AruWSIG: Arusha Women School of Internet Governance

Arusha Women School of Internet Governance (AruWSIG) in Tanzania

Arusha,Tanzania: The first ever Arusha Women’s School of InternetGovernance (AruWSIG) took place on the 27th and 28th ofApril 2018 at Arusha Accountancy Institute (AAI). The event was organized byDigital Grassroots Tanzania country coordinator, Rebecca Ryakitimbo. DigitalGrassroots President, Esther Mwema, travelled from Zambia to host a session atthe maiden event that hosted 90 youth participants in Arusha, Tanzania.

Ms. Ryakitimbo is co-founder of Techchix Tanzaniawhich organized the event in conjunction with the Center for Youth Empowermentand Leadership (Kenya) with support from Internet Society Tanzania Chapter,ICANN, ICANNwiki, dotAfrica, SIGediathon, Localization Lab, and DigitalGrassroots. The young participants hailed from Arusha Accountancy Institution,Makumira, and Arusha Technical. The success of the first Arusha Women School ofInternet Governance followed our first ever Kenya Youth Convening on Internet Governance in Nairobi in the same month.

Part of the participants at Arusha Women School of Internet Governance


AruWSIG kicked off on the 27th of Aprilwith opening remarks from AAI representative Ms. Pamela Chogo. The firstsession was by Mr. Boniface Witaba of ICANNswahili who introduced InternetGovernance (IG) and presented on classifications of IG issues and IG matters.Ms. Sylvia Kanari from Hivos gave a poignant presentation on Barriers to womenparticipation on internet governance. Mr. Matogoro Jhabera of Internet SocietyKenya presented about Use of TV whitespace for rural development.

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Ms. Sylvia Kanari giving a presentation of barriers of women participation in Internet Governance.

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Participants during AruWSIG

Digital Grassroots President and a participant during the Arusha Women School of Internet Governance

Digital Grassroots President, Ms. Esther Mwema,gave a presentation on Building networks as youth in internet Governance andgot the participants right into networking by first allowing them to identifytheir stakeholder group in Internet Governance, brainstorming in breakoutsessions, and after building connections on how they can build wirelessnetworks to improve internet accessibility in their regions. Ms. RebeccaRyakitimbo then presented Internet Governance Engagement Opportunities beforeMrs. Fatima Walidy, of Techchix organizing committee, wrapped up the session.


Thesecond day of the Arusha Women School of Internet Governance was dedicated tothe Women SIG ediathon by ISOC Tanzania Chapter. The opening session was the ‘ICANNSWAHILI OUTREACH & TRANSLATION WORKSHOP.’  The first session was an Introduction to ICANNWiki and navigating the sitefollowed by a second session on Copyright issues, Ethical & ResponsibleICANNWiki publishing. 

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Ediathon in progress at Arusha Women School of Internet Governance
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Mr. Boniface and Ms. Ryakitimbo moderating the ediathon

The second days sessions were led by Mr. Boniface Witaba and Ms. RebeccaRyakitimbo. The afternoon was dedicated to the ISOC Women SIG ediathon and top participantswere awarded prizes.

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Top winners of the ediathon

The School of Internet Governance has heralded more youth in Tanzania to learn about Internet Governance and some are ready to become Digital Grassroots Ambassadors in Cohort 2 of our program.

AruWSIG organizing team at surprise birthday party and farewell dinner.

And what better way to end two days of the School of Internet Governance than with Pizza over  a surprise birthday party of Mrs. Walidy, one of the Techchix organizers?

To learn more about Arusha Women School of Internet Governance and see more photos click here.

I Want To Do That Too!

On October 27 of 2019, our President Esther Mwema and Vice President Uffa Modey hosted the session “I Want To Do That Too!” at 2019 MoxFest. The session participants created a collectively written open letter for digital inclusion in modern age technology letter.

Read the full letter below:

“Hello Readers!

We are the attendees of “I Want To Do That Too!” session in the Digital Inclusion space of 2019 Annual Mozilla Festival. Our goal for inclusion in modern technology is yours as well and we invite you to join us in raising awareness on the challenges surrounding the use of new and emerging technology for people from minority groups.

A lack of inclusivity creates a digital divide which silences voices and prevents collective action on behalf of the under-represented group. A lack of access also contributes to limited opportunity in education or jobs. Without a collection of diverse voices, opportunities for innovation are stymied, which ultimately reduces the rate of socioeconomic development for all.

We want to be included; we don’t want our age, gender, sex, race, physical disability and social economic status to limit us from accessing digital services. This experience of inclusion in our present day can be limited in circumstances such as disability or social economic costs, any form of social discrimination online and services that are only available in certain regions and not others.

Technology must not be used to profile us, discriminate or spy on us. We want to have autonomy of technology so that we are not just consumers but also owners, inventors and creators. We want to be able to understand technologies and content so it should be in a language that we speak and understand. We want to have affordable access to devices and the Internet so that we can also benefit from being part of the digital world.

We call on all Internet stakeholders to explore avenues for promoting inclusion in digital technology. Key issues for review should include cost of internet connectivity, affordability of smart devices and equity and justice for human rights online. There should be transparency and accountability in technology design. Users should be able to trust that their interests are represented during policy development for ICT.

We hope you keep the fight going!”

Learn more about this letter here

Community Leaders for Internet Health | an Open Leaders X program

Esther Mwema (@hadassahlouis) and Uffa Modey (@Fafa416) are passionate about engaging youth in internet problems. They founded Digital Grassroots in 2017, and now they’re adding an open leadership program to their grassroots efforts. Over the past few months, Esther and Uffa have been working to launch Community Leaders for Internet Health during Open Leaders X.

I interviewed Esther and Uffa to learn more about Community Leaders for Internet Health and how you can contribute to the work.

What is Community Leaders for Internet Health?

Community Leaders for Internet Health will spotlight internet issues in diverse local community contexts and collaborate with local leaders to engage with tools for open campaigning towards Internet Health. Our program enables people in underrepresented regions to assess the state of the Internet in their community and share their stories on the challenges and opportunities encountered.

Why did you start Community Leaders for Internet Health?

Community Leaders for Internet Health was started as an avenue to raise awareness on the internet principles required to maintain a healthy internet ecosystem among youth from underrepresented communities. We realised that although young people now increasingly have access to the Internet, they are not often aware or included in defining best practises that ensure that the internet remains an open, inclusive, bottom-up and safe medium.

How does your program connect participants to the internet health movement?

This programs aims to identify individuals who can lead community driven projects on internet health. In this 6 weeks program, we educate the participants on key internet themes using the issues highlighted in the Internet Health Report as a reference point (openness, privacy & security, web literacy, decentralization and inclusion). The participants will also be guided on how to design and implement minor projects on internet health within their community. Through these projects, the participants can contribute to the internet health movement by documenting and sharing their experiences in fueling a healthy internet in their community.

What did you learn by bringing your program to MozFest 2019? How are you continuing the momentum after the festival?

Showcasing the Community Leaders for Internet Health program at MozFest 2019 enabled us to get relevant feedback on ways to make the program more impactful. We were able to build upon Mozilla Festival 2018 in which we showcased the Digital Rights Monopoly game to bring awareness on digital inclusion issues affecting young people we are working with. In 2020, we are putting our two MozFest experiences into practice.

Through our 6 week program, participants will collaboratively learn open leadership models necessary for raising awareness on the impact of the internet on society. The participants will also receive guidance on open campaigning for the Internet Health Report from their assigned mentors. We believe the collaboration between mentors and community leaders will keep the internet health movement active even up to the next MozFest.

How can others get involved in your program?

  • Participate: If you’re interested in becoming a community leader for internet health, apply here by January 30!
  • Publicize: We need help in publicizing the program. We would like to impact on a wider community across the globe so we invite everyone to help us promote the program call for applications on their platforms.
  • Mentor: We also need mentors for our program participants. Our mentors are Industry experts on internet health who can provide guidance to the participants while they implement their desired project. If you will like to mentor with us, kindly sign up here by January 30.

Lastly, we invite everyone concerned about capacity building programs on internet health to contact us with collaboration ideas for an impactful program.


Because Our Future Depends On It

Born in 1994, about the same time Tim Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium and a commercialized Internet started to take form, the Internet has inextricably shaped my life and career.

At 16 years old, I got my first job at an Internet café. I had taught myself to type, and that was all I needed to teach people that they couldn’t just guess a password if they had not already set up an email account. Many young people in developing nations are still grappling to learn the computer (it’s far worse for adults). This fact, however, has not stalled a social media boom. There’s a robust consumer market, but the consumers aren’t reflected in the faces of those making decisions for them in shaping the future of the Internet.

At 17 years old, after living abroad alone as a young girl, I founded the SAFIGI Outreach Foundation (Safety First for Girls) in an effort to create a world where girls are empowered, equipped, and fulfilled for the benefit of the entire world. UN Online Volunteers allowed me to collaborate with over 250 volunteers in 50 countries to use Safety Education, Research, and Advocacy in order to respond to core issues affecting safety for girls across the globe.

At 23 years old, I was named an Internet Society 2017 Youth@IGF Programme fellow, and received funding to attend my inaugural Internet Governance Forum (IGF) at the United Nations Office at Geneva in Switzerland. What would become a harrowing journey across borders without a passport, this was my first glance at the wires behind the glossy and bright screen called the Internet and the birthplace of my brainchild, Digital Grassroots.

Shape Your Digital Future! could not have been a more fitting theme for the 2017 IGF. It inspired me to create Digital Grassroots in response to what I see as a gaping digital divide. Despite being major stakeholders of the Internet, young people from marginalized communities are underrepresented in major policy developments and implementation processes that shape our digital future. Events like the IGF can often be taken for granted, and I believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the global IGF to be circulating throughout Europe, when digital rights abuses like Internet shutdowns, social media tax, and threats to journalistic freedom of speech happen predominantly outside the region. While the IGF is mainly for dialogue, for persons who live under administrations that believe “governance” in Internet Governance means government, such dialogue could make a world of difference.

Our team of 2017 Youth@IGF fellows, all under 25 years old and living in 11 different nations across the globe, are passionate about the core values of the Internet. Together we are striving towards ensuring openness, security, privacy, web literacy, and decentralization of the Internet. Starting at the grassroots level, Digital Grassroots created an Internet literacy course to address the existing lack of awareness of basic Internet literacy knowledge in local communities in the developing world. Our Cohort 1 Outcome Report highlights the impact we’ve had. After three cohorts, the final one being in French, we have released a Communiqué on Youth Resolutions in Internet GovernanceMozilla Open Leaders gave our team the tools we needed to work and lead Open, helping us to empower and collaborate within inclusive communities. In 2018, we trained at least 300 young people in digital literacy and mentored over 100 in youth participation in Internet Governance.

Now at 24 years old, I recognize that representation matters if we want to see transformative change online and off. And this is why Digital Grassroots is so important. If we do not create these spaces for ourselves to participate and to be heard, no one will.

Young people seem to have to do more to get a seat at the table, especially young people from underrepresented regions. For most of our team it has meant sleepless nights, working long hours, and sacrificing our own resources to create a relatable Internet literacy course, build a Digital Rights Monopoly game, mentor youth in Internet Governance, travel to meetings, and organize youth IGFs and national IGFs. Digital Grassroots has also recently raised a petition asking local and international Internet Governance bodies to include youth at the table and we invite everyone to sign it.

It’s our future

The journey may start at the IGF but it does not end there. In 2019, I will be curating the Internet Freedom Festival (IFF) as the Next Net IFF Community Development fellow. Next Net focuses on the future of the Internet, opportunities, and risks. The Internet we want.

The Web may not have been invented for a person like me, who did not start out life as a digital native regardless of the era. Policymakers may brush someone like me aside because I don’t fit the market group and seem to have little influence. This is an oversight.

Youth have the power and skill to reinvent and shape an open and healthy Internet, if given the opportunity.

Regardless of attitudes towards young people, girls, and the underrepresented when it comes to participating in Internet issues, it will remain that the Internet is on our side; a neutral platform that embraces all equally.

We are inventing the Internet we want because our future depends on it.

We need your help! Are you a young person who wants to be a part of the making the Internet for everyone? Here’s where you can get started.


The Internet Is Knowledge and Knowledge Is Power

Like many people around the world, the Internet has contributed largely to the person I am today – building my knowledge base through access to a wealth of information. Without the Internet, a lot of things would not be as easy as they are right now.

As a recent graduate, I can relate to the fact that the Internet has been extremely helpful in aiding and improving student learning and research, as I can cite academic resources online and watch lectures from world class tutors from the comfort of my room. I am a strong advocate for open access in research, education, and data, and the Internet has been a powerful enabler in bridging knowledge gaps between privileged and underprivileged communities. The ability of the Internet to serve as a platform for disseminating information to all and sundry, regardless of race, gender, or nationality is what makes the Internet a global tool trusted by billions of people around the world.

In 2016, I founded Open Switch Africa, where I advocate for an accessible and inclusive Internet where information is not hindered by paywalls, regulation, or lack of connectivity.

Without connectivity we cannot have the vast interconnection that the Internet creates between billions of computers and devices, thereby forming an interconnection between people and information. Information brings knowledge, and knowledge, as they say, is power.

It has become increasingly clear that the Internet is at the core of almost all that we do. With automation and machine learning at the forefront of transforming the scope of future jobs, open education and open data driving the scope of education and research, and social media plus blogs disrupting the status quo in communication, very soon a much larger percentage of the world population will depend on the Internet for their livelihood. This is why it is extremely important, in preparation for the future, that we ensure all voices are heard when it comes to critical decisions regarding the future of the Internet.

The Internet is diversity by its very nature, and youth involvement is crucial to shaping the Internet of tomorrow. Young people are already shaping the online culture in so many ways. They are building their dream Internet. And yet when it comes to policy discussions, they are not at the table.

We need policies that protect us and prepare us for the future of the Internet, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Visit #CountMyVoice and help build an Internet that’s for everyone!