Access

Background

The Access cluster of principles includes Access, Usage and Information.

Establishing access to the internet as a human right was first proposed at the United Nations by Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression in 2011. However, debates around the standards of internet access continue among the technical community, private sector, governments, and civil society, with varying and often competing interests in connecting the remaining 4 billion (60% of the global population) to the internet. Amidst these debates, women in developing countries are often instrumentalized as a vulnerable target group (as often happens in global development debates) rather than a stakeholder group with a crucial say the kind of internet access that guarantees rights rather than restricts them. We see this in campaigns supporting private sector conditional internet access projects such as Facebook’s internet.org, which was newly named “Free Basics.” Our feminist principle on access emphasizes the kind of internet we want: affordable, equal, and universal, and is especially significant when we look at the current digital gender gap affecting internet users today where 200 million less women than men are connected.

The internet offers breakthrough opportunities around citizens’ access to information, whether through open source governance or whistleblowing for increased transparency. Withholding information from the public plays into government and corporate interests and in the case of information on sexuality preserves the patriarchal and heteronormative order. Therefore, our principle emphasizes women and young people’s right to produce, disseminate, and access critical information on gender and sexuality within the struggle for the right to free, transparent, and open information for all. Linked to this is the principle on sexual expression.

The Principle in Action

  • Broaden the understanding of access beyond technical issues that are disconnected from gendered and socio-economic realities
  • Challenge corporate-driven projects of conditional internet access
  • Support community-run projects (particularly women-run projects) to connect users to the internet

Chido Musodza is one of nine digital security trainers currently with Digital Society of Zimbabwe (DSZ). Her specialty is in the translation of open source applications from English to Shona, one of Zimbabwe’s local languages. Chido is also a Programme Officer with Radio Voice of the People, a national radio station that broadcasts via satellite; and podcasts, and distributes information via website and social media. She was one of the feminists who were part of the Harare City Conversation held by Association of Progressive Communications in Harare earlier this year.

This exploratory article stems from the desire to continue debating, as well as co-creating, the “feminist internet”. I first heard of the feminist internet in 2014 in Southeast Asia at a meeting of activists from all over the world. I then participated in subsequent discussions in July 2015 in Malaysia alongside Latin American, Indian, African, European and Arab women.

 In this edition of Genderit.org, we have invited partners from our #ImagineaFeministInternet network to dive into the topics of access, agency and movements and weave in some of the conversations that took place at the second Imagine a Feminist Internet meeting in July 2015.

What began as a small fundraising drive in July 2017 or Kéfir, a feminist libre tech co-op, has transformed into exploring the importance of feminist infrastructure in Latin America. Tune into this ongoing conversation we will be nurturing here in the near future.