Technology, innovation and women in Tanzania. | By Carol Ndosi | January 2023

Technology is increasingly being used to promote gender equality around the world. From artificial intelligence to virtual reality, innovative tools are being developed to raise awareness of gender issues, empower women entrepreneurs, and eliminate discrimination.

Other technologies are finding new ways to fight gender inequality. Virtual reality is used to simulate scenarios and give people a chance to experience different perspectives.

In Africa, technology plays a pivotal role in empowering women. Innovative initiatives are changing perceptions and providing access to resources that help break down economic and social barriers.

It has been proven that if the agenda for women’s access to and use of technology is promoted, it will help address many constraints and barriers to women’s social and economic growth and contribute more to sustainable development.. However, global representation of women in STEM fields remains extremely low.

Although numbers are increasing gradually albeit slowly, Tanzania is making progress in promoting gender equality through initiatives related to STEM education and is seeing more female enrollment in STEM subjects and fields from secondary education to tertiary education.

However, according to the World Bank Tanzania 2022 Policy Note on Improving Gender Balance in STEM Tertiary Education in Tanzania, we still need to be concerned about the influx of females into STEM tertiary education.

Technology and women have the power to change Tanzania. In recent years, the government has invested heavily in digitization initiatives to reduce poverty and achieve economic growth. Ongoing initiatives through the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology to support this include the “Digital Tanzania” project and the existing connectivity and infrastructure development through UCSAF.

Both the public and private sectors are working to push women to the forefront of this effort and support them in using technology to access markets, build networks, develop skills, and improve services. In addition, more women are becoming entrepreneurs and creators, launching projects that create jobs and improve living standards. There has been an increase in coding classes and hackathons that are creating more paths for women to gain the skills they need to succeed in the field.

Take, for example Apps and girls, an organization that supports girls with capacity building in mobile applications and software development. Over the years, they have worked with the hundreds of girls they support to realize several digital solutions that have made it through the ideation stages to the prototype stages.

Another example of an initiative to advance the women and technology agenda in Tanzania Project Inspire, Working in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. The initiative supports girls with entry programs into coding and robotics and activities to encourage their interest in STEM. UN Women’s communication initiative in Tanzania helps bridge the digital divide by providing training programs in coding and digital skills.

In addition, platforms such as ShecodesForChange, Codecs under COL ICT and Tanzania Data Lab, Apps and Girls, and LP Digitalthe most recent Digital TanzaniaThe program provides support and resources for those interested in pursuing a career in technology.

On innovation, a new program under UNDP in Tanzania – Fungus programme It supports and scales innovative solutions with a strong focus on gender balance. It’s encouraging to note that women are also using mobile technology to create healthcare solutions, for example Afia Mobile The App – A digital healthcare solution co-founded by a woman, to help improve access and quality of care.

We have also seen women participate in the design and development of smart city initiatives, such as the Dar es Salaam Digital City, that are transforming the urban landscape and creating more opportunities for women’s economic empowerment.

Innovations such as mobile money transfer integrated with digital payment systems and banking services have played a pivotal role in empowering women and technology by making digital financial inclusion for women possible, opening doors to savings and security allowing them access to loans and improving their long-term economic opportunities.

In addition, e-commerce and digital learning platforms have made it easier for women to become entrepreneurs and access resources, for example Panda Digital A mobile app that provides essential digital skills to women entrepreneurs in Tanzania. Social media is also playing a significant role in changing the narrative around women and technology by connecting African women to each other, and enabling them to share their stories, experiences, and advice. We’ve also seen social media amplify and highlight success stories and role models such as 100 Tanzania Cheroz which also acts as an encouragement and motivator for girls to pursue careers in technology.

Despite the progress we’ve seen in recent years, there are still some significant barriers that prevent women from fully taking advantage of the opportunities in technology. Many women lack access to resources and do not feel confident in their technical abilities.

Furthermore, research has shown that female entrepreneurs are less likely to obtain financing and investments than their male counterparts. Additionally, there remains a digital divide between men and women, as women are less likely to have access to the digital skills they need to succeed in the tech industry. The digital world also needs to seriously address online violence as a limitation for women who use digital platforms and be brave enough to design these solutions for themselves. It is time for thoughtful interventions and support for feminist technologies that will meet the needs of today’s women in Tanzania.

Finally, there are still gender stereotypes that can discourage women from pursuing a career in technology.

We need to continue working towards addressing the barriers to women’s access to, design and use of technology, innovation and use in Tanzania and we cannot do this without reviewing the existing policies in places that should drive any interventions, infrastructure development and mechanisms, as well as appropriate. Allocation of resources that can also ensure the spread and leave no one behind in both rural and urban areas.

Most importantly are interventions that can also start in homes. What are Tanzanians doing at the household level to promote technology and innovation for women? Are we really nurturing talent and creating jobs or are we still constrained by patriarchal sociocultural norms that define appropriate careers for girls in our society.

There are still a lot of conversations we need to have around this, which is why LP Digital is organizing the 1st Women’s Technology Conference in Tanzania on 7 March 2023 and that also means celebrating the International Women’s Day theme – DigitALL – Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality.

Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter – @carolndosi

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