ICTs crucial for women entrepreneurs in Tanzania

10 December 2014

An assessment under joint ILO-UNCTAD project helps to identify areas where efforts are needed to extend ICT use by women-owned enterprises.

Mobile phones are the business tool most widely used by women in Tanzania, according to an assessment on the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in women's entrepreneurship development. The International Labour Organization (ILO) carried out the study as part of a joint UNCTAD/ILO project, funded by Sweden.

However, the assessment found low use of other ICTs, pointing to the need for skills development. The joint Project on Leveraging ICTs in Support of Women's Entrepreneurship aims to empower women entrepreneurs through the use of ICTs. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, it combines research and analysis with training and workshops, knowledge management and awareness-raising.

The assessment in Tanzania involved a desk review, key informant interviews, focus groups and a survey of 212 women entrepreneurs. It showed that as many as 97 per cent of the women entrepreneurs surveyed used mobiles. In contrast, only one in ten women entrepreneurs used websites for business and only 16 per cent had sold products online. About 25 per cent of the women entrepreneurs surveyed had participated in ICT/computer training programmes, suggesting a need for initiatives to improve the digital literacy of women entrepreneurs.

The study also noted that ICTs are increasingly used to promote women entrepreneur's access to finance, including by micro-finance institutions.

In addition, business development support services in Tanzania are improving their ability to respond to the capacity needs of women entrepreneurs in the area of ICTs.

While government procurement processes in Tanzania actively leverage ICT, this process is mainly designed for large enterprises. The study noted that greater efforts are needed to sensitize women-owned enterprises to participate in government e-procurement.

UNCTAD conducts research, analysis and methodological work and makes policy recommendations on the role of ICT in empowering women entrepreneurs. This includes how mobile phones, the Internet, computers and other ICTs can enable women entrepreneurs to build more competitive businesses, access markets, and integrate into the global supply chain.

A guide on integrating ICTs into women's entrepreneurship assessments and policy recommendations was published and launched at the 2014 World Summit for Information Society Forum. The guide entitled "Empowering Women Entrepreneurs through Information and Communication Technologies: A Practical Guide" was recently included in a list of 100 Top Reports on Women.