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Image: Cover of APC's 2020 Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch). Illustration by Matías Bervejillo.

In 2020 APC helped to break down the silos between environmental justice actors and digital rights activists, and drew attention to environmental priorities at key internet governance forums. We also developed our knowledge on environmental issues and their relation to technology, with a specific emphasis on growing circular economies. Through engaging with members and partners, research, and discussions at internet governance and rights forums, we strengthened our understanding of advocacy priorities in the field of environmental justice, technology and sustainability.

Strengthening our commitment to environmental justice

APC mainstreamed environmental justice and sustainability at IGF forums globally and regionally. Advocacy by the APC network helped to create an Environment Track at the global IGF, as well as to prioritise discussions on environmental sustainability at the Asia-Pacific Regional IGF (AprIGF), and the IGF in the United Kingdom (UKIGF). The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC) of the IGF, which has supported our work in environmental sustainability, also held a panel discussion at the global IGF on the topic, where APC member Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) represented our network. We organised pre-events and workshops at the global IGF together with our members and partners, foregrounding the impact of extractivism on the internet and technology, imagining an internet that supports environmental sustainability, and reflecting on the circular economy of ICTs.

Through interventions at the IGF, RightsCon and the World Social Forum, and through research into environmental actors and priorities in the global South, we have started to build bridges among communities working on digital rights and on social and environmental justice. Our collaboration with environmental feminists at the IGF and World Social Forum, including through sharing a space with them on panels, has opened up new terrain for APC to engage with a feminist approach to environmental justice and sustainability.

We catalysed the capacity to act on environmental justice and sustainability priorities among members through APC’s subgrants programme. Subgrants in 2020 included project grants to members Nodo TAU, Zenzeleni Networks and Computer Aid, ASUTIC, VOICE and Sulá Batsú, focusing on different activities such as developing solar learning labs in community networks and documenting the impacts of electronic waste.

Building collective knowledge on environmental sustainability

APC raised awareness and built practical knowledge on the circular economies of digital devices. Besides the multistakeholder discussions at the IGF, we formed a working group of members, partners and staff to develop a guide to circular economies of ICTs. A preview to the guide was published, offering several case studies written by our network of the circular economy in action.

We also raised awareness of the impact of the use of technology on the environment and affected communities in the global South, as well as its potential benefits in responding to environmental challenges, through the publication of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch). The theme for the 2020 report was “Technology, the environment and a sustainable world”. It included 46 country and regional reports on diverse themes, as well as thematic reports that analysed several key areas of interest for APC, such as digital economies, the extractive industries, the Sustainable Development Goals and technology, the circular economy, community networks, and a feminist approach to the internet and the environment. Country reports identified policy priorities and next steps for advocacy action. A record number of 70 report proposals were submitted to the publication, suggesting the growing priority of environmental sustainability in many digital rights organisations across the global South.

APC ignited fresh interest in environmental justice and sustainability among its members. Participation in APC’s environmental sustainability work grew over the past year. Members contribute to the design and implementation of activities and identify opportunities for collaboration and action. By January 2021, there were 68 members, partners and staff subscribed to our environmental sustainability mailing list.

Identifying policy advocacy priorities

APC continued to develop its understanding of policy advocacy priorities in environmental justice and technology through various processes, including Global Information Society Watch and hosting a strategy session at RightsCon in July with APC member BlueLink. The RightsCon session brought environmental rights and digital rights defenders into strategic discussions to consider needs and priorities for collective action, such as strengthening transparency and accountability in the development and governance of the internet and digital technologies.

ALIN assisted the launch of a renewable energy atlas for informed decision-making in Kenya

APC member Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) celebrated the launch of the Kajiado County Renewable Energy Atlas in September 2020. This was after a ten-month process in which ALIN, through support from the Hivos Green and Inclusive Energy programme, assisted the Kajiado County Government in developing the Atlas. The Atlas is an inventory and resource map of different renewable energy resources in Kajiado County. It provides high-quality, publicly available data to help stakeholders understand which renewable energy resources exist where, and to what extent. The development of the Atlas is an important milestone for ALIN in increasing awareness of renewable energy technologies and their application. The Atlas data is essential for the transition to a clean energy economy that prioritises local resources, improves resilience and promotes energy independence. The Atlas also supports the implementation of the country’s Energy Act, which requires both the national and county governments to collect and maintain energy data, to undertake feasibility studies, and to provide data to developers of energy resources and infrastructure.

Pangea strengthened internet access during the pandemic in Spain

2020 was an anomalous, strange and complicated year for APC member Pangea. The pandemic forced staff to work from home, but remote work meant the organisation lost some of its agility and effectiveness, and staff missed the warmth and companionship that come from working together. The organisation’s workload nevertheless soared, as it responded to new needs from its partners brought on by the pandemic and other causes. For example, there was an increase in requests to the eReuse project for accessing computers from reuse circuits for teleworking or remote learning, and to help the families of students with fewer resources. Pangea also published the article "Notes on (free) telework" to help its partners find free work tools and to create healthy work habits and routines. With APC support the organisation drafted a guide for eco-sustainable websites, which was due to be published in 2021. The guide includes information to raise awareness of the ecological impact of organisational websites (in Spanish).

Read the full APC Annual Report 2020 here.