On February 19, 2013, as Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) Program Associate and the International Women’s Democracy Network Coordinator, I spoke on the panel, “Women, Tech, and Democracy: The Next Frontier,” as part of Social Media Week in Washington, DC, at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). I presented on WLP’s successful technology programs, WLP Partner advocacy campaigns that are bolstered by social media, the International Women’s Democracy Network, and WLP’s forthcoming Online Learning Portal, which will serve as a vehicle to build constituent’s capacities by hosting eCourses and webinars. Also on the panel, NDI Women’s Political Participation Director Susan Markham spoke about iknowpolitics.com, or the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics; NDI Senior Program Manager for Innovation presented on NDI’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) initiatives to promote women’s political engagement; Senior Advisor to the US Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues Wenchi Yu spoke on using ICTs as a tool for diplomacy; and Dalberg Global Development Advisor Angela Rastegar reported findings from their new report, “Women and the Web: Unleashing a Global Opportunity.” The event reached capacity, with more than 50 guests in attendance.
There were many interesting takeaways during the session as well as during the Q&A, including the following points:
- In their new report, Dalberg found that 30 percent of women use the internet to earn additional income. The findings indicate that in many developing countries, women’s internet access is far less than their male counterparts. In Mexico, internet access is at 79%, though women’s access is less than half that rate at 34%. In India, women’s access is at 8%, while the regional access rates are much higher at 28%.
- NDI’s ICT team launched the YouSpeak program in Uganda that enables citizens to communicate directly with their legislators through their mobile phones. With this tool, politicians can respond to constituent’s comments and concerns in real time. The tool is fairly inexpensive and effective, with minimal costs related to advertising the program.
- While iknowpolitics.org receives 10,000-15,000 hits per month from mostly new users, one of the challenges with this tool is getting people to come back and launch their own content.
- In response to an American University graduate student’s question about limitations to accessing technology, I responded that across WLP’s partnership, there are varying degrees of infrastructure, access (including the gender gap), and literacy (both literal literacy and computer). However, as a real partnership, we respond to the needs of our Partners. Through providing face-to-face trainings on leadership and political participation, we are preparing women to be able to utilize those resources when they become available. In addition, through trainings, we are increasing women and youth’s capacity to fight for their rights to resources, including internet and technological resources.
In case you missed it, watch panel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2P_lVqlifxM
See additional pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/learningpartnership/sets/72157632919373329/