The recent WED assessments cover ICTs for the first time, and shed light on the role of ICTs in helping to empower women entrepreneurs - enabling them to become stronger contributors to economic growth and to the social well-being of their countries.
The findings were highlighted at the International Labour Organization (ILO)/UNCTAD Seminar on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs through ICTs, held on 8 October in Stockholm at the headquarters of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
"When women and men share power and influence equally, it leads to a more just and democratic society," said Anna Rosendahl, Head of Sida's Unit on Private Sector Collaboration and ICT. In her address opening the seminar, she emphasized that ICTs greatly enhanced the ability of women entrepreneurs to strengthen their businesses.
The seminar, which was organized by ILO's WED office and by UNCTAD's Division on Technology and Logistics, also highlighted the views of women entrepreneurs from Africa, who shared their experience with ICTs.
With financial support from Sweden, UNCTAD has integrated the ICT dimension into the ILO women's entrepreneurship development methodology as it is applied to national assessments. The seminar participants gained insight into the preliminary results of the first pilot WED assessments currently being finalized in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. They confirmed that mobile phones have emerged as one of the most useful business tools for women entrepreneurs, and said that more could be done to take advantage of this technology for business development.
In the United Republic of Tanzania, increasing numbers of women entrepreneurs are acquiring mobile phones. Their top three business uses for mobile phones are to find customers, to communicate with customers, and to manage their daily business activities.
At the same time, the assessment indicated that women entrepreneurs would welcome more ICT support from the Tanzanian Government. Such support could come in the form of training on using ICTs for business, including the transferral of funds via mobile money systems. The assessment also indicated that training on how to use computers effectively would be valuable.
Some of the findings presented at the seminar will be included in an upcoming UNCTAD/ILO publication entitled Empowering Women Entrepreneurs through ICTs: A Guide for Integrating ICTs in National WED Assessments, which is scheduled for publication in early 2014. This guide will help assessors and policymakers to integrate ICTs into future national assessments, policies and programmes.