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Gender issues remain in the focus of the Best Practice Forum on Gender and Internet Governance. Last year the BPF conducted research into alternative models of connectivity for women and gender non-binary persons. Apart from bigger participation in tech literacy, women need to take a more active part in managing community networks.
The session was opened with an introduction by the moderator, Ms Radhika Radhakrishnan, United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum. She mentioned a report: ‘Impact of Supplementary Models of Connectivity in Enabling Meaningful Internet Access for Women and Gender Non-Binary Persons’. The report is available on the IGF web page. She said that alternative models of connectivity refers to the complementary telecommunication infrastructure models such us: Community networks, Public Wifi, TV White Spaces, and Zero Rating.
Radhakrishnan also presented some of the reported challenges, such as the availability of relevant content, affordability of technology, and questions of access. She added that technology does not have neutral impact and that we should not homogenise women as being of one community. Challenges are different, so are solutions.
Ms Anri van der Spuy, Independent Consultant, Internet Governance and ICT, pointed out that there are a lot of barriers which prevent woman from gaining access, and those barriers are significantly bigger for women than for men.
Ms Nicola Bidwell, Association for Progressive Communications, talked about the extensive research into community networks, with over 600 interviews with women involved in community networks having pointed out that the gender perspective cannot be solved by a top-down approach. Many of the community networks which show the worst gender inequality were run by women. Young, more tech-literate women are moving away from community networks and entering the waters of entrepreneurship. The idea is to include these women into community activities.
Ms Ritu Srivastava, Digital Empowerment Foundation, pointed out the gender perspective on internet shutdowns, particularly in India. The last shutdown was 100 days duration and impacted the working lives of women. Training in basic tech literacy helps mitigate this, but shutdowns are major obstacles to better access. She also pointed to the importance of oral interviews for women and non-binary persons, as a way of conveying the message. Women serve as reliable pillars of community networks.
Ms Agustina Callegari, ISOC, presented a couple of projects in which ISOC is helping the BPF efforts through community chapters. She first mentioned radio for bi-women, and secondly efforts being made in educating women not just in how to use technology, but rather to fix the infrastructure of the Internet. The third project is in using TV white spaces as a community network solution.
In the second part of the session Ms Bruna Martins dos Santos, Advocacy Strategist, Coding Rights, talked about how many initiatives there are which are tackling gender issues. She said that while people may have had enough of gender issues on IGF forums, nevertheless it is important to continue the work of the BPF. If not, it can turn into a never ending ‘muscular’ talk on technology.
An unidentified speaker pointed out that women have a different experience working with technology, and the perspective of age issues is also important to understand. She spoke of the importance of promotion and experience, and said that without this significant changes in the involvement and equal access of woman in ICT will not be achieved.
In a conclusion Ms Raquel Gatto, IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group, stated the support of the MAG for the future work on BPF. Also, placing a women in a top executive position in the International Telecommunication Union was mentioned as a significant landmark.
By Arvin Kamberi