Seed alliance and gender inclusion: Towards greater female leadership in internet

18 Dec 2017 09:00h - 10:00h

Event report

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Moderating the session, Ms Carolina Caeiro, Coordinator of Development Projects at the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), briefly introduced the three funding programmes that make up the Seed Alliance: ISIF Asia, FIRE Africa, and FRIDA. Caeiro observed that throughout the Seed Alliance’s work, promoting female leadership in ICT was a challenge. She mentioned that the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports the 2018 cycle of project financing, and specifically targets projects centred on gender inclusion and leadership.

Mr Duncan Macintosh, CEO of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) Foundation, outlined APNIC’s gender activities. Macintosh relayed APNIC’s long-standing commitment to gender, including fellowship programmes with gender criteria in the selection process, women in ICT sessions at APNIC meetings, and diversity in APNIC’s workforce. He asserted that APNIC was determined to make progress. In the Asia-Pacific region, there has not been a lot of progress in gender issues. Macintosh named three ISIF Asia projects addressing information on prenatal care, motherhood, and women’s health. He reflected on the type of programmes in which ISIF Asia should invest. He mentioned that while the Foundation’s work was focused on women, all projects and activities were run by men. He emphasised that the identification of gender-inclusive projects to be run by women remains challenging.

Ms Vymala Thuron, Head of External Relations at the Africa Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), spoke about AFRINIC’s focus on gender inclusion in ICT. Thuron underscored that it was important for leaders to believe in gender parity to make progress. Since 2012, AFRINIC has been managing gender-inclusive projects and has encouraged the nomination of women to fully manage projects since 2016. She mentioned that female mentorship was included in the Africa Summit, and that AFRINIC also promoted female participation in its meetings through its fellowship selection process. She stressed that male leaders needed to be on board with gender inclusion for efforts to be effective.

Caeiro presented LACNIC’s work on gender. She indicated that recently a woman was appointed to the LACNIC Board for the first time. She emphasised that LACNIC includes women in its events, including efforts for women to present papers and foster female mentorship. Regarding FRIDA, Caeiro suggested that trends in Latin America and the Caribbean might be similar to those in the Asia Pacific and Africa, and that more work was required to close the gender gap. She referenced a 2016 GSMA report which revealed a dearth of skills for women to reap the benefits of the Internet. She stated that the gender gap also extended to women’s involvement in producing technology. FRIDA examines the funding landscape and women leaders. She observed that few women were seen investing in technology projects. In 2017, FRIDA began the Women in Technology Awards, which included projects promoting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and coding. Caeiro referenced a comment from a previous session which stated that ‘women collectives are building a feminine Internet not only from a position of assistance but also from a position of creativity.’ She insisted that gender-inclusive activities must go beyond combatting gender violence online and consider how women can ‘genderise’ the Internet.

Ms Joana Varon, Executive Director, Coding Rights in Brazil, explained that in a male-dominated field, she wanted to establish an organisation composed of women and centred on policymaking with gender perspectives. She has championed projects tackling online gender-based violence in Brazil. She indicated that debate on privacy and digital security provided an avenue for the feminist agenda but progress is needed. She gave an exposé of a research and storytelling platform called Chupadados, in which profiling and unsolicited digital marketing reinforced anti-feminist narratives and stereotypes. Varon stated that if women developed apps there would be different perspectives and ads online.

Ms Asia Kamukama, Executive Director at Maendeleo Foundation in Uganda, discussed her mobile solar-powered vehicle that goes to vast remote areas in her country to promote literacy. Kamukama puts a lot of emphasis on girls and women, especially teenage girls. She stated that there were cultural stereotypes to break down, including views that women should be in the kitchen, and should not drive, operate machines, or even turn on the radio. She stated that her work involved convincing parents that technology access and use would not ‘spoil’ their girls. She also indicated that teaching the fundamentals of mobile money was a contemporary issue for women to become empowered income earners and entrepreneurs.

Mr Carlos Rey-Moreno, Local Access Networks Project Coordinator at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), addressed the relation between community networks and gender. Rey-Moreno spoke about Libre Router – a project that allows communities to deploy ground communications infrastructure despite lack of training. He elaborated on components of an IDRC-funded project he is working on, namely profiling and understanding existing community networks and their social and gender impact; and  analysing six community networks to understand barriers and opportunities for female participation including cultural nuances. Reinforcing Varon’s points, Rey-Moreno underlined that through examples of how women can break barriers, more women can become inspired and involved in technology.

By Kevon Swift