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Panel Session: Gender and the Digital Divide - Assessing the Impacts of Telecenters

March 7, 2002

Publicly open telecenters allow access to basic ICT services such as telephone, fax, computer, and e-mail. There are now thousands of telecenters in operation; however, few have considered the differing needs and interests of male and female clientele. Telecenters could be used to provide disadvantaged groups with access to these technologies. Panelists speakers shared their experience with telecenters in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Middle East & North Africa and discussed the potential of telecenters to expand women's access to and use of ICTs based on case studies.

Topics included:

  • How public access to telecenters can increase the public's participation in the political process and
    how women's participation can be targeted;

  • Assessment of the business models that have been used by telecenters;

  • Results of the recent evaluation data for telecenters in Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique, Mali, and Senegal, including gender disaggregated data on the frequency of use of community telecenters and on the types of services which are most commonly used;

  • Attempts to bridge the gender digital divide in Morocco and South Africa; and using the Internet as a tool to empower grass-roots organizations and minority groups in rural communities.

Opening Remarks: Mohamed Muhsin, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, the World Bank.


Eva Rathgeber, Joint Chair of Women's Studies, Universite d'Ottawa/ Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. IDRC Regional Director, Nairobi, Kenya (1992-2001). Eva spearheaded IDRC's Acacia program in East Africa.
"Gender and Telecetres: What Have We Learned?"
(Power Point 1.3 MB)

Speakers via video links to the World Bank Johannesburg, South Africa and Quito, Ecuador Country Office

Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Prior to her post with APC, Anriette served as Executive Director at SANGONeT, an electronic information and communications service provider for the development sector in Southern and South Africa, and APC member network.

Karin Delgadillo, Executive President, ChasquiNet Foundation,Quito, Ecuador. ChasquiNet is an NGO committed to empowering grass-roots organizations and minority groups through the promotion and use of the Internet. Their vision is to be facilitators. As a starting point, they are doing an assessment of the community needs to understand how the telecenter can be a tool to support and meet the needs of the community.
"Stories from Ecuador: Finding One
(PDF 17.5KB)

Sally Shakleton, Information Coordinator, Women'sNet, Johannesburg, South Africa. Women'sNet is a vibrant and innovative networking support program designed to enable South African women to use the Internet to find the people, issues, resources and tools needed for women's social action.

Discussant: Nancy J. Hafkin, Former Coordinator, African Information Society Initiative, Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
Dr. Hafkin has more than thirty years of experience on African development issues, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and previously as an academic in the United States, with special interest in information technology and development and relationship between information technologies and women and development in Africa. She is a well-recognized expert among the development communities. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) recognized and honored her a true pioneer of ICTs and development in Africa over the course of a twenty-four year career. She was among the first to enter the field of electronic communications in Africa. In 2000, APC established the Nancy J. Hafkin Information Society Prize to encourage and recognize African initiatives in information and communication technologies. Her recent research paper is "Gender, Information Technology, and Developing Countries: An Analytic Study." Her presentation "Gender, Information Technology and the Digital Divide in Africa" is available here.

Chair: Robert Schware, Lead Informatics Specialist, Global ICT Department, the World Bank

The cost of 20 hours a month of Internet connectivity
CountryPercentage of annual GDP per capita
South Africa16%


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