By APC MONTEVIDEO, 14 May 2009
Founded in 1990, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation that wants everyone to have easy, affordable and equal access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) like the internet and mobile phones to improve their lives.
Given our traditional alliances with human rights, environmental and women’s rights movements, we are especially interested in ensuring that the people who are actively trying to make the world a more just and equitable place (often called “civil society” or the third sector) are able to use the internet as effectively as possible to do their important work.
APC is both a network and an organisation. APC members are organisations that share the same vision, and the majority are based in the global south. Every five years, APC members meet to set the organisation’s strategic priorities for the next five years.
In late 2007, APC members from almost forty countries and five continents met to define the strategic priorities for APC until 2012.
They assessed the current context faced by APC and civil society organisations using internet and other ICTs for social change. They considered trends in accessing the internet – including the role of mobile telephony in democratising access -, in internet and information policy and regulation and in social networking and media. They also looked at other factors like climate change, which will have a huge impact on people’s lives and livelihoods in the coming years.
Discussions focused on the relationships between people, technology, the internet, environmental sustainability and the state of governance, public participation and transparency and how technology can be used to improve accountability.
After several days of deliberation, APC members identified six issues as the key strategic areas that APC must tackle in the next five years to ensure that the internet remains free and open, and that more and more people can connect to it and use it to improve their lives and create a more just world.
APC’s strategic priorities for 2009-12
1. Affordable internet access for all
APC believes the internet is a global public good that has become essential to meeting most people’s daily information and communication needs. Millions of people still do not have sufficient, affordable and reliable internet access. APC will continue to campaign to lower the price of internet connectivity, especially broadband, with a specific emphasis on Africa and Latin America. APC will also respond to the immense opportunity presented by mobile telephony as a means of accessing the internet. APC will advocate for policies that ensure openness, from open standards, to open content and freedom from censorship and surveillance. APC has traditionally worked with social change organisations. APC will continue to open policy spaces for these groups, ensuring that their voices and concerns are taken into account by policy-makers.
2. Creative engagement with strategic technologies
APC has assisted civil society groups’ work online since 1990. APC has a critical and hands-on approach to technologies and adopted a pro-free software policy in 1998. As new tools emerge, APC will work creatively with them to see how they can strengthen networking for social justice, and compare them to the old tools for effectiveness and appropriateness for users, especially those in developing contexts. Internet is APC’s primary area however, with more people interacting with the internet through mobile phones, APC will engage areas of convergence.
3. Making ICTs work for a sustainable environment
Many of APC’s founding and current members emerged from the green movement. APC will raise awareness of the environmental cost of the production, use and disposal of ICTs and promote policies and projects that use sustainable consumption models. In a world increasingly affected by climate change, we will support the use of ICTs to help people whose lives and livelihoods are under threat adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. As an ICT-focused network, we will reduce our own carbon footprint.
4. Strengthening the “information commons”
Access to information and knowledge is essential for development and change. The internet is an opportunity for maximising access to information, and for building and sharing an information commons (an open online space which is collectively built and where information and knowledge is freely shared). APC will raise awareness of the importance of an information commons – including adopting open licenses and free and open source software – particularly with policy makers, civil society and the ICT industry and work towards expanding it.
5. Securing and defending internet rights
APC has a vision of a world where “all people have easy and affordable access to a free and open internet to improve their lives and create a more just world”. Inspired by this, APC wrote a ground-breaking internet rights charter back in 2001, since revised and translated into twenty languages. APC will encourage policy makers, civil society groups and the technical communities it works with to defend the internet as a global public good and include internet rights as an integral part of any policy discussion.
6. Improving governance, including the governance of the internet
The internet is used by civil society, communities and individuals as a powerful and effective tool for more transparent and participatory governance, and for holding governments accountable. APC will investigate good practices and apply them to further improve and maintain new models of governance, particularly of the internet.
We will also measure our success over the next years in these two crosscuts and apply them in our work in each of the priorities above.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment: With an emphasis on integrating gender equality in information society policy and practice and building leadership and capacity within the women’s movement to use ICTs effectively in order to eliminate discrimination against women and promote empowerment.
“Openness”: With an emphasis on promoting open content and alternative licensing of content, freedom of expression and information, open access to infrastructure, information, and policy processes and free and open source software.
Photo: Mihaly Bako