Learning with a website for the textile industry in Botswana

28 Aug 2007

This paper reports on a locally initiated investigation into the suitability of the Internet in helping to meet the information needs of women in small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the textile industry in Botswana. The background is the stated government policy to encourage the development of SMMEs and the Internet infrastructure. The question is, how likely are women entrepreneurs to use a website as a resource? We considered two barriers to the use of technology by women in developing countries, socio-cultural and physical. To determine the extent to which these could be overcome, a design experiment was conducted in which an information website was created and its use evaluated on a target population consisting of women entrepreneurs in the textile industry in Botswana. Data collection occurred in two phases. Firstly, interviews were conducted and conferences were attended to determine the information needs. Then a website was developed and evaluated by think-aloud protocols, focus groups, and interviews. Initial results indicate that the site was both useful and usable to the target population and that it made some work easier for them. Nevertheless, they need to use the Internet not only to receive information, but also to provide information in order to trade and sell their own goods. This has implications for government policy in terms of enabling credit card-based international trading using the Web.