The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> MODERATOR: Is this on? Yeah, it is. All right, I think we will go ahead and get started here. There's a lot to cover. So I'm sure we will want to use all of the time.
I am Kira Allmann from the University of Oxford, and I'm chairing this panel. I do a lot of research with community networks. And that's why I'm here. But I will not be doing most of the talking. I'm just going to use chair's privilege to set the scene and introduce the panel and some of the themes and hand it over to our panelists. So just to give a little bit of framing of the session today, we are all here to talk about inclusivity and diversity in community networks. And actually, also in communications networks more broadly. And so I think it's important to just establish what community networks are.
So what are we talking about in this room?
You are probably here because you already know the answer to that question. That's why you are interested in this session. And our panelists today are going to help add detail and specificity to that definition. What are community networks and why are they important to this session?
Just to make sure we have clarity, we are talking about autonomous active it solutions at the community level. So this often means that communities build, own and operate their own network infrastructure locally. So that's what we mean by community networks.
So why do they matter? Well, commercial networks are only expected to connect around 60 to 70% of the world's population by 2025. So the un sustainable development goal of internet access is pretty far out of reach at this point. So in short, using current strategies, the connectivity needs of billions of people especially in developing countries but not only, will not be met.
In response to that situation, communities around the world have been exploring options for connecting themselves and we need to treat those community initiatives as integral part of the overall Eco system. That's why we're all here. Apart from offering alternative technological and economic models, also help us to focus in new ways on some of the inclusivity challenges that face all kinds of technologies and networks. As this panel will discuss, they still face gender‑base discrimination, for instance. Community networks can be radical alternative solutions.
But may still be spaces of access where patriarchy exclude women, LGBTQI playing active role. At the same time, they also have resistance to these dominant social structures and may provide new pathways for greater equality.
So community networks are also much more complex than just infrastructure and they are a lot richer in many ways than incumbent commercial telecommunication infrastructure. They foster local economies, they encourage still building and they increase access to knowledge, of course. And they transformed by the social relationships of the place rooted. One world, one net, one vision. And at the wonderful association for progressive communications, Disco tech last night, we heard some speakers challenge this slogan a little bit. Is it flattening the space for innovation that's been diverse and contested?
Where is the space for alternative connectivity solutions or models that challenge the dominant ownership paradigms or gender gnomes in one net for the entire world?
There is power in universality but also empowerment in specificity. We're going to engage as we focus on policy recommendations that have emerged from lived experiences working in and with the community networks. So there are two areas of recommendation that can come out of this session. First on the one hand, there are recommendations for community networks themselves about how we can build a collaborative movement that is more inclusive and gender aware. And then on the other hand, there are also recommendations for all network operators and all networks that we can make here on this panel because we are informed by local cases. So in other words, we'll talk about what community networks can teach us about networks in general. And I'll encourage the panelists to frame their insights as we go in terms of those two kinds of recommendations so we can be clear about that. We have a panel here who are mothers of community networks, community network builders, leaders, researchers, fundraisers and advocates. And I'm now going to let them introduce themselves and then I'll ask them general questions to the panel to help guide the conversation. And I'm going to be fairly strict about timing so we can hear as many different perspectives as possible. I hope no one will be offended if I interrupt you.
Let's start with introductions and we'll start over here with Sarbani. And I'll give you each five minutes to introduce yourself, talk a little about the communities that you've worked with and in so where are you coming from for this conversation. And what's your experience for gender that's relevant to this panel. So cram that all into five minutes, that would be great.
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: Thanks, Kira. I'm Sarbani Banerjee Belur at Gramar electrical engineer at the institute of Mumbai. I have been working in this project for the past five years. And the project in itself is in the year 2012. We focused on technology and intervention. And slowly, we went into deeper and deeper into understanding that is connectivity being used for the people? Can it be made for sustainable?
What are the ways by which connectivity can be made sustainable within the communities?
And can the communities start owning the network on their own? Or form community network by themselves. So I have been working now in 34 villages which is like three hours drive from Mumbai. And not very far from there are villages that are completely unconnected. In these villages that I work on, I not only enable connectivity over there but also try to make it very inclusive. Like in one of our projects what I found the connectivity being used mostly by men and not by women. And trying to understand why the women in these villages were not using the connectivity after we have enabled it to them. So some of the things that they have mentioned is that the access points were not accessible to them in the evening after it becomes dark. So we try to make women‑friendly access points.
The second thing they mentioned to us is that there's no content for them in the internet. But I was completely surprised to know that because there is a lot of content. But they told some of the content we watch is not approved by the male members in the family because sometimes it is related to women problems, women physical problems, issues related to childbirth and reproductive health issues. So these are the things that ‑‑ we try to come up with different values and focus on working with the women. We also work with women entrepreneurs to understand how connectivity is being used for the women in these villages.
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: Nicola Bidwell. I live in Nibia. I'm kind of a grandmother of kinds or perhaps grand aunt of community networks. And I'm an academic in the field of HCI who spent much of my time in the past dozen years living extensively in rural communities mostly in southern Africa where my work is like practice based ethnographic approach. In 2008, I lived in eastern cape South Africa and tried to put up colleagues between traditional headman. And 2010 and 2013 after that wasn't terribly successful, started an offline social network content media sharing, solar powered station also living in the village to do that which is a long way from any major center. Towards the end of that time, (?) came and I learned the term community network. So he seated a Wi‑Fi network with the same people who I've been doing the content sharing for. In 2016, I increased my education about community networks when brought the first African summit to a conference I founded and that's when I met Josephine for the first time.
So since then, I tried to be a great aunt to various community networks. One in my village next to my home which is supported by ISOC and ASEX which is a women organization across Africa. And now, recently, in the Calahari with the sand people funded by APCC project. Since the end of 2017 to the beginning of this year, I also worked with Mike Jenson funded by the API and IDRC on looking at the social and gender impacts in the community networks. And I focused on six cases. And I'll come to what I learned about that when we get asked further questions. And I'm also in order to pay my bills doing some work with the University of Caulk on community radio in remote islands off the coast of island. Not all of which have the internet. So these are my experiences in this area.
>> JOSEPHINE MILIZA: Hello. My name is Josephine Miliza. And I am the Africa regional coordinator for the APC lock net project. And also I champion for community network in Africa. Initiated community network in Kenya. A place called Kibera. Community network started in 2016 when I joined the institute. And found that there was interested in starting list project and had very little experience around how to do the work. And around that time, I was privileged and happy to see them in the room. The ones who introduced me to community networks. Because of the time we started, we didn't even know what we were doing. We knew we wanted project to connect the community. So from there, I learned about (?) and able to do research around it. And with the help of Hermano and Marco and doing contribution ‑‑ we tried to walk around them.
So being that I'm an engineer, my knowledge around it was framed around technology is the end to all challenges. But quickly realized that there's a lot of human aspects that goes into networking. It's not just about good infrastructure. It also really important to meaningful access. So to date, we are supported by the internet society. Among them are schools, youth and women centers. And I'm also privileged to continue my work in community networks working with APC and supporting networks in Africa. That being the school in Uganda and DRC. My experiences around gender are an African woman and being raised in rural areas, I understand the dynamics of the challenges that we face. One thing that inspired me was my mom and other mothers in the community. Their purpose is their children and their families are safe.
In thinking about technology, I was informed that technology when we go to women, it's not just about internet is fun to use. You can be able to access so many opportunities. But really how does it translate to a good life for their children and also a good life for their family as well. So we have done work around training.
We do training on the relevance on how ICTs can be able to amplify women's voices around political issues. And also sharing with the world what they do in improving economic sustainability in the community. So I'm happy to be on the panel today and looking forward to sharing more on my experiences.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: Hello. This is Valeria Betancourt. I manage the policy program in APC. And let me first tell you a little bit about the APC. The APC is a mobile organization network that works towards enabling conditions for people to have easy and affordable access to ICPs through internet. An internet that is open in order to improve the lives of people and work towards social justice. You have been hearing a lot about the lock net project. This is a collaborative project and host by the APC. And the project is our attempt to contribute an enabling environment with the community networks to flourish who sustain themselves. And it has a focus on developing countries. It is a multiyear strategy initiative that through the creation of human capacity and also addressing sustainability challenges are trying to contribute to create a more favorable conditions for community networks to not only be created by also to grow the scale.
The project is through pure learning, through capacity building and raising awareness. Addressing the different type of challenges that community networks have been facing not only at the level of the technological but sustainability challenges. Governance challenges, social challenges.
And also contributing the project to identify what are the conditions that the regulatory and public policy context that might enable these networks to be established and also to optimize their existence in order to meet the requirements and the need of the social context in which they exist. The project for community networks in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as some of the regional coordinators. Unfortunately, the coordinator for Latin America could not come. So I will try to transmit something about what is going on in the Latin American region. But these 12 community networks are part of this core group of communities contributing to the strengthening of the community networks movement. And to advocating for expanding support about the potential that is modeled this way of actually contributing it to achieve digital contribution. I will tell you more about the experience. Wanted to tell you a little bit more about the project.
>> JANE COFFIN: Thank you very much. My name is Jane Coffin. I work for the internet society. I think I've worked with everybody on this table and around the table here. This is my colleague. We are partners in crime working together on community networks meeting the teams inside the internet society trying not to weed in the field but take advice for people who want to come in and help them on sustainability training. With regulatory policy. So it's tech development policy regulatory and other.
The projects around the world from Latin America to North America where we've had a lot of success. And surprising uptake. From one of the tribal communities is here today and he can tell you about other projects. This is about local empowerment changing the way we look at regulatory policy and other infrastructure. We have a keen appreciation for trying to work with as many Stakeholders as possible. That means whether it's government, different UN organizations. The old regulatory mind set. I understand it. It has to change. I've been doing this for 20 years. The unconnected are still unconnected. And I also want to acknowledge Hermano and Marco also colleagues of ours. From the gender side, I don't want to overshadow what the others have said and just say that when I'm negotiating with some men, I often do have to take a step back, figure out how to deal with them. Sometimes they think I'm coming in from emotional perspective. I'm a pretty logical person. I find myself amazed how many times I have to explain why this is important. And I don't often think about this as a gender thing. So it's not a complaint. It's just a fact. But we move on and have lots of people inside the organization that work on these issues.
The key thing is we never want to be a single point of failure. The critical issue is local training where local people are empowered to build the network, sustain the networks and find new solutions.
We don't go anywhere we're not asked to go.
The key thing is to listen. You can't go to places and say that you know. So the critical thing is where we can work with our local teams to create local change.
>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much to all the panelists for your introductions. That's great. Something we'll return to in a note that Jane just ended the introductions on is this issue of code switching that we all do a lot between the local level where many of us work as researchers or organizers or activists and this kind of forum. A multi Stakeholder policy forum. And requires we use different language. And there's an important gendered perspective as that as well. And we will return to that in the questions today. So the first question I'd like to pose to the panel is kind of a broad policy question.
What are the factors that affect gender inclusion based on your own personal experience working with community networks?
What are the factors that affect gender inclusion that community networks reveal that might be hidden otherwise in commercial telecommunication solutions to connectivity more generally? What perspective does that community network lens give us?
So I'm actually going to change up the order a little bit so we don't put everybody in the hot seat in the exact same order. I'm wondering if Josephine, if you can start us off with that question.
>> JOSEPHINE MILIZA: Thank you, Kira. The first thing I would say is we do not know how many are not connected and how many are unconnected. What you find in most of the reporting around connectivity, the data is actually brought in from Telcom. And it is as the number of smart phones that have been brought in. That's what we use to translate it. 70% of our population is connected. Or 80% of our population is connected. And this brings another aspect around the economic dependence in that for most of the areas so in Africa and I'll bring this back to the Kenyan context and Siberia where most of my experiences have been is that women are mostly economically dependent on the men. And so there's gender wage gaps and also financial constraints. So women are not able to afford access in terms of the devices. But also in terms of getting the data to be able to get (?)
Another one is isolation. If you are not able to get access through a mobile phone, then it means that you go to a cyber cafe or computer center to get this. In most of the instances, this spaces are male dominated. And culturally, it's not good for a woman to go into that. Sometimes you are told you have bad manners. The other aspect is the fear of sexual harassment. You get into a space that the cyber cafe sometimes are very tiny. And it's male dominated. So you really don't feel safe to go into that. Also, issues around the household duties that women have to do. And how does it affect if I'm supposed to cook lunch, if I'm supposed to do household chores, then what time do I have to go to the center?
So isolation also plays a role. Then my last point is around a lack of relevant content and platforms. Technology is not neutral and so the purpose it will play. And there are very few women who are participating in the development of technologies and so from just the content that is online also to the application, they are not really relevant toward women or to address women issues and interests. And these, I think, are some of the blind spots we see.
>> MODERATOR: Thanks. Nic, would you like to ‑‑
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: Yes. Adding on, tech is not neutral. One of the things that came through very clearly in the research I did with social and gender impact is this means for Wi‑Fi. So you are trying to manage going to the farm and your housework and nipping into somewhere near to the access point. So Wi‑Fi range and traffic shaping of Wi‑Fi hot spots is ‑‑ has a gendered effect when it comes into context with people's lifestyles.
So if your network engineers are not women, you have a complete blind spot about what range what might actually mean. And that was seen over and over again in my research. It also has this tension with somebody who is living in a rural area and managing these things. And somebody who lives most of their life at 35,000 feet and occasionally drops into a chat with policy people. And this is not a blame of them. This is how we understand through our lived experience. So the other points that I think is community networks can reveal is how we are rightly focusing on the youth. We are also cutting out older women time and again in the communities. The older women were the backbone. They were doing much of the work that wasn't to say the younger women weren't. What was also happening to the older women was not doing a huge amount of the work to maintain the community. But without any decision‑making power or any use of the technology and that has a long‑term sustainability issue. So one consequence of that was sometimes the younger women would say to hell with this patriarch of community network, I'm going to go off and set up a franchise for the local network operator. So this creates a disjunction between older and younger women which in rural communities is quite disastrous.
I'd also like to mention in that point some work who also noticed the invisibility of women's work. So they may not use a network and this can actually affect all kinds of technology activities, not just community networks. They may be doing an awful lot to get people's phones charged and have few of the benefits at the same time. Sadly, very undecided work which is one of our problems that women are noticing these things. Researchers are noticing these things and they continue ‑‑ that research continues to be ignored. So the final thing I'd like to bring up is this business model focus and what meaningful connectivity means with that. Many think connectivity for many people men and women is about family belonging. It might be about income but it's about a whole spectrum of other things that make us human. And these type of things are coming in to ‑‑ becoming more obvious when we realize that our economic growth models are killing us and killing our planet. So this really came into my mind a lot a couple of weeks ago when I'm working with the Calahari. And I'm thinking to myself why the hell am I bringing in plastic into this environment?
What does it really mean to these people coping with a 90‑year drought that will probably kill a lot of them?
What does it mean when we are thinking only in terms of the relationship between connectivity in a financial sense?
And I think community networks can bring out some of those things because you engage with people. It isn't something distant. This is people that you talk to and you see and looking after their children. And it touches something that probably Jane would be accused of as illogical. This isn't illogical. This is human.
>> MODERATOR: Thanks. Sarbani.
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: I would like to say that community networks contribute to connectivity with a meaning.
And I think what we see currently with the APC project that we are currently doing is some of the things that the women were originally dog earlier, men have taken over. Like in the indigenous community with whom I work now currently, used to draw the special type of painting and these are incident paintings that were done only by women. But what has happened is women are sort of not doing it anymore. It's only the men. And the women in the community says men are more enterprising than women. So it has become, what we see in our community networks is that it brings in a lot of meaning to the community.
When we understand it from the women's perspective and for example, in the location where we work has a lot of malnutrition problem. There are malnourished mothers. Because if they watch it on the internet, it is considered not good by the men. So they can't go into certain of these web sites to look into the best practices for breast‑feeding. Complimentary feeding for kids. So what our community network, a connectivity with lots of resources for the women in the community in their own language. Access it at the same time they feel it so they are not dependent on data, they are not dependent on having smart phone. So they can watch that and being facilitated by the health workers, the women health workers in the community. So we do understand it from a perspective that it adds a lot of meaning. The meaning is currently lost in that connectivity journey of ours.
And that is very important. The other thing the community networks can bring in is also on the sustainability part. Because we looked into what women use when they are having the data and what menus it for. And we see that women often use it for homework for guiding the children in the homework or getting message from the teacher in the school. So these are the things that women do.
But it's not that I'm bashing men here. It's just that the women think about it from a sustainable point of view in the sense that how much of electricity?
The women ‑‑ in those villages, the first question the head man of the village asks is how much would electricity be consumed?
How much electricity does it consume?
Who is going to maintain it?
Are you going to come look into it?
But in the villages, it was a male head man's village. So they told okay you are free to put up the tower here in the location. So I think that part is like both meaning and sustainability to the community network and connectivity being meaningful and sustainable.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. Valeria.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: I will try to transmit you the experience of the ones who are doing the work in Latin America. Not only working with women in the communities to understand and talk a little bit more the differential impact the telecommunications have. And inclusion of women in a specific process including regulatory processes. And facilitating processes within the community in order to create the spaces for women to be able to not only strengthen the capacities to manage and part of the decisions in the field. In their experience, what they have found is the main aspects that affect gender inclusion in the communities is the fact that as Nic was pointing out, the disability of women's work and the disregard of the roads that are the basis for many of the initiatives at the community level that are not necessarily technical but sustaining many of the community dynamics and have to do with women assuming different type of roles. Drivers, they are care givers. They play different roles and sometimes are not even aware of the importance of the roles they are playing.
So the result is that those roles are not recognized outside of the community. So the women work in Latin America have identified the lack of spaces outside of the communities as one of the factors that inhibit their full engagement and inclusion in the space. It does not only translate in the possibility to meaningfully devise the interventions at the community level but also be part of decision making that affect the lives and the lives of the communities. And Carla very active in ITU. In those spaces, not only in those spaces but particularly on those spaces. It's clearly manifested the fact technology is associated with masculine factors and with power. So those spaces are not welcoming, are discriminatory for women not only because of the codes that are established and spaces, the language it use the terminology and things that we might think are not important but important at the end of the day. I never forget when Carla was telling us at some point in one of the ITUs tell me the importance when they are getting prepared for having conversations about the regulatory and policy conditions in the region, usually when the moment gets to identify who is going to do the note taking role or exercise, it usually turned to look at women in the room. It is assumed by default, this is the role they have in those type of dialogues assuming they are knowledgeable to contribute to the discussion. So the roles of women are sometimes limited to what is established as the norm or the stereotype.
Other factor has to do with there is still a lot to do in order to break some ideas that put women in the side of being fragile. Not being able to engage in terms with the technology, of what is needed to deploy infra strung tour. But also in terms of understanding what technology is for. So those are some of the factors that have been identified in Latin America and context.
>> JANE COFFIN: When I first started doing projects in other countries when I was living in another country, this was interesting to me. When people heard that I was in technology, Telco networks at that time and other wireless networks immediately thought I was a spy cause God forbid a woman knew something about technology. I got over that fact they thought I was a spy and we kept going forward. The key thing is you have to breakdown these barriers to what people assume you are doing. And I would be disingenuous. We're supporting the women working in these communities. And just being there as a person that will listen to what they have to say and just continuing to push and give them hope and funding or other perspectives on how a community network can change things in their community. One other observation is community networks when you are talking about small towns and I'm from a small town in the United States. People have to just get things done and so often there is sometimes gender will breakdown as far as just getting the job done. Depends on where you are from. Depends on the culture and the community. But it really is as Carla found out and how people perceive you when you come in is that you have to take a step back as someone working with the community around the world and not assume that you know. You've got to listen to what people have to say and take their lead. And you may have to step back. They may want you to step forward. But I think the most important thing is not assuming you know. And bringing in western culture to some places can be very dangerous. And I am from a western culture and you do have to ‑‑ I've learned so much over time. Sometimes I'm oblivious to it. I do have to take a step back.
Sometimes I do have to take a different role. If you are a female coming into a certain type of environment and you push too hard, you will not get what you need done. It's very difficult on occasion to be quiet for me. Or to just try and figure out where you fit. And it's different from tribal cultures to talking to a head person in a village that you do have to be sensitive to it and not change their world. That's not what you want to do. Very delicate.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you to all the panelists for their contribution. To build on those insights which give an overview of some of the important takeaways that we have on issues related to gender, let's talk a little bit about what are the things that will actively allow for inclusion of women, queer, trans, gender diverse people. What have we seen on the ground that actually works in terms of promoting inclusivity?
And maybe let's start at the end with Sarbani. And don't feel like you have to answer every question. But you have the opportunity if you want to.
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: In our community network, with APC project currently on going, we try to work together with the women preserving the local knowledge. So I think that's something the women think that is their domain. That is no more the domain. And the field that they can contribute a lot with and we have set up access points. We have set up raspberry pies and shared content. So the content is like local knowledge or video based local knowledge that is shared within the community by the women.
And I think that also is sort of they also realize they can contribute. The connectivity journey of mine enabling connectivity has been that women say that I don't want to contribute because I don't know what is the technical. I try to tell them that, look, I am also not from technical background. I'm from a demography background. So meaningful when we start attributing connectivity has some meaning in their lives and how they can use it for everyday life. Like, for example, now currently they don't use anything else. So entire day they are focusing on collecting local knowledge. Local knowledge on trees, food, recipes with the different types of vegetables that are available during the monsoon season and various types of art and craft. Everything is local that is there with them, they are contributing to that.
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: Encourage a reflective position. One community network that stood out in my case studies was (?) It's very self-critical. Thought quite a lot about women's inclusion and did very welcome paired to a lot of the other community networks. And had long discussions about that balancing childcare and those type of things. So also the timing of activities, if you are doing capacity building and you are deciding where you are going to put the server or the computer that you are going to look at the nodes, make those places and times accessible to women. Maybe it's going to take you longer if you only do it for an hour every other afternoon. And maybe you are going to have to put in some money for making sure somebody can undertake childcare. But if you don't, you are not going to involve the women.
And I could probably go on for a long time. Change the language about skills and competencies and contributions. You have this idea that here are the social skills. And something that everybody could do if only they had room in their lives. They are Monday tearily more valued in the global economies. Unless we change that language and we start changing that mind set, we just will reproduce them in the network. So let's try to change some of the language around skills and contributions to what we're thinking about.
>> JOSEPHINE MILIZA: I agree. For me in addition to the language, also simplification of the training. So we've seen that in most cases, because of the language around tech, this is not what an engineer does. When it comes to deployment of a network, it can be simplified like based on the process. Is not something that women are not able to do.
In some communities that we see, women that do the roofing. If you go up to do roofing, what stops you from going up and installing equipment?
And seeing more and more women participating in the deployment process of community network also help other women to come up in support. I am engineer. And she does a lot of training and encouraging more women to come into the community network space.
Also from the point from Nic that we isolate the older generation in the spaces, one of the women from community network, she's also one of the founders. Really interested to know how to deploy a network. Seems so difficult. And over the time, she learned how to use a smart phone. Now learning how to use a laptop. When we have gone for the peer exchanges and also in South Africa, we need going out to see the network nodes or the deployment process. I am not interested in doing this. She would come and ask questions around what is this and what does this do?
So coming from a point of connectivity, we are not bringing solutions to them and saying that this is what you should do with it. Let us engage them from the perspective of what are you interested to do to achieve your agenda.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: The mechanism is creating safe spaces for women. Spaces where women can cook and share fears and thoughts. And spaces where bonds can be established and build. And also the more formal level perhaps the establishment of an adoption of principles, some agreement recognized and activate the participation of women, diversity in general. There is something that women participate in the Latin American family and is the fact that when the community networks ‑‑ the chances that those are going to be much more inclusive for women. The diversity increases the chances. That tell us a little bit about the need and importance of identifying women, queer, trans, that are interested or willing to start networks to do so and for them as much as possible. Sometimes the best way to illustrate a situation is by sharing a story. And in this ‑‑ in one of the (?) They have had in the framework of the community, it was there were women and men in the room. And some women express the interest of installing (?) The response of the men in the room was that it was going to take a lot of time to do that. And it was not going to be possible to allow the time to happen. The women participating got together and expressed about having enough space to be able to also explore the exploration of how to engage with technology. They knew how to do it. They wanted to do it and what the result is.
So at night, they decided to do that. They installed and the next day, they were able to share with the rest of the group. I'm sharing this story because also in spaces that sometimes women might feel there is a space and changing this logic about how men engage with technology has to change. Has to change because in those aspects when community networks are based on additional structure or traditional logic, the idea that technology is not a field for women, you will find also that even if there is a community network in place, there is the need to work not only in the framework with the models but in the framework of the alternative model in order to change the logic and the dynamic of power inside the community.
>> JANE COFFIN: Women have to support other women rather than seeing it as a competition. Sometimes women will get a little competitive and I've seen that in my own personal experience. So I think as role models, we have to support each other and come in with neutral as possible and culturally sensitive. Trying to bring in certain perspectives. But actually create an imbalance. Though it's really waiting to see what you could do to be most effective. Is
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. The last question I'm going to ask for now and I'm going to open it up for questions from the floor. I would like all the panelists to focus on a snappy concrete response to this question which is always tough. How do we evaluate connectivity interventions to make sure they consider the advantages and disadvantages in terms of gender. Whether you are working in a community network or network operators, what are the metrics we can use, the methods we can use to ensure we're approaching connectivity through appropriately gendered lens with inclusivity minds. I'll start over here with Jane.
>> JANE COFFIN: The best thing I can say is we have to start doing assessments before we go in. Working with the community, this is something we're going to focus on this year. Got to take a landscape assessment. We may have no clue unless we're taking a look at who is connected and how they are connecting across all of that. And then we go from there and start to create that body of information.
And then we can start to do assessment. We have found we have not done this well. And some of our partners, we need to bring that rigor in.
>> MODERATOR: And that connects clearly with something Josephine said at the beginning about how a lot of the metrics we currently have for measuring what connectivity is on the ground come from big network operators. And so they may not reflect that on the ground.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: I agree. And community networks have been existing and providing connectivity. The lock net project has been running for three years. So what is needed in terms of how it has evolved. So even including the impact that facilitating open spaces for dialogue within the community networks have result on. So I think that's one thing. The research that Mike Jenson conducted in the community networks, I think it provides insight in terms of what is needed to measure the impact of these initiative. And more research is also needed as Jane was pointing out.
>> JOSEPHINE MILIZA: I agree with all the points. For me, the metric also would be how many women are participating and contributing.
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: So to think in the broadest sense of what a contribution actually is and what participation actually is. We tend to think of it in constrained terms.
The other thing I want to pop into the mix is if you stretch ‑‑ if you have enough time, you have to sort of think about that this technology is not some inert thing you are automatically take off a shelf. We have more and more highly open and flexible technologies.
So it's not just a matter of here's a situation we put this in and we measure this out. But the engagement of people in building and adapting the technology to suit their needs is just as vital. Otherwise, we just keep on reproducing the wheel. It's actually their engagement in shaping the technology for themselves that we've got to be aware of too.
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: I completely agree with what Nic says. The community's perspective on connectivity needs to be understood. If you don't understand the needs because I have done this in one project of mine that I have just gone ahead. We have not understood the need of those communities over there. In some communities, they wanted a certain thing like a hospital to be build up with the connectivity so they can be facilitation for tele medicine in that location. But in some villages, they wanted a bank. So we do not understand the technology vibe or the connectivities needed by the community. That is necessary before we actually undertake the journey of connecting some of the communities.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Great. There's room to expand on that. We'll see where the questions take us. Are there any questions from anyone in the room?
Yes. It's the big button.
>> AUDIENCE: Technology. My name is Paul. I'm a supporter of community networks. I believe that the community networks are the only way forward. We want to make a difference and connect communities to date. But community networks, they face an uphill battle in scaling. And this is not, in my opinion, a technology or capacity perspective. But it's regulatory frameworks that often hinder community networks from actually expanding, et cetera.
Other than frameworks, we have a lack of understanding with our governments and in some countries, we have dominant MNOs that force the thought processes. In my country, in particular, our regulator frustrates community networks, hostile towards TV‑wide space, hostile towards PSM. So my question is really how do we deal with this challenge?
How do we educate our regulators to think out of the box?
Because it was mentioned by Jane earlier. We can't do business as usual. We need our regulatory bodies. We need our governments to start thinking and acting differently. We need to encourage the ITU to be more forceful on these discussions. Most accept it will not be the MNOs connecting the communities. But it will be the community networks. If we don't have an environment that enables the community networks to thrive, we're going to miss this opportunity. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Great. Thanks for that question. And I'm going to add on to that. Let's think how we reform regulatory frameworks and have that dialogue while including gender and inclusivity perspective. About how difficult it is to have that conversation at that policy level. And how many forms of invisibility and exclusion operate at that level. Would any of the panelists like to jump in and tackle this question?
>> JANE COFFIN: I've helped create regulators. I'm fully aware and on the regulatory policy side. Can't give up, have to work together, can't (?) And I'm with you. We had a very difficult time at a treaty conference last year and now the tide has changed remarkably from a conversation where we were being accused of supporting pirate networks which I had to sit there with so many governments and say you knew me from before. I was here 20 years ago. How is it that this is something you think that I would be supporting?
But the bottom line is that there has to be this change. And we seem to change slowly. We have to work together with the UN. And Doreen who is the new director of the development sector. There's three sectors within the ITU is a champion of community network. Many of us have been talking to her about the importance of working with the ITU. And we actually have a project with the ITU America's office to do some work. And, again, it cannot be alone. Has to be with all our colleagues with the networks meeting as well. They have the on‑the‑ground experience. We have to get that data out there and amplify it through social media. I've been blasted by governments all my career. You just have to keep at it. You do have to respect their position and you hope they would respect yours. But we're coming at it from a more agile mind set of change. So often, they are going to be defensive. Work with the governments to see that it's possible. Some companies are coming around the bigger companies to change. In other places, it's going to be harder.
So universal service is changing. There's a great report that has a gender focus about universal service. And if you want to talk about universal service, happy to do that but it's changing. Latin America has some of the best examples. The regulator is working with one of my colleagues from Pakistan. Universal service funding for a community network from a small island country that hadn't thought about this five years ago. They are willing because they trust us and trust some of the other partners. We help them with internet exchange point. We have to take that trust neutrality and see what we can build on that. And A perform C has a great training program they are working on. I'm not going to speak to that. I think you should talk to APC about what they are doing.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: I think that obviously I think we have to keep insisting in the fact that regulation should be done for these large national operators. And I think part of the solution also passes for providing a specific solution and specific measures that can be taken to address the aspects of regulatory field like licensing, taxing, access to spectrum and so on to provide specific solutions and to show those solutions are not going to replace the commercial model but the ideas that we are trying to move forward goes towards creating an environment in which the differing model can consist in a way that may be legal. Just shocking to hear some some of the community networks put the label. It's the same that happened with the community radio and media that they were for many decades put in this legality. So we have to combat that by providing valuable solutions and proven that it is possible for different models to co‑exist in a way that allows them to flourish and be sustainable and provide specific solutions depending on the need.
>> MODERATOR: Anyone from the other side would like to weigh in?
Okay. I think there is another question from online.
>> MODERATOR: Yes. Comment on gender inclusion. It is better to provide that and practical skills for gender inclusion as opposed to just training on site deployments and installations. Women both young and old are interested in community networks and developing new local content so training is very paramount in enabling inclusion also of disabled people based on our experience on ISOC. Women also can play important role in the community networks but they need mentoring to ease entire experience and integration.
>> MODERATOR: Okay.
It's an important intervention. Would anybody like to respond to that?
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: On the mentoring aspect and I think Jane mentioned earlier about the solidarity aspect. So it's not just women in the villages and in the townships, it's all of us at all levels. And finding a mode that balance what the participant said. So training mentorship balanced with theory and critique and finding a middle ground where both feminists critique, for instance and colonial critique can work together with solidarity across all marginalized groups.
Not an easy thing. But something to aspire to.
>> MODERATOR: Over here. Great.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. Co‑founder from Hadera. We developed digital solutions for sustainable development. And we're experts in impact monitoring at household level. And we have encountered a big, big challenge in the fact that people, households, communities exist in two levels in real life and in the digital life. And those that do not exist in the digital life should become visible. And this is what the reports have named data gap. Data gap between that what we know from different tools to collect information. And that actually happened locally. So in regards to the data gap, what do you believe is realistic approach to minimize this big challenge?
>> JANE COFFIN: I'm going to wander into something I'm not an expert in but I've heard more about. Tribal communities are highly sensitive to data gathering. It's been used against them. So you'd have to really talk to tribal authorities more. If you are looking at a broader scope of assessment because it could harm the communities you want to document. So that's the best I can do. There's a lot of care you have to take when you are trying to do an assessment like that.
>> MODERATOR: Does anyone have the panel have insights about what works?
>> AUDIENCE: I have a question about the (?) Because in Georgia, we have mostly people that are older than 60‑65 sometimes as they have real challenges not related to gender. Do you have experience how we can ‑‑ what can we do with these people to help them to stay online?
>> MODERATOR: So that taps into some of the conversations about age that came up earlier. Would anyone like to talk about getting people online?
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: Young women as well as older women, mostly older women, they come on to share their local knowledge. The knowledge that they have on the various things in the community. They share that knowledge in the form of audio and video. It's mostly to do with audio. Their hands shake when taking a video. They usually are trained for audio. So that they can ask and on the phone we ask them to collect audio. Or they themselves say about the various things that the community has. So that's how the women are there. But it's all offline. Because these are indigenous communities. Certain part of the knowledge they don't want to go on to the internet. They want it to be within the community and collect as much as possible. And some part of it can go into the internet. We seek their permission what part of it should go into the internet and what shall remain within the community. So that's it.
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: So generally, data around the world suggests that the quick fix to that is staying in touch with your kids. Your migrant family and the more fun that you can make, the better. So staying in touch with people you love is the biggest driver for older populations.
But there's also an issue and I think it touches a little bit of the data gap as well. Which is how you balance the support by the kids. So if your kids live in the home, many places people especially older women were becoming very isolated because the younger person that helped them maintain contact with their migrant husband was ill and all of a sudden they had no ability to communicate with the husband and this happened in the few communities. I heard many stories about this. So the relationship between relying on your younger family members and dependency on them for your banking for buying your airtime for even communicating with your own loved ones is a sensitivity we have to bear in mind.
>> MODERATOR: I think also on the theme of data gaps.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: In response to the data related question, I think one of the approaches in the lenses that we are looking at the community networks, is the right space approach. And in relation to data, I think that always but in particular in the context of community networks, it is really important to adopt this approach and to look at that through the lens of human rights. Because obviously community networks has a lot to do with exercising the right of self‑determination. In whatever the purpose for the data collection and analysis is whether it is with the research purposes or the other purposes, it is really important to keep in mind what is the purpose of using the date. Principles of necessity and so I think have to apply to this context. And be mindful that the context in which community networks exist is also a context that many of us believe is going to strengthen the exercise of human rights. And for the communities being able to exercise control. And to control the data that is garden heed around ‑‑ garnered around existence and consent whatever use is going to be made.
>> MODERATOR: So I know that we have a couple more questions in the audience but I'm afraid we're getting very close to the end of the session now. And I'm just going to close with one final question. Panelists really quickly. Raise your hand if you will be sticking around for at least the rest of today so people can find you if they'd like to ask questions. Everyone. That's great. Come and find us later if you have outstanding questions.
But a one-sentence response from each panelist on relates to that tension that I discussed earlier at the very beginning of the panel between the work that we all do in grass roots communities in terms of organizing and network building. And the work that we have to do at the policy level in order to ensure that community networks can actually thrive and that individual communities that don't have connectivity can get online on their own terms. And so what I'd like us to do is each kind of summarize one thing that you would like to say to community networks or community network movement. And one thing you'd like to say to the broader community of network operators and other actors in the space in general about inclusivity. So the community level and the broader multi national level. And let's start down here.
>> SARBANI BANERJEE BELUR: So I would like to say that at the community level, this should happen that the telecom operators should enable the connectivity over there. For example, in our villages, what we see is that standing there for two and‑a‑half years, three years. And there is no connectivity over there. So I think just make it accessible to the people over there. And they can take the connectivity to the village. You don't even have to take it to the village and enable franchise model for the local ISB and enables it to the last. That is something the community network would need.
>> NICOLA BIDWELL: To community networks, technology can be changed and you can change it. It can be about you that drives that change. And to policy makers, unsettle your goal standards of assessing impact. If you want to carry on having one-page elevator pictures, you will carry ongoing in elevators.
>> JOSEPHINE MILIZA: To grass roots. Spaces where women can freely express themselves, learn and also contribute at the bigger level, national and global level. The capacity of grass roots communities to pace and contribute.
>> VALERIA BETANCOURT: The community networks to keep creating spaces for women to express themselves to be part of the solution in a meaningful integral way. And for regulators to understand that we are not going to be able to achieve development goals without really changing the mind set and the logic for which regulatory and policy solutions are received. We need really a change. Change in the logic.
>> JANE COFFIN: I think I'd say the community networks. There are many of us here that can provide connections to each other. It's the human networks. To policy makers and the colleagues, we'd work on this together. There are ways to make this work.
>> MODERATOR: Wonderful. On that note, a huge thank you to our great panelists in the session and thank you to all of you for attending and listening. And let's continue the conversation after this. Thanks very much.
[ Applause ]
[ End session ]