are focused on providing an opportunity to women and girls to explore creative ways of making a living,” said Mrs. Ruto.