Imagining a Feminist Internet

Posted by on February 25, 2019  /  0 Comments

I presented the AfterAccess findings at the recent Imagine A Feminist Internet: Research, Policy and Practice in South Asia event in Negombo.

The conference,was organized by Point of View (Mumbai) and the Internet Democracy Project. More than 50 feminist activists, academics, researchers, journalists and practitioners working on gender, sexuality and technology attended. We tried, together, to understand the status quo, challenges and opportunities.

The ‘feminist’ internet (seen as the end goal) is the same ‘internet’ that we all hope for and are working toward. That internet is accessible to all, safe, secure and open, and provides equal opportunities for all groups, minorities, etc. Perhaps with some degree of nuance added.

The large gender gaps seen in South Asia through the AfterAccess data (e.g., the whopping 57% internet access gap in India) set the stage for colorful discussions on a number of topics: online gender-based violence, ‘digital purdah’ enabled through privacy settings, dataveillance via health information systems, the inability of existing laws to adequately address the digital risks faced by those online, the impact of intersectionalities on gender-based outcomes and more. Gender norms shaping online access, use, risks etc. was a recurring and cross-cutting issue discussed in many of the sessions.

In much of our past research, and now through AfterAccess, we have quantitatively untangled the competing effects of ‘gender’ versus those of socioeconomic factors which determine ICT access and use. Nationally-representative data (once the disparities in the latter set of factors are statistically ‘evened out,’) shows us that women are indeed less likely to adopt and use the technologies. Deeper qualitative research has helped us to understand the social and cultural norms which shape these outcomes: norms which determine women’s role in the household as well as society, their mobility, access to resources, skills and more. The challenge of reshaping gender norms and attitudes with respect to technology remains one at large. But we all know that’s a problem bigger than the Internet.

My slides from the event are here.

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