Information and communications technology (ICT) is now an indispensable tool in empowering women, an international conference heard.
Participants from 21 countries attending the three-day conference, held this month (1-3 June) in Solan
in Himachal Pradesh
state (India), were satisfied by the rapid progress of ICT initiatives, but equally concerned at the many divides.
"We are doing a lot to train urban women into experts in information technology, but relatively little is being done to increase use of ICT among rural women", said Vinita Sharma who heads science for equity, empowerment & development at India’s department of science and technology.
Deliberations at the conference, organized by the centre for science & technology of non-aligned and other developing countries (NAM S&T Centre) and Jaypee University of Information Technology, Solan, focused on ways to make ICT more accessible to women.
Marialy Tovar, international analyst, Venezuelan ministry of science, technology and innovation, reported that 'info-centro' machines installed in most villages in her country have increased ICT access for women in her country.
Pushpa Devi Kuppusamy, IT officer in the Malaysian ministry of science, technology and innovation said the '1nita
' project in her country encourages women entrepreneurs to use ICT to advantage.
Participants noted the problems of access that women face include lack of training and infrastructure, socio-economic constraints to owning ICT equipment, inconvenient location of community ICT centres and lack of confidence.
While there has been a steady increase in the number of female ICT professionals, a large number of women still fear using ICT tools.
"We need to instill confidence among women so that they can be as good as men in both using and improving the technology", Arun Kulshreshsta, director of the NAM S&T Centre, told SciDev.Net.
Nirupama Prakash, head of the centre for women studies at Jaypee University, said women from the villages in Uttarakhand state had benefited from training in using community radio imparted by her centre.
Among recommendations made by the conference was one concerning the use of ICT to increase women's security and making them better aware of their legal rights.