Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Comparing Knowledge and Usage of ICT among Male and Female Distance Learners of an Endowed and Deprived Area in a Developing Country in Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Comparing Knowledge and Usage of ICT among Male and Female Distance Learners of an Endowed and Deprived Area in a Developing Country in Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) for distance learning provides tremendous potential for meeting the goal of Education for All (EFA), which broadly seeks to meet the learning needs of children, youth, and adults by 2015. In 2000 the world re- affirmed its 1990's declaration of 'Education for All' to make a collective commitment to expand educational opportunities to groups in society, including girls and women. Participants at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, "endorsed a comprehensive vision of education, anchored in human rights, affirming the importance of learning at all ages and emphasizing the need for special measures to reach the poorest, most vulnerable and most disadvantaged groups in society" (UNESCO, 2007, p. i). Among the six EFA goals is the goal to achieve gender equality by 2015. Like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the achievement of all the six EFA goals depends to a large extent on the total empowerment of women whose role facilitates the capacity building of members of the family and the entire society. Meanwhile, the majority of women are in a marginalized position. A good number of them are located in some of the remotest parts of the world and largely affected by socio-cultural factors which deprive them of full access to higher education. This has made it necessary to explore alternative ways of meeting the gender equality goal in education. One of such avenues is the use of ICTs for distance or technology-mediated learning. Robinson (2008) has noted that the use of distance education and ICT has the potential to distribute opportunities for learning more widely and equitably. ICT is thus a powerful tool for providing educational services for both males and females and, most importantly, meeting the gender equality goal. Studies have shown that ICTs offer possibilities to women especially to engage in not only distance learning programs but e-commerce, e-governance, and all other aspects of developmental activities (Bisnath, 2004; Daly, 2003; Huyer & Sikoska, 2003; Kwapong, 2007c).

There is a wide gender gap in education at the tertiary level in Ghana, a developing country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The male-female ratio has hovered around 70-30 (NCTE, 2006). Several measures, such as establishment of more public and private tertiary institutions, expansion of facilities, and increment in enrolment quota for females, have been adopted. Though these efforts have helped to increase enrolment, the required result of 50-50 male-female ratio in higher education has not been achieved yet. To widen access to education and overcome the mismatch between the existing facilities and qualified applicants the Government has sought to promote distance learning among all professionals across gender and geographical locations for the past decade. The use of ICTs for distance learning makes the delivery more widely and evenly distributed than just reliance on printed materials. Meanwhile, probably as a result of limited technological infrastructural development, print has been the pre-dominant mode of delivery in the distance learning programs. This study looks at the extent to which students privately utilize the few ICT facilities that are available in their localities that could form a basis for making a case for utilization of ICT applications in the distance learning programs.

Profile of Study Areas

The study covers four out of the ten regions of Ghana. These include the three regions in the northern part of the country, known as Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions (the deprived regions) and the Greater Accra Region (the endowed region). The three regions of the north are relatively deprived compared to Greater Accra Region, the national capital of the country. In the discussion of the results the three northern regions have been described as deprived and the Greater Accra Region has been described as endowed. …

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