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Internet Governance

The Internet and Citizenship: Applying a Gender Lens

Moderator: Radhika Lal (UNDP)

This workshop focused on the current social paradigm and how it is shaping the world of women. Within the context of the internet  we are seeing new trends which have nationalized certain areas of citizenship. How do women take advantage of these emerging contexts? This is done at three levels:

  1. Citizenship on the internet (netizenship) – as member of this internet community
  2. Local democracy – with women connected to the state via the internet
  3. Citizenship in the full global transnational context

Margarita Sellars (Costa Rica) – people have access to the net thorugh different means and processes depending on the context of the country in which they live. It is a fact that women don’t normally have access to television or other media to be able to express their opinion – the internet has made it more possible for women to let their opinions be known with less risk of censorship – especially as they can remain anonymous if this is necessary. The internet also allows them to cross borders – it opens up a larger geographical area of citizenship for humankind in general. However it does assume that women do have access to the internet.

Heike Jensen (Germany) explained the research that is being done in Asia about censorship and the ways in which information can be blocked eg indirectly via administration, licensing policies, physical architecture (software, hardware). The research found that in the Asian context, the blockages were more pervasive as women censored themselves because culturally they are not allowed to express themselves in public.  Internet technology can become a magic tool to set up structures for indigenous populations to assert their citizenship.

Olga Cavelli said that there was a problem with women being drawn into the “prosumer” role where thy can be swept into media platforms that can create other risks – who can use your information and for what purposes? What is valued and who values it? This is an issue for young women – how secure is the information they are putting online?

Radhika – Technology is just a mediator for information and knowledge processes. Capacity building should enable people to participate from a conscious citizenship point of view – taking into account how information and knowledge technologies can support and strengthen the livelihoods of people. Our goal is what we can achieve by being connected.