This is a transcript from a series of video interviews designed to assess major issues tied to the diffusion of the internet. It is the record of one of many interviews conducted in 2006 with international internet stakeholders from 18 different nations at the world’s first Internet Governance Forum in Athens, Greece. The Athens IGF was the first of five annual global events administrated by the UN to focus on discussion of the overarching issues tied to the future of information and communications technologies. More than 1,200 participants shared information, experiences and best practices.
Bria McElroy – Director of International Relations at the Center for Women and Information Technology, University of Maryland, USA. Coordinates initiatives to attract more young women to information technology. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Q: Who are you with and why are you at IGF?
A: I’m with the Center for Women and Information Technology and we’re based out of the University of Maryland–Baltimore County, and I’m here because we’ve been doing a lot of global outreach. We do things at the local level, but we do a lot of international work, too, so just promoting, advocating for women and gender issues at this high level of policy-making here and making sure that women’s considerations are taken into account and kind of self-promoting our events that are coming up. We have an event next week in Paris and to bring together some of these international thinkers around gender and IT. We wanted to make people aware of that.
Q: Why is it important that women be represented?
A: It’s hugely important just for a diversity factor and lots of different specific issues. Technology is being developed. If women’s use of technology and how women use it – to pick up a camera and use it – what they’re using it for, the kind of information they can gain from it can’t always be – their points aren’t always received – men just can’t always describe what women need in their technology. So there’s that. And [the genders’ uses of technologies are] different at different levels. In the United States, at the very developed level, we’ve having a huge shortage of women in IT. And some developed countries like India and Eastern European countries aren’t having as much of a problem. And in developing countries there’s a huge problem, because they’re just coming in at the ground level and we need to make sure that women aren’t excluded from the Internet. But it’s not even really just the Internet there, you know, all of the ICTs that they use – phones and radios and all of those forms of communication – because they could be bowled right over.
Q: What is the next step after raising awareness? How do you get women involved?
A: The average woman, I mean, there are women’s advocacy groups, women’s groups that are working, non-profits, non-government organizations. So, we hear a lot through them. But there are a lot of women involved at the United Nations level, at the European Commission level, at those kinds of levels where it’s just that voices need to be heard.
Q: What is your greatest hope for the future of the Internet?
A: I think that it will be very inclusive. I know we’re here talking about Internet governance today, but I think it’s important to have a diversity of perspectives. And when we’re considering how we’re going to govern the Internet, how we’re going to bring access to people in remote areas, you know, what people’s rights are, and certainly women’s rights. In a lot of countries you’re just fighting for women’s rights in general, so I hope that it would be inclusive and diverse and take into account everyone’s perspectives.
Q: What is your greatest fear for the future of the Internet?
A: For the Internet, well ICTs in general, I know at our local level, our big fear is just that we’re going to have a shortage of people involved in ICT or IT in general, women and men. So I guess the biggest fear is that a lot of countries are just going to lose their competitive edge if they don’t involve all their people.
This video transcript is offered for use under a Creative Commons Noncommercial License allowing no derivative works. Executive producers, Erin Barnett and Janna Quitney Anderson; chief engineer, Bryan Baker; videographers, Barnett and Baker; editor, Barnett.