Mothers of the Internet
An often frail point of our portrayals of the earliest and current Internet pioneers resides in who we believe to be the main drivers of the Internet. Often we turn to familiar faces, “fathers” and “godfathers” of this precious and essential resource, but when we look closer we see that the Internet grew with the contributions of women and men alike, and from around the world--not just from the United States alone.
This article presents the faces, words, and spirits of the women who have been foundational to the development of the Internet in Africa. Their experience ranges from law enforcement, policy and hands-on engineering, and ICT development, but what stands true of all of them is how important their contribution was and is to our lives on the Internet.
Early Pioneers in Africa1. Grace Githaiga is currently co-convener of the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), which is a multi-stakeholder forum for people and institutions interested in ICT policy and regulation.
She sits in the advisory board of the global forum on cyber expertise, an initiative that brings together over 50 organizations and states to work together on practical initiatives to strengthen cybersecurity, fight cybercrime, protect online data and support e-governance.
She is also an advisory board member of the Global Partners Digital cyber capacity building program, which is tasked with helping to guide the development of a training curriculum for civil society. In addition, in 2015, she was a member of the civil society advisory board of the Global Conference on Cyberspace which took place at the Hague.
Grace was an ICANN fellow in Costa Rica (ICANN 43) and in Beijing China (ICANN 47). She went on to serve as EC for Africa at NCUC for three years from 2014-2016. She continues to be active in ICANN.
Grace is also a mentor to many ICANN Fellows.
Alice Munyua has a strong background and extensive experience in multi-stakeholder ICT policy, regulation and Internet governance.
She has successfully brought together various stakeholders in innovative, collaboration-based approaches to ICT policy and regulatory development and implementation at national, regional and international levels.
Alice is the founder of the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) an interdependent multi-stakeholder platform for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation. The network has been instrumental in Kenya’s ICT policy formulation and implementation. She convened and chaired the Kenya and East Africa IGFs for five years, and also organised and chaired the global UN Internet Governance Forum held in Nairobi in 2011.
Alice chaired the board of directors of the Kenya Information Network Centre (KeNIC) for two years and served as vice chair of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) for two years.
Alice is currently leading the AUC and ZACR DotAfrica Governmental Reserve Name List process and represents the AUC on the GAC.3. Major General TC Mosikili is a Major General of Crime Detection in South Africa. She has over 27 years of experience, and currently investigates crimes pertaining to family violence, child protection and sexual offences. She is a strong advocate for Child Online Protection.
The Major General was also a panelist/speaker at the first ICANN Capacity Building Workshop for African GAC Members in Nairobi 2017, and attended ICANN 58 in Copenhagen with the GAC.
5. Gao Mosweu, Miss Gaongalelwe-Gaolaolwe P. Mosweu is the Vice President of the Botswana Information Technology Society, which is a voluntary NGO that advocates for ICT developments reaching the average Motswana. When she is not defending this cause, “Gao” runs an up and coming business consultancy firm called Maze Meadows Consulting. (www.mazemeadows.com).
She is an advocate for local content and has taken part in initiatives that promote the presence of local content online with major technology giants. She mentors many young people especially those young women desiring to venture into STEM careers, on reaching out for their dreams.
She currently sits on the ICANN Fellowship Selection Committee and is a member of the ICANN Competition, Consumer Choice and Consumer Trust Review Team. She has also previously sat on Technical Advisory Committee to Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) on the .BW domain as Vice Chair & headed its sub-committee responsible for Public Awareness.
Nextgen of Women in IG in Africa
The Nextgen or ‘Next Generation’ of women in Internet Governance highlight women who have “stood on the shoulders” of these “giants”, the Mothers of the Internet. As the next generation of experts, their work reflects a diversity of subjects--including the ability to discuss the role of gender within Internet governance itself. Their work has adapted to the needs of now--whether that’s exploring the role of mobile technology, techniques for preserving the safety children online, or creating a dialogue and space for the youth of Internet governance to convene, these women are working in tandem with one another, alongside each other, improving the Internet wherever they can.
1.Yolanda Mlonzi (South Africa) is the deputy secretary of Internet Society Gauteng and she holds a Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) in Media studies from the University of Witwatersrand where she also wrote an academic paper on communications surveillance in constitutional democracies which is soon to be published. In 2015, Yolanda was chosen to be a Google Policy Fellow (Africa), and it was through this fellowship that she gained a deeper understanding of pertinent issues related to Internet governance. Subsequently, she worked for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) assisting with their policy work across the African continent. She is a graduate of the 2015 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) and she is also a blogger. She has participated in various Internet governance meetings as a speaker, organiser or as the communications manager. She was selected as an Internet Society Ambassador in 2016 to the global Internet governance forum. Currently, Yolanda is working towards establishing a youth coalition in South Africa together with other young emerging leaders in IG in South Africa. Her key interests are ICTs for development (ICT4D), multistakeholderism, gender issues, and human rights and the Internet and youth engagement.
2. Chenai Chair Chenai’s interest in the ICT sector developed from learning of mobiles for development as she wrote her master’s thesis on how women made use of mobile phones to better themselves and their informal businesses in 2014. Since then, Chenai, has worked as a researcher and recently communication and evaluations advisor at Research ICT Africa.
Chenai focuses on issues of access and use and related policy development. Her areas of research include urban poor, gendered issues of access and Internet governance. Chenai has participated in global meetings on Internet governance which ICANN, IGF-national, regional and global and CIPESA Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa. She has also participated in global events from a capacity building perspective with most recently being part of the facilitating team for the 4th African School of Internet Governance in 2016 and an Internet governance training workshop in Namibia. Chenai was a NextGen member for ICANN55 in Marrakech, Morocco.
3. Sarah Kiden is the Head of Systems at Uganda Christian University. She loves to learn, build and support systems and networks. She has been involved in coordinating capacity building initiatives for Universities and Research Institutions in Uganda under the Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU).
Sarah is the African Regional At-Large Organization (AFRALO) Secretary in the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) structure of ICANN. She joined the ICANN community as a fellow for the ICANN 47 meeting in Durban, South Africa, though her entry into Internet Governance was through DiploFoundation. She also volunteers with the Internet Society Uganda Chapter as the Secretary General.
She recently co-founded DigiWave Africa, a non-profit organization which supports the safe and responsible use of technology for youth and children. Sarah holds an MSc in Information Systems and BSc in Information Technology.
4. Evelyn Namara is the Founder and CTO of !nnovate Uganda, a technology start-up implementing technology innovations for sustainable development. Their flagship product, an electronic voucher system that works on mobile phones is currently being implemented by Mercycorps in different programs including USAID and WFP. Namara is passionate about Technology for Development (ICT4D), Youth and Entrepreneurship as well as empowering women in technology. Namara is a global ambassador for iamtheCODE an African-led global movement aiming at enabling 1 million women and girl coders by 2030, she also seats on the executive board for Africa Civil Society for the Information Society (ACSIS) - a pan-African network set-up to promote an Inclusive Information Society in Africa. Namara was an ICANN58 Fellow in Copenhagen, Denmark.
5. Ines Hfaiedh is a Tunisian teacher specialized in ICT Implementation in Education. She was recently a Fulbright Teaching Assistant at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. and an Internet Policy Analyst with IGMENA under the HIVOS Foundation. Hfaiedh is also an active member in ISOC Tunisia Chapter and an ABWEB Ambassador.
Hfaiedh has been elected as Executive Committee Representative of Africa in the Non-Commercial Users Constituency within ICANN. She first joined NCUC following ICANN 55, which was her first experience as a Fellow and had the chance to be back as a Coach for ICANN 57, ICANN 58 and also on the coming ICANN 59. She is also a member in the Middle East and Adjoining Countries Strategy Working Group (MEAC WG).
An ICANN, ISOC and Arab IGF Fellow, Hfaiedh was a Guest Speaker at the Fourth Edition of the Arab IGF, the International Symposium on ICTs, the Tunisia TESOL National Conference and a delegate representing Tunisia at the MATE International Conference in Morocco. The European Educational Tool Portal has shared her tool of 'Interactive ICT Implementation in Formal and Informal Learning' and selected it for the International Tool Fair in Budapest, Hungary. She also compiled ICT-enhanced lesson plans into a pedagogical paper to benefit Tunisian teachers.
Ines Hfaiedh was a guest speaker at three workshops at the last Global IGF in Guadalajara, Mexico and a guest at the World Bank Group Youth Summit on “Rethinking Education for the next Millennium” in Washington DC.
6. Florence Toffa is a community-oriented and passionate technologist. She is currently the director of Mobile Web Ghana. Mobile Web Ghana is technology entrepreneurship hub that empowers the youth and organizations to develop mobile & web apps, and data solutions to solve local problems. The organization primarily focuses on technology capacity building and development of mobile, web and data solution for youth and other organizations.
She has extensive experience in technology entrepreneurship and ICT4 Development projects. She believes with the right technology and human capacity we can solve most of Africa’s problems and make the continent a better place to live in. She is community development focused and passionate about empowering girls to have a better future using technology.
7. Tess Wandia is a Researcher at iHub Nairobi where she has been invaluable in conceptualising and implementing various aspects of research. In her research work she has been involved in enabling entrepreneurs, consortiums and organisations both local and international access critical market insights.
In her research work at the iHub, Tess has grown an interest in Internet Freedom especially for minority populations and women in particular where she is currently trying to understand perceptions of Internet freedom for these groups and working on ways to enhance their experiences online.
Her recent and current research spans the areas of Governance, Policy, Internet and Entrepreneurship in Kenya.
She is also a member of the DIODE Network where she is a core researcher. Tess is also greatly interested in Governance, Policy and Women in Technology where she shares her thoughts periodically online.
8. Nomsa Mlambo is a member of the Next Gen program for ICANN59. Nomsa is an LLB graduate from the University of Cape Town and has a keen interest in access to justice. Nomsa currently lives in Johannesburg where she works with youth at African Leadership Academy to develop the next generation of African leaders. Nomsa was first introduced to the field of internet governance as a Youth at IGF Fellow, where she attended the 2016 Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico. From there, Nomsa’s passion to ensure good governance in her own country has only grown. Nomsa aspires to enter into policy-making in Zimbabwe where she hopes to address issues relating to local content and access to internet in remote communities. As a Next Gen at ICANN, Nomsa is currently exploring the effect of local domain names will have on internet usage, particularly looking at Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) and the effect they have had on internet usage thus far. Her presentation for ICANN59 on IDNs can be viewed here.
In March 2017, Nomsa embarked on a research field trip to Uganda where she did research on internet governance in Uganda. She was drawn to Uganda because it is one of the leading African countries with regards to mobile technology and digital solutions. Her blog that documents some of the insights gained in Uganda can be found here.
Nomsa’s long term vision includes travelling the continent and discovering innovative solutions to complex problems in communities, whilst advocating for national policies that encourage connectivity and access to internet.
When not researching internet governance, Nomsa runs an Event Planning business called Siyazi Events, and edits blogs and academic writings. Nomsa enjoys singing and reading African literature and is a member of the Brightest Young Minds Network and the Golden Key Honour Society.
9. Sandi Chimpala is a technology blogger and gadget analyst for TechTrends Zambia and writes about the latest tech in Zambia as well as products/innovations by mobile operators, other telcos and startups. She is also a digital media specialist with many years experience in building social media reputations of both businesses and individuals.
She has been involved in the IG space including the Lusaka Internet Forum (2017), Stockholm Internet Forum (2017), Samsung Africa Forum - Turkey and South Africa (2015-2017), SLUSH - Helsinki, Finland and Forum on BioTech, Lilongwe, Malawi (2015).
Currently she is involved with other stakeholder groups in Zambia in the creation of a National IGF.
10. Dora Boamah Mawutor is the Manager for the Internet Freedom Programme of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), a regional non-governmental and non-profit organisation which is based in Accra, Ghana.
Dora has led in the setting up of the Civil Society Coalition on Internet Freedom in both Ghana and Liberia. She is an alumni of the 2014 and 2015 Africa School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) and has participated in various Internet Governance forums both in the West African Region, Africa and the Global IGF
11. Martha Chilongoshi is a Zambian journalist and proactive communication for development enthusiast with specific interest in mainstreaming the gender dimensions of ICTs and technology and its impact on the functioning of society. Based on the conviction that ICTs are neutral in their function but require further probing on whether they are implemented and utilized with a gendered perspective, Martha’s work is focused on seeing to it that ICTs and more specifically the internet is utilized and treated equitably between men and women because the environments and communities in which ICTs are being introduced and implemented in across Africa, are still prone to gender imbalances and inequalities that exist offline and later manifest through online users.
Martha blogs on women-focused content on her online platform Revolt Africa to streamline the importance of having deliberate spaces and platforms that amplify women’s voices and profile their work and experiences in today’s information society using the internet, which provides an alternative channel of communication in an era where women’s voices are often been absent in key spaces. She aspires to see the development of deliberate policies and strategies in Zambia and beyond that address issues of Human Rights and Online Security, while promoting equitable access to internet resources. More importantly streamline the importance of developing policies and strategies that ensure the ICT sector is informed by a gender perspective to effectively promote equality and equity.
Martha has participated in the IG space as a Panelist/Speaker at both the Forum on Internet Freedom In Africa (FIFA16) held in Kampala, Uganda organised by CIPESA, the Lusaka Internet Forum (LIF17) held in Lusaka, Zambia and various forums in the region.