Empowerment through ICT education, access and use: A gender analysis of Muslim youth in India

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  • women reported higher gains than men from computer learning when combined with ICT use.

    Sons, Ltd.

    While there have been developmental efforts to increase access to, and use of information

    Journal of International Development

    J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)

    Published online in Wiley InterScience

    (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/jid.1718*Correspondence to: Farida Khan, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, KRESIT, Indian Institute ofTodays world is shaped by availability of information and ability to communicate, both of

    which are enabled through the rapid diffusion of the Internet and extensive use of computers.Keywords: ICTs; computers/Internet; empowerment; gender; education; India

    1 INTRODUCTIONThus, despite the existence of a gender-based digital divide, when bridged, ICTs showed

    potential as an equalising force between the genders. In light of the above, policy measures to

    widen access and provide subsidised training are suggested. Copyright# 2010 John Wiley &POLICY ARENA



    1Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India2Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India

    Abstract: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) developing countries can

    bridge socio-economic divides and empower the marginalised, including women and minority

    groups. This paper considers four dimensions of empowermentpsychological, social,

    educational and economicand assesses benefits to each following computer education

    and usage of computer and Internet technology. Data were collected from 155 young Muslim

    women and men studying in three computer training centres in Mumbai, and a gender-based

    comparison was conducted. Figures for computer ownership and home Internet connection

    were low for the entire sample, and the training centres and cybercafes were important points

    of access for females and males, respectively. In terms of perceived empowerment, youngTechnology, Bombay, India. E-mail: farida@iitb.ac.in

    Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

  • and communication technologies (ICTs) in general, there is still a marked difference in

    660 F. Khan and R. Ghadiallyboth across the world as well as within societies. This gives rise to a digital divide that

    results into two groups; namely, the information rich, those who have access to abundant

    information and ICT-based services, and the information poor, who lack such an access.

    Even as India is a leading destination for ICT-related outsourcing that promises

    employment opportunities, there are several divides within the country. The digital divide

    operates across geographic location (ruralurban), income (richpoor), gender (male

    female) and language (Englishvernacular) (Kenniston, 2003). It has also affected

    marginalised minorities such as Muslims. The Muslim minority is disadvantaged both

    educationally and economically, and this has meant they have relatively less access to

    the information highway (Razzack and Gumber, 2003; Shariff and Razzack, 2004;

    Sachar Committee Report, 2006). Discrimination, inequalities of knowledge, and cost and

    language barriers compound the constraints, further limiting the extent of computer and

    Internet use (Khalidi, 2001). Muslim women are doubly disadvantaged as they face

    an additional gender barrier (Hasan and Menon, 2004). Yet, when provided, ICT skills and

    access offer an opportunity to leapfrog and bridge the disparities in information, education

    and income (Heeks, 2006). Hence, we postulate that equipping young members of the

    Muslim community, especially its women, with technical skills and access to digital

    technology could result in a more equitable development.

    In India, with a population of roughly one billion, ownership of personal computers and

    Internet subscription is estimated to be 64.4 million and 45.3 million respectively, covering

    just a small fraction of the population (IMRB, 2008; Neilsen, 2009). Three-quarters of

    Internet users in the country depend on shared access points, such as cybercafes, telecentres

    and information kiosks, with the former being the predominant public access model in

    urban areas. It is estimated that there are around 50 000 cybercafes used by almost 70 per

    cent of Internet users who comprise mainly college-educated, young, male, high-income

    individuals. In addition, research indicates that even when access is available, men are

    advantaged over women in the extent of computer usage (Venkatesh, 2000). In light of

    the above discussion on disparity in access to, and use of ICTs, the present study seeks to

    explore the different access points for the two sexes and assess gender differences in

    computer ownership, Internet connection at home, points of access and extent of computer/

    Internet use among a sample of Muslim youth.

    Educationespecially technical educationis instrumental in expanding capacities

    and improving employment opportunities, resulting not only in economic but also personal

    and social empowerment such as enhanced confidence levels and social status (Huyer,

    2003). Considering that computer skills are of immense importance in society, this paper

    therefore also considers the gains resulting from having acquired basic computer

    education. The impact of such ICT training is often understood solely from an economic

    perspective, but the present paper adopts a multi-dimensional approach and considers

    four different facets of empowermentpsychological, social and educational as well as

    economic. In sum, it looks at the impact of this training and related access and use of ICTs

    on these different dimensions of empowerment.

    Empowerment is conceptualised as participation in various activities aimed at changing

    the nature and direction of systematic forces which foster marginalisation. It is associated

    with greater control over ones own actions as well as the environment and entails

    redistribution of powerwhether between nations, classes, castes, races, genders or

    individualsthus enabling participation of members of these groups in the mainstream

    development process. Those working in applied areas like ICTs and their role inCopyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • development have tended to use the term empowerment rather loosely to mean building

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 661In doing this, we follow a tradition of using the concept of empowerment in gender and

    development studies (Mitter, 2004). Such studies have themselves tended to take a multi-

    dimensional view; for example, assessing the empowerment benefits to women and to

    gender relations in terms of not just increased income opportunities but also greater

    participation in decision making, social networking, advocacy, build-up of competencies,

    and self-image and self-belief.

    Given the growing importance of ICTs in economic, social and political life in

    developing countries, computers and the Internet can be seen as increasingly pervasive

    technologies that can help equalise gender disparities in not just information and

    communication but also education and income (Hafkin, 2002). (The latter not least, in

    India, through growth in ICT-related jobs; a sector seen to be more accommodating

    of women than some others (Kelkar, 2004)). Research has also highlighted the personal

    (self-confidence) and social gains (status, increased connectivity) for women that come

    from ICT education and use (Hafkin and Taggart, 2001; Umrani and Ghadially, 2003).

    Thus our multi-dimensional perspective on empowerment has been matched by an equally

    multi-dimensional potentiality for ICTs.

    To summarise, this paper studies the psychological, social, educational and economic

    gains resulting from computer learning and ICT access and use for young men and women

    from one part of the Muslim community of India. Its particular objectives are:

    To explore gender differences, if any, in computer ownership, Internet connection, pointsof access and extent of computer/Internet use.

    To assess the empowerment flowing from computer education for males and females. To explore differences, if any, in empowerment among males and females with different

    levels of computer/Internet use.

    The paper is divided into five sections. Section 2 presents the methodology of the study,

    while sections 3 and 4 provide the results and discussion, respectively. The paper ends with

    Section 5 which presents the conclusion and policy recommendations.


    Participants in the study comprised of 155 trainees (82 females and 73 males) from

    Mumbai, enrolled in a 1-year Diploma in Computer Applications and Multi-LingualThe

    aspCoClearly there are limitations in adopting the type of uni-dimensional approach described.

    refore, for this study, we adopt a multi-disciplinary perspective and consider the four

    ects of empowerment described: psychological, social, education and economic.Sprietzer, 1995; Corsun and Enz, 1999).cogof innate capacity of individuals or benefits derived from using the new technologies. Thus,

    according to their various backgrounds and parameters of assessment, empowerment is

    understood by different researchers in different ways. Those drawing from sociology might

    focus on empowerment of marginalised groups, and assess it in terms of political activism,

    advocacy and networking. Those utilising a more economics-based frame might focus on

    empowerment of the individual or household, and assess it in terms of improved income

    levels. On the other hand, those from psychology and management studies concentrate on

    psychological gains for the individual, and characterise empowerment in terms such as

    personality (self-efficacy, internal locus of control), motivational (feeling enabled) and

    nitive (meaning, competence, self-determination) factors (Conger and Kanungo, 1988;pyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Desktop Publishing offered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, under the

    National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) scheme. Data were collected

    from three computer training centresMadni Computer Academy, Homai Peerbhoy

    Center for Computer Education and Khilafat College of Educationset up under the

    auspices of the NCPUL. The course requires the trainees to complete a diploma in Urdu

    662 F. Khan and R. Ghadiallyalong with the computer course. While theoretically open to anyone interested in the Urdu

    language, it is particularly young, low-income Muslims who are drawn to it; in part because

    the course is highly subsidised (Ghadially and Umrani, 2004).

    Four NCPUL centres based in Muslim ethnic enclaves of Mumbai were identified. A

    pilot study was conducted at one centre and then the other three centres that run the

    programme at the same time (JulyApril) were selected for the main study. In line with

    participants feedback following pilot testing, a Hindi translation of the main survey

    questionnaire was provided along with the English version1. On completion of 10 months

    of computer training, the survey forms were distributed to all the trainees on the

    programme. The response rate was 100 per cent as data were collected personally from

    each trainee.

    As described next, the tools for data collection included a standardised scale to measure

    psychological empowerment. Scales were also formulated to assess social, educational and

    economic empowerment. Each of the empowerment scales asked the subjects to indicate

    the extent to which they agreed that ICT education had resulted in specified outcomes using

    a 6-point rating scale ranging from 1 disagree to 6 highly agree. What is beingmeasured here is therefore the perception of empowerment, but this has been found to

    correlate relatively well with actual behaviours and outcomes (e.g. Itzhaky and York,

    2000). In addition, a questionnaire was used to gauge computer/Internet access and extent

    of use. Computer ownership was assessed by one question each for computer and Internet

    connection at home. Point of access was assessed by one question where subjects selected

    the places of access from a list provided. Extent of computer and Internet use was estimated

    in terms of the number of hours subjects spent on a computer/Internet in a week. In

    addition, a few demographic details were collected to arrive at a personal profile.

    Psychological empowerment was assessed by an adapted version of Spreitzers 12-item

    scale (Sprietzer, 1995). It has four subscalesmeaningfulness (value of the task),

    competence (efficacy), self-determination (choice) and impact (difference made). Only the

    overall psychological empowerment score is considered for analysis in the present study. A

    sample item from the psychological empowerment scale is, Learning computers has given

    me considerable opportunity for independence and freedom in how I do my daily tasks.

    For social, educational and economic empowerment, the scales were designed by the

    researchers, deriving from the manner in which empowerment has been used in the

    literature on ICT and gender (Hafkin, 2002; Kelkar, 2004; Mitter, 2004). Social

    empowerment was measured by a 4-item scale that tapped four aspectsincreased status,

    social comparison, being with the times and keeping in touch with friends and/or relatives.

    A sample item from the social empowerment scale is, Computer education makes me feel

    more up to date and current. Educational empowerment was measured by a 3-item scale

    that covered three aspectsinformation on courses/colleges/universities, accessing online

    academic resources and preparation of class reports and presentations. A sample item is,

    1The participants comprised a mix of English- and Urdu-medium students. Hindi was selected as a languagecommon to both the groups. It was also noted during the pilot that those from English-medium schools had limitedlanguage fluency and asked for a Hindi version of the scales.Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Learning computers has opened new ways to find information about different courses/

    and points of access. It was found that 14.8 per cent of subjects had a computer at home.

    This included 12.2 per cent of females and 17.8 per cent of males (x2 1.4, ns). 6.0 per cent

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 663of the sample (5.0 per cent females and 6.8 per cent males, x2 1.6, ns) had an Internetconnection at home. These findings indicate that although the difference between male and

    female subjects computer ownership and Internet connection is not statistically

    significant, there is a trend in favour of the young men.

    The different places in which subjects accessed ICTs beyond class hours were explored.

    The computer institute where the subjects got their training and cybercafes emerged as the

    most important points of access followed by homes (own/relative/friend/neighbour) and

    the workplace. A small group of subjects did not have access to computers beyond class

    hours. A gendered view of these findings indicates that females and males differ

    significantly on points of access (x2 20.2, p< 0.001). While the computer traininginstitute emerged as a major access point for females (x2 10.9, p< 0.001), the cybercafewas more important for males (x2 4.3, p< 0.05) (Table 1). These findings indicate thatcolleges/universities for me. Economic empowerment was assessed by a 5-item scale

    opening of new job opportunities, application in family business, starting a computer-

    related entrepreneurial venture, earning from home and managing family responsibilities

    with a job. A sample item from the economic empowerment scale is Learning to use

    computers has opened new job opportunities for me.

    For analysis of the data, x2 and independent t-tests were computed to compare male and

    female subjects on ownership/access, extent of use and empowerment. Two 2-way

    ANOVAs were computed to gauge the influence of gender and differential level of

    computer and Internet use on the different dimensions of empowerment. The reliability

    coefficients (internal consistency) of the psychological, social, educational and economic

    empowerment scales were 0.70, 0.66, 0.72 and 0.77, respectively. These figures indicate

    that the scales are psychometrically robust and result in similar scores across items.


    Computation from the demographic profile revealed the following information about the

    sample. The average age of the subjects was 21.3 years (males 20.5 years;females 22.3 years) and their educational level varied from completion of highersecondary school (45.9 per cent) to undergraduates (22.7 per cent) and college graduates

    (31.4 per cent). The majority of the subjects (69.8 per cent) studied in Urdu-medium

    schools, while less than one-third (26.7 per cent) had English as the medium of instruction.

    The majority (73.2 per cent) of the sample belonged to the low- (monthly family income of

    less than Rupees 5000; c.US$110) and low-middle-income group (monthly family income

    of Rupees 500010 000; c.US$110220). 47.7 per cent had fathers who were running their

    own business, 33.1 per cent were engaged in service and 19.2 per cent had retired. 87.2 per

    cent had mothers who were homemakers, while 12.8 per cent engaged in home-based work

    or service. Participants reported low educational levels among their parents as nearly one-

    quarter (24 per cent) of the fathers and half (44 per cent) of the mothers had completed only

    primary education. Thus, the participants were young, educated up to higher secondary

    level or more, mainly Urdu-speaking, from low-income, predominantly petty-business


    The study gathered information on computer ownership, Internet connection at homeCopyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Table 1. Points of access to computers for males and females

    Points of access Total Males Females Gender

    T% M% F% x2 degrees offreedom (df) 1

    Computer institute 43.2 27.4 57.3 10.9

    Cybercafe 24.5 38.4 12.2 4.3

    Home 23.2 27.4 19.5 0.4

    Workplace 2.6 2.7 2.4 0

    Do not access 6.5 4.1 8.5 1.6

    x2 df 4 20.2p< 0.005;p< 0.05.

    664 F. Khan and R. Ghadiallycomputer training institutes and cybercafes are the major access points for females and

    males respectively. Though not significant, the trend indicates that more males have access

    to home computers and twice as many women as compared to men have no access to a

    computer at all outside class.

    The extent of computer and Internet use was also measured. On the basis of the number

    of hours in a week subjects used ICTs, beyond the class hours at the institute, they were

    classified into three groupsno use (not at all), low use (less than 5 h) and high use (5 h or

    more). More than one-fourth of the sample did not use computers at all, two-fifths reported

    low use and less than one-third were in the high use category (Table 2). The gender view

    indicates that female and male subjects differ significantly with regard to the extent of

    computer use. The number of females and males in the no computer use category differed

    significantly (x2 7.7, df 1, p< 0.01). Even when the women use computers beyondtraining hours, the extent of use is limited as compared to men (although this difference is

    not statistically significant). Thus, the findings on computer use provide some further

    evidence for the disadvantage of women participants.

    A similar classification was done with regard to Internet use. More than half of the

    sample did not use the Internet at all, one-third surfed the Internet for less than 5 h and a

    small number surfed for more than 5 h in a week. Female and male subjects differed

    significantly with regard to the extent of Internet use (x2 32.1, df 2, p< 0.001). Thetwo sexes differed significantly on each of the three categories of Internet useno use

    (x2 17.4, df 1, p< 0.01), low use (x2 11.1, df 1, p< 0.01) and high use (x2 4.4,

    df 1, p< 0.01) (Table 2). The findings indicate that Internet use is significantly lower for

    Table 2. Extent of computer and internet use for males and females

    Computer use x2 df 1 Internet use x2 df 1T% M% F% T% M% F%

    No use 27.1 16.5 36.6 7.7 59.4 35.6 80.5 17.4

    Low use 41.9 47.9 36.6 0.4 33.5 52.1 17.1 11.1

    High use 31.0 35.6 26.8 0.32 7.1 12.3 2.4 4.45

    x2 df 2 7.94 32.15p< 0.005;p< 0.01;p< 0.05.

    Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • women as compared to men. Comparing computer and Internet usage of the two sexes

    indicate that the disparity in technology usage is more marked in case of the Internet than

    the computer, putting women at a disadvantage on the information highway. They are

    therefore less able to build on their technical education to attain the benefits of Internet


    3.1 Impact on Empowerment

    As described earlier, the study also estimated the levels of empowerment of male and

    female trainees due to computer education. An estimate of composite empowerment was

    Composite 29.7 30.6 1.4

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 665Psychological 57.5 58.8 0.9Social 20.9 21.4 1.1Educational 15.5 16.2 1.5Economic 25.0 25.9 1.3calculated by adding scores on the psychological, social, educational and economic

    empowerment dimensions and dividing it by four. To test whether the male and

    female subjects differed significantly on empowerment, independent sample t-tests were

    computed (Table 3). In terms of statistical significance, the two sexes did not differ on any

    of the dimensions of empowermentcomposite, psychological, social, educational or

    economic. However, in absolute terms, there was a consistent gender differencein all

    cases women experienced more empowerment than men.

    The interaction effect of gender and computer/Internet use on empowerment was

    assessed by means of a two-way ANOVA. The combined effect of gender and extent of

    computer use (Table 4) resulted in a significant difference in the composite (F(1, 151) 8.0,p< 0.01), psychological (F(1, 151) 4.1, p< 0.05), educational (F(1, 151) 9.6, p< 0.015)and economic (F(1, 151) 6.1, p< 0.01) empowerment scores. In other words, with theexception of social empowerment, women reporting computer use outside class training

    hours obtained significantly higher scores on all aspects of empowerment as compared to


    In order to compare empowerment levels of men and women using computers, a t-test

    was done. The mean scores indicated that females with computer use reported higher

    empowerment than males with computer use as well as than females and males with no

    computer use. The mean scores of females and males on composite empowerment were

    significantly different (t3.2, p< 0.005). So, too, were the mean scores onpsychological, social, educational and economic empowerment of the two sexes reporting

    computer use (t2.4; p< 0.05,2.2; p< 0.05,4.3 p< 0.005,2.61; p< 0.01). Thus,women reporting computer use scored significantly higher than men on each of the

    dimensions and composite empowerment (Table 5).

    Similar computations were done with respect to gender and Internet use (Tables 5 and 6).

    The results are similar to, but more moderated than, those for computer use. The interaction

    Table 3. T-test scores on empowerment for males and females

    Empowerment Males Females t

    (M) (F) df 153Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Table 4. Results of two-way ANOVA assessing the effect of gender and computer use onempowerment

    Dependent variable Source Sum of squares df Mean sum of square F

    Composite empowerment (CE) Gender 101.2 1 101.2 8.0

    Error 1905.3 151 12.6

    Psychological empowerment (PE) Gender 306.6 1 306.6 4.1

    Error 1118.9 151 74.78

    Social empowerment (SE) Gender 25.0 1 25.0 2.8Error 1340.5 151 8.9

    Educational empowerment (EDE) Gender 58.2 1 58.2 9.6

    Error 913.1 151 6.1

    Economic empowerment (ECE) Gender 101.8 1 101.8 6.1

    Error 2512.9 151 16.6

    p< 0.01;

    666 F. Khan and R. Ghadially4 DISCUSSION

    4.1 ICT Ownership, Access and Use

    The study assessed ICT access and usage in terms of family ownership of computers,

    having an Internet connection at home and the various points of access to ICTs. We can first

    compare with the overall population. Mumbai ranks first in PC penetration in India with

    32 per cent of households owning a PC and 25 per cent having an Internet connectioneffect of gender and Internet use resulted in a significant difference in educational

    empowerment (F(1, 151) 4.4, p< 0.05). The trend of the mean scores indicates thatfemales with Internet use reported higher empowerment than males with Internet use as

    well as than females and males with no Internet use. As far as Internet use is concerned,

    females reported significantly higher scores on the composite and two of the four

    dimensions of empowerment. Once again, then, we see an advantage in experienced

    empowerment for those women who could get beyond-classroom access to ICTs.

    p< 0.05.(India Broadband, 2010). The comparative figures in our samplejust under 15 per cent,

    and 6 per cent respectivelyare considerably lower. The reasons for this are likely to lie in

    Table 5. T-test scores of males and females with different levels of ICT Use on empowerment

    Emp Computer use Internet use

    M F T df 111 M F T df 61CE 29.6 31.7 3.2 29.6 31.7 2.1PE 57.4 61.1 2.4 57.2 61.2 1.6SE 20.8 22.0 2.2 21.0 21.6 0.7EDE 15.4 17.0 4.2 15.2 17.00 2.8ECE 24.7 26.7 2.6 25.1 27.1 2.0p< 0.005;p< 0.01;p< 0.05 (one-tailed).

    Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Table 6. Results of two-way ANOVA assessing the effect of gender and internet use on

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 667the relatively low income of the sample group (which will also manifest in a space

    constraint: Mumbai housing space, at an average 2.9 square metres per person, is one of the

    smallest in the world, and lower still for lower-income group (Bertaud, 2004)), and low

    education levels of parents. Being college students or fresh graduates, the respondents had

    little disposable income of their own with which to purchase ICTs. All young members of

    this community were thus at an ICT disadvantage in relation to ownership.

    The two sexes did not differ significantly on computer ownership and home Internet

    connection, but the trend indicates males are slightly advantaged in both these aspects as

    compared to females. There is a lack of gender-segregated data on computer ownership that

    can be used for comparison but we can consider a study on difference in family computer

    usage in India. This indicates that 82 per cent of males compared to only 16 per cent of

    females are the primary users of the family computer (Venkatesh, 2000). Besides, Indian

    families tend to make higher investments in education of boys compared to girls due to

    different role expectations (Chanana, 2001). As the computer is identified as an educational

    tool, it is likely that families would prioritise purchase of computers for their sons rather

    than daughters. In addition, males identify the home computer as personally owned; while

    females identify it as belonging to the head of the family (Heimrath and Goulding, 2001).

    Thus, the gender differential seen in this survey in terms of ICT ownership is partly

    explained, and partly reinforced, by intra-household gender differences.


    Dependent variable Source Sum of squares df Mean sum of squares F

    CE Gender 21.7 1 21.69 1.6Error 2065.5 151 13.68

    PE Gender 99.4 1 99.42 1.3Error 11791.5 151 78.09

    SE Gender 0.02 1 0.02 0.0Error 1391.5 151 9.21

    EDE Gender 28.9 1 28.90 4.4

    Error 990.6 151 6.56

    ECE Gender 11.8 1 11.80 0.7Error 2607.0 151 17.26 1.3

    p< 0.05.Non-household points of ICT access were explored. A significantly higher number of

    females accessed computers at the training institute; something that is free but in which

    there would be an excess of demand over supply of computers, and in which there was no

    Internet connectivity. By contrast, young men tended to use cybercafes more, for three

    reasonsnature of use, cost and socio-cultural attitudes. First, males seek to use the

    Internet, which the computer-training centre does not provide. Second, in urban India,

    cybercafes are the predominant public access model for Internet usage. Even though the

    cost of surfing in cybercafes has reduced from Rupees 50 (c.US$1.09) to Rupees 20

    (c.US$0.43) per hour in the last decade, this is still a considerable expense for members of

    low-income groups (IMRB, 2008). Thus, while one-third of Internet users in Indian cities

    have an income above Rupees 25 000 (c.US$548), only 4.4 per cent of Internet users have

    an income below Rupees 5000 (c.US$109) (Haseloff and Ghadially, 2007). Given the

    different family attitudes outlined above, and differential access to money within the

    household, young women will be less willing and less able to spend what they would see as

    Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • family resources on surfing the Internet, thus curtailing their visit to cybercafes. Families

    also a strong relationship between use of the Internet and ability to speak English (Vehovar

    et al., 1999; Haseloff, 2005). As 70 per cent of the sample in the present study had Urdu as

    668 F. Khan and R. Ghadiallythe medium of instruction in school, their limited English language skills likely affected

    their Internet use. Although considerable web content is now available in a variety of Indian

    languages; a cursory review of the Urdu websites by the first author in 2007 revealed that

    they focused on literature, poetry and news rather than education and employment. Hence,

    tangible gains did not follow for the subjects surfing these websites.

    4.2 Computer Education, Use and Empowerment

    In addition to computer access and use, the study focused on analyzing gender differences

    in empowerment levels following ICT skills training. It was found that basic computer

    education yields relatively similar perceived empowerment gains for both men and women

    (though with a consistent pattern of greater female empowerment). If this were the sole

    finding, then reasons for this could be hypothesised around the relatively homogeneous

    nature of the sample group, the nature of scale items, or the difference between perceived

    and actual empowerment. However, beyond the average, it was noted that men and women

    scored differently on the items on the scales, but that these cancelled out to deliver a similar

    overall average. This will be discussed in the following paragraphs as will the fact that

    beyond the overall similaritydifferences emerged when accounting for ICT use levels.

    Although the two sexes do not differ significantly on all measures of empowerment, the

    trend in all cases is for females to be more empowered than males. This is supported by

    research that indicates that though modernisation and technological development initially

    disadvantaged women, ICT maymore recentlybe delivering a technological U-turn

    (Goyal, 2007). Findings of this study are strengthened by evidence from a qualitative study

    of the impact of computer education that indicates more women than men experience a

    higher boost in self-confidence and secure computer-related jobs (Umrani, 2007). Ofwill be more willing to provide money for boys to access ICT. Third, socio-cultural

    restrictions add to the disadvantage of young women as families impose sanctions against

    cybercafes, which are characterised as boys hangouts and lack female attendants (Umrani

    and Ghadially, 2006). The workplace does not emerge as an important access point because

    of the sample composition. Only six of the 155 participants (four men, two women) were

    working at the time of survey; in part-time jobs such as home tutor and office assistant.

    Moving from the issue of access to that of ICT use, two divides could be identified: the

    one across gender (male vs. female) was described above, but there is also one across

    technology (computer vs. Internet). While a quarter of the subjects fell into the no-use

    category for computers, with regard to the Internet, this rose to 60 per cent. One-third of the

    subjects reported high computer use but only 7.1 per cent reported high Internet use. These

    figures bear testimony to the fact that computer use and Internet use are distinct ICT

    categories and merging them into a single unit could be misleading. We also know this

    developmentally since Internet use is found to provide an informational and transactional

    benefit that PC use alone does not (Hafkin, 2002).

    The reasons for the computerInternet difference relate to ongoing costs of Internet

    connectivity, to non-availability of subsidised public access points, to limited English

    language competency and to socio-cultural attitudes. The difficulties of low-income groups

    in accessing (non-subsidised) cybercafes were noted above. Research indicates that there isCopyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • course, given women in developing countries in general are socio-economically

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 669deprived, their expectation from something new may be higher than males, who also

    have better chances of being exposed to these technologies beforehand. However, this

    difference in expectation and exposure does not negate any greater effects experienced by


    Analysis of the participants response on psychological empowerment indicates that

    females expressed slightly higher meaning (mean 14.9, SD 2.8), self-determination(mean 14.8, SD 3.2) and competence (mean 15.1, SD 2.6) as compared to males(mean 14.8, 14.0, 14.5; SD 2.3, 2.6, 2.5 respectively). In other words, computereducation created a sense of new possibilities for involvement, independence and self-

    confidence for women. On the other hand, males (mean 14.2, SD 3.0) reported slightlyhigher impact than females (mean 13.9, SD 3.3), indicating that computer educationprovided them possibilities for enhanced control over their environment. Thus, the

    psychological gains for females and males focus on micro and macro levels respectively.

    Women reported relatively higher gains on all aspects of social empowermentfeeling

    contemporary, enhanced status, social comparison and connectivityas compared to

    males. This is in line with research that women perceive family gain, communication and

    social gain as the first, second and fifth most important benefit of personal computer use

    (Umrani and Ghadially, 2003). In addition, the social connectivity aspect is supported as

    women are responsible for maintaining family and kin relations (Ghadially, 2003).

    How does computer education impact on other dimensions of empowerment for the two

    sexes? Women report relatively higher educational empowerment than men with higher

    scores on using ICTs for seeking information on courses/colleges/universities, and for

    accessing online journals/books/reports. Males score somewhat higher on the use of

    computers to prepare reports and presentations. This fits other research showing when

    females use computers, they do so mainly for educational purposes; unlike males, who use

    it for general purposes or playing games (Haseloff and Ghadially, 2007). Females reported

    slightly higher scores on four of the five aspects of economic empowermentjob

    opportunities, managing family responsibilities with work, earning from home and

    assisting in the family business. On the other hand, males reported a higher possibility of

    setting up a personal business. These differences may reflect different role models and role

    expectations; with women more often seeing any productive role needing to be combined

    with fulfilment of family responsibilities, whereas young men (remembering the 48 per

    cent of fathers who were running a business and thus providing a gendered role model) take

    a more enterprise-oriented view (something families are likely more willing to finance for

    male household members).

    Looking at ICT use and empowerment, it was found that significantly more females

    (more than one-third) fell into the no-use category of computer use than males (one-fifth).

    Similarly, significantly more females (more than 80 per cent) than males (one-third)

    reported no Internet use. The much greater gender disadvantage in Internet use is a

    particular cause for concern, since most evidence about ICT-enabled empowerment of

    women in developing countries, focuses on the Internet and its ensuing benefits for

    networking, political activism, e-commerce, etc (Huyer and Carr, 2002; Mitter, 2004). But

    this disproportionately low use of the Internet by women is in line with previous findings.

    In a survey of Macau residents, Internet users were more likely to be male (Cheung, 2001).

    In a survey of Indian Internet users, it was found that even when women do start using

    cybercafes, they use them less often and for shorter duration per session than men (Haseloff

    and Ghadially, 2007).Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • Gender and the extent of ICT use significantly influenced empowerment levels. The


    670 F. Khan and R. GhadiallyThe major conclusion of the study is that ICTs hold empowerment potential for

    disempowered groups generally, and an equalisation potential for women particularly.

    Sustained access to ICTs is important to both sexes but especially for young women as it

    haswhen combined with traininga more positive impact on perceived empowerment

    than for men. Put another way, computer education can in certain circumstances be a force

    for gender equalisation even when offered to both men and women.

    As far as access to technologyhome ownership, Internet connection, public access

    pointsis concerned, the findings here show a double digital divide. The Muslim youth

    surveyed have less access than the average. Women have less access than men. Income is

    part of this story, but socio-cultural norms and expectations are another. Thus women have

    less access to, and make less use of, most shared ICT provision whether at home or in

    cybercafes. The computer institute in which they trained was the only equaliser here.

    In light of the above conclusions, policy recommendations are suggested. In order to

    widen access points and encourage technology use amongst those at the edge of the

    information society, the right model must be selected. The commercial cybercafe model

    seems to be male-dominated and favour men. Better would be community access based

    around the telecentre model; perhaps built on public-private partnerships. But the

    cybercafes should not be ignored. Through tax or other incentives, cybercafes could be

    encouraged to help improve womens access, for example by reserving special times for

    women, providing separate spaces, and appointing female support staff. This would all

    have a commercial as well as developmental logic and one can even imagine the potentialinteraction effect of gender and extent of computer use is significant for composite and

    three specific kinds of empowermentpsychological, education and economic. Of course

    there has been work previously showing the psycho-social, educational and economic

    benefits of computer access and use for women (Huyer and Sikoska, 2003; Primo, 2003).

    As a concrete example, a study of six infoDev projects found computer skills increased

    self-esteem and promoted self-confidence of young women participants (Hafkin, 2002).

    Similarly, a study on novice women computer learners found that computer skills resulted

    in increased psycho-social gains such as self-esteem and enhanced status (Umrani and

    Ghadially, 2003). The difference here is the evidence that such gains are greater than those

    experienced by men where women can make additional use of ICT outside the classroom.

    Even though the advantage of females in social empowerment was not statistically

    significant, the trend is in a similar direction with computer-using women reporting more

    empowerment than men. In India, media advertisements for personal computers project the

    female computer user as a modern, westernised individual; cues that highlight the social

    status and modernity associated with this technology (Ghadially and Ranganathan, 2006).

    A computer being associated with masculinity, its usage can be seen to potentially bring

    women onto an equal social footing, enhancing feelings of being contemporary and

    moving with the times.

    The interaction effect of gender and Internet use on empowerment was only seen

    strongly in relation to educational empowerment; perhaps no surprise given the research

    noted above showing womenunlike menuse ICTs particularly for educational

    purposes (Haseloff and Ghadially, 2007).Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Int. Dev. 22, 659673 (2010)DOI: 10.1002/jid

  • for women-only cybercafes. Such supply-side measures can help make use of public ICT

    need to consider how a better beyond-training support package can be provided, such as

    micro-credit from banks to allow trainees to set up their own ICT-based businesses, and

    Empowerment Through ICT Education, Access and Use 671self-help groups of trainees who can help actualise income-generating ideas. In both cases,

    specific care may be needed to ensure a level playing field for women.

    The results presented here are those of just one, specific, study; albeit one supported by

    findings from related work. Future research looking at women and other disadvantaged

    groups in other locations will no doubt be useful. This can help test further the idea found

    here that ICTs are turning from a tool of developmental inequality to a means for greater



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