Internet Governance Women in Tech

Improving Gender Rights Online: Perspectives from the Global South

The Internet has helped to empower communities of across the globe. However, existing gender disparities, discrimination, and inequalities, especially faced by women living in the Global South, including the least developed countries, has had a  considerable impact on the digital gender divide, leading to the digital exclusion of women.

A study “Views & Perspectives on Gender Rights Online, for the Global South”, was undertaken by Amrita Choudhury, CCAOI & Asia Pacific lead for the Internet’s Society SIG Women and Nadira AL Araj, ISOC Palestine and MENA Civil Society activist, to identify the main challenges towards improving the gender access and rights online, especially in the Global South; highlight the best practices which nations or regions have adopted to overcome those challenges; and suggest policy areas which need reforms.

In addition to relying on secondary sources, the opinions of 19 experts from 15 countries and responses of 162 people from 54 countries were sought. The findings were further discussed and validated through a workshop at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2017 “Redefining Rights for a Gender Inclusive Connected Future (WS 102) and then compiled into a report.

The top challenges identified across the Global South hampering the creation of a gender-inclusive digital world include existing social and cultural norms in society about the role of women. Other challenges include low literacy rates, lack of digital and ICT skills, concerns of trust and privacy, and lack of relevant content for women. In addition, limited access to infrastructure and resources, including financial support and opportunities, workplace limitations, few role models, and limited platforms to interact and network are other challenges. The lack of a comprehensive approach towards women’s empowerment, including understanding the concepts of gender equality and inadequate policy implementation of existing policies, is further aggravating the situation.  Additionally, the lack of systemic data and evidence on barriers and enablers to technology, especially related to gender is limiting decision-makers from taking a comprehensive view on issues related to gender rights online.

Some of the policy reforms suggested in the paper to improve gender rights online include: implement better and effective policies; focus on promoting literacy, ICT skills, and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) studies amongst women, and encourage digital literacy; create policy reforms to ensure gender-inclusive access to the Internet; build trust online, including better legislation and enforcement of laws against online harassment; create economic incentives to encourage diversity in the workforce; encourage more engagement amongst women networks; and promote content in local languages.

Government-led initiatives and reforms are considered most important for improving gender rights online. Moreover, since under SDG goal 17 all government policy makers are mandated to include policy related to reduce the gender gap, it is the government’s responsibility to create an enabling environment where the gender gap is reduced. However, the correct implementation and execution of these policy reforms was felt to be more critical. Proactive initiatives by businesses, awareness and capacity building by civil society, and technical innovation by the technical community are also considered important.

As the next step, the authors of the report are looking for opportunities to conduct a more in-depth study on the subject as the topic needs further investigation.

Ready to help close the digital gender divide? Join SIG Women!

Economy Growing the Internet Women in Tech

Internet Access and Education: Transforming Lives in the Middle East

Internet access and the development of digital skills can transform lives of over 350 million people in the Middle East. With more than 60% of the population under 25 years old, the region is one of the most youthful in the world. However, at the same time, young people are the ones facing several challenges regarding education and employment.

In this context, it is imperative for the region to take actions, and the Internet is an opportunity to do it now. 

This week, I had the opportunity to speak at a panel entitled “Digital Skills for the Labour Force and Entrepreneurs,” at MENA Innovation 2018. The session was moderated by Selim Eddé, from Google, and had the participation of high-level representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

While it was clear that there are many ways to overcome the challenges of the region, all panelists agreed on one key aspect: the importance of education and entrepreneurship for building the future that the region needs.

For the Internet Society, three key factors need to be taken into account:

  • Internet access: the lack of access in the region is still a barrier that we need to overcome. However,access to the Internet not only means connectivity, but also it means better prices and better quality. Only an Internet that is accessible and affordable to everyone will provide the tools that our society need to develop digital skills and make the most of the digital economy.
  • Digital skills: ensuring the development of skilled, trained, and engaged people who can create, sustain, and maintain infrastructure is what we do at the Internet Society. For our region to be prepared for the future, we need to equip our people with the technical skills to support the development of technology and infrastructure. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is one platform that everybody can engage in to create open standards for the Internet.  There are very few engineers from the region who contribute to the development of the Internet.

Another challenge that we see in the region is the integration of women in STEM at an early stage. Women are not encouraged to pursue a STEM career, and if they do it only 25% of graduates participate in the workforce. For many participants and representatives, the digital gender gap is one that we need to break.

  • Local content: A lack of Arabic and local language content makes it harder for those with limited language skills and less education to get the most from the Internet. It is essential that people find and create relevant content and usable services in their own languages and, to do so.

Changing the Mindset

To move things forward in the region, we need to change the mindset of the community first.  When our parents want us to become successful government employees, we will never become entrepreneurs and take risks and chances to succeed.

All four components together can build an enabling environment that encourages young people to adopt and productively use the Internet and in a way that will benefit them and the region as a whole

Creating this environment, it is not an easy task. During the three days of the Summit, we learned about many different governmental initiatives that are already making a difference at the national levels. But if we want our region to thrive, we need to work together: governments, companies, and civil society organizationsConsidering the number of young people in the region it is also crucial to include youth in the conversation.

As it was said during a session: “If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, work together”. Only by working collaboratively, the region can become drivers of innovation and shape its future to the needs of the youth of the region.

MENA Innovation 2018 took place in Cairo, 29–31 July, and was organized by Brains Innovation Summits with the support of the Egyptian government. The three-day event counted with the participation of Ministers of Education and ICT from different countries of the Middle East and Africa. The theme of the meeting was ICT innovation in education for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGSs). The Internet Society was part of the official delegation of the Summit.

Help close the digital gender divide. Join the SIG Women

Beyond the Net Internet Governance Women in Tech

Las Marías of Azacualpa: Internet for Raising Women’s Voices

Azacualpa Yamaranguila, a village in the Intibuca region in Honduras, is celebrating. And not for nothing. Last Saturday was a historic day as they accessed the Internet for the very first timeFor many of us, the Internet is taken for grantedbut for the Lenca people it started like a dream 6 months ago when the Internet Society Honduras’ Chapter gave them the idea of connecting their village to the InternetThis idea became a reality thanks to the collective effort of the community and the support of Beyond the Net.

Las Marías

The party is for everyone but it focuses on them: Las Marías. With great curiosity, the women of the community came to the celebration early.

When I arrived after a 4-hour trip from Tegucigalpa, they were already there, dressed in colorful clothing. They were selling their products, taking care of their children, and anxiously awaiting the inauguration of the first community network of Azacualpa.

It was also the first anniversary of the radio ‘La Voz de las Mujeres’ (‘The Voice of the Women’) and María Santos, one of the heroes of the day and a leader of the community, was the first to approach me. She told me about her program “Amanecer Ranchero” (“Wake up Folks”) and about the objectives of the radio: “we want our rights as women to be recognized and achieve gender equality.”

This first local radio amplified the voices of the women in the community. But “The Marías” knew that they could strengthen their messages – and the Internet was the key.

“Having Internet will allow us to better prepare our radio programs as we will have more information from around the world and we will also be able to share what we do with other people,” says María Guadalupe, one of the first to access Internet in the community. She also shared that she was a little scared when she saw one of her colleagues on the screen during a video call.

The men of the community recognized that times have changed. The role of women in their community has a great weight. “On the Internet we see a possibility to claim our rights – as women and as Lenca people,” María Candida said. This was the message of one of the songs they prepared for the celebration.

A real party.

Comunidades Inteligentes

The “Comunidades Inteligentes” (“Smart Communities”) community network project made it possible for the 300 families of the Lenca indigenous community of Azacualpa to have access to the Internet.

The community is far from cities, which makes it difficult not only to communicate, but also to access basic services such as electricity, water, and healthcare. Although the Internet isn’t the answer to all of the challenges the community faces, it is one more tool to help overcome them.

“The Lenca community have a great desire to learn about technology because they know that it can improve some aspects of their daily life. Giving them the possibility of having Internet access through a community network seemed the right way to do so and applying to Beyond the Net gave us that possibility,” says Eduardo Tomé of the Honduras Chapter.

Working together

Reaching this historic day was not easy. It took a lot of effort.

The project received the support of national and international technicians who together with the Internet Society Honduras Chapter and “Red de Desarrollo Sostenible Honduras” (RDS-Honduras) carried out the deployment of four towers that give access to WiFi to the community and surroundings.

In addition to Internet access, the more than 1200 people who live in Azacualpa have a telecentre with five computers connected to the network and more than 70 smartphones. Until two weeks ago, the community only had two smartphones.

Many kids were already using those phones to play, chat, and communicate with each other. The Lenca people know their future lies with this evolution but they are also keen to preserve their traditions. “We want to keep our roots but also learn new things and develop and on the Internet we see an opportunity, for example, to preserve our local language,” said one of the community members.

The brand-new network of Azacualpa was made by the community and will be managed by the community. “If we want to empower them, we must also give them the tools to manage the network and to be sustainable in the long term. We do not want them to depend on others to assert their right to communicate and access the Internet,” said Raquel Isaula, director of RDS-HN during the opening ceremony.

This is without doubt, the power of community networks.

The Lenca people organized themselves in work groups. Each group received different trainings on issues of resource management, technology, and safe Internet use. Twelve of those were groups entirely composed of women. For RDS, the gender approach in these projects is essential for change.

Next challenges

María Lourdes, María Cándida, and María Lourdes told me that there is still a lot to do in their community. Some girls who took selfies with me said they still are a little nervous to enter the telecentre.

In the Lenca community, the literacy rate is 50% and the most affected are women and girls. The challenges in education are significant since there is only one school until ninth grade.

Before coming to Honduras, Eduardo Tomé had already told me that improving education through the Internet is one of the Chapter’s next challenges.

Now back in Argentina, I look forward to email promised by the Marías, some of whom are using the Internet for the first time.

I told them I would share their photos on the Internet so that everyone knows them and I did so right away… using the WiFi Network of Azacualpa.

I arrived in Honduras as Agustina. I left as María Agustina.

Read more about the project: How the Lenca are Restoring the Past to Build Their Future.

Indigenous communities face unique challenges to Internet access and inclusion. Learn how you can support indigenous connectivity, then find out how you can  build a Community Network yourself!

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Taiwan Internet Governance Forum 2018: TechGIRLS

“If we can speak up for women today, we can further support other minority groups in future.”

Last year at the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum 2017, we launched TechGIRLs, where we exchanged our life, career, and schooling experience. We all agreed that women in Taiwan enjoy more rights and are more blessed than women in many other countries. But after I attended the Women in ICT session in APNIC 44 and APRICOT 2018, I found there are some differences in Taiwan and other countries, and these problems exist in the whole world. After reviewing ISACA Survey Identifies Five Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in Tech, I agree these are barriers for women, not just in Taiwan, but all over the world:

  1. Lack of mentors
  2. Lack of female role models in the field
  3. Gender bias in the workplace
  4. Unequal growth opportunities compared to men
  5. Unequal pay for the same skills

During the preparation for the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum 2018, I proposed that we discuss these issues in an independent session. We discussed 4 questions:

  1. How to encourage women in Taiwan to work in ICT-related industries or start their own businesses.
  2. How to encourage women to speak up, especially about their skills in technical groups or communities.
  3. How to improve the position for women in Taiwan.
  4. Should there be a platform for women to ensure they have a position in each industry?

Our moderators and panelists have worked in ICT industries for a long time and are well-experienced:

  • Rio Kao, the moderator, is from a media company, The News Lens.
  • Jessie Tang works in the blockchain technology company Bitmark.
  • Evonne Tsai is from the eCommerce company Shopee.
  • Hsin-I Chiu is from Vaco in San Francisco.
  • Peifen Hsieh is from the International Affairs Committee, TWNIC.

We had a 90-minute round table session and exchanged views with about 25 attendees.

Diversity is important: it can bring benefits including different perspectives.

Different genders and groups usually have different ways in thinking and thus contribute creativity and innovation to the larger society.

Yes, women and men are different, but it’s complicated.

When we talked about how to encourage women to work in ICT-related industries and to start their own businesses, we also talked about how this gender gap happened. There are complicated issues that impact this, such as psychology, education, history, religion, media, social expectation, social suggestion, etc., which affect to the whole environment.

We all agreed that enterprises can show that they welcome women to work with them – whenever a programmer, a manager, or in business development.

Women’s voices are important.

To have a platform for women is a good way to protect women. Thanks to the Internet, we can share our experiences by blogging and sharing to social media, including our career experiences and opinions.

Peifen Hsieh shared the “sit-at-the-table” story famously told by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and added, “once you sit at the table, don’t give your seat up easily.” We tend to see that many women can be excluded from decision-making, which can create a bad loop in the workplace.

Technology helps women have voice, but we need a safer and more gender-friendly environment.

To have a platform for women to share opinions is needed. We need a place, whatever online or offline, to share our skills with colleagues and friends. When more women participate, it creates more confidence and makes a positive loop to change the environment. However, women face the hate speech and harassment on the Internet more often than men in Taiwan. Their  personal data can be exposed, which can make them feel unsafe and afraid to speak up.

Making it safe is important.

We encourage a gender-friendly environment.

Technical communities and forums for women can make a difference. But it’s more important to make the whole society a safe place for minority groups, not just women.

We should break the negative loop and create a positive loop by ourselves.

Education is important, but students should know that gender should not limit what they want to be. There is no relationship between gender and career choice: a man can be a nurse, a woman can be an engineer.

If we have more opportunities for women – equal pay for work, equal opportunities for growth and promotion – then more women will work in ICT-related industries, creating more women models and mentors.

Our panelists talked about the issues and provided action plans. We will continue to have our TechGIRLS events. I hope my observations in the Women in ICT session can be of help for women and younger girls in other countries. I also look forward to having more opportunities to exchanges opinions with other women in ICT in the world.

Watch the video from the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (in Mandarin):

A longer version of this post appeared in Medium. It was edited by the panelists. The subtitle of the article was translated by Crystal Tu from Rio Kao’s opening remarks.

Learn more about Internet Governance!

Women in Tech

More Girls in ICT: The Internet Society Signs MoU with the Mexican Government

Women and girls are significantly less likely to choose ICT (Information and Communication Technology) studies than men. There are many reasons for this. Barriers to access, but also retention in ICT studies are complex as they are often related not only to economic but also to social and cultural barriers.

A lot of initiatives are being developed worldwide to break these barriers, and at the Internet Society we believe that only if we join efforts we can overcome them and help to close the digital gender gap.

For this reason, on July 19, the Internet Society and the Secretariat of Communications and Transport of the Mexican government signed a cooperation agreement to support the “Women in STEM, Future Leaders” project.

In Mexico only 35.5% of tertiary graduates in ICT are women. The initiative aims to change these numbers. It provides training and support to young women from public high schools with the purpose of encouraging them to pursue a career in science and ICT.

The program, launched at the beginning of 2018 in coordination with the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, has already reached more than 180 girls from all over the country. It is working closely with 32 Mexican Connected Points (Puntos Mexico Conectados), which are centers that provide Internet access and training to students.

“We are happy to see Mexico taking actions towards digital gender equality. Internet Society Mexico Chapter is honored to contribute to this agreement and to continue enhancing the actions of the Mexico Connected Points. Our members are committed to share their experience and knowledge with young generations by participating in events that promote the access and use of the Internet,” said Luis Martinez, Chair of the Internet Society Mexico Chapter.

With this partnership, Internet Society will support the initiative by enabling more girls from rural areas to join the program. Participants will have a mentor who will guide them into the ICT field and provide advice and support throughout the program.

At the Internet Society, we believe that the importance of role models for girls and women cannot be underestimated. By identifying women leaders and connecting them with girls, we are sending a message that women are capable leaders who can make a difference.

As Angélica Conteras, member of the ISOC’s Mexico Chapter and chair of Special Interest Group for Women, highlighted:

“As part of the Internet community, we need to share what we have learned with other girls and women, guide them, inspire them and, above all, support their path in ICT as this is not an easy one. Most girls and women have to face inequalities and stereotypes along this path. The agreement signed by the Internet Society is a wonderful opportunity to get involved as a community and support the new generations.”

We look forward to working with the Mexican government to help bridge the digital gender divide!

Help us close the digital gender divide. Join the SIG Women

The Internet Society is proud to be a partner of EQUALS: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age.

Building Trust Events Women in Tech

Great Hopes and some concerns at the African Internet Summit (AIS)

Earlier this month, the African Internet community gathered in Dakar, Senegal for the Africa Internet Summit (AIS). The event highlighted some of the great hopes, as well as some of the concerns, that the African Internet community has for the future.

I had the personal honor of speaking at the Opening of the AFNOG meeting where I talked about what the Internet has brought to Africa and the promise that it still holds. I highlighted how Africa has experienced tremendous growth in Internet access and usage over the past few years, and how enormous development opportunities have been opened up for its young population. Believing that we need to put people at the center of our decision-making and build an Internet where everyone’s voice counts, I encouraged the Internet community in Africa to continue to embrace diversity, inclusion, and equality in order to shape an Internet that best serves the billions of people who use it every day, now and into the future.

In many ways, AIS is a showcase for the progress that is being made in creating an Internet for everyone. Key groups are making sure that their voices are being heard.

For example, at a Women in Tech session we heard about what women in Africa are doing to make the Internet safer and more secure for other women and children. We witnessed an inspiring group of more than 70 young African network engineers – including a significant number of highly skilled women engineers from across the continent – honing their coding skills at our second Hackathon@AIS by working on IETF protocols for two consecutive days. And together with our Senegalese Chapter, we convened over 50 participants from government, private sector, academic, and civil society organizations to talk about the lack of security in IoT devices and what can be done together to meet the challenge this presents.

Last but not least, we were also able to launch a set of Privacy and Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa in partnership with the African Union Commission, aimed at helping African countries develop strategies to protect the personal data of their citizens. These guidelines are both timely and relevant in light of the recent data abuses that have hit the headlines around the world. Importantly, they demonstrate how we can make use of collaborative processes to deliver tangible solutions that address the growing concerns of Internet users.

But in as much as the African Internet community showed its resilience in tackling these and other emerging issues, there were some concerns at the end of the week when AFRINIC could not fill successfully a few of the vacant board positions at its Annual General Meeting. We, at the Internet Society, believe that AFRINIC is resilient enough to surmount these challenges and that it will find a lasting solution soon; and we reaffirm our commitment to support AFRINIC and its community in this process.

Read the Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa and the 18 recommendations.

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Global Editathon: Making Women in Tech Visible

Why is it necessary to “edit” the biographies of women who are doing an incredible job on issues of technology and the Internet? Simple: the contributions of these women do not have visibility on the Internet.

At many Internet Governance forums, we often highlight the contributions of the founding fathers, but how do we inspire girls to join ICTs – information and communication technologies – if we never mention women?

For this year’s International Girls in ICT Day, the Internet Society’s Special Interest Group for Women organized the 1st Global Editathon Girls in ICT. With the support of Chapters and organizations from all around the world, this initiative had a clear goal: to create local content written about and by women to make their work in technology visible.

Read about the Editathon on Twitter!

Only 17% of the Wikipedia content is about women and approximately 8.8% of the content in Wikipedia in Spanish is about women scientists. Where are those women who make a difference in science and technology? Do they exist? Of course they do!

“First Global Editathon Girls in ICT, was a huge experience for us, especially because Cape Verde could participate in this event.

We had a chance to put together women’s work and promote the ICT in our country, before we started we introduced ourself, our experience, our work, our expectations, our vision for the future of our country, this allowed us to know better our ICT women (not all of them), their project, and work.”

– Emilia Monteiro, República de Cabo Verde

We started the day in Islamabad and with a virtual node of women in South Asia. We continued south, this time of Africa, in Zimbabwe, and we continued in Tanzania, Kenya, Republic of Cape Verde, and Namibia. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we arrived in Latin America, where the day began in Buenos Aires, then Panama City and Lima. After heading to Mexico City we concluded the day very close to the Gulf of Mexico in Xalapa, Veracruz. About 300 women participated in the event which had 11 nodes in 10 countries. Computer labs, universities, and institutes were the venues chosen for this Editathon. Even individually or in teams, the participants created a total of about 70 biographies of women from their region.

“Participating in the global Editathon was a great experience. The people I chose to write about are two exceptional women who have made a difference in the country for their work, convictions, coherence, and integrity. I learned a lot from this experience, in particular, that a trajectory is not built overnight and behind each step made there is much work and learning previously done, as well as commitment to specific causes or objectives.”

– Karina Martínez, Mexico City

Only 1 in 10 Wikipedia editors is a woman. In this Editathon we learned not only to edit, but also the confidence to create content we think should be online. By creating and sharing these biographies of women we are inspiring more girls to pursue these paths.

While editing, we had the chance to know the work of many women, from different countries and regions, including:

Katitza Rodriguez
Debjani Ghosh
Kathy Brown
Maria Zaghi
Clara Luz Álvarez González de Castilla

The question of why we don’t make their work visible has become more urgent than ever. Where are these women in events with mostly men at panels? Because of the invisibility that exists for women in technology, we still believe that talking about technology is talking about men.

The task was not simple. It required the support of many people who joined this great project, first to make visible these women who are making a difference in ICT who are not on Wikipedia, second to gather information and organize nodes in their countries.

The challenge now is inviting more women to participate, interviewing other women, listening to each other and listening to them at events. We need to know more about these women. Let’s continue editing, creating, and disseminating their work. If we are not the ones who write about other women and encourage others to do the same, who will?

We need to be able to inspire girls to be engineers, mathematicians, programmers, and leaders and one way to achieve this is to get to know these “super women” who have worked hard so that today we can study without prejudice.

Our thanks to all those who joined: the Chapters that organized face-to-face nodes, the organizations and universities with which we teamed up, the Wikimedia Foundation for their advice, ICANNWiki for helping us with the workshop, and all those who supported us and participated in this incredible event. Thank you.

For an Internet to exist for the good of all people, it must be shaped by each one of us. Learn about Internet Governance and why every voice matters.

Internet Governance Women in Tech

Women in Africa Call for a Trusted and Inclusive Internet

Creating a safer and trusted Internet MUST involve education building and awareness raising. This is one message that came up at the women’s event during the 2018 Africa Internet Summit held in Dakar.

“Education should target mothers who do not always believe that they can have an important role in the Internet world and who are the ones educating the future generation of women in tech. Also, we should educate developers of applications used on the Internet to consciously include safety by design, as well as governments to enact cyber laws that protect their citizens,” one of the participants stated during her presentation. With this, they meant that not only individuals, but also companies and governments have an important role in building a safer and trusted Internet.

Raising awareness of Internet safety was another point raised by many of the participants. “In school, we are taught to use computers and the Internet, but we are not taught about how to use the Internet safely,” one participant stressed. The attendees called for educational systems to change. They also suggested addressing online privacy and safety concerns so girls can be aware from the very beginning.

Privacy of personal data was another important topic of discussion. One key recommendation from a group discussion was to ensure that data privacy laws are enacted with several components, such as requiring data handlers to keep data safe and private, but also holding Internet users accountable for their actions. There should be a balance between data being private and malicious and criminal activity being prevented. Safety and Privacy online are some of the core priorities of Internet Society, the Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa launched at the meeting in Dakar set out recommendations to take action on Internet safety and personal data protection.

On what should be done to get more women to help shape a better Internet for tomorrow, the majority of participants thought it was important that women attend and be a part of Internet Governance discussions. More regional conferences should be facilitated and women need to be made aware of them so that they can participate. Also, financial support was raised as a concern – as well as capacity building, mentorship, and role modeling – so that women can be part of the Internet Governance ecosystem.

Targeting young girls by educating and engaging them to be the next generation to shape tomorrow was another key recommendation to help build an inclusive Internet.

Let’s make sure the Internet includes everyone. 

Join the ISOC WomenSIG to connect with more women shaping the Internet and learn about Internet Governance and why every voice matters.

The Internet Society is a proud member of the EQUALS Global Partnership for Digital Gender Equality.

Women in Tech

Jazmin Fallas Kerr: Creating Opportunities for Women in Costa Rica

The age-old tradition of the physical marketplace may be crumbling, and many women-led families in Costa Rica are feeling the pinch. In fact, in Jazmin Fallas Kerr’s hometown, Desamparados, nearly half of all families with women as head of household are in poverty.

To combat that, Kerr made a digital bridge between creation and commerce. Hyena is an Internet-based marketplace which allows women artisans to sell their handiwork online for a fair price. The site now has more than 50 local women courting customers for their crafts. Kerr’s upbringing helped her develop the idea.

“I was inspired by my mother; she is a family leader and artisan,” Kerr said. “We are from an area of social vulnerability, and I know the difficulties these families face.”

The site helps solve a more universal problem. It gives women the flexibility and time to work outside of homemaking responsibilities.

“[I want to] empower women to create better opportunities for their families,” Kerr said. “It is being achieved through a platform involving different actors in society that involves from fair trade to online education.”

Winner of the “Creator of Digital Change” contest, Hyena exists thanks to that $3,000 prize money from the University of Costa Rica. As Kerr is a business student, she plans to expand the site to include structured business classes for the women using it.

“I know the benefits of receiving access to higher opportunities, so I decided to take the needs of this population and mix them with my knowledge in marketing,” Kerr said. “I personally believe that women have a special gift to intuit and connect with people’s emotions. These characteristics become powerful inputs to create more humanized technologies.”

Still, access to these technologies remains sparse, which is another problem Kerr is facing down fearlessly.

“I believe that there is a lack of knowledge and fear of technology. It is believed to be only for certain sectors of society,” she said. “I also think that the main problem to solve is universal access. Unfortunately, the population with the greatest need to acquire knowledge is the one with less access to the Internet and its positive use.”

The 25 Under 25 awardee says growing up with her mom as such a strong female role model along with two mentors, Kelmy Camacho, who founded an initiative to empower girls and women in technologies, and Sandra Cauffman, a NASA engineer, gave her the confidence and strength to be an entrepreneur at such a young age.

“Kemly is a very active woman who made the decision to dedicate her life to creating opportunities for women and girls in technology that has shown me the impact that can have on people’s lives,” she said. “Sandra is an example of how women can fulfill their dreams, break paradigms and be successful in technologies. She, just like me, grew up in a poor community in Costa Rica in a family with difficult conditions but with a powerful mother.”

While Kerr’s days and nights are hectic, with a mixture of business, educational responsibilities and personal fulfillment through activities like dance, reading international news and listening to classical music, she embraces her role as a young technology leader in her community, and hopes others will do the same.

“I was always taught to fight. Since I was a child, I was characterized as very active in my community, dreamy and with clear goals,” she said. “My advice is to seize opportunities and surround people with vision. One of the main things that I think has enriched my life is that I am always in constant search of learning, and IT is a world where there is still enough to discover and create.”

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

EQUALS in Tech Awards: Recognizing Women’s Empowerment Initiatives

Celebrating the work of women who are making a difference in their communities by using the Internet is something that at the Internet Society we care about. Women are building businesses, learning new professions, sharing, and collaborating online. Women are creating new opportunities for themselves and their families by taking advantage of what the Internet has to offer.

And it’s important to continue recognizing the work of these women.

EQUALS in Tech Awards is an opportunity to do so. By providing a platform for outstanding initiatives, the awards are a key piece in increasing the visibility of projects that use the power of technology to empower women and girls all across the globe.

This year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards is looking for initiatives from all stakeholders that improve women’s access to technology, promote female leadership in the tech sector, and build relevant digital skills for women and girls. Research that produces reliable evidence to tackle the digital gender divide will be also recognized.

The awards are organized annually by the EQUALS Global Partnership, an multistakeholder initiative which seeks to achieve gender equality in the digital age.

The Internet Society is proud to be vice-chair of this global movement. As such we work side by side with over 60 other organizations, companies and governments to overcome the barriers faced by women to access and use the Internet.

We know that are a lot of powerful initiatives that are pushing the definitions of global technology toward inclusivity, safety, and integration in new and innovative ways. But we need to identify them, know them, and recognize them. 

As partners of EQUALS, we want to encourage our community and all stakeholders to help us to identify those initiatives and #ShineTheLight on them.

Nominate an initiative. Together we can #ShapeTomorrow and build an inclusive Internet with gender equality.

How to nominate an initiative for EQUALS in Tech Awards? 

You can nominate yourself or others who have done exceptional work to bridge the digital gender divide.

This year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards will be presented in four categories:

Access: Initiatives related to improving women and girls’ digital technology access, connectivity, and security.

Skills: Initiatives that support the development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills of women and girls.

Leadership (2 subcategories):

  1. Initiatives focused on promoting women in decision-making roles within the ICT field.
  2. Initiatives promoted by tech sector companies to bridge the digital gender divide.

Research: Initiatives prioritizing research on gender digital divides and producing reliable evidence to tackle diversity issues within STEM and computing fields

You can find information about how to submit a nomination here The deadline is 20 July 2018.

What else can I do to help to tackle the digital gender gap?

  • Join SIG Women, which aims to “promote a global neutral space that works towards the involvement of women in technology and contributes to reducing the gender gap in the field.”
  • Highlight role models on our #ShineTheLight campaign. We need to continue to hold up women role models and amplify their voices!
  • If you have an idea to close the digital gender gap, apply for a Beyond The Net grant.
Women in Tech

This Girls in ICT Day, Let’s Increase the Visibility of Women on Wikipedia

At the Women’s Special Interest Group of the Internet Society we are committed to promoting the participation of women in the Internet ecosystem. We also consider it important to increase the content created by and about women on the Internet to give voice and make visible the actions, work, and participation of women in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Just 17% of Wikipedia biographies are of women. This happens because of the invisibility on the Internet of their work, which makes it difficult to create their biographies, no matter how valuable their work is.

April 26 is the International Day of Girls in ICT, promoted by the ITU. It aims to reduce the digital gender gap and encourage and motivate girls to participate in tech careers. With the support of the Wikimedia Foundation and Internet Society Chapters, we are going to commemorate the Girls in ICT Day with an editathon marathon in Wikipedia, to include all the women who are working to build an open Internet, free, safe, transparent, and affordable for everyone.

The important thing about this Global Editathon “Girls in ICT” is that the content will be created by women in their native language or in the language of their region. We need to promote the creation of digital content that allows girls and women to get to know the pioneers of their countries. It is also important to create content in different languages, to increase linguistic diversity on the Internet.

The work of locating these women is not easy. If you know pioneers, founders, entrepreneurs, developers, and technology leaders in each region help us tell their stories by sending us their bio and references to

Do you want to join the Editathon party? You can participate in person or you can join online on Saturday, April 28th, by editing and posting on social networks using the hashtags #WikipediaForGirls and #GirlsInICT. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Friday, April 27, 2018
9: 00- 16:00 hrs
NUST American Space, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

April, 27 and 28
from 8:30 a.m.
The Institute of Accountancy Arusha

Saturday, April 28, 2018
10hrs – 16hrs
University of Palermo, Buenos Aires,

Mexico City
Saturday, April 28, 2018
11 – 17hrs
Facebook offices in CdMX
Pedregal 24, 21st floor (Torre Virreyes), Colonia Lomas de Chapultepec,

Saturday, April 28, 2018
11- 16hrs

Cape Verde
Saturday, April 28, 2018
from 9hrs
University of Jean Piaget

Nairobi, Kenya
Saturday, April 28, 2018
9- 12hrs
eMobilis Mobile Technology Institute

Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico
Saturday, April 28, 2018
16- 18hrs
Universidad Hispanoamericana Euro

10h00 – 13h00

Panama, Panama
Saturday, April 28, 2018
9 – 14hrs
Coworkspace, Balboa Avenue Ph Bay Mall Of 311C

Lima, Perú
Saturday, April 28th, 2018
9- 13hrs
Av. Alberto del Campo 435 piso 13 San Isidro

Together we can make more women visible on Wikipedia!

Women in Tech

Digital Empowerment of Women in South Asia

The Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter (PK IBD) organised a webinar on “Digital Empowerment of Women in South Asia” on 15 March, 2018. ISOC Chapter leaders, members, and staff participated in the webinar where the regional and global women-centric initiatives were shared by the speakers.

The undersigned welcomed the audience on behalf of the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter followed by a round of introductions. Joyce Dogniez, the Internet Society’s Senior Director, Global Community Engagement, shared the importance and relevance of the UN-EQUALS partnership which is a unique collaboration between state and non-state actors to bridge the digital gender divide. Joyce shared that the Internet Society is an important part of this partnership that primarily emphasizes improving ICT access, imparting digital skills, and promoting leadership of women. Internet and digital literacy leads to economic empowerment of women that can have a profound community impact.

The next session featured updates from the Chapter Leaders of South Asia on the various initiatives being undertaken on the country and Chapter level. Sagarika Wickramasekera from the ISOC Sri Lanka Chapter informed about the initiatives of the Chapter including WomenIGF, IT trainings for girls at school level, Internet learning programmes for women entrepreneurship, etc. Sidra Jalil from the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter provided an insight into the current situation and future opportunities for women such as the government-led Girls in ICT programme, teacher training programme by Microsoft, women entrepreneur quota by national incubation centers, etc. in Pakistan. Amrita Choudhury from the ISOC India Delhi Chapter stated that the government of India and civil society have launched many initiatives for digital literacy, skill development, and financial inclusion such as the Sarvasikhshya Abhiyaan, Beti Padhao Beti Bachao, Digital India, Project Gyaan, Self‐Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Swayam Krishi Sangam, etc. Sneha Tambe from the ISOC India Mumbai Chapter informed that the Chapter organized several seminars related to digital entrepreneurship, FinTech, application development, and the Marathi Wikipedia session for digital empowerment of women.

Subhashish Panigrahi, Chapter Development Manager for ISOC Asia-Pacific moderated the open session where the participants shared their perspective on the topic. The session recognized the need for collaborative efforts and sub-regional harmony to utilize the potential of the Internet for sustainable social, economic, and political empowerment of women in South Asia.

In her closing remarks, Agustina Callegari, the Internet Society’s Manager Global Engagement, shared that the insights from the webinar provided a profound overview of the regional efforts. She introduced the SIG Women initiative which aims to promote and support the women-centric digital initiatives around the globe. SIG Women organized a global tweet chat on International Women’s Day and encouraged the participants to join the initiative.

Learn more about SIG Women and how you can join!