Nº 3 2013 > Government and industry role models

Women’'s digital literacy in Oman

Contributed by Seema AlKabi, Team Leader of the Community IT Training programme

Seema AlKabiWomen’'s digital literacy in Oman
Seema AlKabi

The Women’s Community Knowledge Centre programme is one of the initiatives through which Oman’s Information Technology Authority is promoting the digital inclusion of women. The centres provide a venue for increasing computer literacy and awareness of information technology (IT) by maintaining lifelong learning within the community. Engaging women in this initiative will contribute to improving their position in the IT field and to bridging the digital divide.

Attracting adult women

The objective of the Women’s Community Knowledge Centre programme is to train Omani women and girls in basic IT skills as a way of preparing them to participate fully in the knowledge society, with access to e‑government services, and to employment and business opportunities.

One of the biggest challenges that we faced when establishing the Women’s Community Knowledge Centre programme was to attract adult women to enroll in the centres. To overcome this challenge, we carried out an intensive awareness-raising campaign targeting all Omani citizens. The aim was to build awareness of the programme among the general public in order to bring more people into the centres.

The campaign activities included distributing leaflets door-to-door in almost all the regions of the country, advertising regularly on radio and in newspapers and other publications, sending mobile text messages to almost 25 000 individuals throughout the country, posting website banners, and undertaking promotional activities at targeted local and international events. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in the number of individuals using the centres.

Building partnerships and exchanging experiences

The Women’s Community Knowledge Centre initiative is widely recognized. We have hosted information and communication technology (ICT) experts from ten different countries, as well as a delegation from the Gyeonggi Women’s Development Center in the Republic of Korea. The visits involved sharing experiences. This generated more ideas and opened up channels of discussion on capacity building and community development between local and international organizations.

The Women’s Community Knowledge Centre has also become a partner of the Telecentre Women: Digital Literacy Campaign. This global initiative of ITU and the Telecentre.org Foundation aims to empower underserved community women with knowledge of ICT to bring about their personal growth and expand their opportunities for better lives.

Growing network of lively centres

Since the Women’s Community Knowledge Centre programme was launched in 2011, a total of nine centres have opened in different regions and wilayat (districts). These centres are equipped with computers and other modern peripherals that not only allow access to the Internet, but also to some specially designed educational programmes.

Today, the centres are buzzing. More than 5000 women have been trained in digital literacy. Homemakers are now able to communicate online with schools through the Education Portal to check on their children’s progress. They know how to monitor their children’s use of the Internet, and they can communicate with their families and friends using social media. Women can also become technopreneurs from the comfort of their own homes.

Samira, a dressmaker who works at home, has successfully completed a digital literacy course. As she says “Now I can surf websites on women’s fashion design, and new trends in materials and colours of clothes. This is my favourite area of the dressmaking business. Thanks to the training, I am able to work with computer programs such as Word and Excel.”

Outreach and training

Oman’s Information Technology Authority has worked to build and enhance the IT capacity of the community in general through various initiatives and programmes. To date, more than 40 000 citizens have been trained in digital literacy, 70 per cent of those trained being women from remote regions.

The trainees were trained by qualified trainers whose skills have been upgraded through a specially developed train-the-trainers programme and a digital literacy course.

IT readiness in Oman

The success of the Women’s Community Knowledge Centre and other initiatives under the Community IT Training initiative was showcased at the Knowledge Network and Multi Sector Partnership Symposium held in September 2012. The symposium provided a great opportunity for the participating experts from around the globe to share their experiences and describe best practice. The case studies they presented showed how different countries are setting up telecentres as public places where people can access computers, the Internet and other digital technologies.

In Oman, the establishment of the Women’s Community Knowledge Centre and the launching of other initiatives have boosted the level of ICT capacity building. The result has been an increase in digital literacy. The latest indicators show a personal computer penetration rate of 54 per cent and an Internet penetration rate of more than 70 per cent. The Global Information Technology Report 2011-2012 issued by the World Economic Forum has shown a dramatic increase in the individuals readiness component, with a jump of 47 points that ranks Oman 40th globally.

Omani women in the knowledge society

With the dramatic changes in technology taking place in today’s society, digital literacy has become an essential skill to enable people to communicate, interact, transact and perform in a knowledge-based economy. Every segment of the community must be equipped with basic ICT skills to develop and expand their knowledge in order to compete and participate in an ever-changing world, so that no one is left behind.

To drive the development of human capital and of society in general is one of the main strategic pillars of the eOman initiative. The aim is to develop Omani ICT skills capability, and increase ICT awareness and proficiency within the government and the community. The Community IT Training initiative, which falls under this pillar, specially focuses on women and rural communities, providing them with digital literacy training and access to information in order to improve productivity, enhance quality of life, and enrich culture and tradition.

Today, Omani women are empowered to pursue their dreams and opportunities in the Sultanate, and to participate in the development process. This empowerment reflects His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s belief in the importance of the role of Omani women and their contribution to the progress of society. Omani Women’s Day, which falls on 17 October each year, reflects the vision of His Majesty.

With the advent of the eOman strategy and the Sultanate’s drive towards becoming a knowledge-based society, Omani women have become a latent force that will guide and shape future generations.

About Seema AlKabi

Seema AlKabi is in charge of leading, directing, managing and spearheading various IT training projects and initiatives in Oman. She is working towards empowering Omani society through IT, making sure that citizens are equipped with the necessary digital literacy skills, thereby contributing towards improving digital literacy and enhancing community development in order to bridge the digital divide.

Ms AlKabi is one of Oman’s leading women in the area of IT knowledge and community centres. She has contributed in the development of Omani women as well as spreading IT knowledge in Omani society in general. In 2011, she was selected by the telecentre.org Foundation as one of the world’s Most Outstanding Telecentre Woman Managers, and she won the Al Mar’a Excellence Award in the technology category.


 

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