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At the United States Social Forum on June 24 fifty politically progressive technologists came together for the first US Progressive Techie Congress.

“The Congress is part of an international effort to build discussion among progressive technologists for social transformation,” said Alfredo Lopez, director of New-York based technological cooperative May First/PeopleLink.

“There are other upcoming World Techie Congresses which are part of the worldwide World Social Forum movement,” he told APCNews. “There will be one in Palestine at the Education Social Forum in October, at the Paraguay Hemispheric Social Forum in August and then at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal during the first week of February 2011.”

The Congress emerged with a statement applauded by other socially-responsible networks like the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) as “a great set of principles”.


US Techie Congress: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

At the United States Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan (USA) on June 24, 50 politically progressive technologists came together to make history: the first U.S. Progressive Techie Congress.

The Congress is part of an international effort to build discussion, among progressive technologists, of our rights and reponsibilities within the movement for social transformation.

After nearly five hours of deliberation, the Congress emerged with a consensus on the following principles:

Technological decisions have political consequences. These decisions need to reflect the politics of our movements. Every technology we adopt has embedded power relations. Technology structures how we are able to communicate and who is able to communicate. Technology use is highly influenced by NGO and government procurement, spending, and regulation. Our movements should work to change policies and spending, create more transparency, as well as work to develop technologies that are attendant to our needs.

Participatory technology design. We understand that technology should be driven by the needs of the movement as a whole. We all have the responsibility to voice our ideas about socially responsible use of technology; at the same time, specialized tech skills, like all specialized skills, create power dynamics that we must recognize. We must engage in ongoing dialogue as a movement to address the ways that power structures become embedded in technology, and include everyone as far as possible in all aspects of technology design.

Digital inclusion: Technology should be accessible to all, and the movement should actively move to break down those barriers to access including language, hardware and connectivity. We should work on technology to break down other barriers, and not construct new barriers. Technologies need to be designed with the end user in mind, this includes translation, accessibility, youth education, and access to computing resources.

Social sustainability: Technology we build or implement should retain its usefulness to people and organizations in the movement. It must be usable and accessible. It should support multiple platforms, open standards, and data portability. It must be economically feasible for the organization to maintain. We must include documentation and training sufficient to give groups control over the technology that serves them.

Community-owned infrastructure: Our communities have the right to design, own, use and control the network, hardware, and software we rely on. The movement has the responsibility to support and steward this community-owned infrastructure. Techies within the movement have the responsibility to explain and advocate for community-owned infrastructure.

Data privacy: Our social movements have a right to be free from surveillance, both governmental and private. We should encourage our movements to make political choices to protect the privacy, security, and data of both individuals and organizations.

As we do tech work with the movement, we must work against systems of power, privilege, oppression and exclusion. We must work collaboratively across identities, groups, languages, and borders. We must specifically commit to strengthen the voices of oppressed peoples including people of color, women, gender-oppressed people, LGBTQI people, Indigenous peoples, migrants, immigrants, low-income people, people with disabilities, and people of all ages, education levels and technological skill. We must actively engage, train and collaborate to nurture a movement that celebrates diversity.

The Congress was sponsored by four tech organisations: May First/People Link, Agaric Design, Openflows and the Progressive Technology Project.

For more information contact Alfredo Lopez, co-director at May First/People Link

Photo: “World Social Forum 2011 site”: