Developing strategy through 2016: An interview with APC's KRA leads

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By Flavia Fascendini for APCNews

PERGAMINO, ARGENTINA, 12 August 2013

The APC network has newly adopted a strategic plan that includes five areas of focus that will frame APC’s work for the next four years. Monitoring and recording progressing implementing these five strategic priorities will be championed by five members of the APC staff team. APCNews interviews these KRA (Key Result Areas) leads and asks about the opportunities and challenges that they expect in the coming years.

Every four years, APC initiates a consultative process in order to identify the strategic priorities that will guide our work through the following years.

Work to develop APC’s 2013-2016 strategic plan as a network-wide activity began in January 2012 with a review of the previous strategic cycle followed by regional consultations with APC members on issues they felt were relevant in their work, and to our overall mission to use ICTs for social justice.

This intense consultative process lead to the following five strategic priorities:

  1. Securing and defending internet access and rights

  2. Fostering good internet governance

  3. Strengthening use and development of transformative technology

  4. Ending technology-based violence against women and girls

  5. Strengthening APC community networks.

Furthermore, members agreed on three cross-cutting goals for the period, which will be integrated into all aspects of APC’s work:

  • “building the “information commons,”

  • “fostering linguistic diversity,” and

  • “promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Each of the strategic priorities has been assigned a lead, whose responsibility is to animate, monitor and document actions and activities under the relevant area of work. APCNews interviewed each of the five leads to collect their perspectives on the strategic priorities to introduce them and their work to the larger APC community.

Securing and defending internet access and rights

Formerly a New Zealand human rights commissioner, Joy Liddicoat joined APC’s Communications and Information Policy Programme (CIPP) in 2011. Joy’s work in human rights began in community legal centres and led to international human rights work including in 2001 when she attended the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. Afterwards, from 2002 until 2010, she was part of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. Liddicoat is the lead for ‘Securing and defending internet access and rights.

Affordable and pervasive access to the internet remains a significant development problem, in spite of the rapid uptake of mobile telephony. Those without access may be denied the right to give voice to their social and political aims, and be unable to use the internet to demand rights on the same footing as others. Access to the internet is thus increasingly being framed as a critical consideration in any discussion about the enjoyment of human rights. Conversely, a human rights approach is increasingly viewed as a premise for demanding policies which deliver quality, affordable access for all. Access to the internet and human rights can no longer be seen separately and APC has merged these areas of work into one strategic priority.

The work aims to achieve “universal affordable access to the internet” and that “human rights on the internet are understood, recognised and defended.” There are several challenges that APC and its members will have to address in order to achieve those objectives, for instance the lack of internet rights groups that have direct experience of working in or with national or global human rights mechanisms. “There is a need to build their capacity to be effective in these places,” indicates Liddicoat. “Another challenge is to build bridges between internet rights groups and mainstream human rights organisations in order to maximise capacity – and to build capacity – for stronger and more effective human rights advocacy.”

Liddicoat affirms that the aim is to target governments, and convince them of their responsibility as the primary body responsible for upholding and protecting the human rights of their citizens. “At the same time, new tools are needed to build capacity, such as the Internet Rights are Human Rights curriculum, which can support networks and improve the effectiveness of their advocacy,” Liddicoat adds.

Fostering good internet governance

Valeria Betancourt, based in Ecuador and APC staff member since 2003, is a campaigner in the field of ICTs for development and social justice, Betancourt’s background is in sociology and political science. She is APC’s CIPP manager and a trusted networker among policy activists which positions her well for leading the strategic priority Fostering good internet governance.

APC recognises that good governance is a prerequisite for sustainable social justice and development. “APC has been working on internet governance (IG) for years, because we understand that within IG discussions take place on the material and symbolic development of the internet and its mechanisms,” Betancourt explains.

Good governance of the internet requires governance processes and institutions to be inclusive, transparent, accessible, participative and accountable. Multi-stakeholderism is a very valuable framework that can promote a critical lens, where learnings and experiences are shared and capitalised, from the bottom up.

Even though one of the expected outcomes of this strategic priority is to have civil society stakeholders actively engaged in shaping IG issues, processes and outcomes, Betancourt recognises that advancing multi-stakeholder participation is one of the greatest challenges regarding this area of work. “There are many instances in internet governance where participation is closed,” she laments.

Another problem is that “centralisation attempts over infrastructure and content are taking place, even in democratic countries where the free, open and non-hierarchical nature of the internet is being challenged by states and other actors in the name of public interests, national security, fighting cyber-crime, commercial or political interests, and others,” warns Betancourt.

Strengthening use and development of transformative technology

Transformative technology refers to infrastructure and software development that serves communities by being sustainable, free/libre and open.

APC is convinced that by linking technology and development directly to human values, the relationship between individuals and technology is transformed from utilitarian into one of transformation. Within this conception, APC’s experience in sustainable ICT and its commitment to free and open source technology were combined into a third strategic priority: Strengthening use and development of transformative technology. Mallory Knodel, APC’s communications and network development manager since early 2012, is leading work in this priority area aimed at promoting people-centred technology development by making technology environmentally sustainable, free to use and open for collaboration. “I’m rather new to leading programming at APC. However, I am very familiar with FOSS issues and have been working with FOSS for more than a decade,” says Knodel.

Right now, sustainable ICT practices are not typical among corporate ISPs and other service providers. They are not even typical for progressive providers of most civil society organisations. Likewise, the use of FOSS tools are uncommon because typical practices are influenced by corporate products, which are usually not FOSS, and this is one of the most important challenges regarding this strategic priority. “We must shift culture towards using transformative technologies. The work that we’re prioritising will put us up against the private sector. We have to start with our staff, our membership and then our network to convince ourselves that it is important to use sustainable, free and open technology,” encourages Knodel.

Ending technology-based violence against women and girls

Jan Moolman, based in South Africa, leads APC’s strategic priority to End technology-based violence against women and girls. Jan coordinated APC’s Women’s Rights Programme (WRP) work on technology and violence against women (VAW) first through a project supported by the MDG3 Fund from 2009-2011. “I continue to work in this area, building on our past work to focus on building evidence and deepening understanding of how these violations take place so that effective remedies can be developed and ensuring women and girls are leading in work to prevent technology-related violence against women,” she explains.

This strategic priority focuses on expanding visibility and understanding of violence against women online, evidence-based advocacy towards prevention of online abuses directed at women and girls, and promotion of an online culture that affirms the rights to safety, security and privacy. VAW is a significant barrier to accessing opportunities provided by ICTs for the full enjoyment of human rights.

Since 2005, APC WRP has been at the forefront of a global push to understand how technology is both changing how women experience violence and also presenting opportunities to prevent violence. During this time WRP has worked globally with partners mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, launching the global Take Back the Tech! Campaign, which has become an APC-wide activity. “The inclusion of this as one of five strategic priorities is a recognition of the depth and relevance that this work has acquired by APC and its members,” says Moolman, “and also a recognition of the fact that our work on rights, access and transformative technologies – in fact everything we do – exists in a context of increasing levels of violence against women, which threatens the gains that our work generally is trying to make at large.”

Moolman is quite optimistic about the international policy climate for APC and its members in terms of advocacy to end technology-related VAW. “We are at a moment of great opportunity as we have worked long and hard on really developing our understanding of technology-related VAW and its consequences for women. We are now able to make clear recommendations based on the lived experiences of women we work with around the world,” affirms Moolman.

“How can we talk about progressive internet politics without being progressive on gender and sexuality?” a WRP member recently asked. “Well, this priority recognises this,” Moolman answers.

Strengthening APC community networks

Karel Novotný, based in Czech Republic, is APC’s member collaboration and knowledge sharing coordinator. He is in charge of leading the fifth strategic priority to “Strengthen APC community networks. Since early 2005 he had been in charge of knowledge sharing in APC, and started to look after membership development in 2010.

Novotný explains that APC network development and support for knowledge sharing has been a foundation for APC, a high priority for over 20 years. “The growth and diversification of APC creates a need to dedicate more attention to network building,” he points out.

According to Novotný, the greatest challenge for APC regarding the strengthening of our network community has to do with the changes in the civil society arena and in the way activists and organisations now partner and collaborate. Even though the benefits of membership in a large network like APC are important, they might not be as apparent as they once were and it is sometimes challenging to explain properly how APC differs from other networks.

Another challenge relates to APC’s regional, cultural and thematic diversification. Knowledge sharing and APC-wide collaboration “is much more challenging now than during times when APC was composed of a handful of similarly-focused organisations, mainly progressive ISPs,” reflects Novotný.

But this challenge is also an opportunity. “APC’s diversity means that we have access to a very rich pool of knowledge, experience and ideas,” says the leader. Since APC is now working in a big way on many different fronts, members can learn from other members about completely new lines of work that have nothing to do with their existing agendas. Important cross-cutting areas of work are now being explored collaboratively by organisations who previously were not interested in topics such as womens’ rights or environmentally sustainable use of ICTs, as examples.

Novotný expects APC to grow its membership in the following years. “We will likely have 8-10 new organisational members and dozens of new individual affiliates. We are working on facilitating members’ engagement in network-wide projects, so also I expect the relationships within the network to grow stronger,” he predicts.

Related documents
APC Strategic Plan 2013-2016
APC 2013-16 Strategic Planning Overview
APC 2012 Online Regional Discussion on Strategic Planning for 2013-16
Strategic Plan 2009-2012
Annual report 2011
Full survey report

(END/2013)

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