IGF 2022 Day 1 WS #247 It is for all: Meaningful access and affordable Internet – RAW

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: This session has officially started. My name is Umut Pajaro Velasquez. I am the Chair of the Gender Standing Group and I will be the onsite moderator. This panel is called "It is for all: Meaningful access and affordable Internet."  The main topic here is around gender issues, specifically women and gender‑diverse people in general. We are going to have four panelists from different parts of the world. We are going to have Zeina Bou Harb, the Vice Chair of the Gender Standing Group. Right now is also part of the Lebanon Chapter for NISO, so is part of the ‑‑ is advisory on the no W4 ‑‑ WTDC for their region.

And we are also going to have Wadzanai Ndlovu that is going to bring the African Region perspective on this topic. And Thoko Miya is going to give us another perspective from the region.

And finally, you know, the last speaker is going to be Carola Huaringa. She's from Peru, and she is going to talk about perspectives in this topic for women in Peru and Latin America in general. So, right now, I don't want to take a lot of time from the speakers, so we're going to start with Zeina Bou Harb.  And a brief discussion related to the network woman as a global and regional initiative, and then the Arab and (?) strategy to include and empower women. So the floor is yours, Zeina. 

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Thank you, Umut. Can you hear me? 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Yes, we can hear you perfectly. 

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Okay. So, I'm Zeina Bou Harb. I work at the telecom incumbent operator in Lebanon, and I'm the Vice Chair of the Network of Women in ITU representing the Arab region.

Before starting with the region, I think we should just say a few words about what is ‑‑ what are the barriers to digital inclusion? And first, let's say that according to ITU statistics, in 2020, 62% of all men were using the Internet compared to 57% of all women. But in a digital world, when we say "leaving no one behind," that means leaving no one offline.

So, what are the barriers? The barriers can be related to access, which is the lack of efficient ICT infrastructure. It can be related to the affordability of (?) and that cost. It can be related to the skills or the digital literacy, and also the lack of awareness of the benefits of the Internet.

In Lebanon, there was the recent adoption of the Lebanese Digital Transformation Strategy. This strategy aims to close the digital divide in general, but certainly starting with increasing the physical access through ICT infrastructure.

Regarding the gender strategy, we have the National Commission for Lebanese Women, which is an official institution affiliated to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, established like 30 years ago to promote the Lebanese society and enhance the gender mainstreaming in public institutions. This commission has been collaborating with the United Nations Population Fund towards mainstreaming gender ethics, awareness development policies and strategies.

In 2021, this collaboration led to agreement on a series of activities, among which the developing of the agenda strategy for 2022‑2030. This strategy is supposed to be the main policy under which governmental and non‑governmental entities will operate and prioritize and develop their interventions in Lebanon, while certainly taking into consideration the increased vulnerabilities and emerging priorities resulting from multiple crises Lebanon is going through.

If we want to move ‑‑ actually, due to these challenges, the strategy is not issued yet, and the action plan is not also formulated. But we believe that it would lay the ground for the articulation of a good operational action plan to lead to our enhancement of women's living conditions. 

If we move to the Arab region, the penetration rate for women in the Arab region was 56% in 2020, which is a good number compared to the global average that I mentioned before, which is 57%, especially that there are many countless classified among the least developed where the Internet penetration is just 19%, and this was taken into consideration in the drafting of the Arab Digital Strategy that sets as objectives to increase rates of Internet penetration among women in all Arab countries, as well as to increase Internet penetration rate among users in the rural areas and to enhance the digital accessibility for persons with disabilities to enable them to access electronic services. 

The strategy sets a list of actions to achieve these objectives; mainly, preparing capacity‑building programs for women on Internet use with a focus on women in rural areas, along with developing national policies for digital access that keep pace with the implementation of digital transformation programs, as well as establishing committees, national committees, comprising all relevant stakeholders to prepare programs and initiatives that enable the protection of youth on the Internet and preparing programs to educate and empower them online. 

Do you want me to give an idea about the ITU, or that's enough for now? Can you hear me, Umut? 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Yes, I can hear you. You can go and explain a little bit more. 

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Okay, regarding the international telecommunications union, it started a while ago. We can mark milestones as in 1998, established a gender task force and to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of all programs and plans of ITU.

Then, there was another resolution in 2011 on ITU's role in the ICTs and the empowerment of women and girls.  We don't have to skip also the establishment of the Network of Women and its regional chapters to encourage the active participation of women in the activities of ITU, and lately, in Bucharest last month, the revision of Resolution 70 on mainstreaming a gender perspective in ITU and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women through ICTs with the ultimate goal to achieve gender equality. 

In this resolution, the Secretary‑General asked the directors of bureau to explore options for delivering mentoring program under which young women and girls beginning their schooling in ICTs and STEM curricula may have mentors to accompany them and to transfer to them their expertise and knowledge throughout their career. It also instructs the Telecommunication Development Bureau to continue to assist developing countries in order to expedite the bridging the digital gender divide and to maintain the ITU website in all six United Nations official languages in order to ensure broad dissemination and inclusion in every part of the world.

Many, many points we can discuss on this resolution, because it also encourages the member states and the sector members to devise their respective policies and practices to ensure that recruitment, employment, training, and advancement of women and men in the ICT sector are undertaken on a fair and equitable basis.

Also to ensure the inclusion of a gender perspective in all activities of the organization and the institutions, whether public or private. And also, this resolution asked the member state to encourage gender balance representation in the delegation to ITU conferences and assemblies as well as ‑‑ it can be not just for leadership roles. 

So, there's a lot to say.  And also, it encourages them to collaborate with their relevant stakeholders that had significant experience in mainstreaming gender equality in projects in order to provide specialized training for women on ICT use and in general to achieve SDG 25 on the Agenda For Sustainable Development, which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Back to you, Umut. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Thank you very much, Zeina, for the very insightful words about the Arab region and the Lebanese process. And so, for this last part of the gender perspective inside ITU, right now we are moving to Carola Huaringa. She is from Peru and she is going to make this part in Spanish. She is going to speak about the indigenous perspective on the digital rise of digital access for women in Latin America, and especially in Peru. The floor is yours, Carola. 

>> CAROLA HUARINGA OSPINO: (Speaking Spanish)



(Speaking Spanish)

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Yes, we can hear you. 


(Speaking Spanish)




(Speaking Spanish) (no English translation)






(Speaking Spanish)

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Gracias, Carola. I apologize to everyone here and also everyone on the Zoom because we are supposed to have translation into English to this part of the session, but it didn't happen. So, let's say the communication was lost in translation. (Laughing)


Right now we're going to Thoko Miya. She is from South Africa, and she is going to share with us the African perspective in the way that we access for Internet. 

>> THOKO MIYA: Good afternoon, everybody. I am Thoko Miya. I am the Secretary here at the ISOC Gender Standing Group and also wear a number of different hats, another being a Youth Coordinator for this UN IGF 2022 in Ethiopia. And it's been a really interesting year. We've held a number of sessions, four held in the different regions representing the different IGF participatory NRI bodies and all facilitated. I am able to report successfully on the African Youth IGF which was held in Malawi in July, and it was a great occasion for us to actually be able to take 21 African youth working in Internet Governance on a sponsorship to the African IGF, which was absolutely phenomenal. And even for the UN IGF, we've been very blessed to be able to bring on the same 21 African youth, plus an additional 80, thanks to UNECA. So it's been great to see the youth participation within the IGF sector. And for the very first time ever, the IGF has had a separate youth track. It's very interesting to see how different activities over the course of the year lead up to this one week, and it is just exciting to see the change and the transformation that's happening globally. It's so important that we're getting together and that we have these sessions and have these forums where we're able to openly engage, openly talk, openly communicate in a multi‑stakeholder forum for greater participation, meaningful access, connectivity. So, I thank you for that, Umut.

And it has been, you know, a long road through the pandemic to date. So, I think for me, in particular reference to the work that I do, the one element that's really been at the core of preparing for this session has been the fact that when we have the conversation on meaningful access and connectivity, we also have to take into account the African Region and the Latin American Region, the Asia‑Pacific Region, and to a large extent, North America and Europe, too, where women and girls ‑‑ and other gendered bodies ‑‑ are still not represented in the Internet as they should be. And if we're going to talk about access and connectivity, then we're going to be talking about a gendered conversation. It is not without opportunity that that's going to happen. Girls face significantly different socioeconomic standards to boys. We are intrinsically gendered in our societies, in our cultures, in our religious thinking. And it's so important that we're going to, actually, that we are able to get together in these forums and have a conversation.

It's so important for us to note the change and for each one of us to be the change.

I have had the privilege of being a coding instructor. I've been a coding teacher. I teach high school girls how to code for the past ten years. And what's been so beautiful about my journey is that I've been part of a project that taught 1 million girls in South Africa how to code. And it is in my capacity as a programme director of a non‑profit company based in Cape Town, South Africa, called African Girls Code, that I've had the opportunity to do this.

In our campus, in our experience, we've noted that girls particularly face completely different circumstances when it comes to meaningful access and connectivity. In general, we're talking about affordability; we're talking about ability to access; we're talking about technical skills; we're talking about day‑to‑day safety and cyber hygiene online. And what we found in the years that we've been teaching is that when we teach male and female students in high school level, they're each completely, completely different areas. And for myself as an instructor, I can successfully say that when you give a girl child an opportunity to learn and you give her the exact same opportunities that a boy child has, they are going to be able to access the same opportunities.

In the same schools that I teach, the girls that I teach, when I get them, they're 15 years old ‑‑ okay, between 14 and 15. And we stay together until they turn 17. We don't do the final year.  And every single one of those students who stays on the program for the duration of the program will, without any statistical augmentation, 100% go on to study in IT‑related degree for the mere fact that they knew they had the skill to do it, that they've had the support, that they've had the infrastructure to be able to do it. And it's incredible to see how intervention can make a change. So, there, really, we've got opportunity to fund and run programs and create the change at a practical level that we're looking to see at a grand scale within our communities. 

Also, just in terms of learning and access and what does it mean to be meaningful? We're digitizing, and we've got to be able to create opportunity for all different gendered bodies to be on the Internet, irrespective of how they may perceive themselves. There seems to be a trend, especially when collecting empirical data for the ‑‑ for persons to be deemed male or female, and that's not necessarily true. And we've got to be able to allocate our young people the opportunity to see gender the way that they see fit. And yeah, it's again one of those things where it's up to us as a whole, as a community, to make sure that we run and advocate for the types of change that we'd like to see in our societies.

So, whether it's making sure that all gendered bodies are represented, all genders can speak to what and how they feel to express themselves, and that we're able to actually provide access and opportunity for inclusive growth and actually have connection for all. It's so important that we do this and that we're able to do this at a young age with an industry in our workplaces, that we are able to do this in all the services that we encounter and provide opportunities within innovations, within health sectors, within postal services, for all different represented digital gendered bodies to be accounted for and to have equal opportunities, to be able to access the conversation that we're talking about in the very first place.

I think at these forums, we send to get very convoluted and focus at a very high‑level policy, and it sort of just gets more and more highly strung, but we really, really need to get down to the official, you know, the grassroots level and understand how we can activate from that low‑level capacity. 

I'll use myself as an example, you know. If I hadn't had the opportunities that I had and encountered the NGO that I did that taught me to code at a very young age, I definitely wouldn't have had the opportunity. So, okay, I've got a chance at this and I can do well in these technical skills fields, because we live in such a gendered‑bias world, and it is such a reality that we all have to face. 

So, just in terms of that, as the Gender Standing Group, what are we doing? We have an open call out at the moment for initiatives that work in gender to please message us and to be part of our database and to be part of our mailing list, subscribing to the Gender Standing Group on the ISOC platform. We're rolling out activity plan as well. And if you'd like to hear more, we do have a booth down at the village where we can find out more and get to engage with the members of the Gender Standing Group who are here. So, we're really excited. 

If anybody in the room has opportunity for engagement or would like to host a meeting or would just like to sit down and have a cup of coffee, you're more than welcome to meet us there as well, and we can talk about how we can globally create the types of change that we want to see towards meaningful access and connectivity.

Then on that, as part of our activity plan, we're going to be hosting a series of regional events in the different regions where the Gender Standing Group is active, and we'll be looking for partners in each of those regions to roll out the implementation of those programs. And we're also going to be putting out a call‑out over the course of the year as well for a grant for activity‑related projects for the different initiatives that are rolling our gender‑related projects around the world and in the different regions of the Gender Standing Groups. So, in terms of that, we really look forward to creating support, creating access, seeing the change happening on the ground at a grassroots level, from the different initiatives that are running around the world.  In terms of gender and access for all different‑bodied people, for different ability groups, and for women and girls in ICTs, we are looking at really creating a greater reach in terms of the programs and the initiatives that are running, and we really look forward to partnering with everyone over the course of the year and seeing what it is that you all are active in doing, and to actually forming a global movement for gender within the ISOC environment. 

Because we have such a great‑big community, and it's exciting to see everybody here at the IGF this 2022 and, actually, to be able to engage as the Gender Standing Group. It's not too long that we've been a formal Standing Group, but we are excited about the different changes that we're going to be doing.  So, thank you for your time. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Thank you, Thoko, for your words.  Only I would like to second something that you said about the gender diversity inside all purpose as a Gender Standing Group. Usually when we talk about gender issues, we try to refer only to women and girls, or at least we have to face the reality that it's more than two genders. And right now, right now we need to address that as part of the diverse agenda has had similar problems because we can't deny in our society where cis, a straight male has some privilege, where others don't have the same privilege. So, we need to collaborate between all of the different gender diversities that we can find and address those issues as a team or as a network as we're trying to plan to do during the last ‑‑ well, we're trying to start the network during the two years that we're going to be as author for Gender Standing Group for next year. So we need a lot of collaboration from everyone who actually wants to be part of it. And so, if you have an initiative related to gender, please let us know, because we are more than (?). We are really open to hear all your voice and your initiatives. Because for us, it's really important to not only create the network, it is only to showcase, what is people doing in different regions of the world that actually can work and can be replicated somehow as a base practice in another place.  Because sometimes, those realities are so similar, especially in the (?) of the world. They are really similar realities. If you see something that already works in, for example, India, that can be applied in for example Colombia, let's do it. And if we can collaborate between the two countries and create something bigger, let's do it. So, that's pretty much our objective in general. And thank you to all of you for being here.  And if you have some questions, the floor is yours right now.  Go ahead. 

>> AUDIENCE: Good afternoon, everybody. I am Carol sofinga from Cameroon, a member of ISOC Cameroon. I wanted to talk about affordability, because looking at all of the initiatives and programs that I also run, in order to encourage girls to attract them to follow the fields of technology, we have the problem of the cost of the Internet, which is still expensive in some African countries like Cameroon. So, I want to get your perspective about that and see how you're trying to address that issue. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Anyone with a speaker want to answer that? 

>> THOKO MIYA: Should we take another question while we get this? 

>> AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. It is my name, I come from Uganda. I'm a librarian.  Just I'm excited about the coding skills you are passing over to the young girls. We have also introduced coding to young children, only that we don't have enough materials to use. Actually, we just got a donation of training kits from Mandela University in South Africa. 

But my question is, do you have an open learning platform where you can login and maybe learn the basics? Because this is our biggest challenge. 

>> THOKO MIYA: Should we go for one more question? 

>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. I'm Joshua from Ghana. I wanted to ask, looking at the situation in Africa, when you have to involve women, how, then ‑‑ because you mentioned there were some grants you had ‑‑ how do you, should I say, measure the kind of impact? Because over the years, I have seen lots of these programs happen in Ghana. And what happens, there are two things.  So, they take all the girls and promise them to make them computer whiz kids in six weeks, right? A girl who does not even know how to boot a laptop, has not even seen one before.

So, then they have all these programs. These ladies come out and they become disappointed and they abandon their dreams.

Now, the second part also is, the ones that even successfully come out, like she said, it's a question of affordability of the Internet. So, how sustainable can she then be able to access the Internet and practice after the training? And that also has to do with accessibility to the digital device, right?

So, in looking at all thee three things ‑‑ of course, not forgetting how to measure impact ‑‑ how can your group, the Gender Standing Group, help us to make this more? Because if we are able to target and reach the right impact, I think we can make ‑‑ we can make something of ourselves in Africa. But as it is right now, I think most of the NGOs are just using women and tech empowerment to take funding. And barely we have nothing to show for it. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: We had a question online.  So, yes, if we can hear that question? Davies? 



>> AUDIENCE: I want to pose a question from the lady that was coming from South Africa. She talked about how educating girls from the age of 13, 14, 15 and up to 16 years, how is she making it possible that these girls are ‑‑ yes, so how is it ‑‑ having easy access to Internet? And of course, thinking about girls and leaving out boys, so how is gender equality being made? Because during that, we're only talking about girls and not boys. So, is there anything for the boys? How is Internet being made affordable for these young girls, considering that they're young, obviously, and they're not working? 

>> THOKO MIYA: Okay, we'll just have one last question and we'll get back to the panel. 

>> AUDIENCE: Okay. I think my question is coming more from an African perspective, particularly because when we are talking about access, when we are talking about, you know, being able to access the technology, we are dealing from a position of a digital divide. And what I've realized is that, as African countries, we'd obviously have our own particular efforts to kind of deal with it, but at the same time, come together here and there. And I think this was also a question I'm bringing forward today which was asked yesterday by some of our youth members, which is, is our multi‑stakeholder approach strong enough for us to leapfrog, you know, forward in the way that we have strategized or set goals in? Is it strong enough in the sense that it's putting Africa in the forefront of ensuring that we're not talking, you know, the North and the South, et cetera; we're able to talk at the same level. It's not something that's moving at 1% rate and next year we're still speaking about the same thing; we're speaking about data prices; we're still speaking about villages not having connectivity.  What year are we actually going to start saying we've leapfrogged forward? Thank you. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: There is a question, the person that asked from Indiana about how to measure the impact in the future when it comes to accessibility in ICT. Well, there is an example that I once witnessed recently in Latin America where the involvement of the academia and the private sector was fundamental for making an impact for project in order to not only educate and make accessible the technology for women and gender‑diverse people and girls especially, but more so the people that were part of the program were girls and women.

And what I see with the project was they did this. They make like an MIU, a really important university in the country where supply, was the country from Honduras. After they finish the certification on the different ‑‑ on different ITU programs, they were offered a job in different companies in Honduras that needs people for those specific jobs that they were being certified. So, they planned from the beginning to the end all the process in order to guarantee the full inclusion of women in ICT, in ICT ‑‑ in ICT. And I think that's probably one of the things that we can replicate as a best practice in a lot of countries.

Actually, I saw it's related with the last question that was made, about how strong is our multi‑stakeholder process? Sometimes it isn't strong enough because probably academia wants to go to one place and the private sector wants to go to another, so we need to start to ‑‑ we need to as ONGs, we need to start to see how we can engage all grassroots work and make it work with the necessities of the private sector and academia so we can have better efforts on the digital rise on women and gender in general. 

One of the mention of the impacts actually that how many people can be born after that in ICT ‑‑ (?) we have to somehow know the thinking and educate deeper, we only have to be part for the ICT for the companies that are ‑‑ (audio breaking up)

>> THOKO MIYA: Just a comment on that. I think that's a very important point which was made, to say that there is a lot of work that's going on, but how do you measure, right? It is true that after six weeks, you would not be digitally ready. However, after six weeks, you may have the basic skills to find the power button, to set up your own email address, to open a Word document and facilitate the process effectively for yourself unsupervised. So, in every respect, I do believe that these programs are useful for that point of view, especially for women and girls and other gendered groups from lower income households where a laptop or computer might not be available in the house, or maybe everyone in the household could be sharing one smartphone. And so, the intervention itself is enough, right?

And so, we're keeping our doors open and we're not necessarily going to be looking out for the most innovative ideas. But certainly, when we laid out the framework and the infrastructure for the grant rollout for 2023, we had said that monitoring and evaluation, impact reporting, direct evidence, and follow‑up ‑‑ we don't and are not going to accept applications from organizations or individuals who would like to run once‑off initiatives, but we're looking for those individuals and organizations who are going to partner with us for the future, at least for a one‑year period, which is what we've outlined on the document, and follow up on the process beyond just the grant period. So, we'll be really looking quite strictly at that to see which applications are looking long term and which applications, you know, come in sort of on that six‑weeks basis. 

Also, we're going to, and have set out a reporting structure and will be publishing the reports as well in a document which we will release at the end of 2023 as part of the Gender Standing Group's activities. And, yeah, basically, that is something that we took a lot of cognizance into.

And then, I think I just wanted to speak to the gentleman from Ghana, who is working in library and facilitating young people ‑‑ children. It's so, so important that young people are able to also get onto the Internet. And you know, children from as young as 3, preschool, are actually given exposure to digital technologies, and I think this is the conundrum that we're facing as a society at the moment as we're digitizing, in terms of how are we going to welcome in this new generation; how are we going to welcome in the new population into the digitization that's happening, but then also keep in line with the ethics and the frameworks that we've outlined as a society, and where do we draw the line? When is it okay to maybe introduce digital infrastructure and how? These are really important topics. And at the basis is that our society has changed.  And it is necessary for preschoolers and young ‑‑ children ‑‑ to be able to access the digital era. So, thank you for the good work that you're doing.

In terms of our learning platform, ISOC itself has got a learning platform and offers courses that you could learn from. And definitely, in the case, I would definitely recommend that your facilitators and trainers do sign up as ISOC members and take the courses on the ISOC platform. I'm pretty sure there are some courses there that you would be able to roll out at a preschool level, probably with some difficulty, but you'll get there. 

Yeah, and there are also various representatives from Library Aid Africa that are part of the Gender Standing Group as well, who we would be very happy to introduce you to and make those introductions. So, definitely keep up the work that you're doing. Libraries are such an important part of our society in facilitating the mental development and growth of children, so the work that you're doing is so, so (audio difficulty). 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Well, we actually passed the time by one minute. But I would like the other speakers to say something before we close the session. Zeina, can you go first and say a few remarks? 

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Yes.  You know, I believe that the Internet access is both an opportunity and power. So, since us, the humans, we are all equal, Internet shouldn't be a privilege. Everyone should be able to benefit from Internet for a better living. So, let's all try to do our best and to cooperate in order to make Internet and meaningful access affordable, available to everybody in all the corners of the world.  Thank you. 

>> THOKO MIYA: Thank you so much, Zeina. From my side, I definitely wanted to say that when we have these conversations and when we have these forums and we discuss policy and we have ministers and members of parliament present and presidents, it's so important that we note the injustices, the social injustices that are taking place and actually include gender in these conversations and gender framework and lenses, and write policies that are gender‑representative. 

So, I'm really glad that we as a Gender Standing Group, have the opportunity to host this session. Thank you to everybody who's been present today. Each one of you is a ripple impact, and we look forward to working with you over the course of the following year and to seeing the success and the greater impact that gender is going to have in ICT as a whole. 

>> UMUT PAJARO VELASQUEZ: Thank you, everyone, to everyone.