Internet Governance Forum, Cyber Security and Safer Internet, Sri Lanka

From Gender and Tech Resources

Title Internet Governance Forum, Cyber Security and Safer Internet, Sri Lanka
Category Gender and Tech
Start 2017/05/16
End 2017/05/18
Scale Country
Geolocalization 7° 52' 22", 80° 46' 17"
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Target audience ICT policymakers, government agencies on ICTs, techies + women techies, academics, civil society
Number of participants 100
Context and motivations The IGF happened from 16-18 May and there was a School of Internet Governance running parallel to it. The main conference on the final day addressed themes such as cyber security, SDGs and the Internet, and digital rights and multistakeholderism. Interestingly, there was mention of a Women IGF on the first day as well. There was very little information available but a few of us including the Women and Media Collective decided to mobilize around the Women IGF and the main conference.

We shared the IGF information with other activists and women’s rights org’s (WROs) in Sri Lanka and while some were interested and turned up, one of the main things I realized was that we need a primer of sorts on why an IGF is a relevant space for WROs. I found APC’s issue paper to be extremely useful in this respect. Our main objective was to be identified as interested stakeholders at the IGF and to highlight why women are key and relevant stakeholders in internet governance. Our strategy was to be present at the Women IGF as well as relevant sessions of the main IGF and engage with the discussions, both as participants and panelists. We also asked for and received advice and tips about engaging with an IGF from Jac and Valentina from APC which was great and much appreciated.

Topics Digital security, SDGs, Digital rights, Multistakeholderism, SDGs and ICTs, Gender and Tech
Media [[File:]]
Feedbacks During the session on “Cyber Security and Safer Internet”, the discussions were narrowly framed around protocols and technical aspects of security and some of our allies from The Grassrooted Trust who were in the audience highlighted how women’s and children’s rights are affected by cyber exploitation and violence and the lack of interest and action from the government despite repeated calls to action from civil society for the past few years.

In the panel on SDGs and the Internet, I spoke about the increasing gender gap in access to technology, increasing violence against women and girls on the Internet and therefore the inherent flaw in the proposition that technology transfer and the Internet will be major drivers for achieving the SDGs when women and girls are clearly being left behind or having our rights violated in these spaces, including our sexual rights. I made five suggestions on multipronged strategies we can implement to improve our policies, programmes and understanding of access when it comes to ICTs and emphasized why multistakeholder has to mean bringing in the most marginalized groups into the decisionmaking spaces. I’ll share the text of my intervention once it’s published next week. It was painfully clear that the entire panel including the moderator thought that any question from the audience around gender was my domain, even when the questions were directed at policymakers in the panel!!! But it was also evident that having a woman in the panel meant they couldn’t avoid discussing gender (which happened in all the manels) so it felt really important to advocate for women’s representation in these spaces.

Personally, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the mandates of various government agencies that have a stake in ICT policymaking in the country as well as the mandate (and limitations) of service providers such as the Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT). The main takeaway is that the policymakers and other stakeholders tend to frame very narrowly the intersections of technology transfer, the Internet and women’s rights, mostly speaking and planning in terms of women’s economic empowerment. Women’s access, content and representation was not considered in terms of right to information, freedom of expression, sexuality and sexual rights, etc. The narrative around online violence against women and girls was not about giving women and girls agency over their digital security and privacy but more about censoring or restricting them though there were alternative views being presented at various levels of articulation. While this all sounds discouraging, what was positive was that it was a welcoming space where we were able to make several interventions, both as panelists and participants.

Start Share a primer on why an IGF is a relevant space for WROs
Keep Proactively ensure there is civil society representation in panels, especially rep's of WROs.