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IDIA2014 Conference
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
3-4 November 2014

ICT Skills Training in Marginalised Communities: A Gendered Journey with Lessons or Not?

Mathe Ntšekhe
Rhodes University
South Africa

Alfredo Terzoli
Rhodes University
South Africa

Sibukele Gumbo
Fort Hare University
South Africa

Mamello Thinyane
Fort Hare University
South Africa

Full paper

Abstract

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) skill training is an absolute imperative for bridging the digital divide, especially when working with disenfranchised communities that have limited, but steadily growing exposure to ICTs. In this paper, we reflect on our experience having conducted numerous training sessions within the Siyakhula Living Lab (SLL), an ICT4D project in the rural and peri-urban areas of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. We leverage the results of an initial survey, which we conducted for purposes of improving training, to aid us in our reflection. Firstly, and rather unsurprisingly, we note that the majority of participants in training are women. This is unsurprising since in rural (and indeed peri-urban) spaces, women are typically drivers of development, in part, because men are pushed for economic reasons to go in urban spaces in search for employment. Secondly and more importantly, we note in a historical sense how the women in present and previous SLL training sessions have consistently shown enthusiasm towards learning. This, over the years, has caused us to think deeply about how we can engender ICT use that maintains and not reverses this trend, especially in cultivating skills for innovating and/or creating ICT services. Or to put it differently, to ponder how we can avoid the normalisation of women weaning themselves out of the possible roles of being producers of ICT-related services: to be just consumers, as is the case on the developed side of the digital divide, where many women actively avoid, say, being software developers. This is not a new question or problem; we look at it anew, as ICT4D research practitioners and educators in the higher education sector, with the intention of drawing lessons from our skills training experience in SLL. It is through this intention that we hope to contribute insights that may eventually help to resolve the gender question(s) within the ICT sector.

Key words

E-Skills, Gender, Inclusion, Siyakhula Living Labs