Building civil society capacities to meaningfully engage in internet governance processes

Throughout 2017, APC supported and facilitated the participation of 67 civil society organisations and actors from the global South to meaningfully and effectively engage with internet governance processes.

This was achieved through capacity-building initiatives like the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) and APC’s IGF Academy project, where 34 civil society activists, journalists, lawyers and members of the technical community learned to engage meaningfully with regional and global internet governance processes and issues.

APC, in partnership with iRights, organised a capacity-building workshop as part of the IGF Academy in Windhoek, Namibia, on 15-17 July 2017, which was attended by 15 participants from Togo, Namibia, South Africa and the Republic of Congo.

APC also facilitated the participation of 33 civil society actors and 44 women’s rights activists at national, regional and global IGFs, leading to increased participation of diverse voices at internet governance events.

In addition to the 19 participants from 10 countries who attended AfriSIG, a Gender and Internet Governance eXchange was held as part of the School in November 2017, with women’s rights activists from Uganda and South Africa who later participated in the African IGF.

To watch out for: In 2018 we will continue building capacities among civil society for advocacy in internet governance processes.

Image: African School on Internet Governance 2017 as captured by Koliwe Majama.

read more ▼

Fruitful engagement in internet governance processes nationally, regionally and globally

APC members, staff and partnering civil society actors played key roles in convening and organising internet governance processes nationally, regionally and globally in 2017. This was done through participation in the global IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group and the Best Practice Forums (BPFs), participation in regional multistakeholder steering committees and involvement in regional and national IGFs.

This engagement resulted in increased and more diverse presence of civil society voices and perspectives in internet governance spaces as panellists, speakers, organisers of sessions, and active members of the IGF intersessional dynamics.

In addition to this work at the global level, APC co-organised or took part in the steering committees of regional IGFs such as the Latin America and Caribbean IGF (Panama, August 2017), the Asia-Pacific IGF (Thailand, July 2017) and the African IGF (Egypt, December 2017). APC staff also actively participated in the Plan of Action for the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC) process.

At the national level, APC supported partners’ participation in national IGFs in Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as the national IGF in Argentina that took place in November 2017.

To watch out for: APC will continue engaging in these multistakeholder spaces nationally, regionally and globally, with key participation in the regional IGFs and at the 2018 IGF scheduled to take place in Paris, France, in November. The gender equality-related recommendations made by APC in 2017 in the eLAC process were included in the Digital Agenda 2018-2020 under Internet Governance, objective 23, at the 6th Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in LAC, which took place in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2018.

Image: Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s director of global policy and strategy, as a panellist during the 2017 IGF opening session.

read more▼

AfriSIG continues to reap success in 2017

Since 2013, the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) has aimed to give Africans from diverse sectors and stakeholder groups the opportunity to gain knowledge, experience and confidence to participate effectively in internet governance processes and debates nationally, regionally and globally.

At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum held in June 2017 in Geneva, APC contributed to the realisation of a side event on capacity building in internet governance, based on the experience it has gained through AfriSIG.

Later in the year, APC and the African Union Commission (AUC) co-organised the fifth edition of AfriSIG, held from 28 November to 2 December in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with 19 participants from 10 countries. As in every edition, it brought together people of all ages, and with a wide range of experience, and contributed to increasing the diversity, extent, quality and influence of African participation in internet governance by creating a space that promotes multistakeholder learning and dialogue. Read the blog posts written by the 2017 AfriSIG alumni here.

Aside from the success of the fifth School and a revamped website that better reflects how this initiative is positively changing the internet governance landscape in Africa year after year, 2017 was a year of international recognition for AfriSIG, in the form of the 2017 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The award to AfriSIG, which was selected out of 345 nominated ICT success stories, was received on behalf of APC and the NEPAD Agency by Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s director of global policy and strategy, from ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the awards ceremony on 12 June, during the annual WSIS Forum 2017. APC and the NEPAD Agency thank the ITU for this recognition and also extend their thanks to the people who voted for the initiative and who have made AfriSIG possible since 2013.

To watch out for: The sixth School will take place in Tanzania and gather dozens of participants. In 2018 APC will also publish an AfriSIG tracer study that covers the first four Schools (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016).

Image: Koliwe Majama.

read more▼

Advocating for a rights-based approach to cybersecurity

“Cybersecurity is the preservation – through policy, technology, and education – of the availability, confidentiality and integrity of information and its underlying infrastructure so as to enhance the security of persons both online and offline.” – Freedom Online Coalition

Incidents that generate forms of cyber “insecurity” and threats are increasing, and 2017 was a year with several incidents that affected the security of cyberspace. There were several intentional internet shutdowns in 2017, and the majority of these occurred in the global South, for example in Cameroon, India, Syria and Togo, disproportionately affecting already fragile communities by impacting the economy, communications and information dissemination.

During 2017, APC engaged in several spaces to advocate for a rights-based approach to cybersecurity. One of these was an IGF pre-event on 17 December 2017, “A rights-based approach to cybersecurity: A pipe dream or a critical means to a secure and stable internet?”, co-organised by APC and the Centre for Communications Governance at the National Law University Delhi, Centre for Internet and Society, Derechos Digitales, Citizen Lab, Global Partners Digital, Internet Society, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Privacy International.

The participants in the event reviewed major developments in the field of cybersecurity that impact on human rights, and mapped out future opportunities for collaboration to advance rights-based approaches to cybersecurity that bridge technical and policy approaches. A briefing document was prepared in advance to frame discussions at the pre-event that went deeper into understanding the human rights dimensions of cybersecurity policy in 2017.

APC also participated in the 2017 IGF Best Practice Forum on Cybersecurity and the IGF main session “Empowering Global Cooperation on Cybersecurity for Sustainable Development and Peace”. APC also took part in the pre-IGF session “Building Bridges Over Troubled Waters” organised by the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC), where Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s director of global policy and strategy, spoke on behalf of APC and members of the GCSC about the Commission, the “Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet” issued on November 2017, and the future of norms in guiding responsible state and non-state behaviour in cyberspace.

To watch out for: In 2018, APC will publish the outcome report “A rights-based approach to cybersecurity: Recommendations and considerations from a 2017 Internet Governance Forum pre-event”. Watch out as well for norms coming from the GCSC and a new project on human rights and cybersecurity supported by Mozilla.

Image: Screenshot from the video of the IGF 2017 Plenary “Empowering Global Cooperation on Cybersecurity for Sustainable Development and Peace”.

read more▼

Gender issues play a major role at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum

“Queer and LGBTIQ bodies make a difference on the issue of access. Also at the point of data collection in exchange for access it must be noted that technology is not neutral and comes from a specific place of power. What are we doing with our privilege?” – valentina hvale pellizzer

Although topics related to gender have been part of the debates at the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) from the beginning, it was the 2017 IGF, held on 18-21 December in Geneva, that included a main session on gender for the first time ever. Under the title “Gender inclusion and the future of the internet”, this main session aimed to foreground a discussion on gender and internet governance and policy, providing a space for stocktaking and discussion on key issues and challenges that have emerged, and making recommendations for ways forward.

Bishakha Datta, chair of the APC Board of Directors and executive director of APC member organisation Point of View, was one of the main session’s moderators, and emphasised “the need to actually go much deeper when we talk about gender and internet governance, right to the roots of patriarchy.”

Another speaker at the session, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, addressed the fact that efforts to combat gender-based violence are often seen as competing with concerns related to freedom of expression. He referred to ongoing efforts spearheaded by APC to find commonality between the two and to establish that promoting freedom of expression and fighting gender-based violence can indeed go hand in hand.

APC executive director Chat Garcia Ramilo focused on what needs to be done in order to take gender and internet governance to the next level, emphasising APC’s efforts at pushing for gender to be constantly and consistently discussed in internet governance spaces at all levels, and referring to the effort to integrate the Gender Report Card at IGFs since 2011.

Another highlight with regard to gender at the IGF was the Best Practice Forum (BPF) on Gender and Access, moderated by APC’s Women’s Rights Programme manager Jac sm Kee. This was the third year of work for this BPF, which focused online abuse and gender-based violence in 2015, and on gender and access in 2016. In 2017, the BPF dealt with gender and access once again, but focused on specific communities of women: women with disabilities, refugee women, young women, elderly women, LGBTIQ women, women in rural areas and indigenous women.

A survey developed by the 2017 BPF that involved these various sub-groups brought out the specific needs and challenges in social and economic development facilitated by internet access. Connecting with the community, accessing information, and promoting educational opportunities were some of the key needs for the various sub-groups. The survey also highlighted lack of infrastructure, insufficient local and relevant content, and social and cultural norms as major hindrances to internet access for these sub-groups of women, as well as stressing the need for gender-focused policies and sustainable grassroots-level initiatives to enhance inclusivity.

Finally, the BPF and its panel discussed the BPF’s preliminary findings and recommendations for further exploration, and the ways in which stakeholders can support the work in addressing barriers to meaningful access faced by specific communities of women.

Image: Chat Garcia Ramilo, APC’s executive director, speaking at the 2017 IGF main session on gender.

read more▼

Global Information Society Watch foregrounds National and Regional Internet Governance Forum Initiatives

The 2017 edition of the annual Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) report focused on National and Regional Internet Governance Forum Initiatives (NRIs), increasing the capacity of civil society actors to analyse and engage with internet governance processes at all levels. NRIs are now widely recognised as a vital element of the IGF process and seen to be the key to the sustainability and ongoing evolution of collaborative, inclusive and multistakeholder approaches to internet policy development and implementation.

A total of 54 reports on NRIs were gathered in this edition, including 40 country reports from contexts as diverse as the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea and Colombia. The country reports are rich in approach and style and highlight several challenges faced by activists organising and participating in national IGFs, including broadening stakeholder participation, capacity building, the unsettled role of governments and impact.

The 2017 GISWatch edition also included seven regional reports that analysed the impact of regional IGFs, their evolution and challenges, and the risks they still need to take to shift governance to the next level, while seven thematic reports offered critical perspectives on NRIs as well as mapping initiatives globally.

A special issue of GISWatch was also published as a companion edition to the main one, under the title “Internet governance from the edges: National and regional IGFs in their own words”, in collaboration with the IGF Secretariat. While the main 2017 GISWatch annual report provides independent and analytical perspectives on the role of NRIs in internet governance broadly, the special issue aims to give voice and visibility to the stories of each NRI, share their experiences and achievements and highlight their perspectives on internet governance.

To watch out for: The 2018 GISWatch edition will focus on local access and community networks initiatives, with more than 40 country reports and several thematic reports. APC and IDRC will also publish a baseline review of the GISWatch country reports from 2007 to 2017 to identify trends in civil society perspectives on what needs to be done to create a people-centred information society.

read more▼

Foundation for Media Alternatives launches an Open e-Governance Index

The Foundation for Media Alternatives published in September 2017 the results of its research project that developed a framework to assess open e-governance. Initially piloted in five countries, namely Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Uganda, the framework looked into how state and non-state actors use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to steer society collectively.

The OeGI project defines open e-governance as the presence of the following dimensions: meshed e-government; e-participation channels; digital inclusion; civil society use of ICTs; and open legal and policy ecosystems.

The study revealed that while there is progress towards open e-governance, there are dimensions that need to be strengthened. For instance, while there is a great demand for online participation among citizens, there are many policies and programmes that governments need to undertake before this can happen.

Openness is an important area of participation of civil society in the state, and norms for transparency and accountability are critical in ensuring that national ICT systems can be used for political and socioeconomic progress. In the future, the OeGI can be used as a normative tool to assess how countries utilise openness in network societies to enhance public service, citizen participation/engagement, and in addressing communication rights. The research was conducted with the support of Making All Voices Count and the Institute of Development Studies.

Image source: FMA.

read more ▼