The 21st century has seen an unprecedented increase in the percentage of internet users around the world. 27.5% of people in Asia are now internet users, in Latin America and the Caribbean it’s 42.9% and the increase in internet users from 2000 to 2012 has been highest in the African continent, with an approximate 3,606.7% increase. Over 1.11 billion Facebook users communicate across borders every day. At least one-half of the world’s population has a mobile phone, and the number is increasing every day. Texting is the number one most used data service in the world, with 8.6 trillion text messages sent worldwide in 2012. In developing countries, two in three people have mobile phone subscriptions. Interestingly, the most remarkable innovations that have come from the use of mobile phones were where internet coverage was poor.
While it is doubtless that current communication technology has a lot to offer any activist or politician, it may be of particular value for women in politics since mobile phones, the internet and social media channels have the potential to, not only serve as an equalizer for women politicians and activists, but to also increase their political participation. Often discriminated against in traditional media, women have started going around traditional communication outlets, such as television and radio, to adopt more direct and interactive communication tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, SMS, promotional videos, podcasts, and blogs, which have proved very effective, eliminating the use of intermediaries in communication and allowing the women themselves to be ‘the news makers’.
Women members of parliament are increasingly using these different technology platforms during their political campaigns and careers to generate dialogue with their constituencies as elected representatives. Political leaders are catching on to the crowd sourcing possibilities that these technologies offer.
Blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been created for many women politicians and activists. Additionally, text messages are used to alert journalists and to create viral campaigns during public rallies, televised debates and press conferences. YouTube videos are also supplementing paid television spots for political messages and breaking dependency on mainstream media sources. Political activists are using these social networks to personally organize events and disseminate information on public policy issues and communication between individual citizens and their government is increasing through online petitions, discussion forums and platforms.
This is a brief summary of the three presentations:
Oyungerel Tsedevdamba is Member of Parliament in Mongolia; Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism and President of the Democratic Women’s Union of Mongolia. Oyungerel shared with us the following onMongolia’s experience in increasing women’s visibility in Parliament using Internet and Social Media:
- In 2010 there were no women in parliament and no quotas were set so women, from 3 political parties, came together and headed a “women can” campaign to get women in parliament through a memorandum of collaboration.
- They began by asking other women to google themselves to see how they are coming up online as well as other high-level politicians to draw their attentionto the fact that they weren’t visible online which created an incentive to start using social media and contacting people through the internet.
- A code of conduct were developed between women establishing that they do not slander other women online.
- As a result of the one year campaign, a 20% quota for women was adopted and according to a national poll 78% of the female population would vote for women
- Women came together and supported each other to increase their online visibility and understand the resources available to women
- After establishing a strong concensus among women to support all other women in politics, the campaign reached out to men.
Our second presenter was Danya Bashir, a Libyan, author, activist and the Executive Director for the Middle East and North Africa of Social Media for Change which is an innovative NGO working to utilize social media to create positive democratic change. Danya shared her experience on how social media platforms are used to create positive democratic change in the MENA region.
- During Gadaffi’s regime Libya was a black hole in terms of social media censorship and repression was high.
- Social media is now widely used but it’s a double-edged sword.
- Libya does not have a high penetration of social media users but the message does get spread around quickly through word of mouth.
- People are understanding that it is their right to be part of the community.
- Connecting people online and knowledge-sharing tool have made women more independent and helped them assert themselves as important members in society.
And our third presentation was given by Susan Kemp who is a senior program officer at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) where she works on designing, implementing and evaluating programs that promote women's political participation. Susan spoke about the NDI “Women and Technology” Survey.
- NDI works to promote the political participation of women by engaging women in legislatures, political parties and civil society and by engaging men regarding the importance of women’s participation.
- There are real benefits to using technology and social media to promote women’s political participation. For example, women are using technology to convey messages, develop networks, increase visibility, and reach a broad audience at a low cost.
- There are also challenges to be aware of—particularly accessibility and safety issues. Research from Intel indicates that the gender gap in Internet usage is nearly 25% globally, and this figure is higher in certain regions, such as Africa (43%), the Middle East (24%), and South Asia (37%). Societal constraints and limited political space can impact physical and virtual security for women.
- NDI is conducting a survey to better understand how women in politics use ICTs for personal and political purposes. The survey explores access, technology usage and preferences, and barriers to technology usage, among other areas. The purpose of the research is to develop recommendations so that future programs are tailored to women’s needs, interests and resources.
Regardless of whether you were able to participate in the webinar or not, we encourage to post your questions and stories here, especially if they were not answered during the webinar.
For more inspiring stories on the use of ICTs to empower women in politics visit our Special Feature.