Empowerment Zones? Women, Internet Cafés, and Life Transformations in Egypt

Deborah L. Wheeler


Information technology is said to provide paths to empowerment, yet hard data about how this occurs are scant, especially concerning women's IT practices in the Middle East and North Africa. This article uses 25 interviews with female Internet café users in Cairo as a small step toward bridging this gap. In general, this study found three main empowerment narratives among females who regularly use Internet cafés in Egypt (the average number of hours online per week was 9.87 for those interviewed). The Internet is said by participants in this study to 1) increase information access/professional development, 2) expand or maintain social networks and social capital, and 3) transform social and political awareness. While this study is based on a small sample size that cannot be generalized at this stage, the analysis does reveal subtle ways in which Egyptian society is changing—one Internet-enabled person at a time.


Information Technologyl Empowerment; IT Practices; Middle East; North Africa; Internet Cade; gender Gap; Internet

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