Through Intel She Will Connect, millions of women like Jessica Orji are using computers and accessing the internet for the first time – empowering themselves and their businesses through it.
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, the internet is a man’s world,” she said. “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, in developing countries covered by the study, nearly 25 percent fewer women are online than men. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap was a startling 43 percent.
The She Will Connect initiative was born from this study with the goal of introducing women to the web and giving them the skills to harness its power. Ultimately, She Will Connect wants to bring 5 million women in this region online.
“I took a class through the Intel She Will Connect program, and it changed my life,” explained 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, 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 said. “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 internet gender gap 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 communities around them. A 2010 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that women and girls with income reinvest an average of 90 percent. Men only reinvest an average of 30 to 40 percent.
Similarly, the Women and the Web report estimated that bringing women online would contribute up to $18 billion to the annual gross domestic product 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 she also aspires to do something bigger.
“I want to inspire other women to start their own businesses,” Orji said. “It can be whatever they can imagine.”
“The Internet will open so many opportunities for women,” she continued, saying that she helped her mom make fliers for her mom’s catering business. “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: