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Gender Differences in Computer Literacy Essay

Information Technology (IT) has had a positive impact on health care delivery system worldwide, particularly in the areas of disease control, diagnosis, patient management, teaching and learning. Anuobi (2004) pointed out that man has scientifically placed himself in an environment that is global and digital, which predisposes him to constant use of information, its location notwithstanding. Shanahan (2006) believes that the health care industry is in a state of constant and rapid change and due to the increase in scientific knowledge and rapid technological advances, there has been a growing emphasis on the physicians need to efficiently access, retrieve, and use scientific evidences to improve patient care ( Li, Tan, Muller & Chen, 2009).

Masood, Khan & Waheed (2010) noted that the availability of affordable computers and the advancement of information technology have resulted in our ability to rapidly and effectively access, retrieve, analyze, share, and store large volumes of information pertinent to patient care and for learning process in a teaching hospital . According to Poelmans, Truyen & Deslé (2009) during the learning process, students are responsible for the management of their own information processes. After their graduation, the job market expects them to function as mobile knowledge-workers. It is therefore vital that students acquire the right attitudes and skills in order to survive in this information society and to deal with the ceaseless information flood.

As Masood, Khan & Waheed (2010) observed, computer skills are vital for medical practitioners of the future. With the medical field being an information intensive profession, to use technology effectively for the advancement of patient care, the medical student must possess a variety of computer skills. However, scholars like Luan, Aziz, Yunus, Sidek, Bakar, Meseran & Atan (2005) have observed that there is a gender gap in the use of ICTs. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to determine if there is a gender difference in the computer literacy levels of clinical medical students by looking at how they have access to computers, the frequency with which they use computers, if there is gender difference in the use of various software and look at problems they face when using computers.

Literature Review

Computer literacy has been a subject of educational research for recent years. Computer literacy is defined as the knowledge and ability to use computers and related technology efficiently, with a range of skills covering levels from elementary use to programming and advanced problem solving Lynch (1998). Computer literacy can also refer to the comfort level someone has with using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers (Wikipedia 2010). Anuobi (2004), described computer literacy as having a basic understanding of what computer is and how it can be used as a resource. To Lynch (1998), computer technology literacy deals with an understanding of an infrastructure that underpins much of today’s life, it also means knowing some basic things about ICT, for example, how to save and open a file, or how to use a word processor (Tella & Mutala, 2008).

The needs of a medical student of the millennium generation in a rapidly changing information society has changed, he now has to confront new challenges which are vital to his survival in the information age. Idowu, Adagunodo, & Idowu (2004) indicated that knowledge, skills and confidence with computer technology are now an asset for those entering the competitive employment market. They further pointed out that every aspect of life from education, leisure, and work environment to social interactions is being influenced by computer technology. Moreover, with the increasing use of ICT in education the world over, new skills and competencies are needed by students to be better equipped with the requisite digital literacy competencies.

Essentially, gender refers to sets of relationships attributes, roles, beliefs and attitudes that define what being a man or a woman is within the society. It is a socially ascribed attribute as opposed to sex which is a biological attribute ( Oghiagbephan & Asamaigo, 2010). As a result of gender roles assigned by different cultures many women have been brought up to see technology and its use as reserved for on the male gender. According to Munusamy & Ismail (2009) women look at computers and see more than machines, thus considering computers as masculine and complicated to use.

According to Asuquo & Onasanya (2006), many factors in and outside the classroom result in girls being turned away from computer technology. These factors include the media depicting men as experts in technology, societal expectations of different goals for boys and girls, the structure of learning tasks, the nature of feedback in performance situations, and the organization of classroom seating. Because these factors are often subtle, they go unnoticed. It is little wonder why girls are not interested in computer technology. This situation has led to what scholars have termed the gender digital divide.

Explaining this, Ikolo (2010), stated that the gender digital divide is manifested in the low number of female users if ICTs compared to men. Gurumurty (2004), observed evidences that points towards gender imbalance in the use of computers and other technologies. According to Tella & Mutula (2008), the issue of gender equity as far as access to and use of ICTs continues to be a topical subject not only in developing countries but the world over. However, available indices have began to suggest that, although there is a gender gap in all countries, with the significant growth in access to and increased educational opportunities for more women, the relative difference between men and women is diminishing (Sorenson, 2002, Kay, 2008 & Munusamy & Ismail, 2009).

In the 1980s, research on computer literacy focused on the question of whether medical students were ready for the foreseeable omnipresence of computers in the future of doctors’ professional environment and if they possess necessary computer skills Link & Marz (2006). When Poelmans, Truyen & DeslĂ© (2009) compared the mean scores of computer literacy and its subscales by gender. The results showed a clear pattern in both the global scale and the subscales: male students report a significant higher degree of perceived computer literacy. In a similar study carried out by Link & Marz (2006) to examine the level of computer literacy of first year clinical students in Vinna, the study showed that although 94% of the student attested to accessing and using computers, of this number only 26% of the female students used computers frequently.

Citing Ong & Lai, Luan, Aziz, Yunus, Sidek, Bakar, Meseran & Atan (2005) reported that males had more positive attitudes towards ICTs. Gupta’s (2001) study also found significant gender difference in the way females and males rated themselves in their ability to master technology skills. Even though both genders were positive about their computer abilities, males rated themselves higher than females. Kay (2006) reviewed 36 studies on gender and computer use and concluded that the male correspondents have significantly higher perceived computer literacy

On whether there was equality of access between the women academics and their male counterparts, 199 (97.1%) answered in the negative while only 6 (2.9%) respondents confirmed that there was equality of access. (Olatokun, 2007). Again, Link & Marz’s (2006) study showed that more male medical students (72%) had access to personal computers (laptops). Respondents were also asked to indicate what computer applications they used. The results depicted that there is marked significant gender difference in application use of computer by male and female subjects.

It was clear that male students engaged in applications like word processing, Internet browsing, e-mail, data analysis, programming, and CorelDraw more than the female, except that the females engage in chat and games more than their male counterparts. This result as well can be linked to the issue of fear and anxiety attributed with computer by the female subjects, and may be responsible for their lower engagement in using computer software and applications. Tella & Mutula, 2008).

In a survey, Tella & Mutula (2008) found out that, when respondents were asked to state the number of hours that they used computers in a week, the results showed that there were differences in the male and female number of hours spent using computer per week with male medical students spending more hours than the female medical students. While a considerable number of male students spent from 10-25 hours per week, female students spent between 1-4 hours per week. In another study by Rajab & Baqain (2005), a significant difference was found between males and females in the length of time they used computers. When asked about the frequency of computer use, male respondents (56%) were found to use computers more than female respondents (37%) (Munusamy & Ismail, 2009).

Rajab & Baqain, (2005) concluded that although both gender of clinical students’ believed themselves to be competent in word processing, more males than females used multimedia presentations (power point). Luan, Aziz, Yunus, Sidek, Bakar, Meseran & Atan (2005), in their study found out that females were better at word processing and presentations and emailing than males. Olatokun (2007), in his study reached the conclusion that 70.7% female used computers for word processing; 98.5% indicated not using ICT for games at all and a total of 84.9% respondents used ICT very often for Internet browsing.

Methodology

The study employed a descriptive survey method which affords the researcher the opportunity to study the present condition of the computer literacy skills of the clinical medical students. The population of the study comprised of 93 clinical medical students of Delta State University and University of Benin who are in 400 level. The total population was used as the sample size for the study. Data were collected using a self constructed, structured questionnaire that was divided into two sections. Section A was designed to gather bio data while B was meant to obtain data on computer literacy skills of the students. A total of 86 questionnaires were returned. The demographic characteristics of the respondents revealed 50(58.1%) as males and 36 (42%) as females. Data was analyzed using simple percentages.


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