Use of ICTs for Women Psychological Empowerment in South Africa: Telecentres and Empowerment of Women

Use of ICTs for Women Psychological Empowerment in South Africa: Telecentres and Empowerment of Women

Abiodun Alao, Roelien Brink, Kenneth Ohei
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2983-6.ch003
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The term ‘empowerment' has been defined in many ways in different professional fields. Empowerment means to develop a person's full potential to achieve a range of human capabilities. For people to be productive, they may need to be empowered to gasp their sense of self-worth and be able to tackle their personal issues. The study investigates the contribution of ICT tools such as telecentres for the empowerment of women in disadvantaged areas of the Western Cape, South Africa. The essence of empowerment entails the alteration of individual lives to attain goals they may have not been able to achieve. Thus, empowerment is an active, multi-dimensional progression that allows people to comprehend their potential and powers in all spheres of life. The study used the Dimensions of Empowerment Theory to explain the outcome of women's use of the telecentre using the dimensions of empowerment output indicator.
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Psychological empowerment allows people to gain strong self-esteem, the improved ability to analyse their situation, solve problems and influence strategic life choices (Gigler, 2014). Psychological empowerment is a pro-active concept that encourages an active and initiative-taking approach to life at the individual level. Psychological empowerment is further elaborated as something that is done for or provided to someone; it can also be an individual, psychological process, but one which may be influenced by external processes (Alao, 2019). The external processes include the environment and contemplation that a person is not formed only by heredity and conditions of growth and care, but also by opportunities and experiences in the world around them (Sharaunga Mudhara & Bogale, 2019).

The chapter explains the concept of psychological empowerment using Gigler’s (2014) Dimensions of Empowerment Theory. The aim of the study is focused on using Information and Communication Technology (ICT), such as telecentres, to contribute to the empowerment of women in disadvantaged areas of South Africa. According to Statistics SA GHS (2017), 20.1% of the Western Cape households have access to ICTs (See Appendix 1), yet women are among the list of people who lack access to ICTs and have remained unrepresented in using ICTs. This study examines how ICT tools such as telecentres can empower women living in disadvantaged areas.

The establishment of telecentres in disadvantaged areas is to provide people with access to accurate and up-to-date information and equip them with new skills, to empower and improve their lives (Gomez, 2014). The chapter highlights the essence of telecentre use for the empowerment of women and the gap identified in the literature shows that enhancing women’s informational capabilities is the most critical factor that determines the impact of ICTs on their well-being. The section that follows highlights the overview of psychological empowerment.

Problem Statement

There are instances in the South Africa where men living in poor areas migrate to urban areas leaving behind their wives and children to seek for employment opportunities (Alao, 2019). Telecentres are ICT access point that provide free ICT services to community people to seek possible opportunities in the cities (Alao, 2019). However, despite the establishment of telecentres in some communities, women are hindered from using ICTs due to socioeconomic factors, cultural norms, structural(Human, political and technical) and conceptual factors (lack of computers, availability of space and other societal perceptions) (Idris, 2018). Telecentres are known to be suitable models that can be used to enhance computer literacy. As literacy is key to knowledge; without literacy, there can be no empowerment, particularly for women and girls (Antonio & Tuffley, 2014). Hence, there are pending issues on how to share information with people who have little knowledge on how to access and use ICT facilities due to low levels of literacy, inadequate time or money, highly contextualised knowledge and language requirements.

Women living in disadvantaged communities are the focus of this study because women are known to be marginalised, unempowered and unable to improve their economic standards due to the lack of ICT skills. Unlike men who have more opportunities to own and benefit from using ICT tools to seek for employment using the services of the telecentre (Alao et al.2017). Women have limited access to the use of ICTs because they are mostly responsible for their families which hinders their opportunity to use the telecentre for their psychological empowerment (Alao, Lwoga & Chigona, 2017).

Telecentres comprise of ICT infrastructures such as computers, printers, scanners, telephones and the internet. These ICT tools are accessible to source information and employment opportunities for self-empowerment purposes (Gomez, 2014). An important effect of empowerment on individuals, such as women, is education which improves the educational outcomes of children. An educated woman is most likely to have a greater impact on a child’s development even though the father’s education may capture a beneficial income. The implementation of telecentres with programmes that focus on the empowerment of women in disadvantaged areas will provide women information on how to overcome their daily challenges and enhance their psychological or individual empowerment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

USSAASA: Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa.

ICTs: Information communication and technologies.

Stakeholders: Refers as an individual or group that has an interest in any decision or activity of an organization.

NGOs: Non-government organizations.

Telecentres: This is a centre that serve as a public centre that consists of computers that are connected to the Internet, with a variety of technologies such as telephones, radio, fax, copiers, scanners, laminations and printers in communities where domestic ownership of such equipment is not affordable.

Public Internet Access Point (PIAP): Public internet access points (PIAP) can be defined as public places where people can access ICT technologies as well as other ICT oriented services.

Disadvantaged: Refers to the areas that most suffer from a combination of economic, health, and environmental burdens. These burdens include poverty, high unemployment, air and water pollution, the presence of hazardous wastes as well as high incidence of asthma and heart disease.

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