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22 October 2014 | Updated on 23 August 2022


A rights-based approach to internet policy and governance advances economic, social and cultural rights

Discussions on internet rights are often limited to arguments around “internet freedom”. APC believes that advancing internet rights is also a way to advance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). Some of these rights include: the right to education, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to health. In this three-year project, APC will explore how, ultimately, internet policy and regulation can help achieve greater social inclusion.

How will this be achieved?

We will encourage developing countries to adopt a rights-based approach to internet policy and support ESCR activists to include internet issues in their advocacy. Through research, training and influencing policy, we will produce evidence and tools to advance internet policy making, particularly in developing countries that have typically resisted a human rights approach to internet policy and regulation.

Who will we work with?
  • Human rights defenders, women human rights defenders, civil society organisations, human rights organisations, researchers, practitioners, and academic institutions from developing countries who are involved in ESCRs and development, particularly those working on health, education, and open science and culture.

  • Groups and individuals who work to defend and protect human rights on the internet (often referred to as “internet freedom” advocates). Governments and policy makers/public sector institutions involved in the internet and economic, social and cultural development.

Specific objectives


  • Gather information on economic, social and cultural rights instruments, how they relate to the internet, and what internet policy frameworks apply to these rights at global, regional and national levels.

  • Conduct an analysis to better understand the perspectives and positions of actors involved in internet and ECSR-related policy processes.

  • Develop a monitoring framework to assess the positive or negative impact of internet use and policy at national and sectoral levels. At a national level, the monitoring framework will be applied in over 50 countries. At a sectoral level, the framework will be applied to three in-depth case studies on: (1) access to educational materials, (2) access to publicly funded research, and (3) cultural rights and the internet domain name system (DNS). All case studies will consider gender dimensions of ECSRs.


  • Develop a new module for the Internet Rights Are Human Rights training curriculum in order to urge rights advocates to advance ESCRs through internet policy and governance at national and global levels.

  • Work with 50 APC partners and specialised organisations around the world in applying and improving the monitoring framework by testing it in their own reality.

Policy influence

  • Build advocacy tools and tactics to respond to challenges that arise while applying the monitoring framework.

  • Facilitate networking and the exchange of ideas, experience, research and policy advocacy strategies among academics, researchers and rights advocates from the global North and South in order to advance internet rights as human rights.

We will also publish a revised APC Internet Rights Charter that encompasses economic, social and cultural rights. This work is being carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.


Project wiki

About our project partners


Sunil Abraham is the executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a Bangalore-based research organisation. He founded Mahiti, a company committed to creating high impact technology and communications solutions, in 1998. Sunil was elected as an Ashoka fellow in 1999 to "explore the democratic potential of the internet" and was granted a Sarai FLOSS fellowship in 2003. Between June 2004 and June 2007, Sunil also managed the International Open Source Network, a project of the United Nations Development Programme's Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme serving 42 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Between September 2007 and June 2008, he managed ENRAP, an electronic network of International Fund for Agricultural Development projects in the Asia-Pacific, facilitated and co-funded by International Development Research Centre, Canada.


Andrew Rens is a scholar of the complex interactions of human rights, knowledge, and innovation. Rens teaches in Access to Medicines: Intellectual Property and Global Public Health at Duke Law School, where he is writing a dissertation on the use of open licences in education as an SJD candidate. Rens has taught at the University of the Witwatersrand Law School and the University of Cape Town Law School. He was Intellectual Property Fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation from 2008 to 2010. He was the founding legal lead of Creative Commons South Africa and co-founder and director of two non-profit organisations: the African Commons Project and Freedom to Innovate South Africa. He has been a fellow at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, a research associate at the LINK Center at the School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand, and at the Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.



Juan Carlos Lara is a lawyer at the University of Chile. He joined Derechos Digitales in mid-2008, working as a researcher on issues related to intellectual property, freedom of expression, access to knowledge and academic work in the digital environment.