Access and the Use of ICTs Among Women in Jamaica

Access and the Use of ICTs Among Women in Jamaica

Nancy Muturi (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-939-7.ch089
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Abstract

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have made the global village a reality with the Internet, cell phones and other digital communication technology disseminating messages instantly through the fast information superhighway. The United Nations (U.N.) Development Program (UNDP, 2001) defines ICTs in terms of innovations in microelectronics, computing (hardware and software), telecommunications and opto-electronics—micro-processors, semiconductors and fibre optics. These technologies enable the processing and storage of enormous amounts and rapid distribution of information through communications networks. As new innovations, ICTs are also described as “the building blocks of the networked world,” (UNDP, 2001, p. 30), with ICTs, particularly the Internet, being used by a variety of organizations as a global networking tool. Access to, knowledge of and effective use of ICTs is crucial, particularly where access to the technology is equated to social, political, economic and human development. Internet usage, for example, is regarded as the standard indicator of the use of ICTs and also the most democratic of all mass media, mainly because of their low investment (Internet World Stats, 2006). This technology has been used effectively as a tool for delivery of various services and applications, including distance learning, agriculture, telehealth, e-commerce and e-governance. Individuals, organizations and institutions now use the Internet to strategically reach a large audience of markets through e-mails and other advertising strategies, since it is fast and economical, irrespective of size or location of business. There are many gender issues, however, related to connectivity and access to available ICTs, some of which are visibly documented and most often examined as the digital divide based on gender. Rakow (1986), in her classic studies on gender and ICTs, however, points out that technology should not be examined based on the differences in the behavior of men or women towards a technology, but instead to look for the ways in which the technology is used to construct us as women and men through the social practices that put it to use. Rakow further argues that more attention needs to be paid to how communication technologies alter, aid, or construct women’s opportunities for interacting with each other and with the wider public domain. This article is based on data gathered through a detailed open-ended questionnaire, with a sample of 121 Jamaican women, ages 21 and older, and explores their access and nature of use of ICTs as well as challenges they face in their attempts to use them effectively. Like other Caribbean islands, Jamaica has embraced ICTs as a tool for national development, adopting the most recent technologies to ensure global connectivity. The study examines how these technologies could be used effectively to address some of the developmental, economical, health and human developmental challenges that face the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). These findings are used to complement existing studies, including national surveys and literature on the gender and ICT issues in the Caribbean.

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