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Tackling the gender digital divide in Africa

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 08:49
The coming of the digital age and of information technology promises that those 'left out' or excluded from development will be to access their rights and enjoy a higher standard of living. But what is the truth for African women - are the experiences of all 'marginal' women being lumped together and how far away is the promise of equal access and gender equity.

Republished from author’s blog Koliwe Majama

The emergence of the internet is touted as an opportunity for women in Africa to ‘play catch up’ after years of being ‘left out’ in the mainstream media.

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[COLUMN] Access and Beyond: Motivations for internet use

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 08:32
In this column, Chenai Chair explores motivations of internet use through the ResearchICT Africa study in Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Business, local and global communication, social ties, and curiosity seem to be the main motivators. By understanding why people go online, we can better shape interventions for a connected society.

Field picture taken from 2011 survey: Source Research ICT Africa.

Do you remember why you went online for the first time in your life? This is my favourite question that you may not have yet thought about – but it reflects the  starting point in becoming a netizen.

This is the second in the series of columns on Access and Beyond that chronicles the research conducted by Research ICT Africa in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria. In this column I focus on motivations for internet use.

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Working out access on our own: Community projects, gender and internet

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 00:00
As our cities turn smart and countries turn digital the gender gap in terms of internet access is disturbing. The lack of access directly relates to the loss of rights of women and minorities. Sadly there is a long way to go before we close this gap. Chinmayi S K explores projects that attempted in innovative ways to address the digital gender gap online.

Image from Rights Con Brussels 2017 website

Wikipedia describes internet access as “the process that enables individuals and organisations to connect to the internet using computer terminals, computers, mobile devices, sometimes via computer networks“.

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A place for all: On being diverse and inclusive @RightsCon

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:27
More than 1,500 business leaders, civil society advocates, policy makers, lawyers, bloggers, technologists, and users participated in RightsCon Brussels 2017 (March) and there were over 250 sessions related to human rights and technology. Serene Lim explores the ways in which inequity was addressed at the forum, and how exclusion and marginalisation were framed in various sessions.

Image from original work ‘Web Women Want’ by Willow Brugh. Licensed under cc-by-sa-2.0.

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The internet of Things: smart devices, quantified self, dolls and vibrators

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 10:28
If an object has a chip, it becomes smart, and by extension our houses become smarter - and so do our cities, hospitals, toys, phones. But what about the inventors, the creators, the owners, the users of all these smart and tiny things - are we becoming smarter? Reflecting on sessions in Rights Con 2017 in Brussels, Vale examines the ways in which the internet of things can lead to invasive datafication and surveillance, and violate internet rights.

Image by Namita Aavriti, courtesy Cayla the hackable doll

If an object has a chip, it becomes smart, and by extension our houses become smarter – and so do our cities, hospitals, toys, phones. But what about the inventors, the creators, the owners, the users of all these smart and tiny things – are we becoming smarter?

I am fascinated by the ubiquitous ability of internet technologies to animate things, transform them into hubs, bypass walls and diminish distances.

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10 ways to make Twitter work for feminist activism

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 13:25
How to bring the powerful agency and discourse of women's rights movements and feminism to the digital age of Twitter and other social media. Samukelisiwe Mabaso has researched on various movements across Africa and Asia that successfully and effectively use technology, and shows us ten ways in which to make Twitter work for feminist activism. Lets get in formation!

Audre Lorde. Image source

I decided to do a little exercise, I typed #feminism in Twitter’s search bar and the top tweet that came up was this comic that immediately spoke to me.

!{width:400px}http://www.genderit.org/sites/default/upload/brown_paperbag_comic.jpg((Screenshot by author.

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[COLUMN] Open software movements, open content, free culture: Where are the women?

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 11:31
The gender balance is far from equal even in progressive movements such as the free and open source software community, Mozilla user groups, and others. Despite all the rivers of ink that were written about the gender imbalance in these areas, the changes are slow to arrive.

In 2011 a study by GroupLens revealed the gender imbalance on Wikipedia, and there was an outpouring of articles in the global media about the notorious absence of women in the world’s largest virtual encyclopedia. At that point the Wikimedia Foundation set in motion an ambitious plan to try to incorporate more women. Above all, user groups appeared, making it their business to get more women involved as their main goal.

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[COLUMN] I want to be a Pokémon master

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 10:18
Pokémon exploded as a game that could be played on mobile phones in 2016. Of the many debates around it, Angélica Contreras explores the gendered aspect of videogames and how Pokémon struck a chord with many women in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and parts of Latin America. This article was originally written in Spanish, and is part of a column series that explores young women and their lives immersed in technology.

Image shared by author

This article is part of a series of GenderIT.org columns, and here we feature translations from Spanish. Evelin Heidel from Argentina will share her experiences in gender, technology, programming and access; and Angelica Contreras from Mexico will write about young women and their lives immersed in technology.

I am AkiConterR and my companion is a “Pidgeotto” who I call “Pid”. I belong to Team Mystic; I am on level 7 and I have 53 Pokémons (72, actually, but some of them I transferred).

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[COLUMN] Access and beyond: Navigating the gendered cyberspace

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:18
In this column series, Chenai Chair explores the barriers to accessing the internet in four countries in Africa - Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. The study in particular looks at the impact of affordability of internet and subsidised data services, and what impact this has on people in different locations (countries, urban-rural), of different genders, and so on. In the first column, Chenai examines what kind of methodology is suited for research on access.

A world map colored to show the level of Internet penetration (number of Internet users as a percentage of a country’s population). Updated June 2013. Source: Wikipedia

Affordability is one of the primary barriers to internet access, and particularly to optimal use. Knowing this fully from our previous research, Research ICT Africa (RIA) conducted focus groups in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Rwanda in November 2016.

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The nerdiest and most open of them all: Internet Freedom Festival 2017

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 08:51
The Internet Freedom Festival is refreshingly different from most forums around internet rights and technology - it is almost equal in gender ratio, welcoming of gender non conforming and trans persons, and takes privacy of its participants at the venue seriously. Smita Vanniyar tells us more about their experience at the festival this year in Valencia, Spain.

Prohibition is prohibited: photograph by Smita Vanniyar

When once I registered for the 2017 Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, I was added to a mailing list which had a constant flow of information on the festival and the activities related to it. Even before the schedule came out, the festival sounded fascinating, and distinctly different from other conferences, both national and international, which I have attended as of now.

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[BOOK REVIEW] Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer counterpublics in Latin America

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 17:29
'Interpreting the internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America by Elisabeth Jay Friedman looks at a decade long engagement of feminist and women's movements with technology. Alan Finlay reviews the book for GenderIT, and finds it to be essential reading for anyone interested in how feminist (or any) counterpublics are formed and shaped by appropriating whatever technology is available. The book is essential reading for those new to Latin American feminism, and also relevant to feminists seeking to contextualise the work they do online.

Feminists immersed in diverse technologies (collage): Original artwork by Flavia Fascendini

Interpreting the internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America by Elisabeth Jay Friedman is a grounded and well thought-out book.

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Chelsea Manning and other political prisoners: Report from Internet Freedom Festival

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 07:45
While Chelsea Manning has been pardoned by the Obama administration, there are still many political prisoners facing incarceration and lengthy trials for their exercise of freedom of expression and for whistle blowing. Very few countries have enacted laws that protect whistle blowers. Mallory Knodel writes about the benefit fundraiser to welcome home Chelsea Manning that took place at the Internet Freedom Festival 2017 in Valencia, Spain, and reflects on the many others who face similar charges around the world.

For international women’s day, some human rights and technology groups threw a benefit party for Chelsea Manning in Valencia, Spain as part of the annual Internet Freedom Festival. Chelsea Manning is an important activist in internet freedom for using the online platform Wikileaks to inform the world about classified US documents revealing corruption and civilian casualties. She was recently pardoned for blowing the whistle in 2010 on the Iraq War, which then ended in 2011.

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Giving my spirit voice: Interview with Helen Nyinakiiza

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 08:02
An interview with Helen Nyinakiiza, who has recently joined Association for Progressive Communication as an individual member. Helen is a passionate digital security trainer, and in this interview she talks about the use of technology and internet rights in Uganda, the digital divide around gender and region, and how she does her trainings.

Helen Nyinakiiza (right), aside from being a digital security trainer, also works in an education project for orphans in Iganga district in Eastern Uganda.

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Unscripting Harassment (Part 2)

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 18:07
Online harassment has taken various forms on the internet, including doxxing, intimate violence, stalking and so on. In this article, Part 2 of the series, Maya Ganesh explores a different way of thinking through this contemporary phenomenon by using an approach that emphasises 'design-thinking'. Possibilities that are explored include whether the system or platform can predict or respond to interactions that are escalating. However we also need to acknowledge that design, no matter how good, cannot solve social problems or harassment, but can be part of how we deal with it.

Collage with statute La Pensadora (Thinking Woman) by José Luis Fernández in Spain

The ‘Architectures of Online Harassment’ was the first in a two-part post that described the context and motivations of Tactical Tech’s work addressing the problem of online harassment through the lens of interface design. In this second post, I describe the results and outcomes of the workshop developed by Caroline Sinders and myself.

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What is sexual surveillance and why does it matter

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 22:06
We can no longer ignore the pervasive datafication of our lives - the ways in which our habits, illness, abilities, relations are abstracted, and our bodies made into data by an intersecting range of institutions and processes. In this article, the gendered, sexualised and racialised nature of surveillance is unpacked, so we maintain a focus on the power relations involved. Surveillance affects racialised groups, the gender non-conforming, people with disabilities, and other marginalised populations disproportionately.

Original design by Paru Ramesh

The work of caring and writing about sexual surveillance elicits occasional productive puzzlement over its precise meaning. Questions usually boil down to versions of —

  • What is sexual surveillance?
  • What is sexual about surveillance?
  • We are all under surveillance, why make it about _______?
    • ◻ sex?
    • ◻ gender?
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A Woman Coder's Journey (Women-in-tech)

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 07:25
Judith Owigar speaks about her journey entering into tech spaces, and also about their work with Akirachix in Kenya helping other women along the same journey marked by trials, exclusions and success. While speaking about the barriers of education in science and technology (STEM), she says that what inspires her work in many forums around women in tech in Africa, is that eventually a woman should have the space to make her own choices.

Image source: Akirachix

Judith Owigar is a coder, a blogger and a tech enthusiast. She has worked with Akirachix, a revolution for African women and technology. She is a native of Kenya, a country off the coast of East Africa, one of its 40 million inhabitants.

Namita Aavriti: Tell us a bit about yourself, what you are doing now, what motivates you.

Judith Owigar: I studied computer science out of curiosity initially.

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Being Dalit, Doing Corporate (Women-in-tech)

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 11:09
Multinational companies often put in place a policy for diversity and inclusiveness at the workplace, but does this guarantee the everyday, actual practice of accepting people from marginalized communities, and especially women from such communities. In this article, Christina Thomas Dhanaraj, examines what it means to be Dalit in corporate India - the continued invisibilising of caste, sexism and gender inequity and the effectiveness (or not) of diversity policies.

Original image source

“I strongly believe in the movements run by women. If they are truly taken in to confidence, they may change the present picture of society which is very miserable. In the past, they have played a significant role in improving the condition of weaker sections and classes.”
Dr B.R. Ambedkar

Before I delve into my article, I want to provide some context into why and how this is my story.

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Ten facts about your computer: Health, hardware and the toll on women

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 19:03
This article takes a look at where our hardware comes from, the electronics factories situated in primarily Asian countries, and the challenges facing the people, primarily women, who work there, and the issues that impact upon women workers in the electronics industry. Ten facts about your computer that illuminate the gendered nature of the labour that is embedded in our hardware.

Photograph of Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour by Robert Scoble, Original image

The top-end of the computer industry is still seen as a sexy place to be. The culture may be designed to wed you to the job, but its a pairing that many professionals envy. And of course, as this week’s protest is designed to highlight, this side of the industry is not where the women are.

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The Architectures of Online Harassment (Part 1)

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 07:59
In this two part report on a workshop on thinking through online harassment, Maya Ganesh of Tactical Technology Collective teases out the nuances of how online harassment takes place, technologically and socially. The article looks at what troubles and concerns us about online harassment of women, and what could be the possible new directions opened up by using a design-thinking approach. Part 2 of the article will unpack further the design-thinking model.

On January 3, Caroline Sinders and I conducted a workshop at Tactical Tech about applying design-thinking approaches to understanding and addressing online and offline harassment. I write about the results of this workshop in two parts, the first, this one, dealing with the framing of online harassment in the context of speech, and why this needs to be reconsidered.

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A painting of an African feminist internet

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 04:38
Addressing the internet gender divide in Africa can only be achieved through the deliberate creation of a feminist internet, and this was affirmed by the Gender and Internet Governance eXchange (gigX) workshop that was held on 10 October 2016 in Durban. We need a feminist internet that works to empower all of us in our diversities, creates equal power relations, and dismantles patriarchy in all of its forms.

A signboard in a school in Uganda. Public Domain Image: source
Article republished from APC blog, 11 Nov 2016.

The internet remains one of the historical developments transforming human behaviour, greatly impacting on the social, economic, cultural and political spheres of life at an incredible speed.

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