Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sikale kwambiri: Malawian women go into ICT

Malawi is experiencing an unprecedented participation of women in the, hither to, considered male-domain fields of Information, Communication and Technological (ICT) advancement, a leading mobile service provider has said.
This follows an increased number of women winning various prizes in promotions run by mobile service providers in the country, one of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states where access to ICT services remains poor for most people. Increased tariffs initiated by government to boost its revenue base as well as low per capita income conspire to deprive most Malawians, especially women, of the right to communication.

However, this is being tackled through promotional competitions where people go out with mobile handsets, vehicles, or airtime. One of the companies that is taking an active role in improving the ICT platform is Zain Malawi, a leading mobile service provider that has a client base of over one million subscribers.

Zain honoured its one-millionth customer earlier this year, as other service providers grapple with the problem of low patronage.

Zain Malawi Public Relations Officer, Edith Tsilizani, said in Blantyre that the mobile service provider was impressed with the participation of women in ICT; a development she said could signal the coming out of the cacoon for the long-marginalised sector in society. Research findings have revealed a myriad of factors that stand in the way of women, starting with stereo-typed cultural beliefs and traditions, and a low literacy rate for women, as society still feels it’s a waste to educate a woman.

Less than 60 per cent of girls who enroll in primary schools are said to drop out of school before they finish secondary education, spelling a gloomy future for them when they meet abusive husbands.

"We are happy, as Zain Malawi, with the participation of women. People have often looked down upon women, and fail to appreciate that women are now coming out of their cacoon and playing an active role in improving the ICT spectrum in the country.”

“That is why one lady, Linda Upend, has even won a Toyota Hilux Pick-up in Zanyatwa Promotion- a prize galore where we intend to give out 14 of these vehicles,” said Tsilizani.

The company initially wanted to give out 10 Toyota Hilux pick-ups but has increased the number by four to express gratitude to customers during the Christmas and New Year festivities.

Tsilizani said there were people who still could not believe that most subscribers were women, saying, however, this was becoming a rarity as more and more women win various prizes in ICT promotions.

Zain has, so far, given out six vehicles, and eight are yet to be dished out. Mobile phones and units are also being given out; in a move Tsilizani said was meant to boost government efforts in improving access to ICT, in a country where over 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.

Information and Civic Education Minister, Patricia Kaliati, said all efforts aimed at improving access to ICT are greatly appreciated by government, acknowledging that Malawi still had a lot to do to make ICT available to all, as people in rural areas still moved long distances just to grab a call to someone living less than 10 km away.

"We are committed to making ICT available to all; and will do all we can to help service providers willing to improve this aspect of development. ICT is crucial to attaining sustainable social-economic national development," said Kaliati.

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