IGF 2017 - Day 1 - Room XXVI - OF19 - Seed Alliance & Gender Inclusion: Towards Great Female Leadership in Internet


The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 



(Captioner is standing by for audio feed.)


>> -- around issues, and we have funded projects related to gender.  We have learned also from trends and projects we have funded as well the years, you know, in Seed Alliance we recognize technology is not gender neutral.  We have some organizations up to the challenge in our regions.  And in the 2018 cycle, we are setting out to tackle more directly some of these gender issues in our respective regions through a greater, more specific focus on gender-related projects. 

So one thing I meant to highlight as well, a promising trend we have seen, in the cycle from 2015 to 2017, around 40% of the projects that we funded were led by women, so we think through the Seed Alliance we have managed to identify projects for women showing potential, looking to get (?). 

Having said that, the reason we have this session is (?) providing support for our 2018 cycle to offer seven grants and six awards between the three regions, specifically around gender and technology.  So essentially what we will be looking to do is to scale up digital innovations across the three regions, and also foster women's leadership in the international (audio cut out)

We have here (?) talking about digital rights and gender.  Then here we have (?) his family also a Board member (?) he will be talking about sort of the relation between gender and infrastructure. 

So we'll get then maybe started with Duncan Macintosh (Audio fading in and out.)

>> DUNCAN MACINTOSH: Thank you very much, and good morning, everybody.  I would like to just take a couple of minutes to sort of explain activities in the area of gender, and then major projects. 

I think the first point to make, like many of the organizations, APNIC's been working on gender and had a commitment for quite some time to gender activities.  We've had fellowship programs where we provide fellowships to attend conferences and highlighted or focused on gender in the selection process.  We've run Women in ICT lunches for several years in our conferences.  We've done -- within the organization itself, we've got a big commitment (?).  Very keen to hear everyone today, those whose programs, fellowships, commitment to diversity within ICT, really starting to recognize, and they are really keen to go to the next level, if you like, in new ideas and new strategies to engage and really make some progress in this area.  Frankly, speaking in our region, I have to say a very diverse (?) there's not been a lot of progress in many of the economies in the gender area.  Some of the economies have made great progress, some have really strong commitments, but others have still a lot of work to do.  So we are looking for innovative ideas -- a few of the projects that we've invested in and sponsored.  This project sponsored a program in the Philippines revolving around SMS texting for information.  In 2014, we sponsored another health program in the Philippines called Access, again using mobile technology to provide health workers with medical information particularly around maternal care for pregnant women.  Then in 2015, we worked on a very interesting project in Pakistan, again, a marketplace providing healthcare for treatment of women in Pakistan. 

I think with all of those programs, you can see, again, a fairly common thread in terms of their focus on health for women, maternal care for women, and again, with a we are really looking for in this forum this morning is ideas about what sort of programs we should be looking to invest in in east Asia that can help us move ahead in the whole gender area. 

And I would highlight one particular issue in that at least two of those three programs that I just mentioned, while they were focused on women, they were all projects and activities run by men.  And so -- that's in no way criticizing.  They were great teams, very committed people, but the identification of projects run by women looking to help, support, and develop gender is one of the real challenging areas.  I am very interested to hear this morning from other regions and their experience identifying projects and activities developed by women.  How did you find them?  How do you identify them?  How do you assess them? 

So I will stop there.  Thank you very much. 

>> CAROLINA CAEIRO: Thank you, Duncan.  Any questions? 

We will move on to Vymala, then. 

>> VYMALA THURON: Hello.  I'm Vymala from AfriNIC.  AfriNIC is (?) for Africa.  Also, because of our unique mandate, we found it very useful to do initiatives such as research to improve community projects in Africa.  And I have to say that we have been focusing a lot on women and how to include gender in boosting the ICT because, as we all know, this is the future ICT, especially in Africa, and it's really important for gender to take the lead. 

And I have to say because my CEO is here, Mr. Alan Barrett, he is a very pro-gender, and I think that is very useful to have leaders that believe in gender inclusion and parity.  And through AfriNIC, we have been sponsoring and funding a lot of projects managed by women since 2012, when we joined the (?) and I think both projects are doing a really great job.  And so for last year, we focused a lot on bringing women onboard fully managed program.  So we have three good projects.  There is one which is a network promoting women in technology all over Africa.  We call that the 56th economy in Africa.  We have also a project who developed apps for kids on local language, which is, I think, really important because in Africa, we also are diverse, not only on culture, but also language.  And they have local language help those marginalize and social excluded communities to be involved.  And we have our awardee, who is not here yet.  She is a brilliant lady, and she has won the award because she promoted a mobile classroom, which is basically because roads are not easy in Africa.  She has built a bus who goes and delivers a computer to marginalized communities who cannot -- we don't even have Internet in those regions. 

And AfriNIC, we have last year launched the Women in Tech Summit, which was a summit bringing women who are leaders in technology to kind of mentor the young generation, to show them what difficulties we are facing today in our workplace, in family environment place, and how we have addressed those challenges and turn it into opportunities. 

I have to say that we also have fellowship program, and we make it very important to have women and men to come to make them get involved in our policy development process in AfriNIC community. 

This year out of the 13 fellows, there were 8 women, and last year out of the 10 fellows, there were 6 women.  So AfriNIC is really looking into gender inclusion, and we have thought it would be good also to have women on the board, and very keen to do that, so I think it's a matter of everybody.  If we want to have women, we have to have the voice of men also because they are part of pushing women to be in leader positions. 

That's all from AfriNIC, and as Duncan was saying, we want to hear from you.  What do you think can be done more to reach out to women, to push for them, to mentor them, and to give them the skills to just stand up and do more. 

Thank you very much. 

>> CAROLINA CAEIRO: Thank you Vymala.  Any questions for Vymala or Duncan? 

I guess I will go ahead and answer a few words about LACNIC.  Duncan and Vymala explained for AfriNIC and APNIC.  LACNIC is also working actively on its gender.  We are happy to share in the room we have our first woman appointed to our board.  The organization has also been actively pursuing involvement of women in our events and governance status offered by LACNIC.  Next year we will be offering, similarly to AfriNIC, fellowships for women in the region to write papers with the support of a mentor.  Papers on very technical subjects, if you will, at our event.  So we are also actively pursuing the involvement of more women in our community. 

Now going to the FRIDA program, I would like to perhaps start off with a couple of comments about some trends that we have seen in our region, which I think are some challenges that are also common to the Asia Pacific and African region. 

So what we have seen over this I would say more than 15 years of work now -- no, I should say 10 years of work -- more is needed to close the gender gap in our region.  We see that the gender digital divide is very much influenced by gaps in skills, at least in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean.  GSMA in 2016 published a report on digital inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean, and they highlighted that while literacy rates in the region are high, insufficient infrastructure and support for digital education prevents users from reaping the benefits of the Internet.  So we see definitely a gap in skills that needs to be addressed, specifically in the context of our region. 

Then related to the issue of gaps in skills, you also see that the gender gap extends to women's involvement not only as consumers, but also as producers of technology, which we also find it's an important issue to talk about in our region. 

Also, FRIDA, East Asia, and FIRE, we are constantly looking at sort of the funding landscape for leaders in our regions, particularly the landscape for women leaders.  And we find that less funding (?) for startups, which is also an issue we understand we will be able to address through funding coming through the Seed Alliance. 

Also, we see that the gender gap extends to the investors world, with few women in positions of doing investment, which is also sort of an interesting gender imbalance to think about tackling. 

But not everything is so bleak.  In the case of FRIDA, we have this in the last, again, cycle, 2015-2017, more than 50% of leaders who were women for the projects that we have supported.  We also, for the first time in 2017, run the Women in Technology Award, and we got very interesting initiatives applying.  We had projects that were looking to bring women into careers in STEM, promoting technical jobs.  We had a number of projects supporting female protest against gender and femicide in Latin America and the Caribbean.  We have storytelling, media, and the arts to tackle gender equity issues in the region.  And as a matter of fact, we have here the project who won the Women in Technology Award, and she will be sharing in just a minute. 

In the case of FRIDA, again, with this goal of seeking to hear your feedback today, the topics that we are hoping to concentrate on next year are building digital skills among women and girls, encouraging participation of women in digital markets, employing Internet-based technologies for gender inclusion and the defense of women's rights, and promoting Internet access meaningful use for women and girls.  So that's sort of roughly where we are headed or the topics that we are thinking of tackling in the case of FRIDA programs, and we are very much interested in hearing your thoughts and comments on that. 

I will leave you with just one last thought.  Yesterday there was a session that presented a paper that was recently published at Latin America Gender and the Internet, and we had the director make a very interesting remark.  She said that women collectives are building a feminine Internet, not only from the position of assistance, but also from a position of creativity.  So I wanted to quote her today because I feel that what she said is something that I (?) with the type of work we are hoping to do with the funding coming from the Seed Alliance.  Essentially, we feel that there are several places for women to occupy in technology.  You know, sometimes we talk about a lot of -- you know, about gender violence online and whatnot, but there's a lot more to do beyond that, getting women involved in Internet infrastructure, getting women involved in leadership roles, getting sort of -- having women bring creative perspectives to how we gender the Internet. 

So I think, again, that's sort of something that we wanted to sort of highlight.  You know, we really sort of want to push limits and sort of be creative about how we work the nexus between gender and the Internet. 

And I will leave it at that.  If anyone has any questions.  If not, I think I will invite Joana to speak now. 

>> Hello, everyone.  It's a pleasure to be here, and I am honored to get the prize considering the list of amazing initiatives that were also listed.  And in particular to receive a prize named FRIDA, a woman who was ahead of her time and inspired me a lot, and I think she left her creativity as a gift for humanity.  It's a super pleasure. 

So Coding Rights, it's a relatively new innovation.  We started two years and a half ago.  But I was already in the field of Internet Governance, of digital rights, and the fact that it was such a male-led field made me think, okay, now I am going to set up an organization, I am going to set up a collaborative board that's only composed with women, artists, developers, women that were focusing on policymaking as well, and figure out what comes out from that.  Because we thought it would be different from what I was used to, the research center that I was working at. 

So since then, we started to create projects that the first one was about we were trying to tackle one of the main forms of online gender-based violence in Brazil at least, but from a feminist perspective and empowering women with digital tools to do whatever they wanted to, if they wanted to share their pictures and explore their sexuality, they could have the tools for that.  So privacy and security was our entrance in the feminist agenda, bringing the digital aspect of it. 

But then we started to go forward, move forward.  Now we do work on violence, online gender violence, but as Carolina mentioned, I think when we talk about gender and technology, it needs to go ahead and understand what does it mean.  So we have been doing this search that has been posted on this platform, and one -- I have like two references that I will mention here then go to my final remarks.  One of them analyzes the tracking and how the tracking system profiles women.  It is particularly focused on a study of a friend of mine.  She was pregnant and she agreed to take down her privacy settings for the storytelling purposes.  And across her pregnancy, she started to get bombarded with ads reinforcing a lot of the gender roles that feminist movement criticizes, and so the ads -- and the ads were very invasive, like when she decided the name of the child, she started to receive ads from books with the name of the child or even music suggestions with the name she decided. 

So we could see that even the profiling system was addressing women in a different way, and probably the profiling was not made by a woman as well.  Like after the baby was born, she started to be bombarded from marketing of for going to the gym, get back your body from before pregnancy.  We thought it was invasive, but not only, it's not only a matter of privacy, it's also a matter of gender, being reinforced by the ads that you are seeing. 

Another piece we wrote was about period tracking.  We also analyzed period trackers, and I hope (?) and the amount of data that they collect and also the logic that was behind that was only about fertility, and again, reinforcing -- none of them were feminist apps.  Someone mentioned those were started just to reinforce the idea that technology is not neutral and probably we would have completely different profiles if we want to go on profiling people and different ads with different purposes if we had women developing those. 

So facing this, now in coding rights, we are doing brainstorming sessions on what would be a transfeminist algorithm, what would be a transfeminist AI?  Because we are now in an Internet environment in which we are targeted by many kinds of violence, and those kinds of ads for me are violence as well.  And -- but we will move ahead.  We will move towards virtual reality, AI and everything, Internet of Things.  And what we don't want to happen is that this sexist or male-led technology continues to those emerging technologies as well. 

So just to wrap here, I think my core point is I am really happy to see the targets of FRIDA program.  I think we are on spot for focusing not only on merging the assets and basic needs, but also to push leadership and to push women to develop those technologies and to start to dig into those emerging technologies as well. 

Thank you. 

>> Thank you.  Any questions here?  I do encourage everyone to visit the platform she mentioned, so if you have any questions, you can approach us at the end of the session, and we will be happy to share with you. 

Should we -- okay. 

>> Yes.  If I may, I will ask Asia from Uganda, the founder of Maendeleo Foundation, the mobile solar computer classroom, won the FIRE Award this year, and I am very proud to have given this award to her, because they don't only break the barriers of access and computer literacy, they just bring this mobile classroom to remote areas, also you are not coming to us, but we are coming to you for information and Internet. 

So she is going to tell us more about her foundation, what she's doing, the work she is doing through her mobile for computer, and gender.  I think she must have reached many challenges. 

>> ASIA KAMUKAMA: Thank you.  I am very glad to be here.  My name is ASIA KAMUKAMA from Uganda, and the Co-Founder of the Maendelo Foundation, and that is an organization that promotes digital literacy in the whole of Uganda, and take technology to the remotest of areas.  We have so many challenges in Uganda with promoting technology, especially trying to reach the unreached.  Most of the areas do not have access to electricity, no Internet connectivity, yet we are supposed ton in a global community.  So our mobile solar computer classroom checks all the equipment and resources needed to operate a computer or a tablet to remote villages in yew began do also which don't have access to electricity or Internet.  And the reason why we do this is Uganda as a country has so -- like 80% is in rural settings, and when we are advocating for development, most of the people in the rural areas are left out.  So that's why we focus on going to those areas. 

Now, our major areas of work are in schools and communities, and I work a lot with girls and women.  Right now we have a focus on trying to get information to girls and young women, and the biggest challenge we find is that in our cultural settings, women are supposed to be in the kitchen.  The fact that when you are driving to a village you find groups of children cheering you on and wondering how a woman can drive a car, you know, and when you go and start teaching them something that they think is only for the men, there are crowds of girls and young women in our tents.  And the reason why they come is this is something new for most of them.  To see a woman operating a machine, (?) it's our fathers and our brothers who actually tune the radio.  Most of the girls don't even know how to switch on a radio in their own homes.  So just coming to these communities and trying to tell them it's okay.  Most of them think that when you start using technology you are probably not going to respect the culture as a woman, and most of them are afraid. 

We have a program where we train girls -- actually, not girls -- all students for free, and some girls come and tell us their parents refuse to let them come to our classes simply because they think that learning how to write or using an app on a tablet or a computer is going to destroy them.  It's really a big mind-set challenge, and most of the times we actually have to go and talk to the parents and try to explain right now there is no way you can live in the world as a woman and the only thing you know is how to peel and cook.  You need to be able to know more than that. 

In most of our African settings, it's actually most of the women who do most work.  Without knowing how to even operate a smartphone to send money, you can't do business.  You know?  So it's really fundamental that the girls learn how to use these machines and these technologies so that they are confident and they know it's okay and they learn the basics of even sending mobile money.  Right now most of our financial institutions (?) and it's very key for women to learn how this works to be able to promote their businesses, to do transactions, and to be able to keep their families so this is something that we are trying to change.  It's really critical, and it's really challenging because in some communities we have (?) because, according to them, these technologies are going to brainwash their women.  And of course, sometimes we have nothing to do.  Even when we try to insist, we don't want, you know, to promote violence and all that, so we just walk away, but we try to tell them that knowing how to use these gadgets has nothing to do with spoiling someone or getting someone out of respecting their culture.  It's just about it's part of our economy these days, and as women, we need to really be able to promote it and be okay with it, feel safe around it, to be able to continue to participate in the economy of our countries. 

Thank you. 

>> CAROLINA CAEIRO: Thank you very much for that.  Any questions?  I think I will then invite Carlos to talk about community networks and gender.  Thank you. 

>> Thank you very much, Carolina.  Thank you very much, everyone, for allowing me to be here.  Actually, thank you (?) what you are doing in promoting the work of women is such a fascinating and very interesting.  (Audio Echoing) And the regional grant for the (?).  Which is a piece of technology we will be presenting today at 11:40 that allows our community technical trainings able to deploy communications infrastructure. 

With regards to community networks and gender, community networks -- communities are groups of people that are able to set their own communications infrastructure and global needs and control it in any way they consider it meets their own needs, being the type of (?) that you have control over technology, over the prices, over many of these issues. 

So at the moment, as part of APC, I started working with APC in August coordinating a project funded by IDFC that is aiming to (?) Project that actually is looking at community networks in a broader sense.  It looks at four activity areas, and in one of the activity areas it's actually profile and understand better existing community networks and understand the social impact and the gender component is something that is very well known is that the community members movement is considered male dominated.  Some of the things you have explained with regards to use of the technology in the communities, at the end of the day, men are the ones behind this project no matter how you try to engage with women.  And a component of this project is actually exploring six of these community networks in more depth to try to understand how women are participating, how -- what are the opportunities, work out the mechanisms to be able to allow that more women participate in this according to the culture.  I mean, there is (?) project at all.  Actually working with those brave women that have been able to break the cycle and that are going beyond those challenges that you were describing.  I have seen for myself members in my community in South Africa where I live.  So trying to understand that and trying to understand what is happening in communities related to gender, how do we get women to participate more?  What are the mechanisms for women to participate more? 

So I want to leave it there, but I also wanted to go back to something that Joana said about how would it look like if women develop apps; right?  I mean, this is -- how would it look like if women develop telecoms?  Develop infrastructure?  Develop not only the apps, but the technology, the hardware, not only the software.  How would it look like if these community networks are run by women?  At the end of the day, in remote Africa, in most places, women are the ones that are leading.  In the community I used to live, 70% of the population were women.  So how do you actually break those cycles?  What are the points of entry around that?  And the same with (?) for instance.  I had a conversation with Fernando from Digital Defenders, how would it look like if more women would have participated? 

So I just wanted to go back to one of the -- and I was very lucky to (?) you are invited to join AfriNIC events, and the project that actually was launched this year together with mine to actually promote and create profiles of women in a have succeeded in technology.  And I think it's a project that I don't know you have explored, but I think it's very beautiful, and I think it's creating those -- breaking those cycles of women are able to do it and other women can see themselves I think is a very massive step in breaking the confidence and breaking barriers for more women to feel confident to participate. 

But yeah, I think also from RIR perspective, I think, the participation of women in telecoms -- not only women in technology.  I think women in technology, there is still a massive gender imbalance.  If you look at women in telecoms, the imbalance is broken.  And I think there is an opportunity through community members or through other type of activities that I would encourage you to bring or to facilitate more women participate in telecom, which is at the end of the day the space (?) the most.  I think explore that.  Thank you. 

>> CAROLINA CAEIRO: That's really interesting.  Thank you, Carlos.  Actually, the next workshop is here, and they are waiting to get the room.  We know we got started a little late, but I am afraid we need to wrap up now. 

So I would like to encourage anyone that has questions to approach Duncan, Vymala, and myself.  We thank you, Carlos, Joana, and Asia for your interventions today and for everyone -- and thank you, everyone, for coming today.  Thank you very much.