Quezon City, Philippines – Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) launched a Digital Gender Report Card that measures the Philippines’ progress in closing the digital gender gap on April 6, 2017 at the Oracle Hotel and Residences, Quezon City. The launch and forum was attended by more than 60 participants from academe, government, women’s groups, community organizations, human rights organizations, youth groups, and other civil society groups.
The scorecard was developed by the World Wide Web Foundation with partner organizations from 10 countries and with support from UN Women and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The overall country score is based on 14 indicators that were grouped into five main thematic categories, namely: internet access and women’s empowerment, relevant content and services, online safety, affordability, and digital skills and education. Scores for each indicator were given based on reliable empirical sources such as reports, surveys, and existing legislation from each of the countries.
The results of the Philippine scorecard, as well as the process by which it was developed was presented by FMA Executive Director Liza Garcia, who said that “the Report Card’s value is that it can be a tool to hold the Philippine government accountable in meeting the SDG gender and ICT targets.” Garcia also pointed out that the scorecard may be used to identify and eventually address gaps in data about women and ICTs in the Philippines. Overall, the results of the Scorecard showed that there is still an existing digital divide in the Philippines and there is still much to be addressed in terms of policies.
A panel of reactors then presented their comments on the presentation. Micheline Rama of Dakila raised the importance of creating safe spaces online for women and effecting behavioural and cultural change. Alana Ramos of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) agreed with the existence of a gap in data about ICT and gender in the Philippines and shared that the DICT is working on a policy to institutionalize sex-disaggregated statistics. She also shared the current DICT projects that aim to improve internet access in the country, including the national broadband plan, free wifi project, and monitoring the web presence of government agencies. Grace Mirandilla-Santos of Internet Society-Philippine Chapter presented the latest figures on internet access in the country and raised the possible importance of intermediaries for women who do not yet have access to digital spaces. Lastly, Natividad Pilipina of Nagkakaisang Tinig ng Hanay ng Kababaihan ng Kalookan said that there should be more studies that attempt to diagnose what women and youth, especially urban poor women, really need.
After a rousing discussion among the participants, speakers from different civil society and government organizations presented their respective recommendations in closing the digital gender gap. Chang Jordan of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau focused on access to justice as a component of the digital gender gap. She also raised the question, “even if women have access, what kind of environment are they able to access online? Are these digital spaces safe for women?” One of her recommendations was therefore to provide not only access, but meaningful access, which includes access to online grievance redress mechanisms. Atty. Krissi Shaffina Twyla Rubin of the Commission on Human Rights anchored her recommendations on the rights to representation and participation, right to technology, right to education, and protection from violence and all forms of discrimination. These rights are provided for by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Philippine Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act No. 9710). She emphasized that the protection of these rights should be extended to digital spaces and that “the obligation to respect, protect and to create an enabling environment for the exercise of these rights fall with the State.” Joel Cam of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program presented the ICT-related initiatives of the Department of Social Work and Development, as well as the Department’s efforts to ensure that all services are geared towards the achievement of gender equality.
In response to the scores, FMA, in consultation with other national stakeholders, has taken the lead in identifying concrete steps that the Philippine government can take to address the challenges identified. These steps form a 5-point Action Plan that was introduced by Christina Lopez, FMA’s Program Officer for Gender and ICT. It includes: integrating gender into the Philippines’ national ICT plan; improving internet affordability and speed; implementing inclusive digital literacy programmes; conducting gender audits of government agency websites; and ending online gender-based violence.
Moving forward, FMA plans to use the Report Card to push for the agenda included in the action plan and influence meaningful policy change. The launch ended with the participants pledging to play their respective roles in their own work to help achieve the goals stated in the Action Plan. On the part of FMA, Garcia said that the organization is committing to accomplish all the points included in the Action Plan, but emphasized that “the scorecard is just the starting point for broader regional and global consultation.”
Apart from the Philippines, the Web Foundation and its partners conducted similar gender audits in nine other countries (Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Colombia, India, and Indonesia) and plan to add more countries in the next round of audits. The audits are designed to help the countries assess the steps that need to be taken to close the digital gender gap.