Why are we here?

Women (and men) from NGOs, governments, and private sector came to the ongoing Internet Governance Forum in Athens, Greece with different agenda. However, many of them are also uncertain whether those agenda will be addressed or not in this gathering that is described as a big brainstorming session. To have a better idea regarding the range of agenda as well as expectations, I’ve been asking the women participants in this Forum about their reason for coming to the Forum. Here are some of the responses I’ve gathered so far:

Marsha Guthrie (Jamaica): [I’m hoping that] we can move forward with the whole issue of the internet governance because the talks have stagnated I hope this inaugural meeting will re-start the process and deal with the real issues of openness and access for developing countries and multilingualism and move forward.

Sam Dickinson, Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (Australia): I'm here at IGF as part of the technology community. My personal interest is about how to bridge the divide between the tech community that originally developed the Internet and the many Internet users and stakeholders who now need to be involved in Internet development. Professionally, I'm here to represent the Asia Pacific Internet community and get ideas about how to get more people involved in tech policy development in our region.

Connie Chan (Australia): I am here to learn about how multi-stakeholders get together and discuss issues about internet governance from different perspectives. I am also interested in seeing how the conference is organized.

Virginia Paque (Venezuela): I’m here as part of DIPLO Foundation - Diplomacy International. We’re involved in Internet Governance capacity building for development — to build policy capacity and to use IT for development. Personally, I advocate for better use of education — pushing the envelope and its tools to involve people who need to be here. How could we be talking of development when developing countries are not here? Even remote participation was not made possible – what a contradiction in terms – we’re not using the internet to ensure participation in this Forum.

Blogger’s note: An IGF Discussion Space has been set up on the four themes of the IGF – i.e., openness, security, diversity, and access. However, we have yet to see how interactive and participatory this space is. Yesterday (30 October 2006) the organizers announced that feedback and inputs to the Forum may also be sent to this address: comments@ igf2006.info.

Danielle Nieuwenhuijse SIDN – Dutch Registry (.nl) (Netherlands): I’m here to see what will happen with [the issues around] security, spam, multi-stakeholder approach, and networking. I’m curious how the relationship between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the US Department of Commerce (DOC) will evolve. ICANN is very US dominated. It will be good if there is a commission with more participation from different countries so it is open and transparent.

Blogger’s note: Danielle’s concern was discussed in yesterday’s plenary session. Minister Liapis of Greece and Minister Kamel of Egypt both stated that there have been initial steps taken towards ICANN’s enhanced autonomy. A month ago, ICANN released a statement that they have signed a new agreement with the US DOC that guarantees greater independence in managing the Internet's System of Unique Identifiers. More debates on ICANN’s autonomy and mandate are expected to take place in the coming days.

Namita Malhotra - Alternative Law Forum (India): My participation in the IGF is as much about curiosity and the desire to intervene in the discourse on internet governance policy, which probably is the least punctured or disrupted by realities that are not male, heteronormative and white. To bring into the discussion realities (and fantasies) that are brown, black, yellow, identities that are female, transgender, beyond gender, desires that are queer, beyond laws.

I will continue asking women why they are here throughout the Forum.

Responses to this post

Wei Wei Huang, International Communication Association and Cyber Angel’s Pick: I’m representing an NGO that works on eliminating the digital divide. I am here to understand the trends in internet safety education. I want to learn about other experiences [in this area]. I met a guy from Mozambique who said we could perhaps teach teachers in his country about internet safety.
Hawa Diakite, Internet Society (Mali): I am a computer engineer and I am here to learn, contribute and participate in the debates particularly on infrastructure, access and security. For us in Africa, infrastructure and access are the problems. [In other regions like}Europe, the problem is security.
Nenita Tenefrancia, Teresian Association (Philippines) Our projects and activities deal with the integral development of persons and communities in all its different manifestations. As such we are in need of constant renewal in the various fields of knowledge and skills. In this context, the advances in the Information and Communication Technologies interest us enormously, as much as those related directly with the internet, to communicate and to inform, to network and to collaborate with other similar-minded organizations for the transformation of individuals and of the society as a whole.
Caroline Wamala, (Uganda)currently a doctoral student at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden: My research interest is on gender and technology relationship from a development perspective –specifically looking at women and the internet. I am here to find out if the gender and development perspective will be addressed in the discussions. There should be more women in the panels speaking on behalf of the unique situation that women are confronted with.
S. Natalie Burke, (Barbados): I’ve been following the WSIS process from Geneva and our government sees ICTs as an important tool for development and we are in the middle of finalizing our national ICT policy. Participation in a venue such as the IGF is useful and important in terms of gauging ideas, sharing experiences and learning best practices.
Bria McElroy, Center for Women and Information Technology (USA): We want to develop an international task force that will drive forward gender and ICT policies; we want to gain more support for the declaration of agreement on women and ICTs that was presented in Tunis; to network and make connection with other groups working on gender; to make sure that gender isn’t marginalized when considering the Millennium Development Goals and that all of these efforts are inclusive.

(currently enrolled at the Strathclyde University in Scotland): I’m here to widen my background in the telecom industry. It would be interesting to see who are involved and who are the stakeholders, what are the drivers and the emerging challenges in developing the Internet.

In reply to by MC (not verified)

I am here with APC WNSP to make sure that gender issues are present and women are able to have a say when internet governance architecture is being formed. Is it too late? Hmm, I'm asking myself. I'm also learning here about what's at stake in this large area of IG and what interests are represented.

I’m working for an IT Company in Suva, Fiji Islands. Here, I’m representing the Pacific Islands Chapter.We cover 22 Island Countries and have about 400 Active Members. I hope this conference woks as a platform for our voices to be heard and bring about a certain change in the Pacifc. The local Pacific participation is minimal as the Pacifc is facing a problem of brain drain and lack of funding for the participants. I believe that the problems relating to internet and internet governance differ from country to country, region to region. Pacifc is a different scenario all together as we have countries with a population from 1000 to 4 Million People. High cost of bandwith and the monopoly of the telecom regulators is one of the main problems that the Pacific is facing now. Coming to such conferences hopefully can be an eye opener to our ministers and they are compelled to take necessary actions to see us marching with the progressive world.

I came here on a business pass but I’m actually representing a governmental agency working on internet policy in Korea. The IGF is a very important momentum on internet governance. We’re trying to see the overall trend in terms of international opinions and where it’s going in terms of the development theme. When we speak of internet governance we usually talk of domain names, IP addresses and only a little bit about pricing and access. I’m curious about how it [internet governance] relates to development.

The IGF opens an opportunity for political dialogue which hopefully addresses critical gaps related to democratise internet. I am here mainly to follow up the discussions, approaches and strategies that emerge from the Forum, from the perspective of the policy work the Association for Progressive Communications does in Latin America. I also aim to look at the IGF’s process from my belief that human rights, equity, transparency, and democracy should be the focus for the development of internet

I am here at the IGF to make sure that the environmental sustainability is considered within the Internet governance policy. I am here to learn, to meet new people, to understand more the processes around internet development.

I am curious about how the internet governance agenda is going to be mapped out. As the Forum is one of the main outcomes of WSIS, I am interested to see if it will turn into a progressive endeavor truly building on WSIS values and principles such as people-centeredness, sustainable development and women’s and men’s human rights. I had hoped that IGF would address issues in a structured way—forming common understanding of the issues from different perspectives. But as it is, it is a very unstructured bouncing off of ideas, with a very limited number of people reappearing on panels and workshops. There is a danger of it becoming a talk shop with no enriched conversation, no dialogue. The gender agenda is not registering at all, which in my assessment is disastrous. I’m also wondering whether a clear development agenda will come through. There is a lot of development rhetoric –but whether that truly informs the ways in which the issues are addressed remains to be seen.

Gabijela Ivanov (Croatia): I an here as a representative of ZaMirNET, APC member in Croatia. I look forward to get an overview of the internet governance issuses especially on openness and gender issues. (i say overview, because nothing new or concrete happens here, i must say... it's dialogue about not so new issues and trying to make gaps bit smaller). But most of all i am here to improve ideas that i have on how to make internet based self sustainable women's project that i'm about to emerge into soon in Croatia. gender bender art and media are the keywords:)

In reply to by Gabrijela Ivanov (not verified)

i love your thought on gender bender art! are you working on anything right now? would you share your ideas and energy on the Take Back The Tech! campaign? very much hope so :)

In reply to by jac@apcwomen.org (not verified)

well, i am kind of framing up an idea, starting it up, and i would definitly like feedback, and definitly am open up for collaboration.

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