Project grants for local implementation of APC’s strategic plan in 2020

These grants are for projects that contribute to the implementation of APC’s strategic outcomes for 2020-2023 at the national level and are meant to strengthen ongoing work of APC members. In their proposals, members should demonstrate how their projects contribute to one or more of these strategic outcomes at the local level.

List of selected projects for 2020

Summaries of selected project grants (2020)
Jokkolabs Banjul (Formerly YMCA Computer Training Centre and Digital Studio) - Digital Skills and Digital Inclusion Advocacy Programmes for Women's Groups in Rural Gambia 

This project intends to address rural women's groups involved in various women's empowerment programmes in health, education and agriculture, either as advocacy groups or running small and medium-sized enterprises in four rural regions of the Gambia, namely North Bank Region, Lower River Region, Central River Region and Upper River Region.

The main purpose of this project encompasses two components: providing the prerequisite digital skills needed in the 21st century that will empower 400 women directly in these four regions, and carrying out digital inclusion advocacy programmes that will target 800 women in these four regions. Up until now, when digital skills and digital inclusion programmes are mentioned in The Gambia, the rural regions of the country are usually left out in such programmes, hence the big digital divide between urban and rural communities. This project aims to address that digital divide by empowering women in rural communities in The Gambia, focusing on women who are the biggest contributors to the Gambian economy from the informal sector.

Senegal ICT Users Association (ASUTIC) - Promoting sustainable e-waste management in Senegal (PSEMS)

The government of Senegal has been committed since 2000 to improving access to new information and communications technologies (ICTs) in order to reduce the digital divide by promoting the import of second-hand equipment. The consequence of such a policy is the massive arrival of electrical and electronic devices that have a very short lifespan or are sometimes even unusable, thus causing the appearance of a new type of waste in Senegal: waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) or e-waste. Twenty years later, Senegal is not yet prepared to manage e-waste sustainably. Indeed, ASUTIC has noted the absence of a specific legal and regulatory framework, the largely informal nature of e-waste processing activities, actors who are poorly informed and trained in the profession, and non-compliance with international norms and standards for the sustainable management of e-waste, with the consequence of dangerous and polluting practices that make this a problem of public health and the environment in Senegal.

In addition, there is the lack of public awareness about the e-waste situation that is preventing the country from developing circular economies for electronic equipment. In view of the above, there is a need for a sustainable management strategy for e-waste structured around a specific legal framework and communication campaigns in order to make citizens and stakeholders in the sector aware of the danger of this waste while informing them on their economic opportunities through sustainable management. Without proper measures in Senegal, it is likely that informal activities will increase and continue. Therefore, civil society organisations need to take actions to tackle the problem. In response to the challenge related to the sustainable management of e-waste in Senegal, the Association of ICT Users (ASUTIC) developed the project "Promoting sustainable e-waste management in Senegal", whose objective is to contribute to the development and implementation of a viable strategy that can effectively address the need for ecological management of e-waste. 

The project will be carried over the course of 10 months, from 1 September 2020 to 30 June 2021. The indirect beneficiaries are ICT users and the direct beneficiaries  are e-waste informal workers, namely the electronic equipment repairers and the recyclers. The project will be carried out by leveraging internet opportunities to foster solutions-oriented dialogue, cooperation and an inclusive approach by providing a global platform for knowledge sharing and public awareness. ASUTIC will work with a broad range of national and international partners to develop effective strategies to implement the three main activities: research, advocacy and capacity building, and communication and awareness raising. Three outcomes are expected: 

  • Creation of a specific legal and regulatory framework for e-waste

  • Fostering ecological attitudes towards e-waste and encouraging user participation in its sustainable management

  • Creation of a national coalition of civil society organisations to tackle the problem of e-waste.

Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) - Developing a Rural Ecosystem Against Misinformation (DREAM) 

Over the past years, India has seen some of the most adverse fall-outs of online misinformation. Whether it is the form of offline violence, social panic, or targeted campaigns of harassment, the problematics of misinformation in a complex and diverse society like India might be more sophisticated and more challenging than they are in the "West” . The years 2017 and 2018 saw an alarming rise in mob violence throughout India, fuelled by rumours circulated via social media and end-to-end messaging platforms driven by the high penetration of WhatsApp in the country. Fact-checking and media and information literacy (MIL) have emerged as potential strategies for countering misinformation. However, learnings from DEF’s implementation of MIL with local stakeholders have shown that sensitisation and tools to counter misinformation are still yet to reach the community in a way that can make them resilient to misinformation. This requires a sustained approach that is rooted in community practices and is able to respond to the recurring social dynamics that misinformation harnesses on to. Further, online fact-checking initiatives operate at the national level and are unable to respond to the hyper-local content cycle which is more directly linked to offline violence. 

In response to this, DEF plans to pilot five hyper-local fact-checking initiatives rooted in community radio stations. Community radios have a mandate to serve the information needs of the community and can be potential stakeholders in dealing with unintended consequences of an information-dense ecosystem and increase penetration and adoption of mobile phones, internet, and social media platforms like WhatsApp. The social experience of COVID-19 has shown how community radios have reasserted their importance within the local information ecosystem by providing vital information to under-served communities on how to deal with COVID-19.

The project aims to build the capacity of the five local community radio stations, to provide active fact-checking services to the community, and to provide sensitisation and awareness services in dealing with misinformation fuelled by prejudice. These five community radio stations will be Awaz Radio, Madhya Pradesh; Hamar Radio, Chhattisgarh; Radio Snehi, Bihar; Radio Vagad, Rajasthan; and Ghazipur Radio, Uttar Pradesh. Further, the project will work to develop a call-in number and chat-bot for the community to report cases of misinformation that they are coming across, which the radio can then respond to in a special program dedicated to countering misinformation content circulating in the community. DEF will work to build the capacity of the community radios in fact-checking and media and information literacy, develop the call-in number and chat-bot, monitor the implementation to take learnings for scaling up the work, and hold a community consultation with the five radio stations and other relevant stakeholders for knowledge sharing and learning to consolidate the work for replication.

The learning from this implementation aims to bring community-centric proof of concept to the conversation around intermediary guidelines and the WhatsApp traceability case, both of which aim to combat misinformation through state interventions without adequate judicial oversight and private delegation of censorship that can have a significant impact on fundamental freedoms and constitutional rights, particularly freedom of speech and expression. It also helps to highlight participatory processes of content regulation and governance that bring to the fore the citizen as a regulatory entity by de-centring models of self-regulation by businesses, co-regulation by businesses and the state, and command and control models. This helps highlight a proof of concept of how participatory processes can provide alternative and empowering solutions to key internet governance questions.

Point of View (POV) - Internet In My Hands

There are many things uncertain about the world at present, but one thing is certain: today, digital access is a matter of survival. Lockdown has exacerbated inequalities of digital access in India, where there is a 46% gender gap in internet use. Without access to the mobile internet, marginalised women in low-income communities are at threat of not having access to food, healthcare, state subsidies, education, critical information, employment, counselling, helplines and freedom from violence. 

The collaborative pilot project Internet In My Hands will empower and build the digital literacy, digital rights, and digital security knowledge and skills of women domestic workers in Kolkata, one of India’s biggest cities. The aim is to make these marginalised communities of informal workers more digitally resilient in the face of a continuing pandemic – and more future-proof than they currently are. The idea is to enable domestic workers to use digital devices (mobile phones) for information and organisation, so that they have access to food security, healthcare, education and citizenship rights in a COVID-impacted world. The project will be carried out in partnership with Parichiti, a women’s organisation working for the rights of women domestic workers and other marginalised women in low-income urban slums and settlements of Kolkata and some villages in West Bengal. Parichiti works in 25 different locations spread across south and southeast Kolkata, and with 20 Samadhan Dal or women domestic workers collectives. 

The digital gender gap in India further widens as one looks at specific communities and brings in the intersections of class, literacy, etc. Women are 46% less likely than men to own a mobile phone, and are only 29% of the users online. When looking at domestic workers, this gap widens further as a lot of them tend to own feature phones, or very basic smartphones. Even if there is a smartphone in the house, the men and boys in the house have access to it. This is also partly because of the lack of familiarity and hence a fear that women have around smartphones.

This project will identify their technology and mobile phone needs and concerns, and then train them to build their knowledge and capacity on the same. The project will begin with monthly trainings, hand-holding and mentoring of a few leaders from the Samadhan Dals, who will then work with the members of their collectives. This way, the leaders will become community trainers in their own standing and will be able to address any usage or digital security concerns that others in their community may have with their mobile phone. This is how this pilot project aims to make this community digitally resilient. This is an experimental first-of-its-kind pilot that aims to use relevant mobile phone technologies, including messenger apps, to create digital networks among marginalised women workers, who will be transformed step-by-step, month-by-month into grassroots digital trainers – starting from where they are and understanding their hyper-local needs and realities. If this succeeds, Point of View will use the same model with diverse grassroots communities.

Unwanted Witness Uganda - Defending Human Rights by Challenging Data Intensive Systems of Power In Uganda

The 21st century brought with it rapid development in the technological capacities of governments and corporate entities to intercept, extract, filter, store, analyse and disseminate the communications of whole populations. These technological advancements pose a direct threat to the safeguards protecting the right to privacy. The right to privacy is a fundamental right enshrined in many constitutions around the world, as well as in international human rights law. In Uganda, Article 27 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution confers the right to privacy for all citizens. In order to operationalise this constitutional provision, the Ugandan government adopted the Data Protection and Privacy Act early last year, following concerted policy advocacy by Unwanted Witness Uganda and other actors of change. 

However, despite having a law in place for close to two years now, there is still lack of institutional framework, processes and infrastructure to support the protection of data and privacy rights in Uganda. Moreover, the increasing volume and use of personal data, together with the emergence of technologies enabling new ways of processing and using data, means that regulating an effective data protection framework is more important than ever. The absence of the institutional framework continues to provide a fertile ground for arbitrary and unlawful infringements of the right to privacy and human rights broadly. The current global health pandemic caused by the coronavirus has further revealed unprecedented use of surveillance tools by government, negating international human rights law. Protecting privacy in the digital age is essential to effective and good democratic governance. 

Therefore, based on the dire need for an effective data protection enforcement mechanism to safeguard human rights and democracy in Uganda, Unwanted Witness seeks to develop an evidential foundation on how data-intensive systems operate and their effect on human rights and democracy more generally. That body of evidence will help Unwanted Witness to develop key standards that will guide its collective strategic advocacy and communications. Jointly and independently, it will generate debates and make the case for data protection legal enforcement with key communities, particularly in the legal sector, academia, the private sector, policy makers, the national human rights institution, and across civil society. The project will also check the powers of national private companies, especially telecoms, involved in the collection and storage of citizens’ personal data. The companies will be encouraged to adopt periodic privacy reports as a means of fostering transparency and accountability as their core responsibility in respect to human rights.

Rhizomatica - Shortwave radio for digital communications in rural and indigenous communities (HERMES)

HERMES is a software system created by Rhizomatica to enable digital information sharing over shortwave radio and is an ideal technology for very remote, unconnected populations. This project is about making improvements to Rhizomatica's HERMES (High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System) shortwave digital communication system to increase energy efficiency, performance (throughput, capacity), ease of use, portability, privacy and robustness to support unconnected rural and Indigenous communities in the Amazon and northern Mexico.

Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE) - Open Data and Collective Action for Disaster Preparedness

The biggest challenge facing humanity today is climate change, manifested as floods, droughts, heavy rainfall and high temperatures. We have moved way too far from the delicate balance of nature to quickly reverse its impacts. Improving our preparedness and reducing damage is an immediate priority. At the same time, increased awareness of the root causes of the challenges we face will help us amend our ways and correct the damage in the long term. The state of Kerala in India has started looking at what technology can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. Collecting geospatial data is recognised as necessary, as it will enable the state to better prepare itself. Developing this dataset is costly and time-consuming.

However, open data initiatives like OpenStreetMap offer new ways to develop these data resources. Developing data through massive collaboration and crowdsourcing requires formal and informal partnership between the state and civil society. Tool chains for data generation and quality control along with capability to use those technologies will have to be developed. Thankfully, a lot of tools are available as free software; minor adaptation and capability development should enable the state to overcome those challenges. 

In this project, SPACE aims to work with other civil society organisations and local and regional governments to build a model for disaster preparedness in one or two local bodies in Kerala leveraging community-based open data repositories. The initiative shall start with developing detailed geospatial information of the area using the OpenStreetMap platform and allied tool sets. The data generated will be analysed using free software GIS tool chains. Locally useful solutions such as flood modelling and alert mechanisms shall also be created. More than the data and solutions, the project will focus on engaging the community (the youth and students in particular), shaping the discourse on climate change and sensitising people on how human activities are aggravating the damage. Developing a replicable set of methodologies and resource materials is one of the objectives of this project. Replication within Kerala and India will be emphasised. The project will partner with a global community of technology developers to build capability in environmental and geospatial data generation and processing. Ranni, a village affected by the 2018 floods, has been identified as a potential site for the project.

Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE) - Strengthening environmental sustainability through safer e-waste management technologies

The use of digital technologies has touched almost every aspect of modern life, reaching around 50% of the developing world’s population in only two decades. While these technologies have been developing for many years, however, they have shown unprecedented growth with enhanced application in a wide range of social and economic activities like delivering trade and public services, harnessing financial inclusion and e-commerce, supporting marginalised groups and communities with a free flow of information, etc.

The wide-ranging use of digital technologies has essentially been triggered with the innovation of digital devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets and computers. But most of the devises used in developing countries are not quality products. The quality standard is often compromised to keep the price low for mass use. In most cases, the unregulated bilateral trade with the technologically advanced countries leads the domestic market of the poor countries to be oversaturated with a supply of cheap devices with a relatively shorter lifespan that promotes a "one-time-use" culture, leaving basically no option of reusing the devices and foreclosing the potentials of the circular economy.

Though digital technologies have created the scope of an inclusive digital economy as well as achieving the flagship ambition of the SDGs, there are many challenges. The major challenge is the management of e-waste that is piling up day by day. The waste created by disposed devices contains toxic materials such as lead, mercury, copper, cadmium, beryllium, barium, etc. that cause severe risks to human health and damage to the environment. They also contribute to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) during combustion and recycling of e-waste. This has become a particular problem in Bangladesh. 

The government of Bangladesh literally opened up imports of cheap digital devices to complement its political vision of "Digital Bangladesh" to be achieved by 2021. The vision was set to make Bangladesh technologically advanced through the effective use of digital devices in key development sectors like education, health and communication. Inspired by that vision, the private sector and public agencies have promoted mass utilisation of digital devices, which has increased the volume of e-waste from 2.81 million tons in 2009 to around 12 million tons in 2019. Most of the e-waste is collected informally from the source, and after some reusable metals are taken out, the rest is dumped into open landfills, farmland and bodies of water. In the meantime, unstructured, unskilled and informal practices of e-waste recycling leave more than 30 million children, women and non-formal workers exposed to hazardous substances like lead, mercury, cadmium and dioxins.

Bangladesh has yet to introduce specific policy guidelines on e-waste management. Draft regulations were prepared and amended in 2017 but have not yet been enforced. Therefore, it is important to advocate for an effective policy framework through research, raising awareness and building capacity through a multistakeholder approach.

Zenzeleni Networks NPC and Computer Aid International - Collaboration to enhance the impact and sustainability of community networks and Solar Learning Labs

This joint member project seeks to support the deployment of a Computer Aid International (CAI) Solar Learning Lab (SLL) in rural South Africa, integrating it into the Zenzeleni Mankosi community network, creating a safe space for community members to access devices, training and support to utilise ICTs and the internet. The SLL is a global initiative giving access to technology in marginalised and remote communities by reusing and converting shipping containers into solar-powered computer classrooms. 

Zenzeleni recognises that while affordable, reliable connectivity is essential, the network cannot reach its full potential when people do not have access and skills to use ICT devices. This initiative is therefore an essential step towards making the network accessible and valuable to the whole community. Zenzeleni also sees this as a valuable step to increase the sustainability of the network, as the SLL can offer new (affordable) services to the community and thus expand the local Zenzeleni cooperative business. Furthermore, it sees the lab space as a valuable tool for local students and entrepreneurs to expand their capabilities and to develop the local economy within the community. Lastly, Zenzeleni is committed to increasing its environmental sustainability, and as such this solar-powered lab will also be an example, and space, where general awareness building about critical environmental (and social) issues can be addressed.  

For CAI, one of the biggest challenges when deploying SLLs in underserviced areas is the cost and/or reliability of the network to provide the labs with connectivity. Another challenge for SLL deployment is that of ongoing sustainability after the initial support offered by CAI and Dell comes to an end. The integration of the lab into a functioning business, with a complementary service and objective, therefore presents a solution to two of their major challenges.  

The experience and learning from this project are expected to be valuable for both Zenzeleni and CAI in their future work. The lessons may also be very valuable for other APC members, community networks and others. With this in mind, one of the main outcomes of this project is a documented learning process evaluating how a combination of a community network and a Solar Learning Lab can help the two initiatives to support each other to increase their positive impact and their sustainability. 

This particular project subgrant will primarily support the Zenzeleni team and community to participate in their first lab deployment and operations. This will comprise the design of an operations plan and training plan. It will also include the management, monitoring and evaluation of the lab initiative on two levels, that of the impact and effectiveness of offering certified courses, and that of financial and operations sustainability of the lab within the Zenzeleni business model. While the SLL capital expenditures are covered by CAI and Dell, without additional funding, the Zenzeleni team would be severely strained, and it is hoped that this project will create the necessary foundation and start-up for the lab to operate sustainably. Both members will also contribute time and other costs where possible to co-fund the project.

Colnodo - Strengthening strategies of the Sustainable Development Network (RDS) to raise awareness among the population on concrete actions for sustainable development focused on ICTs

This project seeks to inform the community on how to use ICTs responsibly from the perspective of the final consumer, not only in terms of energy savings, but also in terms of the costs of emitting carbon through the devices we buy and use. The aim is to provide better information to train smarter consumers, influence their behavior when using technology, encourage them to take this type of discussion to the local level in the communities, to learn to identify if an electronic product is really green: educate the community. In parallel, the project proposes the implementation of a concrete action to reduce the energy consumption of the Colnodo data centre by reducing its electricity consumption from 1,100 to 720 KW per month, that is, a 65% reduction in electricity consumption. In addition, the project will aim to strengthen the “Donate a Tree” campaign that seeks to restore a tropical dry forest in the municipality of Agrado in the department of Huila.

Nodo TAU - r2(r)u, the right to (re)use

The reuse of electronic equipment is an increasingly valued activity, which brings numerous benefits to the environment and people. The extension of the life cycle of equipment reduces the generation of electronic waste and avoids the polluting extraction of materials from nature, promoting healthy cities and environments. At the same time, thanks to the low cost of reused equipment, people and institutions manage to obtain second-hand devices, which allow them to use technology for access to connectivity, knowledge and decent work. 

With this project, Nodo TAU intends to enhance all its activities that are linked to the reuse of computer equipment, thereby promoting the strengthening of the following rights: 

  • The right to access to the internet and to ICTs

  • The right to access to information and knowledge

  • The right to a healthy environment.

On the one hand, Nodo TAU will work to improve the technology and procedures used in its Computer e-Waste Management Plant, in order to increase the annual rate of reused equipment by using free software, certifying the traceability of devices, and training the personnel at the plant, mainly composed of young people from vulnerable sectors who join the world of work through this, their first job. On the other hand, it will implement an innovative system of provision of equipment to individuals and social organisations, promoting digital inclusion as well as the culture of reuse, the circularity of materials and care of the environment. For the organisations that benefit from this system, Nodo TAU will develop training sessions so that, in addition to receiving the equipment, they will be able to make strategic use of them, strengthening the actions developed in the territories, especially those carried out by women. In parallel, Nodo TAU will work with local schools and the provincial Ministry of Education in the refurbishment of netbooks provided in public schools until 2015 by “Conectar Igualdad”, a programme for low-income students. These activities will be carried out alongside other dissemination activities, such as webinars and publications, to achieve greater knowledge, awareness and commitment of the entire community regarding the "right to repair" and the "right to (re)use" equipment.

The acronym we created, r2(r)u, illustrates these ideas. The right to use is enhanced – therefore the use of parentheses – by reuse. Technologies should be conceived for reuse, adapting them to our own uses, using free software and working with our own networks. We use lowercase because the use, reuse and appropriation of technologies should be present every day, and not something that should be highlighted in capital letters.

Intervozes - Free Internet, Safe Communities: Mapping the Internet, Information and Communication Technologies and Socio-Environmental Justice in Quilombola and Rural Territories in Northeast Brazil

To face the challenges of the struggle for territory and socio-environmental justice and the promotion of a free internet, this project aims to produce a collective mapping of internet and ICT access, use and conceptions by Quilombola and rural communities in northeastern Brazil, based on the preliminary mapping done by Intervozes and the National Coordinator of Quilombola Communities (Conaq) in May 2020. Quilombolas are the inhabitants of the old quilombos, settlements originally created by groups of Africans and Afro-descendants who managed to escape slavery and hide in sparsely populated regions, like the northeastern semiarid region known as the Sertão, and also often lived with the help or under the protection of Indigenous communities.

The mapping will be based on a process of learning and exchange between the agendas of the struggles in defence of the territories and for a free internet. It is, therefore, the first stage of a process of coordination and cooperation aimed at the construction of counter-narratives and epistemological debate over the internet and ICT from a feminist, anti-racist and socio-environmental justice perspective. It is also aimed at the production of inputs for advocacy with decision makers on public policies around access and use of the internet and ICTs, in addition to strengthening and building autonomous appropriation of these technologies in dialogue with ancestral technologies and traditional ways of life. 

In this context, women, who historically have the role of producing and reproducing life, and also for this reason have a leading role in resisting and building autonomous alternatives to the proposed development model, will have a central role in the systematisation of knowledge in this project.

7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media - Palestinian Digital Rights at the United Nations

This project is based on protecting Palestinian digital rights, based on the premise that if Palestinians have the capacity to advocate at the United Nations, and increase decision makers' access to their human rights statements with the support of international allies, they will be able to better achieve sustainable protection of Palestinian digital rights and ensure local and international governments’ and social media companies’ policies and practices are aligned with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The project spans one year and builds on 7amleh’s 2019 project with APC, which focused on introducing 7amleh to the United Nations Human rights Council. 7amleh learned tremendously from last year's experience and has started to work to develop a positive, sustainable environment for engagement in the future. Additionally, 7amleh is developing a more methodological and strategic approach to its international advocacy at the United Nations with this project, which it believes will lead to increased achievement of its objectives and will contribute to people facing discrimination having greater power and autonomy to exercise their human rights online and offline.

Foundation for Media Alternatives - WeAponization of Surveillance amid a Pandemic (WASP)

WASP is a two-phased project that zeroes in on the different privacy-intrusive measures of the Philippine government during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase involves the drafting of a comprehensive report that documents and analyses the various government initiatives introduced during this public health crisis, particularly those that significantly impact privacy and data protection. The second phase will consist of a public campaign to disseminate the results of the report, while promoting individual privacy rights, as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and the country’s data protection law. The campaign also aims to empower Filipinos by guiding them on how to properly exercise their rights, specifically through the submission of data access requests to key government agencies acting as primary custodians of their personal data. 

The research component will consist of a thorough, rights-based assessment of several government initiatives, including contact-tracing applications, databases, and even new policies adopted either as a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis or as a complementary measure meant to address one or more related concerns. It will highlight the privacy implications of these initiatives and propose policy recommendations that will allow the government to implement its programmes in a manner consistent with constitutional and data protection standards. 

The public campaign component will disseminate the results of the study using a targeted communications and advocacy plan. It will also involve the production and distribution of informative and instructional materials on how individuals, as data subjects, can exercise their rights under the country’s Data Privacy Act. Instructional guides and templates for submitting data access requests to government entities acting as personal data controllers will be made available. 

By the end of the project, civil society partners and individual data subjects are expected to be more knowledgeable about the human rights ramifications of new technologies and projects introduced by the Philippine government, and empowered to hold both government and private actors (i.e. third-party contractors collaborating in government projects) to account for possible human rights or data protection violations. The project also seeks to effect substantial policy changes by proposing rights-respecting alternatives to state actors operating as personal information controllers.

Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) - Advocacy for Access

The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light one of the most fundamental issues with the internet in Pakistan: the lack of infrastructure and access to ICTs. Over the last four months, the lack of internet access has disenfranchised people from marginalised communities, those living outside urban centres, and those living in areas where internet shutdowns are more frequent. The majority of Pakistan’s population (nearly 65%) lives in non-urban and rural areas, making access to the internet a problem of the majority of the country's population. In some regions, the internet is simply not available, while in others, the speed is controlled (for example, shifting to 2G from 3G and 4G to limit the flow of information). As a pattern, we see that mostly the population of the conflict-ridden and vulnerable areas (i.e. areas with a history of religious, political and gender-based violence and militarisation) remain deprived of quality internet access.

During the last four months, as all educational institutes have shifted to online and remote learning models, we have witnessed multiple protests across the country by students who are disconnected and are unable to access online classes and learning modules. Other student bodies have taken to the internet to protest for their disconnected peers, and hashtags like #SayNoToOnlineClasses have been developed. In addition to highlighting the lack of access, the situation has also highlighted a gaping flaw in civil society interventions for the internet. There are only four civil society organisations focused on internet and digital rights in Pakistan, and none of them (including MMfD) has initiated any sustained intervention specifically in the area of access. 

In 2019, MMfD led an initiative called Human Kaisa Internet Chahiye (What Kind of Internet Do I Want), and access to cheap, safe and fast internet turned out to be the biggest demand in a Public Charter for Digital Democracy, created after a series of national consultations. This project has a simple objective: the initiation of a discourse on the issue of access and the initiation of collective efforts to work towards policy objectives. 

The project starts at a very basic level, comprising the following steps:

  1. Development of knowledge around challenges to access and its impact – exploratory research would be conducted to map infrastructural and other challenges hindering access and the impact of the resulting digital divide.

  2. Reviewing current policies and recommending policy changes for enabling universal access – a policy paper would be written to review digital policies and procedures aimed at universal access and identification of gaps within these policies.

  3. Creating journalistic features on the impact of inaccessibility of the internet to initiate public discourse – a series of journalistic features would be commissioned for Digital Rights Monitor, MMfD’s news website, to explore the issue of the digital divide.

  4. Engaging with civil society and the private sector for policy advocacy – a collective of civil society and private sector stakeholders would be created to take the agenda for universal access forward.

  5. Public campaigning to raise awareness about inaccessibility – to generate public discourse on access and the digital divide, MMfD would create a series of multimedia products including a documentary and other creative content highlighting the impact of  the digital divide on different segments of society.

Cooperativa Sulá Batsú - No digital transformation without environmental responsibility: advocacy campaign to integrate environment sustainability in the National Telecommunication Policy (2022-2027) in Costa Rica (ENVRES)

The year 2022 should start with a new Costa Rica National Telecommunications Plan (PNDT 2022-2027). The country guidelines require that the policies and plans be built from participatory multi-stakeholder processes that are convened one year in advance. For the PNDT, the call for participatory construction begins in November 2020. This is an extraordinary opportunity for civil society to incorporate its interests and concerns into the strategies, budgets and action plans related to telecommunications for the next five-year period.

There is a strong tendency to look at digital transformation as one of the most relevant options to face the consequences of the crisis generated by the pandemic worldwide. As many times, technology appears again in the speeches as the magic solution, where the digital transformation of small and medium-sized companies is the option for the economic reactivation of the most vulnerable, the transformation of public services for the efficiency of the State, that of schools to satisfy access to education or telemedicine as the option for access to health. These will undoubtedly be strategies that will be strongly integrated into the PNDT 2022-2027 in Costa Rica. 

The digital transformation will not only increase the consumption of devices and therefore the electronic waste that is not known how to handle in the country, but will also imply an increase in the contribution of the digital sector to the carbon footprint of energy consumption, the increase in the digital industry that is already very important in the country and that is located in free zones with special privileges, as well as the increase in the purchase of supplies without guarantee that they have been produced with clean work. Also, the precariousness of work will be stimulated with the digital transformation if business models based on the hegemonic platforming of the economy are used. 

Our cooperative would like to lead an advocacy process in the construction of the new telecommunications development plan for Costa Rica 2022-2027 in such a way that the environmental responsibility of the digital sector is included as one of the strategies for this new five-year period. To do this, it would seek to: 

  • Develop a campaign and training process on the subject aimed at multiple actors

  • Actively participate in the construction of the new public policy by carrying the flag of this issue in such a way that it is defined as one of the strategies of the next five-year period

  • Generate alliances for joint work in civil society between actors in the digital, environmental, and women's sectors.

  • Generate female leadership that promotes, guarantees, investigates, and acts so that there is environmental responsibility in the digital sector. 

Rudi International – Haki Conference: The Conference on Human Rights in the Digital Age in the DRC

This project will be implemented around a conference discussing human rights in the digital age in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the countries in Africa where many human rights violations occur. Participants will have the opportunity to understand the concept of human rights and the way they are affected by the evolution of the internet. For two days, topics such as internet freedom, access to information, freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of women and children against online violations, and other human rights aspects will be discussed.

The Haki Conference will bring together, for the third year in a row, various stakeholders from the main cities of the country as well as participants from outside the DRC to share best practices on how we can unite together and ensure human rights defenders (as well as activists) are protected online and offline. Having participants come from outside will help better inform the discussions, bringing new perspectives into the debate. This third edition of the Haki Conference will be built on the success of the two previous editions that took place successively in November 2018 and 2019 in the city of Goma, where Rudi International is based, and were also supported through APC member subgrants.

Fantsuam Foundation - Reactivating critical communication infrastructure and rural ICT services at Fantsuam

For five years now, Fantsuam, a non-profit organisation that is working with unconnected and remote rural communities, has been unsuccessful in its efforts to gain access to cable on the grounds of corporate social responsibility. Fantsuam has now engaged the services of a consultant to develop a proposal for access to the MTN backbone. This access will provide the much needed relief for Fantsuam to reconnect with its students, continue its work with the proposed rural community networks, and continue its support for its host rural communities. This proposal includes a one-year subscription to C-band; this period will be long enough for Fantsuam to activate its resilience strategy for sustainable funding at the expiration of the grant. The primary aim of the subgrant funding is to enable Fantsuam's access to the backbone so that it can resume its critical services in education and healthcare.
 

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