On November 20, nine APC members met to strengthen the APC network in the region.
The meeting was held just before the Regional Consultation on Freedom of Expression for Civil Liberties held on 21-23 November with UN Special Rapporteur Frank LaRue. BytesforAll Pakistan and APC were co-organisers of this consultation.
Members welcomed the opportunity to share their work, their priorities and also the challenges they are facing. They shared their main activities planned for 2014-2015, as well as the internet/ICT regulatory environment and condition of internet access and rights in their countries.
Some of the collaborative activities between the network discussed at the meeting were:
*Promoting access through DEF’s eNGO connectivity initiative and Manthan awards. Osama Manzar, from DEF, offered to lead the effort to expand these two projects to APC members in the region with attention to improving local content and digital literacy.
*Strengthening internet and digital rights advocacy in the region. Members emphasized the need to learn more from each other and to understand regional trends in regulation especially on privacy, surveillance and freedom of expression. Shahzad Ahmad, from Bytes for All Pakistan, and Byoung-il Oh, from Jinbonet, were asked to lead this for the region.
*Promoting open governance including access to knowledge, right to information and transparency. Al Alegre and Engage Media are the anchors for this issue. Al offered to expand FMA’s open governance index with other members in the region.
*Engaging regional (and global) governance policy processes. Members agreed to be more actively involved in the next Asia Pacific IGF which will be held in Hyderabad in September 2014, following involvement by Shahzad and Byoungil at the IGF in Seoul this year. Shahzad has been elected as a Vice-Chair of the steering committee. Members also discussed involvement in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
*Advancing gender equality and women’s rights through participation in APC’s ending violence work and promoting women’s participation. Work in the region includes FMA, BFA and Open Institue’s work on documenting and responding to gender based violence as well as BFES’s Amader Gram (Our Village) project which provides ICT facilitates in identifying and providing treatment for breast cancer in Khulna, Bangladesh among others.
At the end of the meeting, members expressed the importance of meeting face-to-face to develop trust and strengthen collaboration as a regional network. Compared to other regions, Asia-Pacific is very diverse and face significant barriers in terms of language differences. There is also a lot of potential to expand membership and outreach and members noted that support for regional coordination can go a long way in making this happen.
Members present included:
Bangladesh Friendship Eduction Society
Bytes for All Pakistan
Bytes for All Bangladesh
Digital Empowerment Foundation
Foundation for Media Alternatives