In 2019, the FRIDA Program will focus its funding on two priority topics: Community Networks and Technologies and Gender.
FRIDA focuses on three main themes: Innovation for Internet Development; Internet and Technologies for Participation; and Internet and Technologies in Benefit of the Communities. The digital and gender divides in technology are two cross-cutting challenges that impact these three themes and in 2019 FRIDA Program will center its attention on them.
Connecting the next billion is perhaps one of the most urgent and challenging issues in an effort to promote Internet development. It is estimated that 38% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean does not have access to the Internet. According to ECLAC, even though Internet penetration levels have increased in the region, there are still differences between rural and urban areas and different income levels. Community networks provide a form of organization for remote, currently underserved communities to help them develop local Internet access solutions. Within the context of this call for projects, the term ‘community networks’ refers to Internet access networks built and operated by citizens who wish to connect their local community, town or city. These networks often have limited range and generally operate in communities of under 3,000 people, although there are cases of networks connecting more than 50,000 users. FRIDA will seek to support innovation in business models, regulations, technology and local content development that contribute to the growth of community networks. Examples of organizations which have received funding from FRIDA include AlterMundi and its LibreRouter project, and the Paulista State University and its Digital Amazon Radio.
For more information on what constitutes a Community Network, we recommend you check out the following description published by the Internet Society: https://www.internetsociety.org/issues/community-networks/.
Gender and Technology
The gender divide in technology remains a challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean. Numerous studies indicate that women in the region have lower Internet utilization levels and that women’s use of the Internet is higher in countries with more gender equality. The access of women and girls to technology is primarily influenced by a disparity in digital skills. Although there is wide access to education in the region, problems involving the lack of infrastructure and support for digital education are hindering access to – and use of – the Internet and technology.
The gender divide extends to women’s participation not only as users but also as producers of technology. According to IDB estimates, only 11% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean who complete their tertiary education graduate with STEM degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In the entrepreneurial world, the World Bank estimates that only 7% of technology startups are led by women. This inequality also affects women’s access to employment opportunities in technology, including the Internet industry, a sector expected to have an exponential growth in the coming decades. This means that accelerating women’s involvement in technology is a strategy for the economic empowerment of future generations. Finally, technology replicates gender inequalities online, which is why it is essential to work on the digital rights of women and girls, as well as on the appropriation of the Internet as a public space to exercise rights and freedoms.
In response to these challenges, the FRIDA Program will focus its efforts on supporting innovative projects that promote gender equality and female leadership in technology and the Internet industry. Projects may focus on developing digital skills among women and girls, encouraging women’s participation in digital markets and technology, implementing strategies for defending digital rights and increasing online security and inclusion for women and girls, or supporting women’s involvement in the deployment of Internet infrastructure to promote Internet access and adoption.