IGF 2018 WS #436 Gender Issues and Democratic Participation: reclaiming ICTs for a Humane World

Salle VIII

Organizer 1: Asad Baig, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 2: Gayatri Khandhadai, Association for Progressive Communications
Organizer 3: Natacha Quester-Séméon, #JamaisSansElles
Organizer 4: Sylvain Attal, France 24

Speaker 1: Anja Kovacs, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Ankhi Das, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Hudon Isabelle, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Sophie Viger, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Sacha Quester-Séméon, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

Bishakha Datta, Point of View, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Group.
Noha Ashraf, Dell, Technical Community.
Isabelle Galy, Deputy Director of Operations at the Learning Lab “Human Change”, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG).
Sophie Viger, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Sacha Quester-Séméon, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Round Table - 90 Min


This session is planned as a roundtable workshop - the speakers, as can be seen in the content of the session section, will be sharing varying perspectives on technology and democratic participation - from recounting country experiences and sharing details of local advocacy efforts, to technological possibilities and challenges to facilitation of democratic participation through the use of ICTs to the practical challenges of enacting and implementing regulatory policies that define the national environments within which technology is being used as a tool of political participation during electoral processes. An experienced moderator with good thematic knowledge has been selected to ensure that she can direct the discussion in a way that it enables a solution oriented, forward looking session and is able to facilitate the experience and knowledge sharing process.


The panel of expert speakers includes a good balance of  men and women. The moderator is also a woman, which will help us create an friendly environment for women voices from the participants as well. The panelists are from different stakeholder groups including media, civil society, technical community, private sector and government sector. In addition to identified panelists, we are also reaching out to a number of experts who will join the discussion as participants [as listed in the content of session], these include experts from Malaysia, the United States, Estonia and Nigeria. The inclusion of young people will also be encouraged through remote participation. The selected speakers represent three different regional groups.

A number of panlists are them are first-time IGF speakers.

Introduction [5 minutes] - Briefing by the moderator which outlines the background and objectives of discussing the challenges to inclusion of and participation by women and politically marginalised communities.

Case Studies [15 minutes] - Different speakers from civil society will share specific examples demonstrating challenges to inclusion, diversity, equality and political participation in the digital realm.

Policy Interventions and challenges [15 minutes] - Government and private sector representatives will share experience their use and incorporation of ICTs in various processes relating to facilitation of access across genders and communities and regulatory and technical challenges towards political participation by all communities

Debate and Solutions [15 minutes] - Interactive discussion among panelists focusing on the following questions;

I. Do regressive regulatory practices and commercially driven tech design have a disproportionate impact on inclusion of and participation by women and politically marginalised groups and communities?

Ii. How can we remove the obstacles so that women become more involved in the development of the Internet and can more fully participate in it?

Iii. How can corporations facilitate political participation by marginalised and minority communities, especially in regressive regimes.

Iv. What are the key technical, infrastructural, economic, technological, policy and regulatory solutions that can further the cause of inclusion, diversity and political participation

V. How are managers and entrepreneurs trying to reduce the digital gender gap?
Open Discussion [40 minutes] - The last 40 minutes the moderator will open the floor to ask the participants and audience to point out the different areas including and outside the issues raised by the speakers on how challenges to inclusion and diversity impact social and political dynamics. The moderator will also seek audience input on the key question of policy, exploring, how can States establish real public policies for an inclusive digital society where people are able to truly participate economically, politically and socially regardless of gender, economic status or political ideologies.

The round table will be organized as a facilitated dialogue. This format lends itself to open discussion between participants not just the selected panel. As defined in the agenda, the session will start with the listed speakers from different stakeholder groups sharing relevant experiences from their region and field. After the initial landscape related to policy, practices and experiences is laid, the discussion will expand to include a set of pre-identified participants. A total of 40 minutes are being allocated to open discussion among participants of the workshop.

Led by two onsite moderators (a man and a woman), subject experts will first give short presentations on their specific fields of action; then, they will debate and discuss the key questions and issues. The moderators will then turn to those attending the session and invite experts in the audience, members, and online participants, to engage in a facilitated dialogue.

One of the onsite moderator is a journalist and television presenter who will ensure that the feedback and questions from the audience are concise and that all those who wish to can ask questions and that the time spent interacting with the audience is dynamic and diverse.

The digital revolution is at the same time the condition, the symptom and the accelerator of the changes taking place on a global scale. The particular nature of ICT, in principle, allows everyone not only to use them, but also to contribute to them in conditions of unprecedented mobility and autonomy. They are, therefore, rightly regarded as an exceptional tool of emancipation for all the peoples of the world, both economically and culturally. Such a level of empowerment should, in particular, greatly benefit women, especially at the professional level, by breaking with the old ways of organising and distributing activities that have always treated them unfairly, to a great extent.

However, it appears that access and use, as well as participation in the design, development, and production of digital technologies, are unevenly distributed across genders, regardless of global region. In parallel with the undeniably positive effects of the digital revolution, mechanisms of repression and exclusion are tending to be put in place.

Alongside gender implications of exclusion, one can also witness the political impact of policies that push marginalised and dissenting voices out of digital mainstream. Information communication and technology tools (ICTs) have fundamentally changed how all democratic processes are experienced across the globe. While technology mostly acts as a facilitator of the democratic process, there is also a power imbalance that is inherent in the design, access and use of technology. Within this environment, it becomes challenging to truly claim that ICTs have enabled participation universally across any society.

Be it the gender gap that marginalises women online, the linguistic dominance from Global North, the capital driven technology development or regressive policies enacted by states themselves - challenges to true inclusion and participation are many and serious.

Not only the design and distribution is excluded those already on the fringes, but in addition, we are witnessing increased reliance on both legal (offensive speech, cyber crimes and security laws) and non-legal (throttling of networks, unlawful surveillance and online harassment) means by State and non-State actors to quieten minority and dissenting voices.  

It is urgent to act against this so that imbalances do not turn into gaps and increase tensions, stigmatization and opposition. This session will facilitate cross-sectional dialogue between State, private sector, academic and civil-society experts, exploring how the power imbalance created by specific policies and practices have come to effect matters of inclusion, diversity and participation; be it participation towards political narratives or participation by marginalised communities. ​

Online Participation

We have a professional remote moderator, member of the #JamaisSansElles team, who will be in close contact with the onsite moderator. He will take the questions from the online participants in a separated queue. Online and onsite questions will have an equal share. Of course, the team also includes a person dedicated to social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). Throughout the session, the tags #IGF2018 will be used to curate and facilitate online discussion and participation from off-site participants through Twitter. Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) and APC will also solicit questions ahead of time from those who cannot attend in person by publicizing the workshop on Twitter and with blog posts.

A dedicated communications person will be available to facilitate online participation and to increase the visibility of the session and IGF among the networks of the co-organisers. The online moderator will have the online participation session open and will ensure communication with the onsite moderator to make sure online participants are able to make interventions and raise questions. This person will also be working on the live visual aid for the whole session towards setting up the chart that identifies key issues raised.

To encourage remote participation, we will also create digital posters and publicise the session ahead of time, along with questions, teasers and profiles of speakers. This would allow us to attract a good set of interested participants, who combined with the responses to questions posed earlier with APC, will help make sure that the remote participation is diverse and meaningful. 

Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

GF 2018 WS #436 Gender Issues and Democratic Participation: reclaiming ICTs for a Humane World

Workshop Report

Session Type : Workshop
Title: GF 2018 WS #436 Gender Issues and Democratic Participation: reclaiming ICTs for a Humane World
Date & Time: Monday, 12 November, 2018 - 10:40 to 12:10

Organizer(s): Media Matters for Democracy, Association for Progressive Communications, #JamaisSansElles
Chair/Moderator: Sheetal Kumar, Sylvain Attal
Rapporteur/Notetaker: Katja Tochtermann, Tatiana F.-Salomon & Natacha Quester-Séméon, #JamaisSansElles

List of speakers and their institutional affiliations (Indicate male/female/ transgender male/ transgender female/gender variant/prefer not to answer):

Speaker 1: Asad Baig, Media Matters for Democracy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group, Male.
Speaker 2: Bishakha Datta, Point of View, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Group, Female.
Speaker 3: Noha Ashraf, Dell, Technical Community, Female.
Speaker 4: Isabelle Galy, Deputy Director of Operations at the Learning Lab “Human Change”, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG), Female.
Speaker 4: Sophie Viger, General Manager of 42 in Paris and Silicon Valley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG), Female.
Speaker 5: Sacha Quester-Séméon, Entrepreneur and Founding Member of the Movement #JamaisSansElles, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG), Male.
Speaker 6: Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director Facebook India, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group, Female


Theme: Human Rights, Gender & Youth

Key messages

  1. What are the practical challenges to inclusion, diversity, equality and political participation in the digital realm and their impact and what are the main regulatory and technical challenges towards political participation by all communities?
  2. How can states, corporations, international and intergovernmental organizations drive efforts for a wider digital inclusion of girls and women in ways to have a better participation in the conception of policies, technologies? How can educational systems attract women in STEAM fields and teach how to code to have more women involved in sciences and in the conception of new technologies and digital tools and help in solving relevant issues such as biases in artificial intelligence algorithms?
  3. Do regressive regulatory practices and commercially driven tech design have a disproportionate impact on inclusion of and participation by women and politically marginalized groups and communities? And how can we remove the obstacles so that women become more involved in the development of the Internet and can more fully participate in it?

Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence.

To achieve digital inclusion and gender diversity on the Internet, participants agree that women face similar challenges across the world, online safety being a basic need in the first place. The cyberspace needs to become more welcoming and safe—a safer Internet meaning automatically a more inclusive Internet. Political participation of women in particular is prevented by hate speech and online harassment.

Panelists discuss whose responsibility it is to prevent online harassment and backlash: Some participants point out the role of civil society to flag incidents, some others the responsibility of corporate platforms to protect women. As examples in the Asian areas show, they could implement digital literacy and safety trainings and make content available in local languages.

Improving women’s online presence and participation starts with their equal access to day to day use of Internet and extends to their equal representation on corporate boards of international tech companies. Some participants point out that it is not only a question of technical access, it is a question of uncontrolled and qualitative access (i.e. shared mobile phones in low income families). Furthermore, women must be given a feeling of belonging to this public online space, to fully participate and not only be bystanders, and be able to use Internet as a tool of empowerment to achieve better lives.

Participants agreed to the fact that to improve their visibility, women need to become content creators; they have to market and take credit for themselves. Platforms like Wikipedia and Facebook should give more room for female voices and achievements.  

Online content on extraordinary women and role models are needed to get inspired (i.e. the last Nobel Prize Winner not having a Wikipedia page before the award).

Several initiatives across the world show the importance of leaders and decision makers that actually take action against discrimination of women. The French movement #JamaisSansElles shows the efficiency of men committing themselves to gender diversity at a political or corporate level. Many prominent stakeholders in the digital world and beyond have adopted the #JamaisSansElles pledge “not to participate in any public events where there are no women present among the many participants.”

But the issue of visibility is only the tip of the iceberg: as #JamaisSansElles underlines, one has to focus on women’s access to key leading and decision-making positions in all types of environments and their equal recognition and participation in all sectors of society. Therefore, the movement created also a corporate charter. Microsoft France was the first signatory of the pledge, covering events inside and outside the company, thus confirming its commitment to a more inclusive and diverse digital technology industry.

In fine, when corporations commit themselves to gender diversity, this implies better hiring processes and better career promotions for women, leading to improve globally the participation of women and remove the barriers that still limit the influence of women in many sectors of society and deprive them of the major opportunities provided by digital technologies.

More globally, to create a more humane and inclusive world, participants acknowledge that there is a need for a change of mindset. This is a humanistic issue. We're talking about how to live and work together, men and women in a common space. In order to keep its promises, the digital revolution must also be liberating and emancipatory. It must be humanist, and there can be no humanism without gender diversity.

It is also about stressing values other than those common to a 100 % men's world: that is, where there is not only competition, but also collaboration, well-being, and creativity. There should be mentorship for young boys to learn to be more respectful with girls.

Special attention is drawn to gender biases in artificial intelligence algorithms, pointing out the risk of technologies built only by and for men. Automation is powerful and dangerous when it is not inclusive: In a non-inclusive world, discrimination is the rule and we will miss out on part of the collective intelligence. We have to put ethics in algorithms and in artificial intelligence.

#JamaisSansElles has been actively participating in the Women 20 process and was Head of Delegation for France at the W20 Summit October 2018 in Buenos Aires. In the 15 recommendations of the official Communiqué of the W20 Summit, three focus on digital inclusion and one concerns specifically gender biases in algorithms and IA.

The whole W20 preparation process showed that “multistakeholderism” is absolutely crucial when it comes to addressing issues like the inclusion of Women and Digital inclusion, in the sense that actions and commitments can indeed emerge from civil society and economical players, and generate experience that can then be shared, transplanted or adapted elsewhere (see also the IGF 2018 Open Forum here : https://www.intgovforum.org/content/igf-2018-of-22-envisaging-the-pillars-of-discussions-for-g20-in-2019

Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. 

Education is of course a key issue: To create a more inclusive digital world, the education system, especially in the STEAM domains, should also become more inclusive (meaning also textbooks without gender-biases).

Welcoming young girls in STEAM and Tech programmes should be a priority. To better accommodate girls and young women, one must ensure a benevolent welcome. Young girls will not like all-male environments. But in some tech and coding schools, there are 80-90% men. So, welcoming girls means reserving them a dedicated place, so that they are more willing to come: which might include quotas in some cases.

Schools that enable low-income girls and minorities to access education in the field of new technologies, coding and engineering should be encouraged. This might include innovative methods like peer-to-peer learning, self-education, and collaboration on software challenges, such as the software engineering school “42” experiences demonstrate in Paris and in Silicon Valley.

During their studies, young women in the tech field could be involved in hands-on type initiatives, like hackathons, and supported by mentorship in universities and  corporations; to avoid the loss of qualified professionals at the beginning of their careers, when young women might prioritize family obligations.

What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue?

The private sector, especially social media platforms, should take responsibility and implement “Human Impact Assessments” to measure how hate speech affects women.

Dedicated organisations could be created to defend women online and provide a safer online environment.

The program of “La Grande École du Numérique” in France has shown good results, thanks to its flexibility and ability to target left-aside students who sometimes do not fit into or succeed in school, but who do react very positively to innovative pedagogies. These programs could be established locally, in underprivileged environments.

Laws should define what is online harassment. The legal sector must address the difference between freedom of speech and sexism or hate speech targeting women.

The whole ecosystem should work on the elimination of various biases, gender biases in particular, which persist in different sectors of society; as well as within algorithms, especially those derived from artificial intelligence, whose impact on our lives and citizenry is increasing.

The IGF ecosystem must commit to gender diversity. At Unesco, on the occasion of the IGF 2018, #JamaisSansElles launched a pledge for Internet governance stakeholders for the equal recognition and participation of women in the digital world. ISOC-France, Reporters Sans Frontières and Renaissance Numérique are the first signatories.


Nombre de participants: 60
Women: 43
Men: 17

To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? 

Gender issues were the main topic during the session. Each speaker talked about his/her experience on the subject according to his/her own country, culture, professional activity, etc. The panelists discussed specific problems faced in the digital realm and shared initiatives from all over the world to promote digital inclusion and gender diversity.

Session outputs and other relevant links (URLs):

Pledge #JamaisSansElles (“Never Without Her”):

Pledge #JamaisSansElles for Internet Governance Stakeholders: