As governments and non-state actors find ways to restrict access to internet content and wireless connections to serve their own purposes, there is growing support for a human rights based approach to information and communication technology, and particularly the internet. This sentiment carried through many of the discussion spaces at the Allied Media Conference, a yearly Detroit-based gathering held at the end of June to bring together artists, technologists, educators, and activists to connect and transform media strategies.
Participants at an APC-led workshop on open spectrum discussed the implications of spectrum policy on fundamental rights to accessing information, freedom of expression and association on the internet. During the discussion, several participants suggested that in order to develop effective policy, governments must recognise that radio frequencies are a common resource like water or roadways, which cannot be divided up and sold to the highest bidder. Recognising the importance of open spectrum and wireless connectivity in enabling essential human rights places an impetus on governments to protect and expand the wireless commons. Moreover, it provides a basis for action against efforts to shut down internet access by powerful actors.
Examining alternative media’s role and responsibilities in facilitating equitable access, several workshops highlighted the need for capacity-building to ensure safe and secure use of the internet. During a session on practicing secure online communication, co-hosted by the Open Technology Institute and APC, participants debated the tension between anonymity and trust online and identified the need for collective responsibility for individual and network security. Issues of trust and responsible stewardship also came out during the discussion at a workshop on civic hacking for self-governance, where panellists analysed new online tools that would allow them to play an active role in governance, including participatory budgeting and SMS-based citizen input.
The conference also supported a number of network gatherings, including one by APC member May First/People Link, where one discussion point included the need to learn how individuals in vulnerable communities are using the internet and how technology developers can grow tools to meet the needs of those communities and foster meaningful relationships.
Photo by Zooey Schock. Used with permission under Creative Commons license 2.0.