Women in Tech

Juma Baldeh: Breaking Barriers to Access in Gambia

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.

“Too often I witness young girls, who are skilled in math and science, lose hope as they prepare for interviews and professional positions,” Baldeh said. “Right now, many girls in this field leave it because they think computer jobs are too difficult and they lose confidence at some point.”

The club started with a small space and just five girls, training to be proficient in basic computing skills, computer programing, online security and privacy, and research and networking. Through these skills the girls can then go on to civic participation, economic empowerment, and leadership roles. One of the many problems with Internet literacy in Gambia, Baldeh says, is that “it’s seen as a hobby, not a profession.”

“Almost everyone is using the Internet now and in the next million years to come,” she said. “If people are shown how to use the web in an inclusive and engaging way, then people will use the Internet to unlock social and other opportunities. For instance, a teacher can reach out to her students remotely, a business owner can reach out to her customers easily and faster, but without people being web literate they won’t be able to understand what the Internet can do and therefore will be disadvantaged.”

Baldeh’s main goals are to provide the right hubs for tech activities, which includes Internet connectivity. She wants to “break cultural, social, and gender barriers to equal online access.” She also hopes to give young people a voice in the digital policy development that will affect them. She does this both with the club and in her full-time work.

Outside of Hackathon Girls, Baldeh works at InSIST Global, the No. 1 software company in Gambia, which specializes in hardy, flexible, and low-cost information systems within the African context. She says her manager, Kumbale Goode, has been an inspiration, mentor and friend throughout her tech journey.

“I always admired her as a lady working at a software company,” Baldeh said. “Her guidance was incredible, and also her humility stunned me as she was also ready to learn from me and see me excel.”

Excelling is something that takes hard work and dedication, man or woman, Baldeh says, and she’s made many sacrifices to get to where she is today.

“I felt intimidated most times in my programming classes or discouraged, but then I said to myself I have started this journey and now is the time to work like a boy,” she said. “I stayed up late most times to study and actually go through a lot of my work over and over again just to make sure I came out good in my programming classes. My advice to girls who want to go into the field of IT is to work hard and never get discouraged.”

Join SIG Women, which is open to all people and “works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.”

Women in Tech

Shine the Light: Six Women Making a Difference

This International Women’s Day, we’re boosting the profiles of incredible women around the world who are pushing boundaries using technology – and we encourage you to do the same!

Last month, during Safer Internet Day – a call to action for everyone to play their part in creating a better Internet for everyone – women in the Internet Society’s 25 Under 25 group, using just their smartphones to record video, answered the question, “What does a safer Internet mean to me?”

Watch the videos, explore the different ways these young women are using technology to shape tomorrow, then Shine The Light on some of the incredible women you know who are making an impact. Join the #ShineTheLight TweetChat with @SIGWomenISOC on March 8th… then join SIG Women!

Poornima Meegammana (Sri Lanka)
“A safer Internet to me is a place where a girl’s voice can be heard without harassment.”

Mary Helda Akongo (Uganda)
“To me, a safer Internet would be a place that is free and safe for me to have my voice heard, a place where I can share my creative content, share my opinions and my thoughts without ridicule, backlash and hate from different people just because of probably my gender, my race, my religion or my beliefs.”

Kate Green (UK)
“I believe that the infrastructure we use online – Google, Facebook and other social media platforms – should also keep us safe, and be really explicit about the data, what they’re going to be doing with our data so that we can make informed decisions about what we want to share online.”

Jazmin Fallas (Costa Rica)
“For me, a safer Internet is a space where people can feel free to interact but at the same time have security that their rights are protected.”

Makkiya Jawed (Pakistan)
“For me, a safer Internet is a place where instead of feeling judged, where you’re not hiding behind facades, people come across and actually speak their views and opinions freely; a place where even mental health can be discussed openly; where illnesses such as TB and diabetes are actually not hidden but rather people say them out loud; a place where we find support from across the globe, to be who we are, a place where I’m simply me.”

Paula Côrte Real, (Brazil)
“A safer Internet to me would be a place where people could express themselves without the fear of censorship or surveillance. It would also be a place free of hate and free of violence where people could exercise their rights without disrespecting other people’s rights, because freedom of expression doesn’t allow you to spread hate and to mistreat anyone, either online or offline.”

Read Lia Kiessling’s blog 2018: Time To Listen To The Voices of Women

25th Anniversary About Internet Society Growing the Internet

Keeping the door open

Last week we announced the names of twenty-five individuals who were selected as the awardees of our 25 under 25 program, an initiative which recognizes young people from around the globe who are using the Internet to make a positive difference.

The program forms part of the Internet Society’s 25th Anniversary celebrations this month, including a special recognition ceremony planned in Los Angeles, California on Monday 18 September for the 25 under 25. We invited all twenty-five awardees to Los Angeles to take part and receive their awards in person but we have learnt that unfortunately, not everyone will be able to travel. Three of the awardees have not been granted visas to enter the United States.

On hearing this news one awardee, Mariano Gomez, penned us an open letter. In it, he explains his frustration at a process which required him to travel over several days to a ten minute interview which resulted in rejection. He described with utter clarity the irony of being denied entry due to the very conditions he hopes to address with the innovations he is pursuing on the Internet.

We understand and applaud Mariano’s statement. Not only are we disappointed that he and two others from our 25 under 25 awardee line-up will not be able to join us in L.A. as we celebrate their achievements, we are also dismayed by the existence of regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere that prevent these and other young people from exploring their potential.

At the Internet Society, we stand by the heroic accomplishments of each of our awardees. Every one of 25 will be receiving their award regardless, whether in person or otherwise. In addition, we are supporting those who cannot be with us with travel costs to attend other Internet Society events being held in their own countries during our global online meeting where they will be able to participate in the ceremony remotely.

The power of the Internet lies in its ability to transcend boundaries, to condense time and space and to overcome physical and geographical limitations and restrictions. Even if there are those who would see borders closed and barriers put in place, we will continue to look to the Internet as the means for the world to connect, collaborate and share.

This is why the Internet must remain open, globally-connected and secure and why we are using it as the way to have a global conversation that connects our community around the world. Our InterCommunity 2017 event is not just a meeting, it embodies the idea that lies at the heart of the Internet Society and its values – that the Internet is for everyone.

25th Anniversary Human Rights

Stand for Leadership: The choice is yours

The world of today mostly buzzes with social media and hashtags. For a youth it’s a complicated dynamic world of Internet with tons and tons of messages and notifications that pop up every other minute, and where no Internet means no life. 

As a journalist, blogger, activist and a consultant, the Internet made me who I am and still I am exploring the possibilities of my virtue. Nothing was easy but the point is standing for change. 

I realized the power of Internet when I published a story in one of the citizen journalism sites, Ground Report, and it was picked up by Access Now and they launched an international campaign “Nepal Shutdown Showdown”.  

Man, I felt powerful!  

It was not only standing for change but I think it was more about standing for your rights and voicing what can be done. 

In 2011 with the revolution of social media we launched Internet activism in Nepal. Various campaigns against the political leaders were launched against the political deadlock. We used the available technology and network to create a solution for the frustration of what we believed in. The campaign created a ripple in the political hemisphere and we made our point.

The thing that changed my perspective most about the Internet was during the earthquake of 2015. It was massive and everything seemed doomed but the one thing that came to a rescue was the Internet. 

We took it on ourselves and started posting messages on our social media, and one after the other people showed their interest. Some gave away spare food, some with medical supplies, some with material and we helped people. That day I realized the importance of the Internet and how we could bridge the gaps of a changing world. 

Complaining about what was not happening was always part of life but being the change and touching the hearts of thousands of people was something special which was possible because of the Internet.   

That day the definition of the Internet changed. 

The Internet for me was not just possibilities but it stood as a helping hand; it was humanity for all those people.

Are you using the Internet to be the change and make an impact in your community? Nominate yourself or someone you know for the Internet Society’s 25 under 25 programme

25th Anniversary Growing the Internet

You Don't Change The World By Thinking like Everyone Else

We are young. 

We have a bunch of emotions, energy and dreams. 

As young people, we truly believe that our world can get better. Most of the time we do not have fears. We try new things, new trends, new food, and new technology. We are open to hear new ideas and fight for new causes. All this helps us to come up with innovative ideas. 

I have seen lots of great ones!

Some of you have developed these ideas, and now you have projects, groups, businesses, and movements. However, not all of these ideas get the attention that they deserve. 

But now you have the chance. 

This is a unique opportunity to show everyone what you are doing and to be recognised. Maybe you are looking for some assistance or even inspiration. 

You can find it here – in the Internet Society’s 25 under 25 programme

If this has not convinced you, let me tell you that if we want a better world, this is a chance to meet others who are working on it. 

Who knows, maybe you will end up working together? 

I invite you to nominate yourself or nominate someone else. The Internet Society is looking for 25 people between 13 to 25 years old who are using the Internet to make an impact on their society. As you might know, the Internet is part of our daily life, and it has become a tool for democracy, education, and development. 

There might be great ideas out there that use the Internet to build a better world. And, who could be the authors of these ideas? Young people, for sure. 

If you know a story that needs to be told, please speak up. The Internet Society is waiting to hear from you.

25th Anniversary Community Projects

Community Forum Launches the Search for 25 Under 25

Today, the Internet Society hosted a special Community Forum, “Youth on the Internet.” Hundreds of participants from across 6 continents joined the conversation to share their views on what the Internet means to them.

A special thanks to our Next Generation Leaders who were panellists – Evelyn Namara (Uganda), Veronica Arroyo (Peru), Yuza Setiawan (Indonesia) for a vibrant discussion on topics such as how young people can address privacy and security concerns, and how the Internet can help close the gender gap.

We also launched the new “25 Under 25” initiative. In celebration of the Internet Society’s 25th anniversary and as we look to the future, we want to identify 25 passionate, young people between the ages of 13 and 25 who are using the Internet to make a difference in their communities.

Awardees will be guests at a reception in their honour co-located with the 2017 Internet Hall of Fame induction ceremony in September. There will be plenty of opportunities for the 25 under 25 awardees to network with the Internet pioneers, innovators and global connectors who made significant contributions to the development and advancement of the Internet.

Nominations are now open for 25 under 25. We look forward to hearing more about the next generation of entrepreneurs and influencers on the Internet.

If you missed today’s Community Forum, the recording can be found on the Internet Society’s Facebook page and on Connect, a platform for Internet Society members.  If you don’t have an account, you can join and create one for free.

If you know someone who is under 25 and changing the world using the Internet – tell us about them!