Women-Driven Entrepreneurship within the Information and Communication Technology Sector: A Grounded Analysis of Small, Micro, and Medium Enterprises in the Eastern Cape Province

Full Name: 
Dr Naledi Sekeleni

The thesis is a grounded analysis that seeks to understand small, micro, and medium enterprises (SMME) in the ICT sector that are particularly driven by women entrepreneurs in the Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela metropolitan municipalities of the Eastern Cape Province. Small businesses in the ICT sector owned and driven by women are still an understudied topic in South Africa, since there is not much literature that covers the topic from either a quantitative, or a qualitative perspective. The Eastern Cape Province is not an exception to the dearth of literature that focuses on SMME women-driven entrepreneurship in the ICT sector.

The research interest of this research project emphasises the gap pertaining to the unavailability of gender-disaggregated data that indicates, for example: i) The number of women-owned ICT enterprises; ii) The nature of women-driven entrepreneurial activity in the ICT sector; iii) Evidence of how competitive women-owned ICT enterprises are; iv) Sustainable job creation by these ICT enterprises; iv) Availability of women with ICT skills; and v) Women who are occupying ICT core positions. These factors strengthen the case for employing a grounded approach to explore this substantive area of investigation. The researcher has no doubt that this study is one of the first studies to examine women-driven entrepreneurship of SMMEs in the ICT sector of the Eastern Cape Province, hence the adoption of a Multi-Grounded Theory (MGT) approach.

This methodology is anchored in a qualitative approach that explores this phenomenon about which little is known. A moderate constructivist and interpretive approach guided by the voices of women entrepreneurs was employed to provide a meaningful account that added depth and breadth to the description and explanation of the status quo in relation to women-driven entrepreneurship in SMMEs. Emerging data from in-depth interviews conducted with 12 SMME women entrepreneurs and two experts from the ICT industry was matched with the two theories of entrepreneurship and cyberfeminism. These theories provided a theoretical lens through which data could be analysed and interpreted. This empirical and theory driven approach assisted in grounding the substantive theory.

The research objectives provided answers to the empirical research questions that sought to gain an in-depth understanding of women entrepreneurs’perspective about: i) Conceptualisation of entrepreneurship and ICT technology as a concept; ii) Conceptualisation of the ICT sector; iii) The perceived importance of the ICT sector as an enabler in promoting SMME women-driven entrepreneurship; iv) How SMME women entrepreneurs use ICT as a core product and service; and v) The role played by government and the private sector in promoting SMME women-driven entrepreneurship in the ICT sector of the Eastern Cape Province.

The findings uncovered concerns that women entrepreneurs perceived as having an influence on women-driven entrepreneurship. The findings included the manner in which women entrepreneurs responded to these issues. The findings for example, highlighted gender sensitivity issues which were of great concern to women entrepreneurs.