Internet Governance Women in Tech

Young People: Building an Internet for Everyone

Young people everywhere are building technology, mobilizing communities, and raising their voices to shape policies that create an Internet that’s truly for everyone.

That’s why we’re partnering with the not-for-profit and non-governmental organization AIESEC on a pilot project to train 500 young people on Internet-related skills in Bolivia, Nepal, Namibia, and Kenya.

It’s our hope that this project will be the start a journey that will result in even more young voices joining a community of thousands of people around the world who believe in the open Internet.

Young people like Pamela Gonzales.

At only 24 years old, Gonzales is the co-founder of Bolivia Tech Hub, an early stage incubator that serves as one of La Paz’s only support systems for the city’s tech community, helping entrepreneurs to learn, develop, and collaborate on new projects.

She’s impacting hundreds of lives, but she says it didn’t come easily.

In her first year of university, she partnered with a friend of hers, a local web developer, and together they secured funding and built something new.

“My mission was to find a place to learn the things I couldn’t learn in the university,” Gonzales said. “I found there were a lot of students who couldn’t learn a lot of tech things because we didn’t have computers with Internet.”

Today, the Hub is completely funded through sponsors. Gonzales spends a lot of time securing funding, but to get it off the ground, she says she and her co-founder had to start from scratch.

“We started doing a lot of contests and challenges, and that created a small tech group which was very creative and full of new people,” Gonzales said. Many of the participants eventually started companies and the ones not going into entrepreneurship secured jobs as developers. As time went on, Gonzales turned her attention to the country’s vast underserved communities. Bolivia Tech Hub runs Technovation for women and girls, and the Curiosity Machine Program, for families.

Community building is at the heart of Gonzales’ work.

She is also a member of the Internet Society Youth Special Interest Group (SIG Youth), a community of young people dedicated to ensuring the voices of young people are heard when it comes to decisions that impact the Internet.

These young people represent the future of the Internet and the world. They are building their dream Internet and they will help inform the policies that govern it. You could be one of them.

Help build an Internet that’s for everyone. Join SIG Youth!

Internet Governance Women in Tech

EQUALS in Tech Awards: Nominations Now Open

Are you working to build a better Internet for women? Do you know initiatives that are promoting the development of digital skills for girls? Is your organization contributing to defend the Internet by helping women get equal access to leadership opportunities?

If the answers are yes, we have something for you.

The EQUALS Global Partnership has announced that the nominations for the 2019 EQUALS in Tech Awards are now open.

The Awards recognize groundbreaking initiatives from around the world aimed at bridging the gender digital divide.

The nomination period will run until June 11, 2019. You can nominate your own initiatives or those of others for an award in one of the following categories:

  • Access: Initiatives related to improving women’s and girls’ digital technology access, connectivity, and security
  • Skills: Initiatives that support development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills of women and girls
  • Leadership (two subcategories):
    • Initiatives focused on promoting women in decision-making roles within the ICT field
    • Initiatives promoted by tech sector companies to bridge the digital gender divide
  • Research: Initiatives prioritizing research on gender digital divides and producing reliable evidence to tackle diversity issues within STEM and computing fields

The annual EQUALS in Tech Awards are organized and presented by the EQUALS Global Partnership – a network of 90+ organizations, companies, UN agencies, and research institutions. The Internet Society is proud to be the Chair of the Steering Committee and a member of the Coalitions.

The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony that will take place in November in Berlin as a side event at the Internet Governance Forum. Winners will be invited to attend and share their inspiring stories.

We know that our community of Chapters, Special Interest Groups, Organization Members, and Partners are doing a lot to improve women’s digital inclusion in many corners of the world. We want to encourage everyone to nominate their initiatives or help us to identify those who are working to build, promote, and defend the Internet for women and girls.

For information about how to submit a nomination, please visit:

Interested in helping to tackle the digital gender divide, but don’t know where to start?

  • Join SIG Women, which aims to “promote a global neutral space that works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.” Currently, there are many initiatives in different regions throughout the world.
Internet Governance Women in Tech

Girls in ICT Day: Attend the Global Marathon in Digital Skills Development

There’s a lack of gender diversity at all levels in the technology sector. This is partly because the number of female students in mathematics, engineering, computer science, and science is disproportionately low around the world. So how do we close this gap?

Support for the education of women and girls in the ICT sector is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – in particular SDG 5, aimed at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls through, among other things, information and communication technologies.

The Women’s Special Interest Group (Women SIG) of the Internet Society is committed to promoting the participation of women in the Internet ecosystem, especially considering the importance to increase the participation of girls and adolescents in Information Technology and Communication.

This April 25, International Day of Girls in ICT, promoted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), aims to reduce the digital gender gap and to encourage and motivate girls to participate in technology careers. With the support of the Internet Society Chapters and local civil society organizations, we’re planning to celebrate the day with a global marathon of training in digital skills development. We want to motivate girls and teenagers to study and participate in ICTs and we want them to see the women who work in these areas as role models and inspiration.

Join one of the face-to-face or online events!

25 April 2019, 19:00 (Hora de Brasilia)
online via Zoom

Burkina Faso
25 April 2019, 8:30-12:30
siège ISOC-Burkina Faso
Team: Micheline KABORE (Vice-présidente ISOC-Burkina), DA Régina modératrice, Linda TRAORE responsable de programme à IPBF

El Salvador
23 April 2019, 14:00-17:00 (hora de El Salvador)
La Casa de Internet de El Salvador, Calle La Reforma No. 249, Colonia San Benito, San Salvador

25 April 2019, 18:00-20:00 GMT
AITI-KACE Accra, Ghana
Digital Address: GA-079-3146
Facilitators (Panel discussion):
Mrs. Awo Aidam-Amenyah of J-Initiative, advocacy cybersecurity for children and women in Ghana
Madam Nancy Dotse high-level technical training for women in Africa
Madam Vivian from the Cybercrime unit of the CID division of Police
Presentation on Social Engineering: Botsyoe Edinam Lily

24 April 2019, 9:00-12:30
Centro Cultural de España en Guatemala (CCEG), 6a avenida 11-02 zona 1, Centro Histórico, Edificio Lux, segundo nivel, Ciudad de Guatemala

24 April 2019, 10 UT
High school girls Conakry common Ratoma

24 April 2019, 8:30-12:30
Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Tegucigalpa (CCIT)
Team:Elena Aguilera (fundadora de Guala Honduras), Sandy Palma, Aleli Castro, Dania Valle (fundadora de Reciclatecc)

Hong Kong
30 April 2019, 19:30-21:00
Zerozone, 9/F, Tungtex Building, 203 Wai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
Language: Cantonese
Registration: Prior registration
Fee: Free

25 April 2019, 09:00-15:00
Windhoek Technical High School

25 April 2019, 10:00 a.m.
St. Louis College, Jos

23 April 2019, 14:00-16:00
Edificio #3, piso #3, Facultad de Ingeniería en Sistemas,  Salón de Laboratorio # 3-401 en la UTP

26 April 2019, 8:30-17:30pm
Radisson Decapolis Hotel, Multicentro, Ave. Balboa, Ciudad de Panamá.
Más información. OEA CyberWomen Challenge

27 April 2019
CREATIVENEERS, Avenida Condado del Rey, Mi Condado Plaza, Piso 1, Panamá

25 April 2019, 09:00-16:00
Solusi University Computer Center

Help close the digital gender divide! Join SIG Women, which is open to everyone.

Shaping the Internet's Future Women in Tech

Seven Women Using the Internet to Make a Difference

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day this year with great news: The Internet Society welcomes a new Chapter in Lesotho – and the Chapter’s president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, as well as a board member are all talented tech women.

Lesotho is a small landlocked country within South Africa, where less than a third of its population is connected to the Internet. One of the Lesotho Chapter’s key priorities this year is to start an “Internet for Education” project, which aims to encourage five schools to use the Internet to support teaching and to improve the quality of education.

Please join us in welcoming the Lesotho Chapter, then learn about its President Ithabeleng Moreke and other women around the world who are using the Internet to make a difference in their communities!

Ithabeleng Moreke

Ithabeleng Moreke enjoys the world of the Internet and all things networks, the technology behind it, and Internet security – and how they affect our everyday lives. She’s worked as network engineer for the government of Lesotho and is now with Vodacom Lesotho.

Jazmin Fallas Kerr

In Jazmin Fallas Kerr’s hometown, Desamparados, Costa Rica, nearly half of all families with women as head of household are in poverty. To combat that, Kerr made a digital bridge between creation and commerce. Hyena is an Internet-based marketplace which allows women artisans to sell their handiwork online for a fair price. The site now has more than 50 local women courting customers for their crafts.

Juma Baldeh

How do you shift the cultural stigma around technology and gender? As Juma Baldeh has proven in Gambia, you do it one girl at a time. Baldeh founded Hackathon Girls Banjul for girls ages 8 to 18 in her home country, in coordination with the Mozilla Foundation. As the first technology club of its kind there, members receive six months of free weekly classes on web literacy and basic computing skills. More importantly, the club gives more than 40 girls a safe space to collaborate and share experiences as they work together on projects for a tech-savvy Gambia.

Kate Ekanem

Kate Ekanem, the founder of Kate Tales Foundation, has spent her entire adult life promoting education, literacy, and empowerment of girls in her home country of Nigeria. And it started with herself.

Makkiya Jawed

The intersection between technology and medicine is perhaps one of the most important junctions of our time, and, in a world where access is king, many people—in fact, entire countries—can be left behind in the dust. That’s where Makkiya Jawed comes in as the director of social enterprise for Sehat Kahani in Pakistan. The tech wiz joined forces with two doctors who launched the health tech enterprise, which circumvents Pakistan’s tradition of women having to choose family or career. It also caters to populations often overlooked by established medical communities.

Layal Jebran

To call Layal Jebran a multitasker would be an understatement. In the startup world, she’s more like a superhero. “I started as an activist when I was 12 years old,” Jebran said. “And my first startup happened my second year in college.” That successful startup used the Internet to connect freelance advisers to clients who needed them in the Middle East, but like many entrepreneurs, Jebran didn’t stop there. Lyl Big Designs led to other projects, and she continued developing several different ideas into reality, one after another after another. Why does she do it? Because she can, and because someone has to.

Portrait of kc claffy - © Stonehouse Photographic/Internet Society
kc claffy

kc claffy has been with the Internet from nearly its very beginnings. She’s watched its evolution from military project to government-funded point-to-point communication to its current iteration as a private sector behemoth. claffy is one of the few scientists who measure the Internet. She’s leading the way to the future by opening our eyes to the layers of data beneath the surface along with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), a group she founded in 1996

Do you want to make a difference? Join SIG Women, which is open to everyone and works toward reducing the gender gap in technology.

Beyond the Net Economy Women in Tech

Empowering Moroccan Cooperatives to Participate in the Digital Economy

KASBUY is a web platform to help Moroccan cooperatives, especially ones from women, to promote their handicrafts on international online markets. It will allow any registered cooperative, after following a well-defined and transparent process, to have its own online space to sell its products and manage its business and inventory management activities.

The project is supported by the Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme and developed by the Internet Society Morocco Chapter in partnership with the public organization ODCO (Office du Développement de Coopération) and the private IT company Maghreb-SI.

Through the KASBUY platform, we aim to build an international community around Moroccan crafts and local products. The platform targets small women’s cooperatives that produce handicrafts and wish to reach a large audience through the Internet. In general, these cooperatives find it very difficult to sell their products either because of lack of visibility of their products, or because of the lack of competence in the digital payment process. The platform will provide more opportunities to sell their products.

The project aims to:

  • Help cooperatives to overcome the difficulties of selling their local products
  • Ensure stable salaries for cooperative members
  • Develop the cooperatives in a sustainable way, and support women and their families
  • Use the Internet to promote Moroccan heritage and preserve culture and diversity
  • Allow women to participate in the digital economy and highlight their creativity

KASBUY will also address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 (Gender Equality) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Project manager: Cherkaoui LEGHRIS, Financial Responsible: Radouane MRABET, Web application developer: Reda JAALI, Reports Responsible: Aicha ABBAD, Social media account manager: Marouane ABBOUD, Monitoring: Abdelouahed LAABID and Mohammed HILALI

We’re looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how you can empower your community using the Internet. The Beyond the Net Funding Programme funds projects up to $30,000.

Internet Governance Women in Tech

The 2018 Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology: My Story

October 9-11, 2018 will remain etched in the memories of the more than 250 girls and women in technology who converged in Accra, Ghana to participate in the second Africa Summit on Girls and Women in Technology. I was privileged to participate in this summit as well – together with seven other women in technology from my community in Ghana.


The delegates were invited to provide their input into discussions on ongoing key policy processes in the continent and across the globe on broadband Internet access, sustainable development, and women’s empowerment.

The Deputy Minister of Communication from Ghana, Vincent Sowah Odotei, made the opening address, where he detailed Ghana’s achievements and plans to digitize Ghana and to support women to participate as users and producers of technology.

The program was planned such that the morning to lunchtime sessions were interactive keynote panels and “fireside chats,” touching on the following themes: Leadership in Technology Policy; Policy Engagement: The What, Why, and How; Women Advancing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Design (STEAMD); Institutional Support for Women in Tech; and other topics.

The workshops were: Community Networks, Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Enhancing Digital Security and Advocacy, and Mobilizing for Impact in the Digital Age.

The community networks workshop created needed awareness on how disadvantaged communities could design, develop, and maintain their own telecommunications infrastructure to connect them to the digital society. Some participants also shared how the digital security workshop had impacted their online personal security practices. The summit organizers encouraged all the participants to add their profiles on the Summit Wiki as this would enable the participants to collaborate later.

There were also lightning presentations just before the end of days one and two, including one on “Get to Know TechWomen Africa Partners.”

My Takeaways:

  1. The biggest challenge faced by initiatives that promote women in technology is financial – resources to enable them to facilitate mentoring and entrepreneurship skills for girls and women. There is a need to address the pipeline issues for girls in technology and to support them to be part of the economic transformation, through women and girls establishing technology-based businesses.
  2. The biggest value of the TechWomen Africa Summit is that it creates a platform for the different and numerous initiatives for girls and women in technology to share, collaborate, and know about each other. The platform does not duplicate what the various initiatives do but ensures we work together and learn from each other.
  3. As communities we must redefine what a woman in technology looks like – by challenging existing narratives and stereotypes. Technology has relevance across all disciplines. As educators we must show young women and men how technology can be used as a tool to solve problems.
  4. Community networks, communications infrastructure deployed and operated by citizens to meet their own communication needs, are being increasingly proposed as a solution to connect the unconnected. They are run, managed, and developed at the local level, offering the potential for socioeconomic development and empowerment. Women and girls stand to benefit as users and champions of community networks for the benefit of disadvantaged communities. These disadvantaged communities are usually characterized by a majority population of women and children whose lives could be transformed through the availability of access to the digital world. The Community Networks Workshop participants were left inspired to learn more and to explore the needs of their communities in relation to the possibility of implementing community networks.
  5. Women and girls were encouraged to become producers of technology and not just consumers. Women bring unique value when they become part of technology production teams – whether it is in software design, network design, hardware development, or other technological/non-technological solutions.

During the event, there were many tweets generated using the Summit hashtags @webfoundation and @A4A_Internet. On day one, the Summit hashtag #TechWomenAfrica was trending in Africa.

In my view this summit was able to achieve its objectives. It connected women’s rights advocates and policymakers with Internet rights advocates, broadband policy leaders, and leading and aspiring women technologists and innovators in Africa. The Summit created a vibrant platform and presented a landscape of issues on women’s rights and empowerment on and through the web. I personally look forward to the 3rd Summit on Women and Girls in Technology. I am grateful to the World Wide Web Foundation, the Internet Society, and the Association for Progressive Communications for facilitating the participation of me and my community.

Want to help close the digital gender gap? Join SIG Women!

Internet Governance Women in Tech

G20 Women’s Summit: Digital Inclusion for Women

What if future generations in 2030 learned about gender inequality in their history class and not in their lived realities? What can rural women achieve when included in digital society? What can we do now to ensure a future without a gender digital gap?

Many women and girls are being left behind in digital development. Women are 12% less likely to use the Internet globally than men, while in low and middle-income countries, the gap between women’s use and that of men is 26%. This is not only a question of connectivity, but about using the Internet in a meaningful way.

These were some of the critical issues the W20 Summit tackled in Buenos Aires last week.

W20 Argentina, a step forward in the right direction

Women20 (W20) is one of the key G20 engagement groups which supports the promotion of gender inclusive economic growth.

Its recent summit was an opportunity for leaders to make progress on several fronts ranging from digital inclusion to labor inclusion, financial inclusion, and rural development.

In the final Comuniqué, 146 delegates from all sectors of the economy committed to “[Improving] access, affordability, safety, and security of digital services, broadband, and connectivity plans, and the availability of relevant content and services, while taking into consideration women in all their diversity.” This was one of the 15 recommendations that the W20 included in their final communiqué presented to the Argentine President, Mauricio Macri.

The text includes a call for “developing holistic and cross-sectoral policies” that abolish the barriers to women’s access and use of technology and recommend “guaranteeing inclusive educational programmes in STEM” and “ensuring women’s participation in the development of Artificial Intelligence in order to avoid gender bias.”

Next steps: W20 Japan

In 2018, the G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Declaration committed to bridge the digital gender divide and now the W20 Communiqué will give more tools to G20 heads of state at the Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires on 30 November.

However, this will not happen without a tangible action plan.

This is what The Internet Society, together with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), have jointly called for in a background paper that analyzes how to unlock access to the Internet in support of women’s inclusion.

As in the G20 Open Letter, we urge all G20 countries to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholder groups to adopt commitments that live up not just to the promise, but also the responsibility, of ensuring that the evolving digital society supports a healthy web ecosystem and puts people first.

We also urge the G20 leaders to adopt these recommendations and make the necessary commitments to tackle the digital gender gap!

This is the challenge the 2019 G20 presidency from Japan will have to tackle!

Read Women’s digital inclusion: background paper for the G20. The Internet Society is proud to be a partner of EQUALS: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age.

Help build an Internet that’s for everyone! #CountMyVoice

Women in Tech

Africa Is on a Steady Journey to Digital Transformation

The world has seen Africa’s digital future advancing by leaps and bounds in the adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the private and public sectors. What makes this more interesting and promising, is the level of investment and growth of women Engineers in recent years making headlines.

The Gambia has seen much of these developments in recent years with examples of inspiring women Engineers like Mrs Anna Secka Saine who has contributed in building many backbone Networks in Africa such as, Internet eXchange Points (IXPs), National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), and, as well helped trained many young and Professionals engineers.

We have also seen rise in the number of Computer Science clubs, after school coding, summer coding camps, Robotic clubs among others, which all projects the level of awareness and interest.

In August, two brilliant young Gambian High School science students, Sera Momodou Ndure and Ajie Isatou Ceesay from Marina International School (MIS) and West African International School (WAIS) respectively represented The Gambia at the Africa Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI2018) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Africa Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI) 2018-2022 is an Africa Wide Initiative being developed and implemented by the U Women and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Collaboration with the African Union commission (AUC) and Sponsored by the Danish Government.

The aim of the AGCCI is to help promote STEM and equip young high school girls with Digital literacy, Coding, Critical thinking and mentorship to be future African Digital Innovators, entrepreneurs and Policy leaders.

The training gathered over 80 girls from across Africa who all underwent a two weeks intensive training on gaming, animation, fashion and art, design thinking and robotics, among other themes at the African Union Commission Headquarters from the 20th – 31st  August 2018.

Participants also had the opportunity to meet great leaders and visited the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology and the Bole international Airport where they were given chance to explore Aviation Technology.

In attendance to welcome and cheer our Gambian participants were: The Gambian Ambassador to Ethiopia – HE Ambassador Sulayman Alieu Jack, Mr. Almami Kassama, Deputy Head of Mission and team.

Our Director of the Internet Society Africa Regional Bureau Dr. Dawit Bekele also joined the delegation in giving the girls a warm welcome to Ethiopia as well as meeting His Excellency the Ambassador and delegates.

Other speakers at the event included Letty Chiwara – UN Women Ethiopia Country Representative, H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil – Commissioner for Social Affairs at the AU and Andrew Rugege from ITU who encouraged the girls to learn as ICT is the solution to Africa’s prosperity.

The Internet Society Gambia Chapter is proud for the recognition and is pleased to have been very supportive in nominating and selecting these brilliant girls with the support of Mrs. Jamilatou Saidy Faye – Senior Manager Consumer Affairs at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and the officials of The Gambian Embassy in Addis Ababa for coordinating the necessary logistics for our participants.

As new members of the Internet Society and The Gambia Chapter, we hope to continue guiding, mentoring and supporting our AGCCI 2018 participants to continue this amazing journey and to be ambassadors of the AGCCI  and Internet Society by sharing their experience with fellow young women and students in The Gambia.

As Governments and International organizations like the ITU, AUC, UN Women, Internet Society among others continue to step forward with these strategic initiatives to support the grassroot community, we believe that there is hope that Africa will be able to solve its problems by Africans themselves!

Help build an Internet that’s for everyone! #CountMyVoice

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Gender Equality: A Mouse Click Away

This post reflects arguments made in a joint background paper published by the Internet Society and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) ahead of the G20 Women’s Group (W20) Summit in Argentina 1-3 October.

In our digital age, Internet literacy has become essential for, if not synonymous with, being employable in many fields. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) fuel business growth and countries’ economic development. They open new channels to communicate across great distances, as well as to organise people, raise awareness and spur activism.

But such promise can deepen existing inequalities offline if these technologies cannot be accessed and enjoyed by all.

Today, many women and girls are getting left behind in digital development. While in low- and middle-income countries, the gap between women’s use and that of men is 26%, in least developed countries (LDCs), women are 33% less likely than men to use the Internet.

In some cases, women simply don’t have access to the Internet, or it’s too expensive. In others, they have limited access with pre-paid services. There are also cultural factors that stop women from using the Internet or even owning a computer or a mobile phone.

This points to deeper issues. Globally, women have less leisure time than men, given that they generally shoulder the greater burden of housework and childcare. They also have fewer opportunities than men in getting jobs or entering occupations where they can access the Internet and learn computer skills. Many also report feeling that Internet content is not relevant to their lives. Others fear online privacy invasions or abuse. As a result, we need more female content creators and safe online spaces.

Moreover, we must remember that Internet access is only fully meaningful when women have the skills or capacities to use it to improve their lives, or those of their families and communities. As economies are becoming more digital and interconnected, women’s participation in fields like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is crucial. But, unfortunately, it is not keeping pace.

We need effective, tangible and measurable action to close the digital gender gap in Internet access. We need to address barriers to its use to ensure that women and girls can truly benefit from digital inclusion.

We know that digital disadvantage mirrors deeper structural, economic, and cultural inequalities. So, policies can’t be solely digital in nature. Measures to bridge the digital divide must be grounded in human rights, including women’s rights to participate in and contribute to social, economic, and cultural development. They must consider women’s freedom to make their own decisions and include women from all social groups and walks of life in shaping these policies, and technologies, that affect their lives.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are huge national variations in both gender equality and digital development. Changes need to be culturally specific in order to be effective. If we wish to overcome digital disadvantage and promote digital development, governments, business, and other stakeholders need to pay attention to these different contexts when developing policies, programmes, and business plans.

Digital development measures must also be integrated with policies to combat gender inequality.

In August 2018, the G20 committed to “pay special attention” to the digital gender divide and made nine recommendations in this regard in the G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Declaration, adopted in Salta, Argentina.

Without such action, differences in Internet access and use will increase, rather than reduce, the gap in both information and power between women and men. That would hurt us all.

Read Women’s digital inclusion: Background paper for the G20.

Photo: RadioViva/Asociación Trinidad

Internet Governance Women in Tech

The Best Practice Forum on Gender and Access: Empowering Women Online

A Need for More Gender-Disaggregated Data

While Internet access and use is rapidly growing all over the world, women still face several challenges that hinder them from benefiting meaningfully from it. The proportion of women able to access and use the Internet is 12% lower than the proportion of men accessing and using it worldwide. This gap is even bigger in developing countries where only one out of seven women use the Internet.

These numbers highlight some of the discrepancies that the digital gender gap is both producing and reproducing. However, understanding them and to what extent they affect women’s online lives requires more data. While many studies have been conducted in the last few years in order to gather evidence about the existing barriers, there are still many aspects of the phenomenon that need to be studied in-depth, particularly at grassroots levels.

Various recent efforts – including those of the W20, the UN Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the World Wide Web Foundation, the GSMA and Association for Progressive Communications – have expressed concerns about the paucity of gender-disaggregated data and insights on Internet access and use masks the true extent of the digital gender divide.

Without this data, closing the digital gender gap will be difficult as we simply don’t understand it.

This article explores how the Best Practice Forum on Gender and Access (BPF Gender) as part of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) intersessional work, has, over the past three years, collected qualitative and anecdotal data to help better understand these gender discrepancies by considering different aspects of women’s Internet access and by encouraging stakeholders to contribute to the process.

The BPF Gender: Exploring Gender Barriers

While acknowledging the role that women’s social locations (such as gender, class, religion, caste, race, sexuality, ability, etc.) play in mediating access, many women in the Global South still face hurdles to adopt or use the Internet meaningfully or at all.

In its 2017 report, the BPF Gender continued exploring these issues and, apart from a lack of digital skills and capacity development, indicated the significance of barriers like affordability and infrastructure challenges, a lack of relevant and local language content, social stigma, and cultural barriers. Regarding the extent of the barriers, the research also concluded that such barriers are experienced differently across various communities. Women from LGBTQIA+ communities, for example, tend to be subjected to cultural stereotypes and stigmas quite acutely, while women refugees often highlight barriers related to the cost of devices and data.

Better collaboration between stakeholders in mapping initiatives, further gender-specific research in the area of community access networks, and the need for differentiating between public and private means of access were some of the recommendations issued by the BPF in both the 2016 and the 2017 reports.

As the BPF aims to continue conducting research in these areas and building upon these outcomes, in 2018 the BPF Gender is focusing on identifying initiatives working on complementary models of connectivity to address specific communities of women and exploring their impact to such groups.

By doing so, the BPF Gender is contributing to understanding who the impacted women are and where they are in order to foster public policies and best practices in the Internet Governance environment that encourage women to connect themselves and empower them to make use of the Internet in their day-to-day lives.

A Community-Driven Process

The BPF Gender work started in 2015 as part of the IGF intersessional work, and, due to the importance that the topic has for the community, has continued its work since then

During these three years, the BPF Gender has functioned in a bottom-up, multistakeholder, and community-driven manner.

“The stories and anecdotes the BPF community has managed to collect from diverse stakeholders around the world have provided us with interesting and useful insights into the challenges real women face in gaining meaningful Internet access”, said Anri van der Spuy, rapporteur of the BPF Gender in 2015 and 2016, and co-facilitator in 2017.

The work is done by volunteers from different regions who meet each other online on a regular basis to discuss different approaches, methodologies, and challenges. Enabling diverse stakeholders to collaborate to try to better understand and address women’s barriers to access to the Internet, has produced incredibly valuable evidence of the challenges that define the digital gender gap.

Three Ways of Contributing to the BPF Gender

Gathering the information needed to better understand women’s access and use of the Internet requires the efforts of all of us. From sharing your experience or highlighting initiatives that are making a difference in your community, there are several ways in which each of us can contribute to generating knowledge about the causes and remedies that affect women online.

The ways of contributing to the BPF Gender 2018 are:

1: Joining the BPF calls and mailing list

During the year, the BPF Gender has regular calls to organise the work and discuss different topics related to women’s Internet access and use. The calls are open to everyone and create an atmosphere and a culture where everyone has a voice and has something to contribute to the work. As any other Internet Governance-related process, we also use our mailing list for considerations and discussions of possible approaches and topics the BPF should be focusing on. If you are interested, sign up here.

2: Completing this year’s survey

To collect concrete inputs, the BPF Gender invites all different stakeholders and communities to contribute to this year’s survey. Recently, the BPF Gender has launched a survey to gather information about the impact that complementary ways of connectivity are having on access to the Internet for women. The survey is open until September 30, 2018, and will feed the BPF final report. We encourage you to complete the BPF survey – hosted on Google Forms and LimeSurvey – or to share it with your networks!

3: Promoting the BPF work in your country/region

At local and regional level, there are several spaces, like the NRIs, that have discussions about gender issues and that could be valuable platforms to expand the BPF work. If you are attending an event in your country and you want to share the BPF work with your community, please do! We can provide you support to prepare a presentation.

The BPF Gender 2018 wants to find means of empowering women and fight for them to thrive online so if you are conducting research in women’s Internet access or want to become more vocal in exposing the barriers encountered by women online, join us!

About the BPF Gender

In 2015, the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF)’s best practice forum (BPF) on Gender and Access was launched to conduct intersessional research on gender issues. That year the BPF investigated online abuse and gender-based violence and proved the importance of continuing to study Internet access and use with a gender perspective. As a result, in 2016, the BPF considered women’s meaningful access to the Internet and in 2017, the group delved deeper into the experiences and needs pertaining to the Internet of specific communities of women. Every year, the BPF gender produces a report with the main outcomes (see the 2015, 2016 and 2017 reports) that have been used to inform discussions at various policymaking fora at the global, regional, and national level. The work of 2018 is undergoing and, building on the work done during the past year, it is studying the impact that complementary ways of connectivities are having on different populations of women.

Help build an Internet that’s for everyone! #CountMyVoice

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Make It Equal: Celebrating Women Who Are Making a Difference

On 22nd September, 22 women will join a growing community of people who believe in a world of equal opportunity for women and girls.

The Equals in Tech Award is an annual event that gives awards to those who are helping girls and women get equal access, skills, and opportunities online and in the tech industry.

It’s our second year at the event and every year the finalists never fall short of inspiration.

This year, 22 finalists were chosen from among 357 nominations from 80 countries. They’re creating AI Accelerators, exploring new ways to train entrepreneurs, and empowering female healthcare professionals. Out of the 22 finalists, 5 winners will be chosen, each representing a specific category.

EQUALS is a global network delivered by a committed partnership of corporate leaders, governments, nonprofit organizations, communities, and individuals around the world working together to bridge the digital gender divide – by bringing women to tech, and tech to women – and in so doing, bettering the lives of millions worldwide.  To find out more, visit their website.

If you’re thinking about submitting an entry for next year’s Equals in Tech Award – here’s what you need to know.

Be a part of it! Follow the #EQUALSinTech hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.




Internet Governance Women in Tech

From Imagination to Action: In Latin America, Building the Internet That Women Want

In 1843, Ada Lovelace published “Sketch of the analytical engine invented by Charles Babbage” in the book Scientific Memoirs. But because of her “condition” as a woman she, like many women who were pioneers in their time, was forgotten by history. Women could not access education or the sciences and, for that reason, history forgot them, just as we forgot that many women were mothers of the Internet.

“History drove us out of the digital industry, we stopped being important and a male industry was created.”
– Kemly Camacho, Sula Batsú

Every day many people ask us, where are the women? Why don’t they participate? I tell them to look at the immense number of initiatives that women are doing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

With the cold of Buenos Aires, between its tall buildings and its warm people, our friends at the Tierra Violeta Cultural Center received us after four months of planning the FemHackParty LAC. In December 2016, at the Internet Governance Forum that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, we organized with a group of women the first FemHackParty, within the framework of 16 days of activism against violence against women. We had the chance to learn about different regional initiatives that fight to reduce violence against women on the Internet.

Years later, inspired by women’s movements in Latin America – with its epicenter in Argentina – and in the framework of the 11th Preparatory Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum of Latin America and the Caribbean (LACIGF) in Buenos Aires, we organized the 2nd FemHackPartyLAC. The event was planned with the Association for the Progress of Communications (APC) and the Argentine Chapter of the Internet Society.

August 1st was the most feminist day in the LACIGF. In the morning we started with the LACIGFem Meeting, a space that aimed to bring together organizations and institutions that are carrying out actions to empower women in the tech ecosystem. This was the second year in a row of this event, as every year we ask the Organizing Committee of LACIGF to give us a space in the agenda to discuss gender issues.

What are we doing?

In numbers, women’s participation during the LACIGF11: 48% female panelists, 76% of Committee scholarships to women, and equal participation (174 women and 174 men).

“This year, the gender focus has not been so marked in the speeches, there was a lack of gender perspective in the sessions, but I do believe that there has been quite a balance in the face-to-face and virtual participation. It’s encouraging to see that there are activities that are being done in parallel to the meeting by groups of women and that they have a framework around the Internet.”
– Dafne Sabanes Plou, APC

Eight in the morning and coffee in hand, the question was posed: What actions are we implementing to reduce the gender gap and increase the participation of women?

In the LACIGFem meeting we had a very diverse group of participants: Olga Cavalli from ISOC Argentina, Daphne Plou from APC, Kemly Camacho from Sula Batsú, Carolina Caeiro from LACNIC, Alexandra Dans from ICANN, Yacine Khelladi from Alliance for an Affordable Internet (A4AI), Paula Ferrari of GSMA and topic chair of the W20 digital inclusion group, and Angeles Ayala of Women in STEM, Future Leaders.

We explored how women are not well integrated into the digital economy and how to involve them so that they become producers and not just consumers.

“We do not just want to be workers in the digital industry, we want to be creators.”
– Kemly Camacho, Sula Batsú

As it was highlighted in the session, we must move to a real gender perspective that involves women not only in speeches but also in decision-making processes, promoting the creation of public policies, and involving new generations. It is necessary to create resources, goals, and objectives, but we also need to know where, when, and how to do it and for that we need to know what is happening in our regions.

“We need to move from declaration to action: To Latin American women I’d like to tell them to apply to all the positions that there are. Don’t be afraid because if we do not show ourselves nobody chooses us.”
– Olga Cavalli

We hacked the LACIGF.

The FemHackPartyLAC program had an hour and a half of activities. We had 19 initiatives and more participation from women. We started by reading a letter from our colleague Rosalia Viñas, an activist who lives in Cuba and was not allowed to leave the country to participate in the LACIGF. The party lasted for 3 hours, while we shared sweets and beers.

“At the beginning we started by imaging a feminist Internet and now we are making a feminist Internet.”
– Dafne Sabanes Plou

Marianne Diaz, Maricarmen Sequera, Daniela Pardo, Estefania, Amalia Toledo, Maritza Sanchez, Juliana Soto, Nancy Reyes, Sara Fratti, Fabiana Pineda, Marieliv Flores, Marina Benitez, Kemly Camacho, Mariela Reiman, Daphne Plou, Jeannette Torres, Linda Garcia – and all the women who were not present but are taking actions to achieve a feminist Internet in Latin America – were there with us.

Global and multistakeholder efforts were also mentioned and the EQUALS Global Partnership, a multistakeholder initiative that seeks to reduce the gender gap in technology, gave us a framework for the discussion. (The Internet Society recently joined EQUALS as a partner.)

Learn about all the initiatives presented.

For years we’ve made visible the concerns and inequities in the construction of Internet and technology: how we must take firm steps, take actions for ourselves, and start thinking about building and creating the Internet that women want.

“The patriarchal system itself must begin to give in and understand that this is a real struggle for our rights. It seems that to speak of a gender perspective on the Internet is to put women to talk and that is not a real gender perspective”
– Marina Benítez Demtschenko.

As we can’t do this work alone, we, as the Internet Society Women’s Special Interest Group (SIG Women) organized these activities to join efforts. We are committed to building a network with women from all over the Internet ecosystem because we must work together if we want to achieve an Internet for all.

Want to help close the digital gender gap? Join SIG Women!