20 Jul How technology access and digital literacy impacted Racheal Ann’s professional development in Uganda
Improving the economic standing of women requires that they are equipped with the tools and skills they need to engage in the digital world; however, under 30% of all Ugandans currently use the internet on any device. Many of those who do have internet access, especially women, use shared devices or they lack the digital literacy skills needed to fully benefit. A recent survey of internet use in sub-Saharan Africa found that literacy and digital skills alongside affordability of mobile internet devices were the top ranked barriers to women’s internet use. Additional research points to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for further exacerbating the lack of affordability of mobile devices, especially for women and other marginalized groups.
YCI’s Technology Access Resource Allocation (TARA) fund provides graduates of HerStart’s social entrepreneurship training an opportunity to access a laptop, smartphone or tablet to help them grow their business. Device recipients also undertake an intensive digital literacy training, designed and delivered by HerStart Fellows with support from YCI staff. Digital literacy training is carefully adapted for each HerStart implementation location and covers skills such as basic device functionality, downloading and using applications, creating and formatting Google Docs, creating a budget with Google Sheets and Excel, navigating the web for research, and using social media to market a business or sell products and services.
With YCI’s HerStart program, Racheal Ann saw an opportunity to gain knowledge on growing her business which would allow her to support not just her family, but also her community. Through HerStart’s Technology Access Resource Allocation (TARA), Racheal Ann was awarded a laptop to support the development of her business. This allowed her to gain the knowledge and skills to use her laptop to benefit her business through bookkeeping and networking with other organizations, stakeholders, potential customers and women in her community.
By learning how to conduct research and create professional emails, Racheal Ann was able to expand her professional network to grow her business. With a laptop, she was able to network and reach out to more people, schools and communities that were interested in her business making confectioneries for young students. She used the laptop to keep records on her customers and sales, enabling her to keep track of the supply and demand for her products.
“I have been able to record my business sales on my laptop, making it easier to know the progress of my business.”
– Racheal Ann, HerStart participant
While the digital literacy training sessions are only a couple of days, device recipients are also provided with connections to other opportunities to continue learning through the HerStart ecosystem based on their needs. For instance, after the training, Racheal Ann sought out additional opportunities to improve her computer literacy. She was connected by her HerStart trainers to an organization called Women in Technology Uganda (WITU), where she is currently receiving additional digital literacy training. In the future, Racheal Ann hopes to learn graphic design skills so she can create identifying logos and digital marketing materials for her products.
By providing women with business training and equipping them with digital skills and resources, HerStart makes it possible for women to start and grow social enterprises that will help them to build economic resilience and impact their communities.
Curious about international volunteer opportunities with YCI? Learn more about YCI’s HerStart Fellowships for Canadians of all ages to contribute their skills and gain experience while collaborating with women and global partners to drive social entrepreneurship and gender equality.