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In Conversation: Neema Iyer

Founder/Executive Director - Pollicy

Tanzania, India and Nigeria

Can you tell me a little about yourself and the work you do online?

I'm an artist and a technologist. I'm the founder of a civic technology company, Pollicy, based out of Uganda. I research, write and talk about the positives and negatives of emerging technology in the African context, and then try to figure out how to make this information available for as wide an audience as possible through documentaries, games, murals, etc.

Why did you start this work and what has the experience been like?

I started working on civic tech from a frustration with government services. Queuing for hours, being sent back for files being lost, so much inefficiency. I wanted to improve service design through data and research, which then led me to thinking about digital experiences, data protection and governance, and decolonization of technology products.

How do you define pleasure for yourself?

Pleasure is a good feeling, contentment, something worth striving for and seeking. It's having time to myself to endlessly browse the internet, taking naps, loving my partner, eating a delicious meal, catching up with a good friend (in no particular order of priority lol!)

What pleasures do you access online?

Reddit! I love being able to access the thoughts, opinions and emotions of millions of people from across the world. You can curate your own space (and echo chamber) to preserve your mental sanity in a weirdly changing world.

Do you feel safe expressing your pleasure online?

When it came to food, I felt safe opening up a mini-food blog when I lived in Atlanta. But over the years, if it's not work related content, I'm less likely to share.

Have you experienced online gender based violence?

When I was REALLY little, perhaps 10 years old, there were some strange experiences in online chat rooms. Older men sending dick pics and such. But I obviously couldn't process what was going on. I just thought it was silly. Since then, I've come a long way in respecting my time, privacy, self-censoring, etc.

What does/would a feminist internet look, feel and function like to you?

A feminist internet is one where I feel confident to share my thoughts and feelings, without fear of retaliation and repercussions. A space that feels safe to learn and grow. Not necessarily with like-minded people because that becomes boring, but different people respecting differences. An internet that is empathetic. And a big one for me is an internet that is not capitalist and ad-driven. Yuck, what an overall failure that it went in this direction.

What guidance would you offer young women and queer people looking to access knowledge around or experiences of pleasure online?

There are so many great communities with supportive people looking to gas each other up. I went down a rabbit hole the other week and ended up in a subreddit of adult diaper wearers, and while it's not for me, it was interesting to see how much they supported each other, shared their experiences, tips etc. My advice to young women and queer people would be to find your community and nurture your space in that community. Give more than you receive. Look out for others. But of course, always be safe doing so. Be careful with personal identifying information, keep your devices locked, ensure your apps are up-to-date, use a VPN when browsing on insecure networks etc. But most of all, have fun!

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