Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have long been used to disseminate movement information, facilitate solidarity across borders and groups, and build movement membership and independent media platforms. In this section you'll find resources on ICTs and gender, as well as critiques and debates around the potential of ICTs and new forms of social media for activism.
ICTs for Feminist Movement Building Activist ToolkitJust Associates (JASS), 2015Across the world, new technologies are revolutionising the way we communicate and form relationships and groups. This includes women supporting rights agendas, telling their own stories, and challenging emergent issues in regard to access, women’s voices, and violence. This Activist Toolkit, produced through the collaboration between Just Associates, Women’sNet, and the Association of Progressive Communications, comprehensively explains and advises on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for feminist movement building. It is hoped that hope it will assist activists in making creative, safe and sustainable choices when using ICTs in communication strategies. The toolkit aims to help organisations and activists to strengthen their use of ICTs to help build movements that challenge inequality, make strategic choices and decisions regarding strategies and tools, and put women’s voices and experiences front and centre. It offers a practical guide to writing a communication strategy, and reviews a number of tools (ICTs) and technology-related campaigns which can be used in organising work. The toolkit draws on the experience and contexts of women activists in southern Africa and beyond. While the main focus of the toolkit is on women’s rights activists, it is expected that anyone who is part of a movement for social change can and will find it useful. Topics discussed in the toolkit include: an introduction to the political framework of the toolkit; a list of principles for feminist communications, such as democratic content production, respect for diversity, skills sharing, and the inclusion of marginalised voices; a variety of aspects of communication and communication strategy, from mobilisation, to framing, and considerations of risk; the internet and ICTs as political spaces and tools; and finally, chapter five includes information on a number of ICT tools, including social media, radio, and storytelling. Throughout the toolkit, links and sources are provided for more detailed information, and there are numerous definitions, case studies, and moments for reflection. The authors of the toolkit stress that women’s organisations interested in gender equality need to use ICTs strategically so that efforts to amplify women’s voices, influence agendas and change attitudes can be as effective as possible. Through building feminist communication strategies using ICTs, movements can create a resilient, visible, and safe spaces that facilitate social justice and gender equality.
ICT facts and figuresInternational Telecommunication Union , 2013
Produced by the ICT Data and Statistics Division of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva, this document presents gender- and regional-disaggregated data showing various aspects of mobile and internet penetration up to 2013.
The comprehensive data are presented in tables and charts, with analysis highlighting significant trends and conclusions. Topics covered are mobile, and internet penetration, gender disaggregated data, comparative subscription cost trends, and the rise of mobile broadband. The following are some of the findings:
- There are currently 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions globally, though growth is now slowing. More than half of these (3.5 billion) are in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Almost 40% of the worlds population, around 2.7 billion people, are currently online. This includes 750 million households, with regional variations ranging from 77% of households online in Europe, to just 7% in Africa.
- The gender gap in access to the Internet is more pronounced in the developing world (16% fewer women than men online) than the developed world (just 2% fewer). In total, 37% of all women are online globally, compared to 41% of men - this translates into 1.3 billion and 1.5 billion people respectively.
- Broadband costs have dramatically reduced in the developing world over the last four years, dropping 82%. A majority of countries have now reached the Broadband Commission target of providing basic fixed-broadband at below 5% of the monthly Gross National Income per capita.
- Broadband speeds remain unequal globally; whilst some Asian and European countries enjoy high uptake of high speed broadband (over 10 Mbit/s), in Africa, and several countries in the Americas and Asia, less than 10% of broadband services reach even 2 Mbit/s.
- Projections for the end of 2013 place the number of mobile broadband subscriptions at more than 2 billion, though the vast majority will be in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Total subscriptions have risen from 268 million in 2007 to 2.1 billion in 2013 - an annual growth rate of 40%. Mobile broadband is significantly more expensive in developing countries, but still considerably cheaper than fixed-broadband.
The big deal about the network age: political economy conversations from the CITIGEN projectIT for Change, 2013Profound and rapid changes, ushered in by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), pose new challenges, as well as opportunities, for the feminist project. Understanding the processes that create and reinforce structural exclusions in and through digital space, and framing an appropriate politics of resistance, is both a theoretical and practical imperative at this juncture.
This think piece builds on insights from the Gender and Citizenship in Information Society (CITIGEN) research programme, positing some key points of departure in feminist analyses that could form tentative steps toward a feminist theory of change. The structures of the ‘network society’ are characterised both by democratising and capitalistic tendencies, constituting critical political arenas for both government and civil society. While the Internet presents new possibilities for emancipatory activities, with real-world implications, corporate power in the digital realm limits its horizontal social organisation potential. The Internet is central to transnational capital’s game of privatising the commons, control over Intellectual Property (IP) and consolidating the power of the Global North. For example, while social media platforms are supposedly ‘open’ and ‘public’, they are owned by powerful corporations that undermine human rights.
A feminist political economy analysis can assist the search for alternatives to ‘hegemonic business masculinity’, going from critique to construction, bringing visions of gender justice to the project of social change. The questions of, and models for, political agency need rethinking; unless feminist intervention in the network society can appropriately engage the powerful actors shaping the discourse, advocating for access to ICTs may not be enough. The following are among the conclusions offered in this article:
- A progressive theory of the network society must avoid the polarities of technological and sociological determinisms.
- A renewed awareness of the discourse of body politics and collectivities in the network age is most needed.
- The vision and rule-setting for an emancipatory network society are predicated on understanding how community encounters with ICTs change relationship structures at the grassroots; and how the promise of horizontal networks is to be negotiated through gender, class, language and other hierarchies in the digital space.
- Feminist civil society must promote rights-based frameworks as a touchstone for a political philosophy.
- Practices of horizontalisation must go hand-in-hand with coherence of agenda and purposive leadership that connects across struggles, contexts and scales.
- New methods are required that can feminise the global, and simultaneously enable place-based resistance.
#FemFuture: online revolutionBarnard Centre for Research on Women, 2013
This is the eighth volume of the New Feminist Solutions series produced by the Barnard Center for Research on Women. This report synthesises discussions from a meeting of 21 online activists and writers, who had come together to brainstorm ideas for how they could work more effectively and sustainably. These conversations, representing a small part of the wider conversations happening worldwide both on- and offline, are supported by examples and recommendations from the authors own research.
The paper introduces online feminism as a powerful and transformative method of advocacy and mobilisation, but cautions that in it's current form it is too often unsustainable, both financially and psychologically for those involved. Proposed is the development of a broad ecosystem that, through the convening of power and agenda setting, can amplify and catalyse collective impact. Basics are covered, such as defining online feminism, outlining the current community landscape, and suggesting that new tools (such as social media) are re-introducing a vibrancy to the movement.
Part two concerns the challenges and opportunities that are making themselves known in the present. Discussed are the pitfalls of present-day financing, particularly hard-felt in the area of feminist blogging, as well as the potential business models available (such as crowd-funding) and membership/subscription models. The non-profit versus for-profit debate is covered, noting that a non-funded movement can merely further privilege the privileged, and repeat mistakes by handing down acceptance of such damaging concepts as the expectation of self-sacrifice.
Finally, part three makes recommendations for achieving greater and more sustainable impact:
- Creating new spaces for strategic planning rather than proposing yet another conference. Instead, the authors suggest an annual #FemFuture meeting of 100 on- and offline activists, funders, educators, and other stakeholders interested in online feminism.
- Sharing resources and people power – many groups have already begun to realise the benefits that come with sharing resources and combining strengths, such as partnerships for content sharing, combining projects, sharing work spaces, and even joint hiring of staff.
- Developing capacity – A desire for more training opportunities was expressed by many, with ideas for potential programmes for online feminists (including a 'feminist business bootcamp': a week-long collaborative learning arena).
- Creating new structures for sustainability – financial sustainability must come to the fore, meaning deep and lasting partnerships, through non-profit or for-profit channels, or a combination of the two.
Suggestions include grantmaking and matchmaking for collective impact; a fund for online feminist innovation; corporate partnerships; and self-care and solidarity retreats.http://bcrw.barnard.edu/wp-content/nfs/reports/NFS8-FemFuture-Ognline-Revolution-Report-April-15-2013.pdf
Survey on sexual activism, morality and the internetGenderIT.org, 2013Has the internet become an indispensable tool for feminist and LGBTQI advocacy? How savvy are sexual rights activists in handling the legal and technical issues that come along when they use the internet? How do they negotiate online threats and restrictions? Activists from around the world responded to these and other questions through a 2013 global online survey on sexual rights work and the internet.
This article contextualises and reports on the main findings of the survey – part of the EROTICS project, which looks at the impact of regulatory frameworks and control mechanisms on the actual lived practices, experiences and concerns of internet users in the exercise of their sexual rights. To assess the scope of this impact on sexual rights activism, the EROTICS team designed and applied this global survey on online contents, practices, and modes of interaction censored, limited, or under threat. The questionnaire was launched on 8th March 2013, and was hosted on the APC website for two months. Aiming to capture a snapshot of present trends in the online experiences and uses of the internet for sexual rights advocacy, respondents were recruited online among global networks of gender and sexual rights activists, scholars, and policymakers.
The preliminary results of this survey include the following:
- Most respondents declared a need for the internet in their work: 44% thought it would be difficult, and 46% said it would be impossible without it.
- Practically all respondents attributed some degree of importance to the internet in their work on sexual rights (only 1% said it was not useful in any way).
- Most respondents found the internet useful to share information (87%), and search for information (73%); while almost half the sample also found it useful for public action and support (47%)––which roughly coincides with a 49% who work on raising public awareness or campaigning for rights.
- A significant 37% of this sample of gender and sexuality activists and intellectuals declared that the internet allows groups to network in safer conditions than face-to-face, and 26% thought that it allows dialogue between people with diverse opinions.
- About half (51%) of the sexual rights activists, advocates, scholars, and policymakers who filled the survey had at some point received violent messages, threats or [offensive] comments while working online.
- Younger internet users are more likely to have campaigned in protest against online threats, attacks and regulations.
There is also an infographic available online that highlights the preliminary results from this survey:
APC (2013) ‘Sexual rights activism & the internet’, GenderIT
J. Kee (2013) 'EROTICS: an exploratory research project into sexuality and the internet' Association for Progressive Communications
Empowering women through ICTsSwedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions , 2012Following a 2008 gender, ICT, and development workshop organised by The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER), applications were encouraged from partner universities for concept submissions in collaboration with partners in developing regions. This SPIDER publication covers five of these projects, specifically focusing on the influence of information and communication technology (ICT) on the lives of the women who participated.
The paper begins with a brief overview of gender, technology, and ICT in development. The rest of the report consists of gender analyses of the selected projects:
* Two projects located in Bolivia, focused on the empowerment of female indigenous leaders; and providing female victims of domestic violence a safe virtual environment.
* A project on ecological sustainability, diversification of livelihoods, and basic training in ICT for women; conducted through women’s self-help groups both in India and Kenya.
* A project focused on integrating ICT into women’s basket-weaving practices in Rwanda.
* A research project in Vietnam looked at the consideration given to gender in the development of ICT.
Each project is presented within their local context, with detailed country profiles provided. The impact of the project on women is discussed at length before each section concludes with a summation of the challenges faced and a way forward. Themes that arose from the projects’ feedback and assessments included the empowering potential of ICT for women, and its ability to combine with traditional knowledge to archive and communicate skills for future generations. Literacy rates were improved among those women who participated, and the training allowed activists to then spread skills further to others. Infrastructure and health issues, particularly in older women, continue to challenge progress, as can social dimensions.
An appendix to the report provides further context to the issue of gender, ICT, and development; as well as more background information and reflections from three of the projects, and Swedish partners’ reflections on the projects.http://spidercenter.org/polopoly_fs/1.163638.1390315398!/menu/standard/file/Spider%20ICT4D%20series%204%20Empowering%20women%20through%20ICT.pdf
How Technology is Being Used to Perpetrate Violence Against Women (VAW) – And to Fight itAssociation for Progressive Communications, 2010This four-page brief highlights key findings about how new technologies are being used by those perpetrating Violence Against Women (VAW) and how women are fighting back. Findings are taken from research commissioned by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in 2009 across 12 developing countries including Uganda, Cambodia, Pakistan and Mexico. Cases of abuse by intimate partners, sexual harassment and sexual trafficking are featured. For example, blackmail through threat of circulating intimate photos, stalking/monitoring women by tracking their mobile phones, and false web adverts used by sex traffickers to lure vulnerable people. These disturbing acts have led to attacks on women and even murder in some cases. The APC recommend that telecommunication companies, software developers and internet providers develop better protection for users’ security, privacy and safety. Changes in law and policies to respond to these new forms of violence are also suggested.
In response women's rights activists are using new technologies to strengthen campaigns and advocacy, expand networks, prevent violations and support healing. Examples given include educating girls to use mobile phones safely and alerting people to violence within their region by taking photos or video footage and circulating this strategically.
More resources on ICTs and VAW undertaken by Association for Progressive Communications, Women's Networking Support Programme, and their partners, can be found at this link: