What separates developed from less developed countries is not a gap in resources but a gap in knowledge, according to Joseph Stiglitz, the ex-President of the World Bank. It therefore follows that in order to bridge the gap between Africa and the developed world, we must embrace knowledge. We must embrace it whether ever we can find it, in whatever form, in unorthodox ways and most importantly, to avoid falling further behind, we must do it quickly.
A recent Forbes article states that more than 20% of America’s 50 wealthiest self-made women made their fortunes in the tech industr. I wonder, what a woman or girl who only has a primary school education, would do with access to the internet.
The digital divide continues to cripple advancement towards sustainable development. This is most evident in rural Africa where the lack of access to ICT development solutions places already isolated and marginalized populations at a further disadvantage at a time when information technologies are revolutionizing the way the majority of the world relates and operates. This is fact. But can rural communities, particularly women with little education, really benefit from internet access?
An organisation called Voices of Africa for Sustainable Development has developed a product called the Rural Internet Kiosk. The Rural Internet Kiosk (RIK) is an independent, solar powered container which provides broadband wireless Internet connectivity. The RIK has been designed to help bridge the digital divide in Africa by being completely independent from any established infrastructure. But how does this help women?
Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of women are concentrated in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment. Only 7.2% of women own the land they farm, which limits their access to credit and constrains entrepreneurship and business activity. Only 15% of women have a bank account.
RIKs can provide the following development solutions to communities: eAgriculture, eCommerce, eHealth, eGovernment, eBanking, eLearning, relief services, local content creation, skills training, employment opportunities and independent local media. This can help women to start businesses, understand agriculture, open online bank accounts, pursue educational activities and take responsibility for their own health needs.
With access to ICT and the Internet the people can determine for themselves what type of development they want to pursue in their communities.
As one rural woman in the Western province of Kenya exclaimed, “It is like being brought from the darkness into the light.”