Global Resources

From Access to Effective Use: A Suggested Model for Ensuring Disadvantaged Arab Women's Engagement with ICTs

Author: R. Al-Zu'bi
Publisher: BRIDGE
Publication Date: Dec 2003
The Arab digital divide is staggering, with only 18 computers per 1,000 people in the Region, compared to a global average of 78.3. This translates into an even wider gender divide due to barriers which are particularly inhibiting to women - cost, lack of capacity, social and political censorship in some Arab countries, and English dominated content not relevant to local contexts. Low spending on innovation and research in the region impedes developing creative Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools targeting marginalised communities, particularly innovative multimedia/ICT resources for illiterate women. Furthermore, many Arab women live in conflict zones or under military occupation. Telecommunications infrastructure is damaged while women are confined to their homes due to fear of violence. They are therefore unable to access public ICT services at a time when communication is much needed to share experiences, connect with a wider support base and with refugee and diaspora communities. In this context, how can ICTs be promoted without reinforcing the gap between those already able to use ICTs and those unable to overcome the above barriers? The answer proposed is to shift focus from access and technical infrastructure/hardware to ensuring effective use. Ensuring that ICTs can be used effectively by women and others means considering not only the access and hardware needed, but also the social and organisational infrastructure and policy environment.