Thursday, 8 March 2012

How Many African Women are Online?

African women given the impetus can put technolpgy to good use. Source:
I pose this simple question to ICT4D researchers on International Women's Day 2012. My orignal intention for this post was to highlight the limited access that African women, and those in other parts of the developing world, have to the Internet and other vital information sources. But where could I find comprehensive statistics to back my claim?

Tweeting at BarCamp Takoradi, Ghana: Men dominate the show
 Or, perhaps am I just tasking myself to bring a non-issue into the limelight? I don't think so. Cursory observation and scanty data available show just how grave the situation is:
  • Women’s participation in Internet usage in Africa ranged from 12% (Senegal) to 38% (Zambia), according to this 2003 study. This is notwithstanding the fact that women constitute the majority in most African countries.
  • According to, far more men than women use the social networking site, Facebook in Ghana.
Male/Female ratio of Ghana's Facebook Users

Studies showthat women naturally tend to use the Internet and mobiles for personal and intimate encounters, like what persists on social networks, more than men. So why the huge disparities?
  • In Uganda, women's awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less that that of men (ResearctICTAfrica, 2006). There, women tend to acquire basic ICT skills in order to be able to get employment in gender-stereotyped roles, it was noted.
These sad developments defeat the objectives of women empowerment as captured by the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in 2003:

We are committed to ensuring that the Information Society enables women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society and in all decision-making processes. To this end, we should mainstream a gender equality perspective and use ICTs as a tool to that end.

Team Azma coming out of the Kuyu Project Digital Camp in Kenya show the way forward for African girls and women
Not only that. Granted that ICTs have been identified as development tools and women are at the heart of development in our communities, the situation is worrying. Knowledge is power. The inability of women to drink from the knowledge well of the world-wide web is disempowering; this is the inimical to the advancement of development in Africa and elsewhere. Their lack of avenues to express themselves through the emerging digital frontiers choke their voices in the arena of public discourse. This cannot be!

Firstly, we need to be able to place a figure on the actual number of active female Internet users. Next, we should figure out the factors that inhibit women's use of the web and finally put in measures to reverse this trend. Many women are leading the way when it comes to technology in Africa, but we must support many more to bring change to our communities. Bring the women online!


  1. Well done on this post Gameli. I like that you share relevant graphs, and pictures to illustrate your story. I agree that we have too few women in technology, and that women need to be present in every field including technology.

  2. Hi Nnenna!Yes you are! Thanks for commenting on my blog. Infact, you're one of the African women at the forefront of technology. I hear Idlelo 5 is coming up soon. Goood luck with the event!

    @Nana, thank you so much.Yes, women need to be present in technology, but more so they need to be active users of the tools. These days a lot of info is transmitted digitally and they often miss out on what can take them and soociety far.

  3. Very nice piece Gameli! Interestingly, I was also struck by the BarCamp picture when I saw it on Twitter. I asked the person who posted it "Where are the women at?".
    You make a good point about women having to be active users of the tools. Also I fear that there are way too few African women programmers and coders compared to African male counterparts. In fact, I'm not too sure exactly what "coding" involves!

    Hopefully things will change as ICT becomes more widespread and girls become involved at a younger age...Hopefully!

  4. Hi Abena, many thanks. :). We need more women to come to BarCamps and contribute their unique perspective and experiences. We need more African female tech leaders and coders as well. "Coding" is a term used to describe the process of building computer software and requires the knowledge of a programming language. It's a stimulating intellectual experience, so you might want to give it a try.

    As long as the likes of Anne Amuzu and Farida Bedwei continue to spring up in Ghana and Africa, there is more hope for the future!

  5. @Gamelmag...some women are using technology tools to do business. Like AfroChic I believe they're selling clothes online.

    1. Hi anon, thanks for the link. I know of AfroChic too. They're doing a great job! Great example.

  6. Look at this:


Keep comments and insights coming to get the discussion going!