Women and ICTs in the Arab World

Women and ICTs in the Arab World

Mohamed El Louadi (Université de Tunis, Tunisia) and Andrea Everard (University of Delaware, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-939-7.ch268
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Abstract

The digital divide manifests itself on the one hand in the lag in Arab world nations vis-à-vis other more developed countries and on the other hand in the existing inequalities between men and women. Although the United Nations and the World Bank publish a variety of reports on the differences between developed and developing nations, very little data is available to fully grasp the meaning of the gap between genders. In terms of information and communication technologies (ICTs), there are two distinct gaps that need to be recognized: the gap between Arab men and Arab women and the gap between Arab women and women from other nations around the world (Figure 1). Much differs in the lives of men and women. For decades, researchers have published comparative reports, attempting to explain what distinguishes men and women in socio-professional environments. According to Meyers-Levy (1989) men tend to be more comfortable with ICTs and partake more often in gaming and programming. When they use computers, women are more inclined to use them as communication tools. Given women’s presumed lack of experience with technology, their upbringing which is different from men’s, and that the studies they most often pursue are not technology-oriented, it is not surprising that women are generally less inclined to adopt new technologies. Those who nonetheless have tried their hand at browsing the Web were either witness to or victims of offensive language used during interactive discussion sessions; in some cases, they were harassed via e-mail. In order to avoid this unpleasantness, some women assumed male aliases (Herring, 2003). However, since 2000, when men and women reached parity in Web use (Rickert & Sacharow, 2000), it would appear that using the Internet is presently no more intimidating for females than for males. An abundance of other differences between men and women exist. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) acknowledged that there does not exist a society in which women benefit from the same opportunities as men. Everywhere in the world, women are poorer, less educated, and less valued than men. These and other inequalities reduce women’s ability to take advantage of the potential benefits of ICTs and to consequently contribute to their nation’s economic and social development which is in fact facilitated by these same technologies.

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