Community Projects Growing the Internet Internet Governance IPv6 Women in Tech

Eleven New Projects Receive Community Grants Awards!

The Community Grants Programme directly impacts the lives of many people and provides an opportunity to help them accomplish goals in an array of areas, including education, community building, economic growth, and Internet policy.

Each year, a number of projects around the world receive funding from the Internet Society; these projects are planned and brought to life by our Chapters and individual members.

By aligning with our 2015 Strategic Objective to provide equal development opportunities for all people by promoting the relevance, deployment, and adoption of the open Internet, the Internet Society through the Community Grants Programme is helping people across the globe leverage the Internet to create a better life for themselves and their communities.  We are honored to announce the following award recipients and wish them much success as they strive to make a positive impact for the benefit of others:

Community Driven Self Organized Learning Environments

Project Leader: Bruno Barrera Yever, Mexico

This project aims to bring Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) to six communities in poverty around Mexico City. Working with TECHO and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the project team will provide Internet connectivity and computers to students in these communities, as well as a SOLE-centered MOOC designed to supplement the often-deficient formal education public schools provide. 

As a broader goal, the team believes that education and technology will enable the residents of these communities to overcome their poverty situation. Not only does this project aim for improved education, but also for community self-determination through a more informed and active exercise of citizenship.

Smart Communities with the Civil Society App

Project Leader: Vadim Georgienko, Ukraine

The project team, in partnership with the Young Community foundation, aims to develop Ukrainian communities’ capacity for collective decision-making and self-governance – to become Smart Communities – with the help of a mobile application that encourages the crowdsourcing of opinions, votes, and ideas for local political and social initiatives. The team has created innovative functionality within the Civil Society application and plans to enhance the features and implement it among three pilot groups of beneficiaries (students, members of NGOs, and community members), then to scale the implementation among the country in the upcoming local elections (October 2015). 

A video of the app’s current functionality may be found on YouTube.

The Mobile Solar Computer Classroom

Project Leader: Asia Kamukama, Uganda

Designed to address the problem of limited hands-on computer training in Ugandan schools and communities and the lack of access to relevant information, this project will maximize scarce resources by using solar power and providing reliable, efficient computers and Internet access to schools and community libraries. The classroom consists of a modified Toyota RAV4 (with a custom rack on top to support solar panels), three 85-watt solar panels, 200mA battery, 15 Laptop computers, one Internet router, a 5m by 3m foldable tent, eight folding chairs and two teachers. 

The project provides customized computer training to students, teachers and community groups. In partnership with five primary schools, the project will train students in grades 4 to 7 on a two-year basic computer skills curriculum and will conduct teacher ICT capacity building workshops.

Tiflolibros: Biblioteca digital para ciegos – puntos de acceso a la lectura para personas con discapacidad visual (Digital Library for the Blind – Access Points to Reading for Persons with Visual Disabilities)

Project Leader: Pablo Lecuona, Argentina

Tiflolibros is the first digital library for Spanish-speaking visually impaired people, accessible worldwide for free over the Internet using computers or mobile devices adapted with screen reader programs. The project aims to expand

  1. The library resources to include new local content, particularly from Argentinian and Latin American authors; and
  2. Access to those resources by creating four pilot facilities – or Access Points – in libraries, telecenters or other organizations in the northern Argentine provinces to benefit people with visual disabilities. 

The team will document these experiences in a toolkit that can facilitate and encourage other organizations throughout Latin America to form their own access points.

Cyber-SOS I2C3 (International Internet Community Cooperation in Cyberattacks)

Project Leader: Miroslaw Maj, Eastern Europe

The project will design and test a Cooperation Model in which Internet communities can help each other internationally in case of cyber attacks (e.g. DDoS). It will analyze known massive cyber attacks and study what could be done when international solidarity and a willingness to help your colleagues in other country is effective and well coordinated. A team of ISOC members from six countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine) with substantial knowledge of the challenges and complexities of the CEE region, expertise in cybersecurity and active participation in their own Internet communities will form a Cooperation Network, exchange their experiences and analyze their joint capacity to deal with cyber attacks.

The project team will collect conclusions and send the main outcome (a model of cooperation) to all CERT-like organizations, cybersecurity stakeholders and to all interested ISOC members in partner countries.  The major beneficiaries are Internet communities in countries prone to cyber attacks, security stakeholders (e.g. national CERTs), and ISOC Chapters and members in the cooperation countries.

Internet Access for Rural and Underdeveloped Communities in Guerrero State, Mexico

Project Leader: Luis Martinez, ISOC Mexico Chapter

With the support and expertise of the Internet Society Mexico Chapter members and Mexican higher education institutions, the project will provide access to the Internet to a group of indigenous, rural and underdeveloped communities in the Mexican state of Guerrero, near Acapulco.  Upon completion, the project will provide at least 1Mbs to three communities at the banks of river Papagayo, by means of establishing a wireless communications backbone connected to the facilities of Universidad Loyola del Pacífico in Acapulco and distributed via 5.4GHz links to these communities, where a local access point will provide WiFi access to inhabitants. The team will install and remotely operate a fully automatic weather station connected to this infrastructure as a tool for disaster avoidance.

The project has the potential to benefit more than 25,000 people, providing them with communication capabilities and health, agriculture and disaster-avoidance information.

Respect Girls on the Internet Community-Based Cyber Harassment Protection

Project Leader: Niranjan Meegammana, Sri Lanka

The project will create digital content in the local language to raise awareness about online harassment towards young girls, advocate for safe and respectful online discourse, and train youth.  One output will be a Cyber Privacy eHandbook for those new to the Internet, as well as for teachers and parents. A group of young people will learn how to create short films, digital posters, stories, and comics available online to encourage peer-to-peer awareness. This online network will expand to the real world with short film exhibitions and awareness-raising exercises in schools. 

The team will distribute freely all content created from the project  under Creative Commons 3.0 online allowing for wider sharing, replication and adaptation across the world.

Crowdsource Privacy Plan

Project Leader: Alexa Pitoulis, Canada

OpenMedia will undertake a project to engage and inform Canadians about online privacy issues: to gain a better understanding of Canadians’ priorities and expectations when it comes to online privacy and to learn more about how Canadians want to see their privacy protected in an interconnected, digital age. The first phase of the project – currently underway and not financially supported by ISOC – will focus on building and using an online crowdsourcing tool to ensure as many perspectives and ideas as possible are incorporated into a pro-active, positive report that reflects the views and aspirations of Canadians. The second phase, supported by ISOC funds, will focus on analyzing the results and writing, publishing and engaging citizens in the outcomes of the crowdsourced Privacy Plan. 

In addition to the Canadian-focused Privacy Plan, OpenMedia will develop a sharable methodology section or toolkit as a model for how the Internet can be used for participatory policy making, to be adapted to unique social, cultural, and political conditions.

Internet Governance in Pakistan: Developing Draft Legislation for a User-Based, Self-Regulatory Mechanism for the Internet

Project Leader: Sana Saleem, Pakistan

The project aims to ensure that the Internet in Pakistan remains open and free of censorship by the state. This can only happen when there is legislation that protects rights, establishes that access to content on the Internet is voluntary and that the only rights -friendly regulation can be one that empowers the end user to decide what to access or what not to. In order to do this, the team will draft legislation based on consultations that will ultimately reverse control, taking it out of the hands of the government and putting it into the hands of citizens.

This legislation will then be presented to policymakers to write into law.

Net Neutrality in Latin America: A Characterization of Internet Access Services Offered in Five Countries

Project Leader: Pilar Saenz, Colombia

Fundacion Karisma in Colombia will coordinate a study of net neutrality in at least five Latin American countries to understand exactly how or whether neutrality is maintained in the market regarding the local commercial offers by ISPs. While there have been studies on net neutrality in Latin America, these studies have focused only on the legal aspects of neutrality. The team will expand these studies by developing indicators that examine exactly how net neutrality is protected or endangered.  Given how major ISPs within Colombia such as Claro and Movistar operate in most countries throughout Latin America, the team will examine the realities beyond what is written in law to determine to what extent and how net neutrality is maintained throughout the region.

Children’s Future Technology Academy

Project Leader: Melissa Theesen, Cambodia

The Technology Academy offers enrichment activities that include an introduction to technology and the Internet to help students take advantage of growing Cambodian ICT progress.  Recently connected to the Internet with the goal of promoting technical training, the Academy will build a model that integrates Internet content with traditional teacher-facilitated education, blending the classroom while supporting individual learning and student cultural context. From basic computer skills to advanced design software and coding, the goal is to help students develop marketable skills, to encourage critical thinking, and to allow students to access opportunities they otherwise would not be able to imagine in their rural villages.

During the next two years, the project will integrate application software development courses so that students can create Khmer learning applications for their peers, enabling widespread replication.

Are you curious about other projects ISOC has supported in the past?  Please visit the Community Grant webpages to search our more than 180 projects by award year, region, and topic category.

Beyond the Net Development Growing the Internet Human Rights Women in Tech

Congratulations to the Latest Community Grant Recipients!

I’m so pleased to announce the latest recipients of Internet Society Community Grants.

These grants are awarded twice a year to Internet Society Members and Chapters. Each applicant must have a clear vision of how they want to use the Internet to bring positive change to their local communities. It’s about supporting innovation, change, and local solutions with global impact.

If you’d like to find out how to apply, you can read our Community Grants pages.

Please join me in congratulating this latest round of inspiring projects from our amazing global community of Members and Chapters.

What a difference you are all making.

1. e-Commerce content development and capacity building of indigenous Penans community in Sarawak

Project Leader: Tariq Zaman, Malaysia

The community in Long Lamai are mainly involved in subsistence farming, and like many other remote rural areas, find most of their young people moving away to urban centres. There is also a lack of awareness of the hidden assets that exist in the remote areas, such as flora and fauna, and the unique culture of Long Lamai.

This e-commerce project will leverage these assets by helping the community to develop and promote their handicrafts and homestays, and give the local people the skills to maintain the e-commerce website themselves. Ultimately, the project aims to generate new employment and reduce number of young people leaving these remote areas through the creation of social and economic opportunities.

2. Women experts in computer maintenance and Internet Security

Project leader: Sigrid Ortega, Bolivia

The project targets young women in the junior and senior levels of six high schools in Oruro, Bolivia. Through several workshops and courses, the aim is to enable girls and young women to learn computing, web-related technologies and issues related to Internet security. The successful students will be granted a certificate as Trained Technician on Maintenance of Laptops, Internet Security and Computer Networks.

The learned skills and knowledge will enable these young women to earn an income, create their own jobs, and find other employment opportunities, by unleashing their technological potential. At the same time, they will become agents and promoters of technological innovation and social change based on the principles of a responsible use of Internet.

3. Introduction and applications of the Internet for elementary students at PCS

Project Leader: Patrick Blank, Federated States of Micronesia

In the Federated States of Micronesia, only 5% of the population has access to the Internet. This project will see wireless Internet access points installed in an elementary school in Pohnpei. Moreover, the teachers will also be trained in using the Internet, and in turn they will use these resources in their curriculum. The ultimate goal is to create experienced Internet users and expand the use of the Internet, both inside and outside the classroom.

Not only will this project be a pilot project for other schools, but it will also be used as a test case of the sustainability of using the Internet in schools and it will highlight how underutilized the Internet is on the island.

4. Training on computer use and Internet access for women and girls in Vietnam

Project Leader: Ngo Thi Quynh Van, Vietnam

The Nghe An Public Library, a unit under the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, is the largest centre for information, education and entertainment of Nghe An province in Vietnam.

The main objective of the project is to develop and enhance the Internet literacy skills of women in rural areas, teaching them to use computers and navigate Internet, delivered through several educational courses.

5. ABC for Bangladesh

Project Leader: Monir Bhuiyan with support from ISOC Bangladesh Chapter

The aim of this project is to support and foster collaborations between the academic and business communities in Bangladesh. This project will help to connect academics and business people with research and contacts in fields including e-commerce, e-governance, and e-health.

6. Developing local contents for Boulkassoumbougou

Project Leader: Mamadou Diallo Iam, Mali Chapter

This initiative is the continuation of a successful project implemented in 2013 that connected a school group to the Internet.

In this second phase the project will develop educational content in the Bambara language. The ISOC Mali Chapter will work together with teachers from the school and with advisors of the education authorities to produce different lectures in the local language including grammar, reading, comprehension, as well as units on citizenship, environment, history, geography, science, math and technology. This work will help students in their learning process while contributing to the development of local language content on the Internet.

7. Soweto Wireless

Project Leader: Jabulani Vilakazi, South Africa Gauteng Chapter

Access to the Internet is a significant enabler of economic growth and human development, this project will create a wireless network that will give free and low-cost access to rural township and remote areas.

8. Orient and Rouse the Blind with Information Technology (ORBIT)

Project Leader: Hiwotu Teka, Ethiopia

This project aims to empower individuals with visual impairment to use a computer, the Internet and other technologies effectively. Skill training will be provided at selected schools for students and at the resource and training centre, equipped with adaptive technologies, as well as a variety of services like internet connection, e-library, audio-books, Braille and other general services.

9. Yemen e-Commerce

Project Leader: Ahmed Almarwani, Yemen Chapter

The project will be promoting e-commerce in Yemen, and boosting the confidence of the Yemeni community in the Internet as a means of purchasing and selling products and services using available online resources.

To achieve its goal, the project aims at providing training focusing on young Yemenis, preferably those who have a university degree, who are either unemployed or need an additional source of income and are eager to explore the various potentials of e-commerce to advance their careers. This project will help them develop skills through group training, seminars, and debates around what is needed to enhance the conditions for developing the e-commerce sector in Yemen.

 10. “TUJIUNGE” Unissons nous pour la disponibilisation de l’information à la communauté d’Uvira

Project Leader: Delu Lusambya, Democratic Republic of the Congo

This project involves the creation of a centre connected to the Internet for grouping, sharing and publication of information related to violence against women in the province of South Kivu, in the Democractic Republic of the Congo.

A resource centre will be set up, including 10 computers with Internet access, for sharing and publishing information around getting help for young women coping with violent situations in the Uvira community.

Development Human Rights Women in Tech

Inspiring Change: Connecting the Chuuk Women's Council

The Chuuk Women’s Council is a 31-year-old community based organization on the Pacific island of Chuuk. It serves as the umbrella organization for 64 different women’s organizations Chuuk State Wide, Federated States of Micronesia, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts.

Kiki Stinnett, President of the Chuuk’s Women’s Council, writes about the installation of an Computer Learning Lab, something that was made possible through the work of Professor Laura Hosman from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an Internet Society Community Grant.


My name is Kiki Stinnett and I’m the President of the Chuuk Women’s Council, a registered NGO in the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Thirty-one years ago my mother and a group of local women started the CWC. They were mostly nurses and looking for a way to empower women in our community and promote healthier lifestyles.  While I decided to pursue a career in business, I still grew up influences by the CWC and over time it became a part of me.

When my mother passed away in 2009 I was elected President and have served the Chuuk Women’s Council in this capacity since her passing.

As an Islander I’ve always felt that being connected and staying connected with our culture and communities is important. Chuuk is a small island where women have a big voice and the ability to be heard on a wide range of issues.  We have a role to play in our part in the world which is very important.  

Finding affordable Internet or even a computer in Chuuk isn’t easy. Many people who don’t live on the capital island of Weno don’t even have electricity, let alone a computer. In the CWC offices, for example, we initially had only 1 computer and it was such a precious commodity only a few designated people were allowed to use it.

So when Laura Hosman approached us about building a computer lab I knew it would be a perfect fit within our organization, with our core staff, and enhance the work we are doing.

We installed the laptops in our sewing room. In the morning we sew and in the afternoon it’s our computer lab.  We don’t charge for the use of the computers or the access to the internet.   Anyone can come in and use one of the laptops and the Internet.

It’s been amazing to see the reaction. We have girls as young as 8 coming in to do their homework.  It’s a real change for them because many of our schools don’t even have computers and those that do are usually not connected to the internet.

I’m really excited to see these young girls and visitors do things like reports, research, and learn online.  I mean, instead of spending their time watching boxing or movies on TV they’re now doing something that they consider cool and it’s also applicable to their education.

I really feel that with enough exposure to the Internet and computers these girls could easily be inspired to go on towards being engineers or scientists.

But they aren’t the only ones. One of the oldest women who comes to our center to use our computer and internet is in her 50s.  Many of these young girls and older women can only communicate with their off island children and relatives through Facebook and our center provides them the means to keep up with their loved ones.

It’s also invaluable when we give health education classes. Imagine seeing a heart actually pumping blood instead of looking at still pictures of it in a book. It’s changed our world.

We also want to set up an online shop for all the crafts that women make for our gift shop.  All the proceeds for those sales will go to funding many of the programs we run through the center.

As mentioned earlier, the computers and the internet also help us keep in touch with friends and family who live in other parts of the world.  That is so important to us as many of our family members live in the United States. It’s amazing to be able to hear from them and let them know about our lives in the Islands.

We’re also very excited to announce that we recently received a grant from the Government of Japan to expand the CWC Facility to include a second floor. This addition will provide another 2,600 sq. feet of space and will mean we will soon have a full time, dedicated computer lab for people to use any time they want. 

Internet access and computers in the CWC are opening doors for our entire community and we’re so excited to see where this will take us.

We’re a small Island in Micronesia and because of the Internet we now know that there are people out there who are thinking about us.

What’s Next

The story of connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council isn’t over yet.  They’re currently looking to building a “Train the Trainer” program to improve the skills of those who are using the computer lab.  If you’d like to help you can contact the Women’s Council via their website or email them at 

Find out more

Women in Tech

Weaving Women of the World into the Global Tapestry of Modern Digital Life

By Internet Society CEO Kathy Brown, with contributions from Internet Society Trustees Desiree Miloshevic, Theresa Swinehart and Narelle Clark

International Women’s Day is March 8, and this year’s theme is “Equality for women is progress for all.” This sentiment is especially resonant in the technology fields, where recent studies have shown that increased diversity fuels greater innovation, creativity and competitiveness.  Even so, numbers of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) remain alarmingly low in some of the world’s leading economies.

Because of the global nature of its membership, the Internet Society has an extremely unique perspective of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) initiatives being undertaken to bring Internet access and training to more women around the world, and to support those interested in pursuing technology careers.  It’s humbling and inspiring to see the dedication of people undertaking such a critical mission, and to hear the impact on the girls and women they are reaching.

Connecting Women of the World

Bringing ICT Training to Girls in Rural Pakistan

The Pakistan Social Association (PSA) has given hundreds of young girls from rural Pakistan basic training in computer and Internet use with the goal of investing in their long-term education and helping them potentially develop a career in ICT.  Getting rural students, especially the girls, involved and comfortable with computers and the Internet early is crucial for increasing diversity in the ICT industry, as well as the greater online community.  Even more important, the initiative addresses gender inequality, one of the country’s most pressing social issues. The multi-year project, supported by the local Internet Society Chapter, culminated in April when 300 girls received their training certification after 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were trained to educate 20 girls each.  This ‘multiplier’ strategy was so effective that there are plans to implement it again with a new goal: they want to reach 20,000 girls.

Building Computer Labs in Remote Pacific Islands

In the Federated States of Micronesia, there is little affordable Internet access, and computers are scarce. The Chuuk Women’s Council, in Chuuk State, which is part of these remote islands in the Pacific, wanted to change that for hundreds of girls and women it already serves. The organization, which promotes women’s leadership, education opportunities and cultural preservation, sought funding for a computer lab from the Internet Society’s Community Grants Programme and the Information Society Innovation Fund to improve employment and communications opportunities for the women of Chuuk.  The result: a suite of laptop computers that has significantly enhanced quality of life and introduced many girls to the powers of ICT. The council hopes to partner soon with a local college for advanced computer and Internet training.

From Zimbabwe to the IETF and Beyond

As a network engineer at one of Zimbabwe’s leading Internet Service Provider’s (ISP), Nomsa Muswai wanted to broaden her knowledge of, and participation in, the broader Internet technical community. She applied for, and received, an Internet Society Fellowship to attend a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the premier Internet standards organization. The Fellowship, which enables technologists from developing countries to participate in the IETF meetings, also paired Nomsa with an experienced mentor, and gave her the opportunity to contribute to IETF work. “Participating in the IETF helped me appreciate the value of creativity and the strategic advantage of using it to improve socio-economic activities throughout the world using the Internet,” she notes. “Working groups are flexible enough to accommodate people from around the world with different skills, skill-levels, and interests, and the sheer cooperation and collaboration to achieve common goals irrespective of background was humbling and uplifting.”

The Impact of Collaboration and Connections

The rewards of using the most profound technology of our time to make a global impact are innumerable. It’s crucial that we help our daughters understand the benefits and value of participating in the ICT field. I can speak from experience when I say that opportunities abound for collaboration, a deeper connection to community and a strong sense of having a very real impact on your world.

The role of women in ICT came up in a recent conversation with several women members of the Internet Society Board of Trustees.  I was interested to hear what lessons they had learned and could share from their years in the industry.

Lesson 1: There’s tremendous power in establishing and building community

After Desiree Miloshevic landed a job in a networking department at an ISP in the early 1990s, she joined Boadicea, a group for women working in digital media in London. “This group, which inspired many women to launch their own Internet start-ups, demonstrated to me the power of building a support infrastructure for women,” notes Desiree. Later, as a Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) Board member, she helped organize ‘Women in Computing’ workshops and install wireless Internet antennas on remote islands in the Pacific. Now a Senior Public Policy and International Affairs Advisor/Europe for Afilias, Desiree continues to see the positive impact of building community, and established an open, informal space for computer programming in Belgrade where women developers teach each other, as well as men, various computing skills.

Lesson 2: ICT isn’t just for engineers

The ICT field wasn’t a foreseen career path for Theresa Swinehart, Senior Advisor to the President on Global Strategy at ICANN. She came to it with a background in international relations, human rights and law. But it’s an example of the mix of backgrounds engaged in the ICT sector, which is often perceived to be limited to those with technical experience.  But in fact, this sector bridges many industries and underlies almost every social, economic and cultural facet of our lives. “There’s a misperception that an ICT career involves a technical education or background, but this isn’t the case,” adds Theresa. “Because ICT is so pervasive, all backgrounds and expertise are essential. A crucial part of the job is about working to build consensus to bridge diverse views and interests, and the increasing use of mobile is going to open the future up even more to new wonders and opportunities yet unforeseen.”

Lesson 3: ICT is actually a ‘people’ job

Narelle Clark, President of the Internet Society Australia Chapter, spent years working with Females in IT and Telecommunications, which offered mentoring programs and topics of interest to women in the ICT industry.  She observes, “In many places, ICT jobs can offer more work flexibility and more money than many other jobs, so they are a great choice for women who want to have a family.  Roles are really diverse too:  there are many successful women in the ICT field with not only deeply technical jobs requiring analytical thought and the latest in particle physics, but many more women work directly with people—understanding their needs and creatively weaving other women into the global tapestry of modern digital life.”

Indeed, if greater diversity fuels greater innovation, we’ll all be the beneficiaries of global inclusion in the Internet.

Five Great Resources for Women in Technology

  1. Internet Society Community Grants Programme: Provides funding annually to projects around the world that will bring technological resources to under-served populations. Applications for 2014 will be accepted from March 3-31, and winners will be announced in June.
  2. The Internet Society Fellows to IETF Programme: This award enables technologists from developing countries to participate in meetings of the IETF, the premier Internet standards-making body. First-time fellows are paired with an experienced mentor and are given the opportunity to make a positive contribution to IETF work.
  3. ABI LeanIn Circles: The Anita Borg Institute and have partnered to offer support for women pursuing or considering careers as technologists. Circles meet regularly to learn and share together.
  4. Systers-IETF:  A list for Systers involved in IETF topics — both technical and specific to women. Open to any woman interested in the IETF, whether she participates only by mail or also in person.
  5. Girls in Tech: Girls in Tech (GIT) is a global organization focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of influential women in technology.


Growing the Internet Human Rights Women in Tech

Pakistan’s girls and the future of the local technology industry

The Internet has brought a whole new world of information and enablement for us,” said Shafiq Khalid, a 12-year-old student in Islamabad, Pakistan. “My mother is happy I’m sharing delicious recipes with her.”

Khalid is one of the hundreds of girls participating in a programme offered by the Pakistan Social Association (PSA) and supported by local Internet Society’s chapter members that gives young rural girls basic training in computer and Internet use. As chapter developer manager for the Internet Society, I had a chance to talk to some of the many girls impacted by this project.

“Women are nearly 53% of our population, and most of them are in villages,” explained Ammar Jaffri, president of PSA and Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter member. “If we train one girl, she will bring change in her entire family, especially when educating her own children.”

By training one girl, we can bring change in her entire family, especially when educating her own children. Pakistan Social Association

Since 2012, 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were prepared as multipliers and given the tools to educate 20 young girls each. Last April 25th, the final phase of the training was celebrated during ICT [Information and Communications Technology] for Girls day. Around 300 girls came together to receive their certification after successfully completing their exams. The hope is that these girls continue to invest in their education and eventually move into the ICT industry.

“It’s an amazing platform – to be able to receive so much information and knowledge!” said 14-year-old student Qurat-ul-Ain Abbasi. “We are quite new to the Internet world, but we would like to receive more training and courses so we can get the most out of it.”

Technology and the gender gap

Getting rural students, especially the girls, involved and comfortable with computers and the Internet early is crucial for increasing diversity in the ICT industry, as well as the greater online community.

Even more important, the initiative bravely and directly addresses gender inequality, one of the country’s most pressing social issues. “After the encouragement from the success of ICTs for Girls Day, we are planning to expand the training to 20,000 girls,” said Jaffri. “We intend to implement this project in all rural parts of Pakistan as a pilot. This would help to address gender inequality in Pakistan and set a trend for others to follow.”

Since 2012, 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were prepared as multipliers and given the tools to educate 20 young girls each. Pakistan Social Association

Watching these girls browsing around the Internet and making an effort to learn more with each click was a very special moment. The shining replies I got while seeking their interviews made me understand and value even further our commitment to keeping the Internet as open, free and accessible platform for human development.

Growing the Internet Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Women in Tech

What place for Women as Software Developers?

At the 8th IGF, i had the great opportunity to be part of a panel discussing Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) opportunities for developing countries and empowering women. The later is something still missing from a lot of discussions at the IGF, in spite of a series of efforts to make that part of the agenda. But here is why this is so important, in particular for the region I know best, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

While gender gap in access to internet varies massively around the world, for the largest part of developing countries the percentage of women online is far lower than that of men online. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, approx. 30 % fewer women than man have access to internet. According to the recent Women and the Web report, the reverse is happening in countries like France and the US, where women tend to be more present online than men. Yet, in places like sub-Saharan Africa,  these gaps are larger than 45%. At the global level, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women are not connected to the internet at all, making this group 25% less likely to be online. In this regard, it is important to look beyond the availability of the connection itself and to take into account also the affordability of price, since this is one of the obstacles in accessing the internet. Currently, for the Commonwealth of Independent States, the price of the average broadband monthly subscription of 7.3% of the annual per capita income, with great disparities between the rural and the urban areas, in terms of broadband availability, but also connected to the gender roles in the house (the head of the family usually bringing the money and deciding on its allocation).

Apart from the physical connection that facilitates access to the internet, there’s also a need to investigate the engagement of women with the use and development of software. As we know, software is not neutral but rather gendered in both design and use embedding a series of behavioural standards. In 2006, according to a study of the European Commission, only 1.6% of all FOSS developers in the EU were women. This is lower than 2%, which compared to proprietary software, makes a big difference, since for the later women engagement reached 28% of the same time period that the survey covered in order to illustrate the situation.

The FOSS community has a lot to gain from the different approaches that women might take to software development. However, this potential is almost completely sidelined by a series of challenges posed to women developers. First, the main pressure is thinking through the cycle of disparities to ensure that technology is developed within and keeping in mind the community at large, and this is also thinking at those who need it more – low income and rural populations. The second challenge would be overcoming the restrictive gender norms in certain part of the world, and going beyond the myth of techno phobia, that women are less technological savvy than men are.  In this case, developing a context that is fostering women’s involvement would be probably the most fruitful avenue for helping out with increasing the no. of women in FOSS. And there is a 4th challenge, that is that of including more women in decision and policy-making processes, as women are able to speak to a different audience, think through the challenges posed to the larger communities, look at the benefit for the next generations, as well as bringing diversity and innovate in unexplored ways if given a seat at the table and a voice in the process.

At the same time, women empowerment, understood as the capacity to alter structural conditions, in order to govern oneself in the best interest, presupposes that women are not treated as a monolithic group, as being all the same, but rather need to be as a diverse group, revealing the differences across cultures. In the CIS, there is a configuration of structural conditions that reflect both the potential and the pitfall of advancing women empowerment in FOSS. On the one hand, there are very high literacy rates, with only slight variation by gender and almost the entire population being literate in these countries. On the other hand, the computer education lags behind, with the materials taught in school being, most of the times, basic or even outdated, meaning that those who look into doing a career in developing software need to do a lot of work independently.

Third, there is also the context of limited windows of opportunity for consistent and sustainable involvement of women, so even though there might be certain initiatives to involve women more in FOSS, they tend to be one-shot initiatives rather than long-term processes.

I  turn now to policy directions and some potential mechanisms for women empowerment in FOSS. In the first place, there is a need to rethink the learning orientation, from this independent focus to a community thinking. Women tend to be more inclined to participate if they are made aware of the benefits for their communities, their families, their grandchildren. And they tend to work better in groups rather than by themselves – and this is one of the things that does happen in the FOSS community, yet it seems to be dominated by people who are specializing in computer technology from an early age – women, on the other hand, tend to start quite late. In the FOSS community there is the need to work by yourself quite a lot, which might be one of the obstacles preventing women from engaging more, as they might be more community-oriented.

In the second place, there is a need for an integrated approach that would go beyond just singling out women and creating spaces for women only, but actually interacting more with men and teaching also men about what it means to have women involved in FOSS processes. And third, there is a need to create a policy-making infrastructure that gives priority also to women in particular as FOSS is becoming more and more used for governmental operations and it might become the standard in the future for gov websites. There is an urgent need to involve women in such processes, reaching out to segments of the population that might have differentiated needs that might have been unaccounted for so far.

Last but not least, there is a need to sustainable initiatives, that should be ensured constant support and which would foster innovation. I hope we can all work towards this in the post-2015 development agenda.

Development Growing the Internet Women in Tech

Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council Video

This video captures the initial setup of a computer lab at the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) in Chuuk, FSM, including interviews and initial trainings with the CWC staff, a brief overview of the software included on the laptops and a tour of the lab itself:

Of all the ICT4D projects I’ve been involved with, this one holds the greatest promise for empowering, complementing, and amplifying existing capacities, because the CWC already offers so many excellent, community-empowering programs, and has such a strong network among the women of Chuuk.

In other words, in this case, the technology of a computer lab at the CWC is simply the icing on the cake!

A big thank you goes out to the Internet Society Community Grants Program and to ISIF Asia for funding provided to make this project possible. Thanks also go out to the Chuuk Women’s Council Staff, for allowing us to talk with them, work with them, and film them! Additional acknowledgements to our partners: the PISCES Project, TR Mori and iSolutions Micronesia, and to Bruce Baikie and Inveneo.

Development Women in Tech

Connecting the Chuuk Women’s Council


Growing the Internet Women in Tech

Improvement of infrastructure in St. Louis College Networking Cisco Academy


Women in Tech

Women's Information Service in DRC

New activism, new hope

Imagine a country where 400 women and girls are raped everyday, where they have to walk sometimes 9 km to find the first health center and where after all, they will have to pay to have access to the basic treatment they deserve for the most cruel and brutal sexual violence done to them.

Imagine again that they will have to find a plausible reason to hide while they have to travel so far and for so long on foot to the next village which is not the next district.

This is the life of many women and girls in DRC.

They are the innocent victims of armed conflicts that have taken place since 1995. Those who are supposed to protect them, police and the army, are also among the perpetrators.

Not taking a seat while these horrible crimes are being made, we young women of a feminist organization, few of us moved by the  passion for technology but the majority sharing the destiny of our survivors sisters, we have decided to come together with others women activists from Zimbabwe to set up a information service using mobile phones to give the basic information so crucial to those who survive rape, sexual enslavement when forcibly constricted in armed groups, and domestic violence so that they can know what to do next.

We help also those who feel threatened because they want to speak out and we also provide psychological advice in more then 7 local languages for those who want it, using Skype, one of the most common voice over IP applications.

The Internet helps us to access affordable communications when it is not free. With this project, we are happy to have been part of this new activism and we endeavor to continue.


Nouveau militantisme, nouvel espoir

Imaginez un pays où 400 femmes et filles sont violées chaque jour, où elles doivent parfois  marcher sur 9 Km pour trouver le premier centre de santé et où, après tout, elles doivent payer pour avoir accès aux soins les plus basiques qu’elless méritent pourtant pour avoir survecu a l’une des formes les plus cruels et brutales de violence sexuelle.
Imaginez encore une fois qu’elles auront à trouver une raison plausible pour cacher, pourquoi elles ont du voyager, tres souvent a pieds, aussi loin et aussi longtemps jusqu’au prochain village  quand ce n’est pas  le  prochain district.

C’est la vie de nombreuses femmes et filles en Republique democratiue du Congo.

Elles sont les victimes innocentes des conflits armés qui ont lieu depuis 1995. Ceux qui sont censés les protéger, la police et l’armée sont aussi parmi ceux qui les violent.

Pour ne pas rester assise, lorsque ces crimes horribles se font, nous, les jeunes femmes d’une organisation féministe, certaines d’entre nous mues par la passion pour la technologie, mais la grande majorité partageant le destin de nos sœurs survivantes, nous avons décidé de nous mettre ensemble avec d’autres femmes militantes du Zimbabwe pour mettre en place un service d’informations  utilisant le téléphone portable pour partager une information de base, mais si importante pour celles qui survivent au viol, l’esclavage sexuel quant elles sont enrôlées de force dans les groupes armés et les violences domestiques afin qu’elles puissent savoir ce qu’il faut faire ensuite.

Nous aidons aussi celles qui se sentent menacées parce qu’elles veulent le dénoncer et nous offrons aussi de l’aide psychologique en ligne et cela dans plus de 7 langues locales pour celles qui le veulent, en utilisant Skype, l’une applications les plus courantes de voix sur Internet (VOip).

Internet nous permet d’accéder aux communications à prix abordable quand il n’est pas gratuit. Avec ce projet, nous sommes heureux d’avoir fait partie de ce nouveau militantisme et nous promettons de continuer.

Posted: 18 April 2011 by mukuku