Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan

Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan

Eva Maria Hoffmann (Technische Universitaet Berlin, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-813-5.ch003
OnDemand PDF Download:


In Afghanistan, the development of information technology (IT) as an industry and an educational field is still quite young, but this provides the country with an opportunity – especially for women - to participate actively in the process of rebuilding, and to strengthen their role in Afghan society. This chapter gives an overview of the situation at Afghan universities and the women who are studying Computer Science there. Afghan female computer science students are young, open minded and very motivated. Nevertheless they are often limited by social boundaries within Afghan society. The situations and circumstances of these female students are largely unknown; hence a survey has been done to discover more about these women’s world. Female students from Kabul and from Herat University have been interviewed and the data from these interviews is presented here as a foundation for designing measures aimed at integrating Afghan women into the world of IT in the near future.
Chapter Preview


For 20 years, Afghanistan was isolated from the world. The reign of the Taliban had a strong impact on the nation’s history. The many years of war and the reign of the Taliban have left an unstable nation, politically as well as economically and socially. By now, as civil reconstruction processes have begun, progress is clearly visible in all sectors. In every area there are projects conducted and supported by the international community.

Just a few years ago there was little use of modern technology in the country. Recently information technology (IT) has spread, but only a few modern and complex systems exist. Heterogeneous IT structures that have grown in industrialized countries over the past years can in parts be useful and adapted to the situation in Afghanistan. For example, the Open Source movement has the potential to gain a greater share of the market in Afghanistan than in western economies, since Afghan users and their technology still have the potential to be shaped due to a lack of prior experience or commitment to prior technical structures (Ghosh, 2004).

This, however, will require a sustainable strategy. To quote the Afghan Ministry of Communication: “[...] Afghanistan will use Communications and ICTs to improve Government and social services expeditiously and foster the rebuilding process, increase employment, create a vibrant private sector, reduce poverty and support underprivileged groups.” (Ministry of Communication, 2003)

Currently, the IT sector and the use of computer technology are generally dominated by men. Many obstacles prevent women from using these technologies. For example, using computers and computer technology demands prerequisite literacy, and less than a third of the total population can read and write. Of that literate population only 12% are women. Therefore, less than 2 million women have the necessary entrance requirements for IT training or other forms of education. A second obstacle in Afghanistan is English language skills: most of the IT applications are only available in English. (CIA, 2009)

The living conditions of most Afghanis prevent free access to digital technologies. Infrastructural basics like stable power supply or reliable Internet access are not available nationwide, especially not in rural areas. Since only a small percentage of households own their own computer, most people go to Internet cafés and public computer centers. Here again, women face difficulties due to their restricted freedom of movement. They cannot access these centers as easily as men, as they are mostly not allowed to leave their homes on their own, and in addition, they are not always allowed to be in the same room with unrelated men or strangers.

Despite these obstacles, many Afghan women are curious and very interested in IT and its applications, and this is reflected in the high numbers of female students studying courses related to computer science and information technology.

Based on my work as a lecturer at Herat University, this paper presents a picture of the most recent developments in the area of Computer Science (CS) in higher education in Afghanistan. The current status of the subject at Afghan universities will be described and a group of female students has been researched to get a deeper understanding in their lives as students. On the basis of interviews and questionnaires the aspirations, problems and motivations of the female students have been captured. It is intended that the results of the research can be later used for the development of measures to empower Afghan women in the area of IT.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Madeleine Cæsar
Shirley Booth, Sara Goodman, Gill Kirkup
Chapter 1
Inger Boivie
This chapter explores aspects of the gendering of computer science and IT, related to epistemological issues of what computing is and what type of... Sample PDF
Women, Men and Programming : Knowledge, Metaphors and Masculinity
Chapter 2
Ulf Mellström
This chapter investigates how and why computer science in Malaysia is dominated by women. Drawing on recent critical interventions in gender and... Sample PDF
New Gender Relations in the Transforming IT-Industry of Malaysia
Chapter 3
Eva Maria Hoffmann
In Afghanistan, the development of information technology (IT) as an industry and an educational field is still quite young, but this provides the... Sample PDF
Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan
Chapter 4
Johanna Sefyrin
In information technology (IT) design it is essential to develop rich and nuanced understandings of messy design realities. In this chapter Karen... Sample PDF
"For me it doesn't matter where I put my information": Enactments of Agency, Mutual Learning, and Gender in IT Design
Chapter 5
Christina Mörtberg, Pirjo Elovaara
The Swedish public sector is involved in an overwhelming change process aiming towards creating a good-service society based on information... Sample PDF
Attaching People and Technology: Between E and Government
Chapter 6
Marie Griffiths, Helen Richardson
The trend for women to be severely under-represented in the UK ICT (information and communication technology) sector persists. Girls continue, year... Sample PDF
Against All Odds, from All-Girls Schools to All-Boys Workplaces: Women’s Unsuspecting Trajectory Into the UK ICT Sector
Chapter 7
Agneta Gulz, Magnus Haake
This chapter explores motivational and cognitive effects of more neutral or androgynous-looking versus more feminine-looking and masculine-looking... Sample PDF
Challenging Gender Stereotypes Using Virtual Pedagogical Characters
Chapter 8
Martha Blomqvist
This chapter presents a study on the use of research based information on gender and IT education disseminated by Swedish newspapers between 1994... Sample PDF
Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers
Chapter 9
Els Rommes
The aim of this chapter is to explore to what extent heteronormativity, the norm that man and woman are attracted to each other because of their... Sample PDF
Heteronormativity Revisited: Adolescents’ Educational Choices, Sexuality and Soaps
Chapter 10
Shirley Booth, Eva Wigforss
The chapter tells of two women with low educational qualifications who embark on a journey into higher education by taking a distance course to... Sample PDF
Approaching Higher Education: A Life-World Story of Home-Places, Work-Places and Learn-Places
Chapter 11
Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt, Sandra Riomar
This chapter problematizes how gender is constructed and used in the arguments of flexible distance education. By using a gender and space analysis... Sample PDF
Gendered Distance Education Spaces: “Keeping Women in Place”?
Chapter 12
Minna Salminen-Karlsson
In this study of computer courses in municipal adult education, 173 questionnaires from 10 Swedish adult education centres with students taking a... Sample PDF
Computer Courses in Adult Education in a Gender Perspective
Chapter 13
Gill Kirkup
This chapter examines the access women have had historically to engage in knowledge production as university scholars or students. It discusses the... Sample PDF
Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World
Chapter 14
Gwyneth Hughes
Collaborative learning online is increasingly popular and the interaction between learners is documented and discussed, but gender is largely absent... Sample PDF
Queen Bees, Workers and Drones : Gender Performance in Virtual Learning Groups
Chapter 15
Gill Kirkup, Sigrid Schmitz, Erna Kotkamp, Els Rommes, Aino-Maija Hiltunen
This chapter argues that the future development of European e-learning needs to be informed by gender theory, and feminist and other critical... Sample PDF
Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*
About the Contributors