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15 November 2018 | Updated on 24 June 2024

The Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN) is a three-and-a-half-year collaborative and multidisciplinary research project led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).  

The project draws on the study “Mapping research in gender and digital technology” carried out by APC and commissioned by IDRC, and the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs) collectively crafted by feminists and activists, primarily located in the global South. The FIRN aims to build an emerging field of internet research with a feminist approach to inform and influence activism and policy making.



There is persistent disparity in the comprehensive integration of and focus on gender in policy and research related to information and communications technology (ICT) – from unpacking digital rights, data gathering, research and analysis to policy making. Findings from the mapping study of research in gender and digital technology in middle- and low-income countries over the last decade (2006-2017) carried out by APC and commissioned by IDRC show that there are organisations that integrate gender-related concerns into their research agendas, but also highlight that there are gaps between research and policy making. The lack of investment in the subfield of gender and ICT research and non-recognition of critical and feminist work has an epistemic impact, and further, the lack of intersectionality in gender-related or feminist research has a discriminatory impact. Research agendas have to be linked to policy reform, as this has an impact on the effectiveness and value of research, activism and policy interventions. 


The project

The Feminist Internet Research Network focuses on the making of a feminist internet as critical to bring about transformation in gendered structures of power that exist online and onground. Members of the network will undertake data-driven research that provides substantial evidence to drive change in policy and law and in discourse around internet rights. The broader objective is to ensure that the needs of women, gender diverse and queer people are taken into account in internet policy discussions and decision making. 

Overarching research questions
  • What forms of discrimination do women, gender diverse and queer people face because of social, political and economic changes driven by digital technology and the internet?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities in policy, infrastructure and socio-cultural norms when it comes to the making of a feminist internet?
  • How does the feminist internet research project contribute to methodological, theoretical and ethical shifts that will impact research on the internet?
Key areas of research

Based on the emerging areas and gaps in knowledge that were identified through the mapping study of research in gender and digital technology, the FIRN focuses on four thematic areas:

  1. Access (usage and infrastructure)
  2. Big data and its impact on vulnerable populations
  3. Online gender-based violence
  4. Gendered labour in the digital economy.
Domains of change

Inspire new methodological approaches, centred around the lens of feminism: Research studies and exchanges carried out by the network will strengthen research capacity and practices in the emerging field of gender and digital technology and research on digital technologies overall by facilitating intersectoral and intersectional perspectives, peer exchanges and partnership building.

Advocacy and movement building: Research from the network will deepen discussions among affected populations and advocacy targets by providing new insights, inspiring new ideas and shifting the framework of response to key thematic areas. Advocacy targets include activists, practitioners, researchers, academics, and tech developers, especially those who engage with issues on digital technology and human rights.

Global shifts through policy forums: Research by the network is intended to yield a nuanced and more accurate picture of the issues, grounded in the realities of heterogeneous communities. This will help inform policy advocacy work and policy development on issues of access and online gender-based violence in particular.

Phase 1
Selected project proposals

Project title: A feminist approach to AI and algorithmic decisions in Latin America: Building bridges for human rights advocacy groups

Host institution: Coding Digital Rights

Theme: Datafication, Economy and labour

Region: Latin America

Country: Argentina, Brazil and Chile


Project title: Action-research on feminist autonomous networks

Host institution: Vedetas

Theme: Access, Online gender-based violence, Economy and labour

Region: Latin America

Country: Brazil


Project title: After the Storm: Research and policy drafting for restoring policy dialogue against gender-based violence in Bulgaria

Host institution: BlueLink

Theme: Online gender-based violence

Region: East Europe

Country: Bulgaria


Project title: Digital mediation of reproductive and care work in India: A feminist exploration

Host institution: CIS-India

Theme: Economy and labour

Region: Asia

Country: India


Project title: Feminism, datafication and backlash in Brazil (LGBT)

Host institution: Latin American Centre on Sexuality and Human Rights (CLAM)

Theme: Online gender-based violence, Datafication

Region: Latin America

Country: Brazil


Project title: Online gender-based violence and the costs of unequal access to freedom of opinion and expression for women and the LGBTQ community in Malaysia

Host institution: KRYSS Network PLT

Theme: Online gender-based violence

Region: Asia

Country: Malaysia


Project title: Understanding online gender-based violence across Africa: A mixed-methods study

Host institution:

Theme: Online gender-based violence

Region: Africa

Country: Kenya, South Africa, Senegal


Project title: Understanding the gender disparity in Rwanda through an intersectional approach

Host institution: Research ICT Africa

Theme: Access

Region: Africa

Country: Rwanda


Advisory committee

The advisory committee for the FIRN network will ensure cohesiveness, balance in research topics, peer exchange and collective impact of the network, and its members have also played an important role in the selection of proposals for grants.

The advisory committee (October 2018-October 2019) comprises:

  1. Catalina Alzate, designer and researcher
  2. Helani Galpaya, LIRNEasia
  3. Mariana Viollaz, Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales (CEDLAS - Centre for Distributive, Labour and Social Studies)
  4. (Prof.) Dr. Nishant Shah, dean of graduate school, ArtEZ University of the Arts, the Netherlands
  5. Dr. Nicole Shepherd, independent researcher.
  6. Jac sm Kee, feminist activist, writer and researcher from Malaysia
  7. Ghiwa Sayegh, researcher, writer and translator based in Beirut, Lebanon.


Meta research

The FIRN includes a meta-research project that explores the methodological and ethical practices of the eight research partners’ projects. This task is being conducted by Dr. Nyx McLean, an academic and researcher specialising in gender, sexuality, digital counter/publics and communities, located in Cape Town. The meta-research will take a participatory intersectional feminist research approach, which means that all participants co-create/generate data, and that the researchers involved in the meta-research project are also generators of data.

Some relevant activities and outputs


If you want to keep updated on the project's activities follow @GenderITorg on Twitter.

For further information on the project and opportunities for collaboration contact: