Women, technology and the rise of smart solutions

Irene Mwangi, Marketing Manager Consumer Electronics, Samsung East Africa. [Courtesy]

Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey once said: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

Across Africa, women have been known to be the real backbone of society since time immemorial, carrying out important family tasks like tending to the children, tilling the land, or even building houses, as is the case with the Maasai and their manyattas. 

Despite men taking centre stage, women have remained relevant in modern times and still lay the claim to be a bigger player in the modern economy.

If we were to use Kenya as an example, it has been statistically proven that women own over 30 per cent of small and medium enterprises in the country while they co-own up to 17 per cent of SMEs with men.

To this extent, many businesses in the country ride on the backs of women. However, it is sad to see that old gender biases are still hanging onto our habits.

This, therefore, positions women at a disadvantage when it comes to appropriating new technologies, yet technology in business has become an indispensable appendage of our modern lives.

According to a 2021 study, titled Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective, only 35 per cent of women use advanced digital services in the country compared to 54 per cent of men.

This bias is not unique to Kenya, though. At the global level, the same survey pointed out that the cost of women’s exclusion from the digital world over the last ten years was estimated at $1 trillion (Sh129 trillion) from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries.

In today’s global village, which is made possible by advances on the technology front, smart devices are increasingly emerging to offer smart solutions to women’s real-life concerns by blurring the boundaries between cyberspace and physical space. According to a United Nations report published in 2017, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship are engines for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

One of the main areas where society stands to gain from women’s adoption of smart devices is the issue of health. Healthier living is one area where smart technology is set to redefine how personal well-being is managed globally.

Any technology company worth its salt is currently producing smart devices aimed at addressing women’s wellness and looking at how age-old issues affecting women’s health can be addressed.

As women’s voices become louder, the gender-blind product design process, where things were made without women’s input or without considering them at all, is becoming a thing of the past.

The development of smart devices like smartwatches, smartphones, and the Internet of Things has made it easier for women to manage healthy practices such as tracking their body mass index, exercising, and eating healthy.

Smart appliances can also go a long way in making domestic chores easier for women. With appliances like smart refrigerators, cooking machines, or even washing machines, women can significantly reduce menial labour at home, hence allowing women to spend more time with people they care about and/or engage in their favourite hobbies.

Additionally, smart televisions with the ability to schedule programs and create different users for adults and children, hence helping in managing age-relevant content.

Technology companies that do not venture into the women’s market are shooting themselves in the foot. Unlike in the olden days, women are getting more educated, and this increase in education is showing significant strides in increasing earning and buying power among women.

That means that to tap into this growing market, technology companies need to get ahead of the curve by availing smart gadgets that can specifically cater to women’s needs.

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