Broadband Internet Technology has finally arrived in East Africa following the launch of the cyber coptic undersea cables late this week. According to reports in a section of Kenya's media, the cyber cables aimed at providing cheaper and faster internet connection to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique was commissioned by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who termed the developed as a new dawn for the telecommunication sector.
However, in this new era of ICT what stakes are there for women in the region and specifically those in the rural areas? The challenges that women face in ICT is not only the basic illiteracy rate that is high amongst women ´ but also the ICT literacy and lack of access to computers or internet.
From time immemorial, print journalism in East Africa has been business for the men. A newspaper bought in a household has been the Property of the man, father and or sons. How much more will the computer be?
The majority of women in rural East Africa have never seen a computer, if they have, they have never dared to use it. Least to say, very few women have emails or even know how to communicate by email. Will this broadband arrival one that will stir the empowerment of women or widen the gap of gender inequality?
Broadband brings a variety of benefits that will aid in communication and enterprise development. It is foreseen for instance that the cyber coptic cables under the waters of the Indian Ocean, will help aid counties and communities in this East African region strengthened in economy as they aim to widen their markets.
If this be the case women in rural East Africa who are the core producers in agriculture, tourism and other basic sector, must use this opportunity to enhance their skills, broaden their marketing and increase their profits.
Women should also use this new technology to launch deep in social networking media and WEB 2.0 as platforms for change where their opinions can be expressed freely. Project Africa, a non profit organization working to promote gender, equality, equity and empowerment of women and girls, runs programs aimed at providing basic computer training courses for women and girls. These programs are offered to allow women to develop with current technology and particiupate in global and women issues through the social media and Web 2.0 technologies.
If cyber cafe fees for access intenet are to be reduced by the impact of broadband, it only matters to women if they can use the internet. It is time now for organizations to rally behind women in rural Africa and assist to empower them with skills and resources in ICT. Lest we look back 5 years from this date that broadband has been launched in East Africa and realise women are more marginalised and their voice being absent in new media and in global issues that matter.