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.
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
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH ICTEDUCATION, ACCESS AND USE: A GENDERANALYSIS OF MUSLIM YOUTH IN INDIA
FARIDA KHAN1* and REHANA GHADIALLY2
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
5 CONCLUSION AND POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
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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