Community networks recognition: Local Networks initiative and projects from Tosepan and IBEBrasil nominated for the WSIS Prizes 2021

By APCNews

The Local Networks (LocNet) initiative and two projects from its peers – Tosepan (Mexico) and IBEBrasil (Brazil) – are among the nominees for this year’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes, a contest developed to evaluate activities that leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to advance sustainable development. 

Led by APC in partnership with Rhizomatica, LocNet aims to directly support the work of community networks and contribute to an enabling ecosystem for the emergence and growth of community-based connectivity activities in developing countries. The nomination is a recognition of community networks as an important and viable alternative for promoting the rights to access and communications, and for supporting sustainable development. 

The 2021 nominees gather important experiences from all around the world in 18 different categories. LocNet is running in the Access to information and knowledge category, while Tosepan’s campaign Tlayolchikawalis* (Actions to Protect the Hearts) and IBEBrasil’s Comunidades Digitais (Digital Communities) programme will compete with each other in the Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content category (find out more about them below). 

The voting period is currently open and will close on 31 March 2021. The 18 winning projects will be announced and, together with the 72 champion projects, recognised at the WSIS Prize 2021 Ceremony at WSIS Forum 2021 that will take place between 17 and 21 May this year. 

APC encourages people to vote and support the global recognition of community networks initiatives.

How to vote

1) Create a login name and password at this link

2) Choose the category links for which you wish to vote (see project information from LocNet and peers below).

3) Go to Category 3AL C3. Access to information and knowledge to vote for Local Networks initiative: Connecting the unconnected by seeding growth of community networks.

4) Go to Category 15AL C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content to vote for Tlayolchikawalis (Actions to Protect the Hearts) campaign from Tosepan OR for Comunidades Digitais (Digital Communities) from IBEBrasil.

5) In both cases, click on the little link that says “voting form”.

4) Choose the projects you wish to vote for, noting that there is only one vote per category.

About the initiatives we are supporting

APC’s Local Networks initiative began in 2017, aiming to understand “Can the unconnected connect themselves?”. To that end, the project focused on bottom-up connectivity strategies. An in-depth analysis of community-led small-scale telecommunication infrastructure networks in the global South was undertaken. To document the benefits and challenges facing small-scale, community-based connectivity projects, APC researchers visited 12 rural community networks in the global South in 2018 and studied several others through desk research and interviews. The primary goal of the research was to provide information that can be used for evidence-based policy making that would contribute to creating a more enabling environment for small, community-based local access networks. In addition, the research aimed to identify opportunities for these networks to be more effective and to encourage more such organisations to support the development of these networks. Based on the research findings from this in-depth research, in 2019 APC implemented another project in partnership with Rhizomatica to directly support the development of community networks, with funds from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). 

The Tlayolchikawalis (Actions to Protect the Hearts) campaign aims to ensure the right to know of the Masehual people of Cuetzalan so they can help each other throughout the pandemic. With very scarce access to infrastructure, services and information in their own language, there has been a worrisome trend of misleading information and fake news. There was a need for a campaign that not only provides reliable information, but enables the community to organise themselves to help each other, bringing together community members for the provision of supplies and other economic relief. The campaign is being led by a long-established local Union of Cooperatives Tosepan that brings together 395 Indigenous communities of the Sierra Norte of Puebla. Still, they need help with the campaign costs in Cuetzalan del Progreso and surrounding communities. Currently, Tosepan is being accompanied by the Mexican organisation Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad A.C. in an important Indigenous telecommunications network project, together with Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias A.C. and Rhizomatica

Instituto Bem Estar Brasil (IBEBrasil) is a civil, social, cultural and educational non-profit association that has been running the Digital Communities programme for more than 10 years in rural and peripheral areas in the north of Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with public universities. This project foresees a Community Portal that allows the community to access the internet and create communication channels and content using a local server and digital services. In this scenario, the community of Marrecas (in the north of Rio de Janeiro) is feeding their local community portal with content about preventing and fighting the pandemic by posting information for the community's residents on how to act in the face of COVID-19. The local server will be prepared just in time to launch the local WebTV/Radio, improve community communication and generate more interaction with the residents. Since last year, the community internet provider of Marrecas is expanding the network to other communities near them through the support of LocNet grants. 

* Please note that the campaign name is also spelled as Tayolchikawalis.

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