In 2015 Jessica Orji turned on a computer for the first time and it changed her life. This young hairdresser, living in Mushin, Nigeria, previously believed that computers and the internet were the territory of 419 scammers and pornographers. “In Nigeria,” she says, “the internet is a man’s world. Intel is changing that.”
Orji is one of the millions of women in developing nations excluded from the technological age through barriers like a lack of education, poverty and a prevalent culture of gender inequality. Today she uses technology to promote her business, connecting with new customers online.
According to Intel’s report Women and the Web, nearly 25% fewer women are online than men in developing countries covered by the study. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap was a startling 43%. From this study, the She Will Connect initiative was born, to introduce women to the power of online and give them the skills to harness this power – with the ultimate aim of bringing five million women in this region online.
“I took a class through the Intel She Will Connect programme, and it changed my life,” explains Orji. She was one of 60 participants in a free, weeklong Intel® Learn Easy Steps computer course at a local state-run skills acquisition centre in early 2015. The course uses a combination of digital literacy training, and gender-relevant content to impart skills, and then bolsters the training through an online peer network for participants.
Today Orji prints flyers for her business using word processing tools at her local internet café and even promotes her business online – through a Facebook page. “I connect with millions of people around the world who love the things I love,” she says. “I watch videos on new trends, and I get really excited. My customers love the new styles I bring to them from all over.”
The impact of bridging the gender gap in technology isn’t merely inclusion for individual participants. Women are economic multipliers. Several studies have demonstrated that when women are economically empowered, they spread the wealth to their families and the broader communities around them. One study – a 2010 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – found that women and girls with income reinvest an average of 90% of it. In contrast, men average around 30% to 40% reinvestment.
In fact, the Women and the Web report estimated that bringing women online would contribute up to US$18 billion to the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of 144 developing countries.
Leading by example
Orji works hard at her vibrant hairdressing stand in the market. She loves to make her customers feel beautiful. “But I have bigger dreams. I want to inspire other women to start their own businesses. It can be whatever they can imagine.”
“The Internet will open so many opportunities for women,” she says. “My mum is a caterer. We went to the café to make fliers for her business, showing proper and clear description of her full catering services. She has gotten some new customers through those fliers. We are hoping we will be able to get a personal computer at home, as the entire family is excited about this new discovery.”
Watch Jessica’s full story here: