Information Communication Technology (ICT) provides opportunities for women's socio-economic empowerment in many areas, including in Health and Education.
Education is an area where both developed and developing countries are applying a combination of traditional and new ICT, adapting, for example, the use of computers and the internet, radio and television, in formal and informal learning, distance education and establishing e-learning centres to support the education and training of women and girls.
High illiteracy rates of women and girls and their lack of ICT training are two of the most serious barriers that prevent them from entering the information economy.
Continuing gender gaps in Education, due to domestic responsibilities, lack of mobility and socio-cultural practices of girls, constitute enormous challenges for women and girls. Language and basic computer literacy are prerequisites for women and girls to benefit from the use of ICT in education. The under-representation of women in Science and Technology adds to the gender differences and inequalities in this field.
Initiatives that focus on educating women in poor communities and teaching them computer literacy have demonstrated the value of ICT for women. A study of nine projects with a specific focus on women and youth in south Asia showed that ICT use is valued for providing a different model of teaching and learning, which is practical. New ICT also allow the process and content of education to be adapted to learner preferences and priorities, thus opening up possibilities for designing and providing education in forms that are locally relevant.
In many developing countries, computers are being introduced in school as a tool to support the learning process. Research has shown that classrooms are not free from gender bias. Therefore gender-sensitive planning of ICT interventions is a precondition to ensure equal access and effective use by girl students of computers in the classroom environment.
There is a vast potential for ICT to facilitate global, regional and national health initiatives for women. The use of ICT by health practitioners in developing countries is quite well established.
Organizations such as Satellife and Health net are examples of projects that have been successful in providing health information and connections to developing countries' health professionals. Satellife is a US based NGO that works to break down barriers to health information access through innovative applications of ICT. Health net is its global communication network which links health-care workers around the world via e-mail and allows doctors, nurses, researchers, medical students and other health-care providers who had been working in isolation to communicate, share experiences and access information critical to their work. These kinds of projects exemplify how ICT can contribute to improve health convictions in developing countries.
However, there has been too little attention given to how these technologies can directly address women's health concerns, or how they can build on women's roles at household and community levels as the primary users and disseminator of health information.
Some successful efforts have been undertaken by health promoters to use radio to effectively disseminate information related to women's health including sexual and reproductive rights and health. The use of the Internet is being explored through exchange of information via e-mail, online newsletters and list servers. ICT have the potential for delivering locally adapted health information to women through community access points.
ICT are also helping women in HIV/Aids affected household to cope, particularly in Africa where AIDS remains a major problem and where women and girls often bear the brunt of the pandemic. Women are at greater risk of HIV infection, including as a result of gender inequality. They bear significant responsibility for the survival of families. They are constrained by lack of inheritance and property rights, unemployment, lack of access to and control over resources, and poor health, including malnutrition.