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


Round Table - 90 Min


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: 


Hudon Isabelle, Government, 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)


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 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. ​

Session Content: 

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.


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.

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. 

Discussion Facilitation: 

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.

Onsite Moderator: 
Online Moderator: 

IGF 2018 Pre-Session Synthesis & Short Report Template

Pre-Session Synthesis Due: 2 November 2018

Short Report Due: Within 12 hours of when session is held


[sample report here]




- 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:


- 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: Bishaka Datta, Point of View, Civil Society, Asia Pacific Group, Female

Speaker 3: Noha Ashraf, Dell, Technical Community, Female

Speaker 3: 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


- Theme (as listed here): Human Rights, Gender & Youth


- Subtheme (as listed here):  DEMOCRACY


- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]

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 can 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 can attract women in STEM fields and teach them how to code to have more women involved in the 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. [150 words] Examples: There was broad support for the view that…; Many [or some] indicated that…; Some supported XX, while others noted YY…; No agreement…


To achieve digital inclusion and gender diversity on the Internet, participants agree that women face similar challenges across the world. To improve their online presence and participation, it goes from their equal access to day to day use of Internet to their equal representation on corporate boards of international tech companies.


The cyberspace needs to become more inclusive and safe. Especially political participation of women is prevented by hate speech and online harassment.


Some participants point out the role of civil society but also the responsibility of corporate platforms to protect women. Others underline the efficiency of men committing themselves to gender diversity at a political or corporate level. The actions of the French movement #JamaisSansElles has shown good results already in this field.


Education is a key issue, so welcoming young girls in STEM and Tech programmes should be a priority.


A Special attention is drawn to gender biases in the IA, pointing out the risk of technologies built only by and for men.



- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]


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


Schools that enable low-income girls and minorities to access education in the field of new technologies and coding should be encouraged.


To better accommodate girls and young women, we must ensure a benevolent welcome. Young girls do not like 100% male places. If we think of including them, and reserve them a place, then they will feel more welcome and they will come.

Young women in the tech field might be engaged on hands-on type initiatives, like hackathons, and supported by mentorship at university and in corporations.


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.


Mentorship is also needed for young boys, to change their mind set and be more respectful with girls.



- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]


The private sector, especially platforms, should take responsibility and make Human Impact Assessments to measure how hate speech affects women. They should make a commitment to gender diversity.


Dedicated organisations might be created to defend women online and create a protective gear around them and a safer online environment.


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


- Please estimate the total number of participants.

Nombre de participants : 60

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.

Women : 43

Men : 17

- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]

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 all over the world to promote digital inclusion and gender diversity.


Session Time: 
Monday, 12 November, 2018 - 10:40 to 12:10
Salle VIII

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678