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State mulls revival of digital villages project

By Frankline Sunday | Oct 7th 2014 | 3 min read
By Frankline Sunday | October 7th 2014

The Government is moving to reduce gender disparity in the country’s IT labour market, in a move meant to see more women participate in the Sh50 billion sector.

This follows a new study that revealed gross disparities between women’s access to and use of the Internet compared to that of their male counterparts. The size of the gap is largest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of men online is close to twice that of women skewing the access and allocation of ICT jobs.

The Government now hopes to revive the digital villages project popularly known as Pasha Centres to offer a self-tutoring curriculum targeted at women, and specially designed to help learners expand their understanding and use of technology.

“One of our mandates as an authority is to develop ICT skills and capacity in order to serve Kenyans better,” explained ICT Authority Chief Executive Victor Kyalo. “We are championing this through partnerships, investment and infrastructure growth including this new programme that is meant to level the playing field in favour of women and girls who would like to have a career in IT.”

The ICT Authority, through the Youth Banner has so far launched 35 Pasha Centres in 27 counties as part of the programme, which will entail use of online peer networks and the use of gaming technologies across multiple technology devices integrated into the curriculum.

Private sector players

The project’s execution is led by private sector ICT players and IT multinational company Intel with participation from other non-profit organisations including the Rockefeller Foundation, USaid, Safari Connect and the Youth Banner.

Intel, which will facilitate the curriculum and provide learning resources, is targeting 2,000 women and girls across the country by December this year, with the ultimate goal of training five million women in sub-Saharan Africa by 2016.

“Improving access to Internet for women improves their self-esteem and expression and expands their social and political participation in society,” said Intel Africa Programs Director Suraj Shah.

“We are hopeful that this programme will provide new skills that will enable the participants obtain formal education, become entrepreneurs and secure employment within their communities and beyond.”

Participants seeking to enroll for the training will be required to register at participating Pasha Centres and pay Sh3,000 for the entire training. Women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds will be encouraged to participate in the programme and offered additional resources to maximise their IT skills sets.

“We will connect high potential but disadvantaged young women that complete the training with a series of online tools developed through the Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa initiative,” said Rockefeller Foundation’s Programme Associate for Africa Wairimu Kagondu.

“The tools will alert young women to the opportunities presented by online work and direct them to resources to access training - thereby building their skills and capacity to secure online jobs and earn an income from these jobs.”

According to the Kenya Economic Report 2013, only 40.9 per cent of the active labour force is employed, with females making up more than twice the number of males who are unemployed and not in school.

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