Highlighting the gender dimension in access policies and discussions

2017 saw significant attention to gender and access issues, and APC was poised to inform and convene key discussions in order to advance women’s human rights through ICTs.

The 35th UN Human Rights Council session (HRC35) in June 2017 was one of the spaces in which APC engaged in order to amplify the outreach of access and gender issues. At HRC35 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report on “Bridging the Gender Digital Divide from a Human Rights Perspective”. The report reinforced APC’s analysis of gender and access issues, calling for addressing underlying social and cultural barriers to women’s meaningful access and use of the internet and adopting a multifaceted approach towards eliminating online gender-based violence. We co-organised a side event with the OHCHR and the permanent missions of Sweden and the United States on bridging the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective, to give visibility to the gender digital divide as a symptom and cause of violations of women’s human rights, and to mobilise the international community to address it.

APC delivered submissions on access-related policy processes with a focus on gender, including a rights-based access submission to the Gender Working Group of the UN Broadband Commission. APC was also invited to join EQUALS, the global partnership to bridge the gender digital divide, and contributed to its inaugural meetings.

In the global governance arena, APC co-facilitated the IGF Best Practice Forum on Gender and Access, which in 2017 examined the barriers faced by specific communities of women, including women with disabilities, refugee women, young women, elderly women, LGBTIQ women, women in rural areas and indigenous women. The preliminary findings and recommendations of the survey were discussed in a session for further exploration facilitated by APC at the IGF.

APC organised and moderated a pre-event panel and supported the attendance of five women’s rights and sexual rights activists to participate at the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017, which focused on the theme “Framing Access and Power”. APC also participated in the panel “Gender-based violence online: Levelling the discussion.”

GenderIT.org, APC’s gender and ICT policy site, also initiated a periodic column called “Access and beyond”. During 2017, the column explored the motivations of internet use in Africa; zero rating services and their value for ordinary users; the specificities of how access to the internet and the barriers to get it are different for women and men; and how researchers and activists can proactively explore gender dimensions when dealing with access and a progressively increasing gender digital divide.

To watch out for: In 2018, APC will again participate in the IGF Best Practice Forum on access and gender issues. Also look out for more in the GenderIT.org column on community networks and gender, and some action happening during the AfChix TechWomen Summit 2018.

Image: APC Women’s rights policy lead, Jan Moolman, participating in the panel “Gender-based violence online leveling the discussion” at the Internet Stockholm Forum.

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Engagement in key forums on access-related policy, regulatory and governance processes

During 2017, in line with our longstanding commitment to promoting innovative and people-centred approaches to access (including areas such as digital migration, community networks, infrastructure sharing, dynamic spectrum management, open hardware, public access and access for women), APC continued advocating for access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) as enablers for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). APC intervened and engaged at national, regional and global forums, including the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as well as the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) and the Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (CRASA).

APC participated in numerous global events focused on community networks as a means of promoting access, such as the Community Networks Exchange in Asia-Pacific in September; the Digital Citizen Summit, organised by APC member organisation Digital Empowerment Foundation and ISOC, in September in New Delhi, India; and the Second Summit on Community Networks in Africa in May in Nairobi, Kenya. We organised a workshop on Local Connectivity Solutions for the Unconnected at the WSIS Forum, convened by the ITU in June 2017 in Geneva.

APC delivered a statement at the WSIS Forum High-Level Policy Session, “Inclusiveness – Access to Information and Knowledge for All”, where we emphasised the need to encourage governments to develop policy and regulatory environments that support community-based local access networks as well as other inclusive approaches.

We participated in a Workshop on Policy and Regulatory Advocacy for Community Networks with Civil Society organised in October in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a pre-event to the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) and, in partnership with ISOC and Rhizomatica, worked at the WTDC in November to promote the adoption of a resolution in favour of community networks. At the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017 in May, APC staff members were panelists in the session, “Helping the last four billion get connected: The potential for small-scale community-based networks”.

At the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2017 in Geneva, APC participated in several workshops on community networks and in particular the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3), where APC’s paper on research methodology was presented and published in the DC3 2017 annual report. APC also contributed to the IGF session on Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion.

In addition, APC delivered submissions on access-related policy and regulatory processes nationally and regionally, contributing to an increased understanding of APC’s people-centred perspective on access, innovative regulatory approaches and public policy recommendations. The inputs provided to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) Multistakeholder Working Group on multilateral development bank support for access, and a submission to ITU’s public consultation on over-the-top services (OTTs), among others, show APC’s deep commitment to this area of work.

Image: Screenshot of the video from the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) session at the 2017 IGF.

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Better-informed and more resilient community networks

Under the Local Access Networks: Can the unconnected connect themselves? project implemented by APC in partnership with ISOC and Rhizomatica, APC published the first edition of a community networks and local access monthly newsletter in December 2017. This newsletter contributes to shaping a better-informed community of practitioners with greater resources for implementation and operation of more resilient, locally-owned telecommunications infrastructure.

Every newsletter edition contains opportunities for involvement, calls for grants, information on upcoming events related to community networks and local access, academic publications, news and blogs on the topic, regulatory updates and more, all in a multilingual format. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter here.

To watch out for: Prepare for many more newsletter editions in 2018! Also, the 2018 edition of the annual Global Information Society Watch report will focus on community networks and include over 40 country reports and eight thematic chapters.

Image: Rhizomatica.

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Support to 11 community networks in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe

2017 was the first year of the “Local Access Networks: Can the unconnected connect themselves?” project, which we implemented in partnership with APC member organisation Rhizomatica, from Mexico, and the Internet Society (ISOC), with the involvement of external consultants Nicola Bidwell and Steve Song.

As part of this initiative, APC provided technical, policy/regulatory, economic and social assistance, with an emphasis on community networks and gender, to at least 11 community networks and local access initiatives that identified progress in and barriers to their deployment, development and sustainability in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

In order to better understand the business, technology and institutional models that have been adopted in a range of community-based and local access networks, APC and our partners carried out in-depth case studies and analysis to identify and understand the gender dimensions of local access networks, the roles women play in them, the barriers to women’s participation and mechanisms to increase their participation and contribute to transforming gender roles.

APC also built regional and global alliances of community networks, and strengthened the capacities of local access practitioners and advocates through the networking and collaboration opportunities provided through the Local Access Networks project and our partnerships.

To watch out for: In 2018, APC will significantly focus on creating an enabling environment for communities and local entrepreneurs to solve their own connectivity challenges, and APC member organisations devoted to promoting community-owned infrastructures will play a major role in these efforts.

Image: Coolab, Brazil.

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APC network’s triennial face-to-face meeting in South Africa

“We are like a tree, with our members and network being branches that give off this fruit which seeds and grows new trees in the community.” (Mentioned during group work)

Getting all of APC’s members together is an opportunity to celebrate the work that has been done and strategise around the work still ahead. After APC’s last member meeting in Barcelona, Spain, in 2014, the APC network met again from 18 to 21 August in Ithala, South Africa, gathering 34 of APC’s 55 member organisations, as well as one individual member.

On 18 August, the first day of the member meeting, the participants joined together to discuss APC’s direction as a community, framed within APC’s strategic plan for 2016-2019, and our identity. The highlight of the second day of the meeting was when APC members and APC staff shared information about their projects and activities in what was called the “Museum of Moments”, while the third day featured sessions on networking and capacity building. The fourth and last day was the APC Council business day, when the APC Board of Directors and Executive Director Chat Garcia Ramilo reported back on different issues, including an overview of the implementation of the strategic plan to date, a discussion of APC policies, an overview of APC finances for the period 2014-2016, and reports on membership, grants and participation and collaboration.

During this four-day gathering, a total of 70 APC members and staff reviewed, discussed and renewed their commitment to APC’s theory of change and strategic priorities that guide our work through 2019.

Before and after this global member meeting, 11 smaller member meetings were organised alongside events attended by APC members, among them the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, RightsCon in Brussels, the Summit on Community Networks in Nairobi, the WSIS Forum in Geneva, the Stockholm Internet Forum in Stockholm, the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa in Johannesburg, the COCONET Southeast Asia Digital Rights Camp in Yogjakarta, the Asia-Pacific Regional IGF in Bangkok, the Latin American and Caribbean IGF in Panama City, and the Nonprofit Software Development Summit in San Francisco. A brief meeting was also organised during the global IGF in Geneva. In addition, a meeting of five European members was held in January 2017 through support from APC’s Member Exchange and Travel Fund, alongside the eSociety.mk conference in Macedonia. This represents a significantly higher number of member gatherings than in previous years.

To watch out for: APC will host regional member meetings in 2018 that will strengthen and bring together our members around the crucial priorities in every region. Stay tuned as well for a new strategy and membership criteria to be completed in 2018.

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APC members engaged in network-wide initiatives and member collaborations

As in previous years, APC had active member involvement and collaboration in developing and implementing APC’s Theory of Change and strategic plan, with initiatives that contributed to building and strengthening cross-movement networks across the wider APC community and broader civil society engaged in internet policy, practice and development.

In 2017, APC partnered with members on organising several events, such as the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) 2017 (together with CIPESA from Uganda), the COCONET Southeast Asia Digital Rights Camp (together with EngageMedia from Indonesia) and the Digital Citizen Summit (together with Digital Empowerment Foundation from India).

APC also coordinated member participation in a number of large international forums, including the Internet Freedom Festival, Stockholm Internet Forum, RightsCon, WSIS Forum, and regional and global IGFs.

In relation to APC’s strategic area of work on access, two members were involved in the Local Access Networks project, Colnodo from Colombia and AlterMundi from Argentina, with Mexico-based member organisation Rhizomatica as one of the partners in the implementation of the project.

In the rights field, APC supported submissions by EMPOWER, Colnodo and One World Platform to the thematic report on online gender-based violence by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Together with its members, APC engaged in the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Human Rights Council processes, Universal Periodic Reviews, Human Rights Committee reviews, submissions to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICANN, the UN Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation, the preparation of regional and global Internet Governance Forums and others.

To name just a few specific collaborations during the global IGF, Point of View from India and EMPOWER from Malaysia participated in the Best Practice Forum on Gender and Access, and Point of View and Foundation for Media Alternatives representatives were active members of the Gender Dynamic Coalition.

Specifically with Chilean member Derechos Digitales, APC participated in the Internet Is Ours Coalition.

APC also organised two capacity-building workshops for members and partners on engaging with regional and international human rights mechanisms.

In the strategic area of making a feminist internet, 17 members engaged in the 2017 Take Back the Tech! campaign, and a representative from APC member Derechos Digitales participated in the Making a Feminist Internet meeting in October 2017 in Malaysia.

In relation to governance, two APC members were involved in the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG), and APC supported the participation of feminist activists in panels at FIFAFrica 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, while 26 members participated in the 2017 Global Information Society Watch edition.

Finally, 14 APC members joined the Alternative Infrastructure Initiative, which was jointly initiated in 2017 by Riseup, Aspiration Tech and APC.

To watch out for: We expect collaboration within APC to continue flourishing in 2018. The next round of APC subgrant support will specifically focus on collaborative projects in which several members are involved. Face-to-face planning during the five regional meetings to be held in 2018 will boost collaboration on the regional level, and some of APC’s key initiatives that promote member collaboration will continue in 2018 (GISWatch, the Local Access Networks project, the Take Back the Tech! campaign, collaboration in the area of sustainable technologies and others).

Image: Digital Citizen Summit organised by APC member Digital Empowerment Foundation from India.

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APC members receive highest ever support towards the implementation of our Theory of Change

Channelling resources to our network members has been a priority for APC since its inception. APC has done this in different ways, ranging from the Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) report to the Take Back the Tech! campaign, as well as Member Exchange and Travel Fund grants. In 2016, APC launched additional grants with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) aimed specifically at enabling members to contribute to achieving the impact objectives identified in APC’s Theory of Change for the period of 2016-2019.

The research and campaign grants support local campaigns that contribute to members’ advocacy work and are also meant to enable members to participate in APC-wide campaigns. To read more about the research and campaign grants in 2017 follow this link.

The grants for local implementation of APC’s strategic plan are for projects that contribute to the implementation of APC’s strategic priorities at the national level, and to strengthen ongoing work of APC members that is linked to APC’s strategic priorities. To read more about local implementation of APC’s strategic plan grants in 2017 follow this link.

During 2017, 19 APC members in 17 countries received 21 research, advocacy and project grants towards the implementation of APC’s strategic plan, with a total of USD 273,986 disbursed. In addition, APC provided support for members to participate in key events through 29 travel grants.

This level of member support is the highest ever provided by APC, and members have indicated that these grants have contributed to their work and capacity, as well as contributing to APC’s strategic priorities.

To watch out for: A new call for member grants will take place in 2018, and more members will receive financial support to carry out activities that will bring us ever closer to achieving APC’s strategic plan.

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Greater outreach to APC’s community

Our main website, APC.org, which we redesigned to better reflect our organisational structure, strategy and overall goals, had 564,297 unique visitors and 964,083 visits during 2017. The highest peak happened between October and November, coinciding with the preparations and celebration of the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica), the UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators consultation and the publication of our previous Annual Report.

APC was cited by the media 150 times in 25 different countries and in seven languages (Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese and Japanese) and by 36 academic references. A prolific content partnership with Rising Voices increased the outreach of stories coming from APC members to a broader community of activists.

On social media, APC had a considerably more consistent Facebook presence than the year before, surpassing 6,000 followers by the end of 2017, which means 850 new followers were gained. Our main Twitter account, @apc_news, had 8,200 followers in English versus 6,120 followers the previous year, which amounts to 2,080 new followers gained in 2017. The highest peaks coincided with the IGF 2017, the launch of a global survey on sexual rights and the internet, and the UNESCO consultation on Internet Universality Indicators.

Our flagship Twitter account on campaigning for women’s rights online, @Takebackthetech, had 6,188 followers at end of 2017, which reflects 1,191 new followers gained over the course of the year, with the highest peak coinciding with the “Distributed Denial of Women”, an online strike of women working in tech.

APC reached its 270th newsletter, with a total of 13 editions of APCNews sent in 2017 (in English and Spanish). GenderIT.org launched four special editions of its newsletter, including one highlighting the findings of the EROTICS research – carried out in three countries in South Asia – and the EROTICS global survey of sexuality and internet activists. APC also launched a new thematic newsletter focusing on community networks, with the first edition sent in December 2017.

To watch out for: A communications welcome kit dedicated to our network members, especially new organisational and individual members who need to know how to easily navigate APC online spaces, will be produced in 2018. Also stay tuned for a trilingual newsletter featuring a mash-up of our content in different languages.

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Inside the Information Society: Two years now, evolving with the internet

Looking back or looking forward? was the title of the first piece in David Souter’s column on APC.org, Inside the Information Society, published more than two years ago. Inspired by this question, the blog has continued to feature articles – 28 in total in 2017 – on issues ranging from internet governance and sustainable development to workers’ rights, trade, post-conflict reconstruction, community networks, the role of intermediaries in promoting rights, the internet of things, the future of the IGF, privacy in the context of Facebook’s leaks… all with a cross-cutting human rights and ICTs approach.

“Five years ago, my daily newspaper might have carried one or two stories or features on the Information Society that were relevant each day. Now there’ll probably be at least five or six, sometimes ten,” Souter wrote in his 2017 piece “What’s next?”, also mentioning the change in tone: “There’s more skepticism about the Information Society now than there was five years ago; more uncertainty; more anxiety. People are as concerned now about what might go wrong (in their eyes) as they’re excited by what might go right.”

For two years now, the Inside the Information Society column has been asking about what’s happening in this rapidly changing environment, and questioning the assumptions that underpin our thinking, with the aim of encouraging debate. Souter’s pieces take a fresh look at issues that concern APC, its members, and the wider ICT community, which in 2017 included the entries available here.

To watch out for: In 2018, the Inside the Information Society column will continue raising issues that concern APC and its members and provoking debate.

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Record growth of the APC network

The APC network keeps growing! At the end of 2017, APC had 58 organisational members working in 61 countries, compared to 51 members in 60 countries in 2016, while the individual membership stayed at 28 members.

Nine new organisational members and two new individual members joined the APC network in 2017. This represents a record growth in one year, and reflects an increasing interest in APC membership.A highly engaged network participated in specific projects and in network-wide activities, implemented collaborations, provided input to policy advocacy processes, and took part in global and regional convenings and in capacity-building initiatives that contributed to the implementation of APC’s strategic priorities.

To watch out for: APC will hold its biennial regional member meetings in 2018, and organise several smaller member meetings at major events attended by the APC community.

Image: Conversation during the 2017 APC member meeting in South Africa, as captured by Arturo Bregaglio.

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