Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow
Steffania Costa, a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow, is a feminist, visual artist, and self-taught developer, leveraging the power of technology to advance women’s rights and equality.
In 2017, you became a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow. Can you tell me about the fellowship and what your focus was?
The fellowship was created to support emerging leaders in various disciplines who are working to protect and advance a secure, decentralized internet. I worked with an organization in Chile called Derechos Digitales to help the civil society sector in Latin America better promote human rights in the digital environment. During my fellowship, I was a digital-security trainer with feminist groups in Latin America, helping them improve their autonomy and security online. I learned something very important, which is that technology is not the most important element of our work—the most important element is empathy, us being together, constructing spaces. In other words, it’s the people we meet and how we can continue developing our work together that are the most important elements, rather than technology itself.
You advocate for more diversity in the tech world. Why do you think there’s an imbalance?
In the beginning of the internet, we thought it was a free space for creation and imagination. It was seen as another world where we could be freer than in the real world. However, what happens on the internet is just a reflection of what happens in life. So harassment, sexism, chauvinism, violence against women—all that continues to happen on the internet. So the fight is the same. It continues to be the same.
Nowadays, with companies like Google, Facebook—they reflect the values of the people who created that technology, right, so they’re white men. Technology is dominated by men. And so the products we have, the platforms we have reflect their values. They are not women, they are not black women—they are people who don’t suffer the same sort of oppression we suffer as women.
How do you think we can create room for more gender-balanced technology?
We need to create more space for women on the internet and in technology in a more institutional way. We can create more independent and autonomous initiatives together as women, like feminist servers, workshops, trainings to learn with each other. We need to imagine a new world together to be free and safe.
What does equality mean to you?
Equality for me is the possibility to move through all spaces with freedom and autonomy, and having respected all my choices and characteristics.