Considering ways to better spread ICT4D within rural communities it is fundamentally important to empower those within the community who are already trusted leaders or teachers. As the women on the finca that Professor Colle discussed were empowered, so too must women in villages and rural areas be empowered to teach their own communities.
My reason for empowering local leaders (particularly women) to take on roles within their rural communities to spread the impact and availability of ICT4D is two-fold – first to utilize pre-existing networks and the influence of individuals within communities who are already trusted as teachers and locals, and secondly to in effect empower those leaders to assume a greater political/social role within their communities and beyond. In this way perhaps these individual women can go from being trusted teachers to powerful sociopolitical voices within their communities – and shift cultures that may value women as teachers but not as complete human beings with the same rights and responsibilities as men. It is important to note that this may not be a role that certain women are comfortable assuming or even want to assume, but this should nonetheless be the aim of progressive students and ICT4D organizers in the field.
The trust that is necessary for any local populace to buy into an ICT program is something that Professor Colle touched on in his presentation – as well as the interaction that he espoused to be so essential to a productive partnership (and an effective ICT4D program must be just that – a true partnership between academics and students in the field, community leaders, and the local populace). Local leaders can also provide important feedback as to what will be the most effective means of reaching and influencing the daily activities of the local populace. For Colle, first in Essex County and later abroad, the audiocassette was a powerful tool to reach and communicate with people by virtue of its ability to be presented during traditional activities such as the agricultural enterprises. So too in other communities audio recordings (with essential time for feedback, answers to recorded questions, etc.) could be particularly useful. The two-way communication between ICT4D providers and those that should directly benefit from its introduction can be channeled through these trusted women leaders.
Utilizing the leadership and teaching power of local women also has the potential to decrease the overall cost of ICT programs in rural areas. Instead of building and operating a separate kiosk for ICT usage, trusted women community leaders’ homes and places of traditional business (such as the finca, in Colle’s example) can be modified and expanded to house the technologies most needed and suitable for the location.
As Heeks writes (Do information and communication technologies (ICTs) contribute to development? 2010) that men are more likely to be ICT users than women (in India), this goal of empowering women through the utilization of information and communication technologies can help bridge the gender gap in ICT usage and empower women to use such resources. In so doing, the hope remains that the role and respect these women assume in their own communities will expand – benefitting all within the community to see these women leaders (and by extension all women) as supremely capable, intelligent, and powerful figures – and fundamentally worthy of respect and equal rights.