Project grants for local implementation of APC’s strategic plan in 2018

These grants of up to USD 20,000 are for projects that contribute to the implementation of APC’s strategic plan at the national level. At the same time, they are meant to strengthen ongoing work by APC members that is linked to APC’s strategic priorities. In their proposals, members should demonstrate how their projects contribute to one or more key result areas in APC’s Theory of Change at the local level and specify the strategies identified for each of them. Project activities can include research, advocacy, network and movement building, capacity building and communications. All projects should integrate a gender and rights-based perspective. Selected projects are being implemented for a period of 6-12 months, until December 2018.

List of selected projects for 2018:

 

Summaries of selected project grants (2018)

 

7amleh: Map Palestine

Governments are becoming increasingly reliant on partnerships with social media giants to advance their political agendas. This is a cause for concern, as tech companies like Google have the ability to shape our understanding of the world and inform public opinion. In Palestine, there is fear that Israel is using the power of Google’s mapping technologies to discriminate against Palestinians and further the interests of the Israeli government. Google’s concealment of the names of villages in the West Bank and the Naqab desert that are officially unrecognised by the Israeli government, its prioritisation of settlements and settler routes in occupied Palestinian territories and its refusal to visualise the term “Palestine” are being seen as a systematic move to falsify history and geography and revoke Palestinians’ right to their homeland. In response, 7amleh aims to highlight Google’s discriminatory mapping of Palestinian land by reaching out to decision makers as well as international and local audiences to advocate for policy change. This project will produce and disseminate a policy paper, identifying and analysing the social, legal and political repercussions of Google’s policies regarding Palestinians, based on a human rights approach. 7amleh also hopes to mobilise public opinion through social media campaigns, which will aim to raise awareness on a local and global level about the discriminatory policies of tech companies. The objective of the policy paper is to not only inform public opinion, but to inform policy and other advocacy-related activities surrounding the issue. To this end, a coalition of all international and civil society organisations concerned with Palestinian digital rights will be formed to lobby representatives from Google on the issue of maps and the need for a more neutral, transparent and human rights-based approach in Palestine.

ALIN: Digital Learning Space for isolated communities

The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms holds as key principles the right to information, the right to development and access to knowledge, the rights of marginalised groups and groups at risk, and gender equality. In Kenya, one of the biggest barriers to achieving these principles remains access to the internet. The inhabitants of communities in arid areas often have to walk long distances for internet connectivity and access to valuable digital resources. There is a need for a digital repository that is accessible, shareable and reusable, which provides information critical to these communities, such as best agricultural practices, market information, climate change information and indigenous knowledge. The objective of this project is to create a Digital Learning Space which will improve access to information for isolated communities by digitising local content and providing them with digital and ICT skills. The Digital Learning Space will be backed by a digital repository that will provide an infrastructure for the preservation of digital content, lower the barriers to document distribution, and create a centralised digital showcase that would help to extend the range of knowledge sharing. ALIN will work to sensitise community members on the importance of the Digital Learning Space, train members on creation of digital content on Wikis, DSpaces and other digital tools, as well as collect and curate digital content on a variety of information that is beneficial to communities. As part of the outreach, a workshop will be conducted for women to develop content that speaks directly to rural women and girls. A goal of this project is to also integrate other services provided at ALIN’s Maarifa (Knowledge) Centre, such as access to its library, multimedia content, directory of archived podcasts and publications, with the Digital Learning Space, so that all this information is available to communities under one platform.

AlterMundi: Decentralised culture repository, from Community Networks to the world 

With the internet becoming an important means of communication among communities, it is imperative to nurture an open and uncensored space for culture sharing and curation. Existing systems are sub-optimal, not only because of technological barriers, but also because these frameworks enable monetisation of knowledge, information and culture, leaving behind digitally excluded communities and no avenues for those who want to share content in a free and reliable manner. Letting profit based and concentrated interests steer the direction in which human culture evolves by limiting what information we can access and share, when and where can threaten the diversity that has enriched human culture for eons. This project aims to address this problem from the perspective of local empowerment of the people by creating a decentralised repository of culture, that allows the publishing and sharing of content in an organized way by prioritising local exchange without losing the capacity of world reach. The repository, which will be built on top of the capacities of distributed community networks, will allow communities to curate, organise and classify content within the community while owning both the data and metadata related to the content. It further aims to reduce global internet access dependency by making available content in the local network from near peers, even when connection to the internet is not available. The overall objective of the project is to provide a platform for rural populations, indigenous communities or those who have limited access to the internet due to political persecution or censorship, to share and distribute cultural assets in a decentralized fashion that supports alternative information sources and can resist censorship through time.

Código Sur: The Feminist Learning Community

The Northern Triangle, consisting of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, is considered one of the most dangerous and challenging regions in Latin America for human rights defenders, particularly those promoting women’s and LBTI rights, as these groups face threats from both governments and society. Nevertheless, women and members of the LBTI community continue to mobilise to counter the systematic abuse of power. To strengthen these feminist movements, it is fundamental to provide training in self-protection, digital protection and communication tools that will facilitate advocacy and awareness raising around the problems that face these vulnerable groups. Through the Feminist Learning Community, Código Sur aims to improve the communications conditions, access to free/libre technologies and comprehensive protection of women and LBTI rights defenders and strengthen the regional safety network and alliances among these groups in Central America. In the proposed project, Código Sur will host three unique workshops in each country, with the methodology for the workshops taking into account the specific needs based on the distinct context of the country. The workshops, which will have 180 feminist and LBTI activists participating, will facilitate learning in the areas of physical and digital protection and communication. The project also aims to foster an open conversation with the general public to share knowledge on the topics discussed, as well as to organise discussion groups in each country regarding gender-based violence, self-protection and communication. Finally, the proposal aims to organise a regional assembly to evaluate the outcomes of the learning community and further regional strategic planning. Through public outreach and creation of an online learning platform, this project will not only transform the lives of the participants, but also those of the women and girls that receive accompaniment and support from these human rights defenders.

- Project website (spanish)

Colnodo: Gender-focused ICT and community wireless network appropriation in a rural Colombian area

In Colombia, the digital divide is approximately 42% in rural areas, among elderly people, and among families in lower socioeconomic strata. According to the Basic Households ICT Indicators (2016) published by the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), some prominent factors behind this divide are age, as the possibility of using a computer decreases with age, and education, as people with a higher level of schooling are more likely to use ICTs. The gender gap is significant as well; women face difficulty in accessing technology due to lack of economic income, lack of digital skills or time to learn them, and a patriarchal environment that limits the possibilities of women who must fulfil multiple roles. In order to lessen the digital divide, the Colombian government has implemented several public access initiatives, such as the establishment of Vive Digital Kiosks in rural areas. However, this infrastructure is not sufficient in remote places where people have to travel for hours to access a public ICT centre. Through this project, Colnodo is implementing a community wireless network to provide mobile telephony in the rural areas of the municipality of Buenos Aires in the department of Cauca. The network will be implemented through a participatory process involving the identification of context and actors, priorities, impact and decision-making mechanisms. The main objective of this project is to implement strategies of appropriation and social sustainability of the wireless network in which women have an active role and are recognised for their contribution. As part of the project, Colnodo will document the socioeconomic, political and cultural characteristics of Buenos Aires, Cauca in order to identify the opportunities, challenges and needs of the population that can be addressed with the use of ICTs. Based on these results, a training programme will be designed with a special focus on gender, and capacity building will be provided on issues such as implementation of community networks, use of social networks, access to free content, online courses, information security and women’s rights in digital spaces. The project aims to foster better communication and knowledge building through videos, podcasts and written stories that can be shared with other community wireless network projects.

DEF: Green Prakriya: Assessment, evaluation and mapping of risks involved in the informal e-waste sector in India

Over the last two decades, India’s electronics market has become the largest in the world. The exponential increase in the use and illegal import of electrical and electronic equipment has meant that India is now the world’s fifth largest generator of e-waste, with the e-waste generated per capita set to increase many folds. Much of this e-waste is dumped by both the government and corporations in sites like Seelampur in New Delhi and Andheri in Mumbai, which have become informal recycling centres where thousands of men, women and teenagers are employed to hunt for metals such as lead, copper, silver and gold from the discarded e-waste. Since these centres work without the necessary equipment or safety standards, workers face a high risk of health hazards. To counter this, the government of India rolled out an e-waste policy in 2016, but the lack of a stringent policy framework for collection and recycling of e-waste on a larger scale has seen little change on the ground. One of the gaps in addressing this problem has been the lack of relevant data and research, which can help raise awareness about the health hazards involved in dismantling e-waste and further enable the government to regularise this sector in an efficient way. DEF’s project seeks to bridge this gap by mapping the risks faced by women working in the informal e-waste industry via a cost-benefit analysis of the data collected, and further analysing the government’s e-waste policy to study how this sector can be regulated meaningfully. The proposal also aims to facilitate multistakeholder networks through campaigns and consultations to play an ongoing role to concurrently raise awareness and deepen understanding of the health hazards involved in unethical ways of recycling e-waste.

EngageMedia: Films for digital rights in Myanmar

A wide variety of challenges currently impact the online space in Myanmar, from jailing and intimidation of dissidents through aggressive use of Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act, 2013, to fake news and rampant online hate speech against Muslims and other minorities. Despite the work of civil society groups and individual activists, there has been a rollback of digital rights in Myanmar in recent times. There is a critical need to run effective counter-campaigns and raise awareness of internet rights as human rights. EngageMedia, in partnership with the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), aims to do this by producing two films on digital rights issues in Myanmar. The films, backed by education and campaign materials, will support the work of campaigners, activists and educators to educate people and decision makers regarding freedom of expression online and defend against the rollback of rights, including gender-related rights. As part of the proposal, EngageMedia will launch a screening of the films, along with an outreach and impact campaign in Myanmar to ensure that the films are used by advocacy organisations and educational institutions as well as in media discussions. This campaign seeks to increase the national, regional and international profile of digital rights issues in Myanmar, and foster discussion on these issues among activists, decision makers, media persons, and in the film and technology sectors in the country. This work builds upon EngageMedia’s COCONET camp, which brought together over 100 digital rights advocates, artists and communications specialists, and is part of a larger Southeast Asia project to produce a toolkit of 10+ films on digital rights issues.

Intervozes: Smart Citizens Project

As cities in Brazil move towards digitisation of urban services encouraged by the “smart city” corporate narrative, the lack of a regulatory framework that protects the privacy of citizens is becoming more problematic, with citizens being urged or even obligated to hand over their data to corporations and the government. The risk of commercial and political use of citizens’ data without consent is of particular concern. For instance, the use of data from the public transportation system in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for commercial purposes is being seen by citizens and civil society as harming privacy and affecting other human rights. Intervozes’ Smart Citizens Project aims to be a part of the movement that is advocating for the approval of a Personal Data Protection Law by the Brazilian parliament. The project will develop a public campaign about the right to privacy of citizens and the necessary standards for data usage by local public administrations, with regard to the right to privacy, transparency and accountability. Through dialogue with urban, transportation, feminist, LGBTQI and other minority groups, the project seeks to build consensus for a bill to regulate personal data usage by local public administrations, including data usage by companies contracted by the government. The draft bill will be presented for adoption to the municipal parliament of four cities, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza, with a view to initiate public debate on the risks and opportunities related to privacy and ICT use. This campaign will be further supported by the ongoing national mobilisation campaign “Your Data Are You”, and through open debates hosted in all four cities to discuss these issues and encourage knowledge sharing.

Kéfir: Free/libre and autonomous digital ecosystems for high-risk activist groups in Latin America

There is growing awareness among activist groups in Latin America of the generalised and specific surveillance on the internet, online violence and unequal power dynamics rendered by capitalism. However, many activists are still dependent on corporate providers like Google, Facebook and Dropbox to store their data and communicate online. These groups not only lack options of alternative internet service providers (ISPs) who offer data sovereignty and safer communications, but also spaces where they can actively shape digital landscapes in a way that is meaningful in their social transformation. Kéfir seeks to change this status quo by engaging with activist groups in Mexico and Argentina in meaningful free/libre digital technology appropriation through the adoption of a more conscious, safer and assertive attitude towards tech, with a particular focus on encouraging agency among excluded groups. As part of the project, Kéfir will work with high-risk activist groups in Mexico and Argentina, providing them with internet infrastructure, capacity building on the safe and resilient use of ICTs and enabling co-design of frameworks, interfaces and collaborative workflows that are inclusive. In collaboration with target groups, and as a way to create valuable commons, Kéfir will also work to localise content aimed at explaining what internet infrastructure is, how it works and the applications of free/libre tech in activism. The main goal of this project is to raise awareness on the importance of autonomous, trans-feminist and community-based internet infrastructure and enhance a more meaningful and contextualised free/libre technology migration experience among activist and social movement groups in Latin America.

KICTANet: Which intermediaries have your back? A project to assess how local intermediaries protect human rights online and to create awareness on the same 

The policies and practices of internet companies play a critical role in the exercise of human rights online. Intermediaries are both conduits to internet access and hosts of our online content. Yet, the manner in which they enforce these policies and practices is opaque. Many local intermediaries do not publish reports on critical issues such as take-down requests and state-instructed network shutdowns, leaving internet users in the dark on how their rights online could be violated. The objectives of this project are to assess the extent to which local intermediaries, particularly in Kenya, promote digital rights, and to create awareness among the public and intermediaries about digital rights in relation to intermediaries, in order to promote informed usage of intermediary products. Using indicators from the Ranking Digital Rights index and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the project will produce a policy brief analysing the terms of use and privacy policies of intermediaries to determine the extent to which they protect and promote human rights. KICTANet will also work towards fostering discussion and increasing awareness of these issues through workshops, and the development and dissemination of educational videos. An important outcome of this project will be the comprehensive mapping of intermediaries’ policies in various sectors – such as intellectual property, finance, e-commerce, online content and communications, among others – which can be used for policy advocacy, capacity building and further research. The project also aims for its policy recommendations to be reflected in the policies and practices of intermediaries in the future, such as commitments to public transparency reports.

Metamorphosis Foundation: Promoting, shaping and upholding internet freedoms

A political crisis has overwhelmed Macedonia in recent years, with severe effects on human rights in general, and in the digital sphere in particular. Illegal use of state security services and telecom operators for blanket surveillance of thousands of people, continued efforts to restrict media freedom, interference in the judiciary and selective prosecution of offenders have eroded the basic human rights of freedom of expression, privacy and security both offline and online. The December 2016 parliamentary elections ushered in a government committed to democratic values and presented civil society organisations (CSOs) with an opportunity to address issues and influence policies related to internet freedoms in Macedonia. Emboldened by the success of the first Regional Internet Freedom Summit in 2016, Metamorphosis is determined to carry this work forward by creating awareness of these issues and enhancing the understanding of human rights and freedoms online among other CSOs, journalists, legal professionals, law enforcement and young adults in the country. The project aims to enable exchange of knowledge and experiences through a series of capacity-building workshops, and decentralised, multistakeholder public events addressing internet freedoms across the country, facilitating networking at national and regional level. While the workshops are designed to train activists and journalists on internet freedoms and how they play out in the context of the Macedonian legal system, the public events will combine expert panels and participant discussion on issues related to IT, legislature, human rights and citizens’ experiences. Another key component of the project is an assessment of the state of internet freedoms in Macedonia through monitoring of court cases related to use of new technologies, crowdsourcing information from citizens online, and production of journalistic content providing public education in this area. Through this project, Metamorphosis hopes to directly contribute to progressive change within state institutions, the media community and CSOs in order to mainstream internet rights and freedoms within the work of the institutions.

SMEX: #IstiqlalRaqmi (#DigitalIndependence)

In Lebanon, public attitudes towards freedom of expression, particularly as they relate to the digital space, are largely influenced by a government that leans heavily in favour of censorship and surveillance as vehicles for reinforcing public safety. Private sector companies are also unlikely to advocate for user rights as they are dependent on the government for market access. As a result, internet users in Lebanon expect little or no access to rights online which they might otherwise expect offline. The aim of this project is to mainstream citizens’ support and demand for digital rights through an awareness campaign that promotes critical engagement with digital technologies from a rights-based, feminist perspective. The project objectives will be realised through a series of public events and workshops, supported by the creation of contextualised resources and content and a dedicated social media presence. While the broad target of this initiative is the Lebanese public in general, SMEX will initially work with a cross-section of individuals from three communities – women, the LGBTQI community and youth – to co-create vocabularies of engagement, informational resources and capacity-building narratives. SMEX hopes that ultimately, Istiqlal Raqmi will foster broader, more mainstream appeal among non-traditional but receptive, digitally savvy audiences in support of the protection and promotion of digital rights in Lebanon.

Sulá Batsú: Gender-inclusive IT university courses in Central America

The scarcity of women’s participation in technology creation is both a characteristic and consequence of the digital society. Women represent only 20% of technology developers in the world, and analysis of women’s participation in the IT industry demonstrates the role of gender stereotypes, limited access to technology and reduced interest in mathematics among girls as they grow up as factors resulting in this exclusion. Sulá Batsú hypothesises that in order fully integrate women into the IT industry, by presenting them with equal conditions and equal opportunities, it is mandatory to change the culture of the IT industry. Since 2013, it has been working towards this change through its “TIC-as Programme: Women’s Leadership in the IT Sector in Central America”, a participatory programme where young women from the IT sector build evidence about exclusion, document cultural practices in the IT sector affecting their conditions of equality, and propose new practices, habits, processes and conditions for an IT sector with gender equity. Now, using this grant, Sulá Batsú aims to tackle the hostile environment for women in IT courses in universities in Costa Rica, and subsequently in other countries in Central America. The project will be based on a participatory research by young women which will create and analyse evidence about habits, practices, life experiences and behaviours related to the non-gender-inclusive culture in IT university studies. Through workshops involving students, gender and technology experts, university staff, and private and public sector representatives from the IT sector, the project will develop a “Code for Inclusive IT University Courses” which can be implemented by universities across Central America. By changing the subculture in IT university studies, Sula Batsu hopes to bring changes to the IT sector in general and create a culture that is based on respect for human rights, gender balance and inclusion.

VOICE: Freedom of expression online in Bangladesh: Analysing the legal framework and advocacy for strengthening online expression

An alarming trend of violent intolerance towards freedom of expression has taken root in Bangladesh, with the monitoring and striking down of online speech particularly evident. Bloggers and online activists are being categorically targeted through physical attacks and killings by both extremist organisations and law enforcement agencies, not only silencing the victims but also sending a chilling message to people across Bangladesh who espouse independent views on religious issues. According to media sources, between February 2013 and September 2017, at least 15 human rights defenders and activists were murdered in Bangladesh. These attacks have resulted in reduced speech and activism, both in print and online forums, on issues related to freedom of expression, women’s rights, labour rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, freedom of religion and secularism. State actors have frequently relied on loosely structured legal frameworks to target activists, journalists and bloggers. For instance, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act of 2006 limits freedom of expression using vague terminology to criminalise publishing information online that “hurts religious sentiment”, “creates possibility to deteriorate law and order”, or prejudices “the image of the State”. In light of this situation, this project proposes to undertake the review of laws, regulations, practices and safeguards relating to the internet and social media in Bangladesh, in particular the ICT Act. It aims to build strong cases on the practices that criminalise free speech, propose policy recommendations, and further build the capacity of online activists in digital skills, allowing them to circumvent internet censorship while increasing their safety. With the censorship of digital content including YouTube and Facebook becoming increasingly common, VOICE offers to play a crucial role by raising these critical issues while other actors have become silent.

 

These grants are made possible with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

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