Globally Representative Speakers, Invitees Speak Out at Stockholm Internet Forum on Global Online Equity and Surveillance

Globally Representative Speakers, Invitees Speak Out at Stockholm Internet Forum on Global Online Equity and Surveillance

Swedish Forum Reflects Stated Mission with Gender and Racially Balanced Speakers and Invitees

by @SarahCortes-Over 400 internet freedom activists invited from 90 countries shone a spotlight on internet-related issues from gender equity to surveillance at Sweden's Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) last week. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt addressed forum invitees, explaining that SIF "aims to deepen the discussions on how freedom and openness on the Internet promote economic and social development worldwide."

Anna Karin-Hatt, Sweden's Minister for Information Technology and Energy, stated, regarding the US's role: "We do need to improve the way internet is managed today. The only way to build global confidence in internet governance is to ensure global participation and global responsibility. Therefore, we need participation and responsibility that is shared between all stakeholders and all countries." Karin-Hatt, one of the women making up Sweden's 54% of key cabinet-level positions, added, "One important step to achieve this was taken on March 14 this year, when the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (USNTIA) proposed to hand over the US management of certain internet-functions. This is a move that is at the same time good, necessary and timely. This will strengthen the support for the multi-stakeholder process and help keep the internet free, open and stable."

In a country where female ministers of State outnumber males, 13 to 11, SIF speakers, panelists and invitees also reflected gender equity. 36 of the 68, or 53%, of speakers and panelists were women. Blidt stated, “There are several internet access divides. We are working on the gender divide; the age divide will solve itself.” The list of Swedish Ministers, equivalent to US Presidential Cabinet Secretaries, includes one missing from the list of US positions: Minister for Gender Equality. By contrast, in the US Cabinet males outnumber females 7 to 16. And, closer to home, the Boston Globe reports that Boston Mayor Martin Walsh's "administration’s 20 highest-paid new hires — Cabinet chiefs, department heads, and special assistants to the mayor — include 15 men and 13 white employees." The Swedish Foreign Ministry, which organized SIF, apparently didn't need to rely on Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" to find qualified speakers and panelists, nor key ministers of state. According to MassGAP, "Prior to the 2002 [Romney] election, women comprised approximately 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in Massachusetts government....from 2004-2006 [under Romney] the percentage of newly-appointed women in these senior appointed positions dropped to 25 percent "

Reflecting the world population's racial makeup and the event's stated mission, SIF panels and invitees also displayed racial balance. 30 of the 68, or 44%, of speakers and panelists were people of color. Sweden's population includes only 6% persons of European ancestry, or a ratio of 1:16, compared to 25% non-whites in the US, a ratio of 1:3.

Invited guests included two from Cambridge:

- Abouzeid Perihan, @perihana, from Qabila Media Productions. Perihan, currently MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management is a recipient of the Legatum Fellowship for entrepreneurs. In 2012, she received the Best Female Entrepreneur Award from the MIT Enterprise Forum – Pan Arab Region.

- Andrew Lewman, Executive Director of The Tor Project, served as a speaker and panelist. The Tor Project, a Cambridge based non-profit organization, provides research and tools for online anonymity, such as the Tor Browser. Tor was famously used by Edward Snowden to collect and communicate communicate illegal NSA mass surveillance programs. "It is sadly unusual, but gratifying, to see the government of Sweden demonstrating the ease of reconciling statements of dedication to gender and racial equity to actual action in inviting a gender and racially balanced set of speakers and panelists to its conference on global online development." said Lewman. Lewman also met with Hillevi Engström, Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation.

In addition to providing training and commentary to SIF attendees, Tor sought to identify and initiate collaboration with partners in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere for a training program to increase the number of women and people of color with coding and technical skills. Tor collaborates with Emerge;, the nation's first abuser education program, Transition House, the second oldest women's shelter in the US, MIT coDesign Studio, and other local Cambridge-based organizations to help end domestic and intimate partner violence (DV and IPV). Tor further supports gender equity through its IPV Tech collaborative.