3 Meeting the learning needs of women: using ICTs in literacy and life-long learning

There are at least two main dimensions to ICTs and literacy. One dimension revolves around the teaching of such basic skills as reading, writing and counting to the “illiterate.” ICTs can be applied to produce interactive and audio-visual curriculum materials for use in classrooms and to assist in classroom teaching and distance learning.

The second dimension involves functional digital literacy as an ingredient of socio-economic development. Here, technology is put into the hands of learners to use and adapt, and to formulate applications that are meaningful in the context of their daily lives.

This chapter looks at both dimensions. Starting with digital literacy, the chapter showcases initiatives that bring technology training directly to women, and then discusses how this impacts on their socio-economic empowerment. It then looks at ICTs as tools for delivering basic literacy programmes. Both dimensions are equally important and often go hand-in-hand. This is, more often than not, the reality of capacity-building and training for women.

The recognition that ICTs can be used to supplement and complement the conventional education system needs to take hold in a more systemic and extensive way in order for these ICTs to become the tools of choice for learning and teaching. Rather than regarding ICTs as add-ons, policy formulation needs to integrate ICTs into a range of adult literacy programs. An adult literacy policy will need to address two fundamental aspects in order to fully engage women:

  • A rights-based approach to literacy – This will have major positive implications for women, promoting women’s empowerment and capacity; and
  • A poverty-focused approach to literacy – Since the problem of illiteracy is inextricably linked to that of poverty, it requires mainstreaming literacy across all sectors, ministries and agencies that address poverty issues.