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3 Core Principles for a Feminist Global Digital Compact

By Guest Writer on May 25, 2023

charter feminist demands
The UN Global Digital Compact seeks to outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all. These core principles of openness, freedom and security must be infused with a feminist perspective to ensure that the ongoing digital transformation of our economies and societies can usher in a gender-just world that is affirming of all individuals and their path to self-actualisation.

Principle 1: Openness for Constructive Pluralism

Rationale: Social markers of power are deep-seated in what are described as the open spaces of the internet. Instrumentalist openness that is agnostic to power will not produce truly diverse and inclusive societies. Openness in the digital context needs critical engagement with the pseudo-diversity tactics adopted by profit-driven platforms, the covert tyranny of elitism in open communities, and the alienating subjectivity of surveillance societies. Open knowledge cultures in digitality call for a politics of difference that does not flatten the reality of social stratification and gender-based exclusion.

Principle: The affordances of internet-mediated agoras for open communication and diverse communities must be channelled towards gender-transformative knowledge societies that are ready to embrace ever-evolving identities and assertions in digitality’s fluid spaces. The principle of openness for constructive pluralism will lead to feminist emancipation, empowering self-expression, serendipitous solidarity and trans-local publics.

Principle 2: Freedom for Equitable and Just Societies

Rationale: The architectures of platform life present us with a dazzling array of apps that feed an illusion of choice and voice, even as the promise of internet freedom is being hijacked for private profit. Meanwhile, states eager to quell civic freedoms have appropriated digital technologies as devices for social engineering and control over female bodies and labour. The digital revolution and its tendencies to decentralise power and control have been enfeebled. The quest for an equitable and just future will remain meaningless unless digitality can reverse the feminisation of economic precarity, social vulnerability and political marginalisation.

Principle: The principle of freedom in digitality implies the ability of each and every individual to benefit from the digital paradigm and from the expansion of strategic life choices for women and girls. Guaranteeing freedom in the digital society is not only about eliminating precarity and inequality, but also entails creating conditions that promote autonomy of work and life, universal social security, economies based on social and solidarity models, and central participation of women and girls to shape the digital paradigm. Freedom in digitality must lead to maximisation of the internet’s public value along with data-enabled intelligence for vibrant, flourishing and democratic societies and economies that privilege the role of women as socio-political and economic agents.

Principle 3: Security for Flourishing Futures

Rationale: Co-option of the internet as well as of data, AI and other frontier technologies to entrench corporate power has besieged people and the planet through structural violence that perpetuates geographies of neo-colonial exploitation. Our societies are in a permanent state of attack as our lives, life-worlds, and the environment are cannibalised for data extractivism. Trust in global digital cooperation is reduced to a narrow, technical idea that is ineffective in tackling the dominant digital order’s predatory impulses.

Principle: A secure digital future is one that guarantees the right of all peoples to development as human flourishing. There can be no just digital transition without respect for planetary boundaries, a global public sphere free from gender-based violence, and an enduring peace without weaponisation of cyberspace and militarisation of AI. The digital paradigm must be rescued from the destructive impetuses apparent in its current trajectory and refashioned towards an egalitarian international order based on mutuality and co-implication.

The ket points from A Global Digital Compact for Gender Equality – Feminist demands from the Global South concerning the UN Global Digital Compact – by IT for Change and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Filed Under: Women in Tech
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