[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]
Ms Maria Beebe, Co-founder at TechAfghanistan, explained the purpose of the session: to connect women in Central Asia and South Asia (CASA). She highlighted the current situation in CASA and provided an overview of the digital dividends and their impact on economic growth.
Ms Shabana Mansoory from TechWomen Afghanistan highlighted the current status of Afghanistan based on the Asia Survey Foundation of Afghan People 2017. She felt there should be a strong contribution of institutions and highlighted the need to address both the digital divide and digital dividends gaps in terms of skill gaps.
Ms Amrita Choudhury, Director of CCAOI, elaborated on the initiatives undertaken by India to encourage gender inclusivity. She suggested that for empowerment of women in the region, there is a need to collaborate, learn from each other, share best practices, and create forums where people can share information, exchange stories, and contribute. She felt it is necessary to encourage more women to take up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Ms Dikchya Raut from the Centre for Law & Technology, Nepal, described how the Internet has helped agricultural women in rural Nepal to get market rates of agricultural products. She shared information on the LOOM project. According to Raut, women are hindered by the existing patriarchy and stereotyping. Better collaboration and coordination, and more events in Nepal, are important.
Ms Sidra Jalil, Program Manager at Code, Pakistan, shared statistics on current Internet access in Pakistan and described the various initiatives which have been rolled out by the government and civil society to empower women to reap digital dividends. She felt that multistakeholder collaboration both within the country and across borders is important.
Ms Zuhra Halimova, Visiting Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, and Ms Mavzuna Abdurakhmanova, Program Coordinator at the Open Society Institute (OSI), Tajikistan, highlighted the issues in Tajikistan and improvements so far. She highlighted the national development policy 2030 and the issues in the existing policy.
Ms Ankhi Das from Facebook spoke about the research done by Facebook which highlighted the fundamental barriers limiting access among women such as normative values of society and access to resources. She presented Facebook’s She Means Business campaign.
Mr Joseph Gattuso from the Commercial Law Development Program at the Ministry of Commerce, USA, explained his organisation’s focus for funding initiatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and stressed the need for reforms in policies for business and societal development. He felts that connectivity and meaningful access were important for the development of the region.
Mr Chris Hague described the work being done by the Bayat Foundation and Afghan wireless communication. He suggested the need for more case studies on lessons learnt by other countries which can be shared with the Afghan government to make policy changes.
Ms Yannis Li of DOT Asia shared information about their forthcoming initiative called ‘Youth Mobility Index’ which aims to identify policy gaps in order to help influence governments on policy initiatives.
Ms Karen McCabe of the IEEE described the IEEE Internet Initiative, including the track on Internet Inclusion: Advancing Solutions and the Policy track. She highlighted how IEEE supports STEM education and women in engineering, and the various educational materials IEEE has developed which are available at tryengineering.org and trynano.org
Ms Nilmini Rubin, Vice President for International Development at TetraTech, spoke of what the US donors are investing in and also how TetraTech is ensuring that their donor projects integrate gender issues.
Ms Melissa Sassi from Microsoft shared an overview of the Microsoft Airband Initiative and highlighted initiatives such as Picosoft project in Nepal for Internet access and skill building. She mentioned Microsoft’s grant programmes for increasing access in underserved areas.
Mr Omar Mansoor Ansari, President at TechNation, highlighted the TechWomen initiative and described plans to create a network for developing an ecosystem where women from Asia Pacific can meet, network, and mentor for developing the community.
By Amrita Choudhury