Information behaviour of rural women involved in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Chamwino and Manyoni Districts of Central Tanzania.
The study investigated information behaviour of rural women involved in SMEs in Chamwino and Manyoni districts of central Tanzania. The following research questions were addressed: What is the information behaviour of rural women involved in SMEs? What channels of communication are used by women to seek and satisfy their information needs? What information resources are used to seek and satisfy their information needs? What skills do women have to effectively identify and access information? How is the information sought by women involved in SMEs used? What challenges are faced by women in seeking and using information? The study was underpinned by the Wilson 1981 model of information behaviour. The interpretive research paradigm and qualitative research method were employed. A sample of 217 women was drawn from the two types of SMEs (poultry and kiosks). Interview and focus group discussion were used to collect data. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis and Nvivo (version 7) computer software. The findings revealed that although respondents’ pattern of information behavior was passive, the most commonly needed information was family care and business. Mobile phones were the most used channel of communication, followed by face to face meetings and visitations to friends and neighbours. Further, respondents were more likely to consult informal than formal sources of information and most respondents did not have skills in identifying and accessing information. The challenges that respondents faced included lack of enough time; lack of awareness; inadequate and irrelevant information materials within the centres; limited airtime to communicate through their mobile phones; network failure; and lack of electricity. The study recommends regular surveys of user needs using participatory approaches. Government should leverage the CDOs, WEOs and VEOs to plan, design and implement special programs for rural women entrepreneurs. It is highly recommended that information centres in rural areas make available, information resources in common languages such as Kiswahili, and in appropriate formats. The local authorities must recruit permanent staff to keep the information centres throughout the week. The government needs to provide the opportunity for the rural women entrepreneurs to link up with such agencies as ILO, UNIDO, national and international trade fairs that could provide training in SMEs management and financing. The recommendations proposed include providing a framework for policy review regarding the information needs of women involved in SMEs. In addition, capacity building initiatives should be developed for women entrepreneurs involved in SMEs. Other recommendations include information infrastructure development and business networking to enable women to play a meaningful role in the rural economy of Tanzania.