Reflections from the IGF3: Thanks APC for making the IGF happen to me

By Anupama Saxena
Publisher: APCNews     HYDERABAD, 09 December 2008

“Thanks APC for making the IGF happen to me”

“Connecting People” is an aspect of the philosophy of Association for Progressive Communications (APC), that Chat Garcia Ramillo of APC told me during an informal discussion at third Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Hyderabad, India.

I am leaving Hyderabad tomorrow with a longer list of friends, but I know that philosophy of connecting people goes far beyond having the added names in the list. It has a deeper philosophy: connecting people for bringing changes into their lives. I am going back with a sense of responsibility to make these connections useful for the larger community I work with, women, students and my friends of local civil society organizations, back at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India.

Voice of Anupama at the IGF

“Voice of Anupama” Angela M. Kuga Thas, APC had responded, during her recent visit to Bilaspur regarding our ongoing research when, after her suggestion of recording the voices of some of the women sarpanchas (women heads of village-level self governance units in India) I said in a light mood, “why not my voice?” I had never ever imagined that this would turn into reality so soon, during various sessions at the IGF.

I made an observation on the need of internet content development according to the needs of women during the session on multilingualism. I could draw the attention of the panelists and emphasise the need for the availability of free online research resources when the house was discussing the preservation and protection of the culture of so far excluded communities like tribal, on the net. I observed that to achieve this, capacity building of local researchers was very important.

Soon I could find that these interventions were the starting points for initiating new relationships. After the sessions I could talk to many important people from organizations like the World Health Organization, UNESCO, Sify, the University of Erfurt etc. I found that interventions helped me connect to the people with common goals and shared interests.

Connecting rural women of Chhattisgarh to capital city Delhi

I waited for more than three years for the right opportunity to bring into their notice the missing gender equality in the first sentence of the first page of the e-governance website of the Ministry of information and technology of the Indian government, “Make all government services accessible to the common man in his locality”. I got it during a meeting with IT secretary and other staff from the ministry. I could exploit the opportunity more by giving a long description of how a gender sensitive approach in planning and implementation of rural e-governance scheme could make them more beneficial to rural women, especially on the basis of our findings of ongoing research on “ Gender evaluation of e-Gram-Suraj (e-rural good governance) scheme of Chhattisgarh state in India. We are doing this research with the Women’s Networking Support Programme (WNSP) of APC.

I really wonder if without IGF and without APC I would not have gotten such a close and attentive interaction with the top-level government officials. We are located in Bilaspur and the capital city Delhi is really far away!

I got another chance during the discussion on a right-based approach to Internet. The panel included a representative from ministry of IT, India. After giving some data from our field researches, I observed that current e-governance implementation did not seem to be inclusive to women.

To me all these interventions were important, as I could bring into notice the grass level realities on gender dimensions in e-governance schemes to the top-level policy makers. My voice at the IGF was actually the voice of all those whom I work with.

Participating in the event also made me feel scared sometimes, as the general perspectives over the issues here were very broad and I needed time to locate my experiences into these perspectives. When some woman mentioned while reading a representation signed by 120 civil society organizations, that those people feel that the language at the IGF is different from the language that they speak, I felt I was one of those people. But I must confess that the environment at the IGF was so friendly that very soon I was feeling most comfortable. The nature of the discussions was so varied that one did get a chance to be more inclusive in thinking.

What am I taking back?

It is a long list…. an excellent orientation to emerging issues that revolve around internet and internet governance, a broadened understanding of gender within the internet, particularly on the issues of cybersecurity, privacy and openness and human rights. An enhanced capacity of understanding the local issues of women in a global perspective .A deeper sense of responsibility towards the people I work with, planning and the challenges that will be coming in between planning and actual implementation…

I feel that the next time I attend such a huge event I would be more organized in participation, in making interventions, and in making it more useful for all those whose voices I want to make listen.

Last but not the least starting of my relationship with gender coalition. It is an excellent feeling to be a part of the global network of women working on ICT issues. It fills one with confidence and with a feeling of belonging, best reflected by Anita Gurumurthy of IT for change, when I met her for the first time in IGF “No, not handshakes, hugs!”

The future

This is how I am feeling about my participation in the IGF right now. How it will actually impact my work, is still hiding in future. Sometimes, impact is so qualitative that one can feel it but can not make it visible to others, sometimes it happens and one is not able to understand that it has happened and sometimes it just remains within those brackets of “expected impacts”. After all, we live in an interdependent world. May be in a few years when I retrospect, I wll be able to talk about the actual impacts of this IGF on me and on my work. Till then, I can only say that it has been a wonderful experience. Much thanks APC for bringing the IGF to me.

As an Indian I feel proud to see the IGF happen in such a wonderful manner. I am confident that the Indians who can make the IGF happen in India will also make the spirit of the IGF happen to India. The spirit of the IGF to me is best reflected in two terms, mentioned in the closing ceremony speech of Mr. Jainder Singh, Secretary, Ministry of IT of India “empowerment and inclusion.”

Anupama, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh

Dr. Anupama Saxena is currently working as an associate professor and head of the department of political science, and is director of the women’s studies and development centre for Guru Ghasidad University in Bilaspur India. Her current research project, “Gender evaluation of e-Gram Suraj scheme of Chhattisgarh state” is in partnership with the APC, as a part of APC’s Gender Evaluation Methodology for ICT development.

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