Advocating for human rights online and offline

People, especially those facing discrimination and oppression, have greater power and autonomy through digital technologies to exercise their full range of human rights online and offline.


The cross-cutting digital rights challenges brought on by the pandemic, from freedom of expression, to surveillance, privacy concerns, disinformation and gender rights, were raised as mainstream concerns in many countries. Countries also experienced a shift to the political right, in some cases with more authoritarian states emerging and in others governments implementing restrictions during the pandemic lockdowns that were an excessive curtailing of freedoms. In a post-pandemic environment, with the digitalisation and datafication of societies continuing at a rapid pace, there were concerns that this drift towards authoritarianism would continue, and that new ways of governments or the tech sector infringing digital and other rights would emerge.

In 2022, we witnessed the widespread weaponisation of social media through disinformation, misinformation, online abuse and hate, destabilising elections, fuelling ethnic violence, and targeting women and gender-diverse people. Organised attacks by both state and non-state actors against human rights defenders and civil society organisations escalated, particularly against feminist, sexual rights and environmental activists. These attacks range from closing down civic and digital spaces, arrests, legal cases, restrictive digital laws and, in the case of Myanmar, a military coup that shut down contrarian forms of expression and dissent.

Countries have eroded privacy protections and have increased surveillance through technology. The tendency of governments towards techno-solutionism has resulted in digital technology solutions in health, education and other public services that lack guarantees of accessibility, security, protection of personal data, and adherence to human rights standards. Digital services and the datafication of personal information have become profitable business for big technology companies. The expansion in the use of digital IDs, biometrics, facial recognition and artificial intelligence runs the risks of bias and exclusion of people who are already marginalised.

Digital rights were now on the radar of multiple actors, some of whom had not considered them a priority before – but an apparent shift away from multistakeholder engagement among many governments, a narrowing of civic space in countries, and a hardening towards progressive politics also suggested that a new, perhaps more complex era of digital rights advocacy had emerged.

How we brought about change

Strengthening capacities

We built the capacity of activists to push back against the narrowing of civic space in Asia.

In 2022, we focused our capacity building on advocating for human rights online in Asia due to the severity of digital rights issues such as hate speech and gender-based violence in the region. We convened 90 people from four countries in South and Southeast Asia to strategise against hate speech and it was grounded in APC's many years of work on this issue. Consistent with this theme, we also published a edition on building collective narratives of resistance against hate in the region.

We also brought 15 activists from eight countries together in person at the Southeast Asia Digital Rights Collaborative, supported by Luminate, introducing them to the rights challenges in the region. We designed various opportunities to build their capacity on internet rights and digital laws. Five of the cohort members went on to attend the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Forum (APrIGF), among other forums, where they discussed digital rights priorities and their experiences as new voices in internet governance spaces.

Improving policy and discourse

At global human rights and tech forums, we advocated on key digital rights issues that had emerged during the pandemic.

We advocated on key digital rights issues across the year, including privacy and data protection, internet shutdowns, cybersecurity, disinformation, hate speech and gender rights online. This advocacy was informed by our research, including an edition of our flagship publication Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) that helped build an understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on digital advocacy priorities in the global South.

We actively participated in forums like the Human Rights Council (HRC) and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, the UN’s Open-ended Working Group on information and telecommunications in the context of international security (OEWG), and the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC).

At HRC sessions 49 and 50, we collaborated with our network members and contributed statements on hate speech online targeting religious minorities, privacy and data protection and internet shutdowns. We engaged with the Chair of the OEWG on the gendered implications of cyber threats, civil society contributions to online security, as well as the importance of a human rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to cybersecurity. In consistency with advocacy efforts, APC launched a literature review that explores how cybersecurity as a gendered space has been addressed in research, as well as a document identifying norms, standards and guidelines that cybersecurity policy makers and advocates can draw on when seeking to promote a gendered approach within national or multilateral cybersecurity discussions.

APC also highlighted pressing concerns related to human rights online in the UPR reviews of five countries. We worked with several members and partners to prepare joint statements and recommendations on a range of digital rights issues in Brazil, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

At the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) we co-chaired a task force on Tech for Democracy and held a RightsCon session about the FOC Advisory Network. We also worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan and informed her ongoing work on gendered disinformation and the safety of media workers online, as we see the work of journalists closely related to that of human rights defenders since both face similar online safety issues. Besides holding successful consultations with the Special Rapporteur and with UNESCO on the issue, APC also engaged the Special Rapporteur at RightsCon 2022 and at the World Press Freedom Day global conference in sessions on gendered disinformation and digital authoritarianism.

We also analysed how the pandemic had changed the digital rights advocacy landscape in the global South with the publication of an edition of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) called Digital futures for a post-pandemic world. The edition included research from 36 countries mainly in the global South and published 11 thematic reports. It was launched at the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Ethiopia in November 2022.

Through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, this edition highlighted the complex ways in which democracy and human rights are at risk across the globe, and used an intersectional lens to examine how fundamental meaningful internet access is to sustainable development. 2022 was also GISWatch’s 15th anniversary, and we invited long-term collaborators to share their reflections on the value of the initiative.

Stories from the network

  • CITAD trained women journalists and civil society leaders on digital rights in Nigeria

    As part of its Enhancing Digital Rights in Nigeria Project, on 10 and 11 October, 2022, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) organised a two-day capacity building workshop for women journalists and leaders of civil society organisations in northern Nigeria. The workshop in Damaturu, Yobe State, drew 31 participants (27 women and 4 men) from eight states.

    Ten presentations were made, including on privacy as special digital rights, the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, Feminist Principles of the Internet, state derogation of digital rights, gender violence as digital rights abuse, policies and laws that have implications on digital rights in Nigeria, and the legal perspective on digital rights. The workshop trained participants in issues related to digital rights and produced Digital Rights Champions to join the campaign for digital rights in the country. These champions also passed on this training to 449 other individuals in their states.

    Image: Women journalists and civil society leaders at CITAD’s digital rights workshop.
    Image source: CITAD.

  • eQualitie supported Ukrainian people and media organisations to stay safe online and circumvent internet censorship

    Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, eQualitie launched a series of rapid efforts focusing on digital security capacity building of Ukrainian citizens, media agencies, human rights organisations and civil society organisations. eQualitie launched Ukraine’s first national digital security helpline in partnership with Internews Ukraine in November. Nadiyno responds with immediate and easy solutions to questions about cybersecurity and communication safety. As of December 2022, more than 1,100 users were running their own Mastodon instances (communities) on this platform to communicate with each other and millions of other users from hundreds of federated Mastodon instances worldwide.

    eQualitie has also run digital security webinars that have so far reached 1,027 participants. In partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, DEP, and the Association of Right Owners and Providers of Content, eQualitie supplied 29 Ukrainian ISPs with 172 SBL 135-12HR batteries to power the providers’ fibre optic network during power outages. eQualitie also protects the websites of over a hundred Ukrainian media and human rights organisations (including of the 2022 Nobel prize laureate, the Center for Civil Liberties) from daily DDoS attacks. Since the beginning of the conflict, an additional 60 Ukrainian websites have been onboarded, bringing a daily audience of over half a million people in Ukraine. Through eQualitie's (Ceno) project, users in temporarily occupied territories are able to circumvent internet censorship where website blocking and traffic surveillance are rife. Using the Ceno browser, more than 20,000 Ukrainian users can circumvent local network filtering and share contents of retrieved web pages with each other.

    Image: At the launch of eQualitie’s digital security helpline, with partner Internews and the Ministry of Digital Transformation in November 2022.
    Image source: eQualitie.

  • Jinbonet won a legal battle against Big Tech monopolies and personal data infringement in Korea

    In 2021, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet began its work against big tech monopolies and infringements of personal data, filing a lawsuit for damages over Facebook's privacy violations, the so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal. In 2022, Meta tried to force users to agree to the revision of its privacy policy and was met with a strong backlash. Meta was widely understood to be collecting vast amounts of users’ personal behavioural data without their knowledge for the purpose of targeted advertising. Civil society organisations, including Jinbonet, conducted a campaign against Meta, with a series of actions including a press conference in front of the Meta office. With the support of APC's research and campaign grant, Jinbonet conducted a campaign against Big Tech including a forum at South Korea’s National Assembly to criticise the illegal collection of personal data for targeted advertising, and other issues arising from Big Tech monopolies.

    In September 2022, South Korea’s data privacy watchdog, the Personal Information Protection Commission, imposed a fine of approximately 100 billion won (USD 72 million) on Google and Meta for collecting and using third-party behavioural information without consent. It also issued a corrective order and formed a task force to establish guidelines for the processing of personal data for targeted advertising purposes.

    Image: On 28 July 2022, Jinbonet and other civil society activists held a press conference in front of the Meta office to protest Meta's privacy policy.
    Image source: Jinbonet.

  • Derechos Digitales collaborated for Latin American advocacy on digital rights

    APC's relationship with Derechos Digitales represents a history of collaboration for human rights in digital environments. In 2022, Derechos Digitales worked with APC to identify the many ways in which internet access was restricted through shutdowns in regions of the global South, from which they systematised learnings and challenges that they presented at the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Derechos Digitales also partnered with APC and other APC members to document the digital rights situation in Brazil and Ecuador in the framework of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process. They ran a campaign to influence the recommendations issued to these nations with perspectives on digital rights. These coordinated efforts made it possible to position a responsible view of human rights, which encourages working with other representatives of civil society to advance as a region.

    This intention also materialised in the deployment of an observation mission on the occasion of the imprisonment and subsequent acquittal of the Swedish system developer Ola Bini, arrested in 2019 and declared innocent three years and nine months later by the Ecuadorian justice system. This ruling was celebrated as an advance for the protection of people working in digital security in Ecuador that also set a precedent in the region, taking into account the growing and illegitimate persecution of digital security experts.

    Image: Illustration for the article “Mujeres haciendo tecnología” by Derechos Digitales.
    Image source: Lucía Boiani for Derechos Digitales.

  • Open Net Korea successfully defended net neutrality and opposed the “network usage fee” bill

    Since 2020, the Korean legislature has been trying to deliberate on a “network usage fee” bill that contradicts the international human rights standard of network neutrality. South Korea has already implemented the “sender pays” rule since 2016, which imposed data toll charges on content providers. As a result, content providers hosting popular content had to pay telecommunication providers in proportion to that popularity. Seoul’s internet access fee has become higher than other parts of the world. Many startups and content providers have since left Korea because of these raised fees. If the Korean legislature passes the new “network usage fee” bill, then content providers will be legally obliged to pay the data toll charges, taking them back to the days of charging toll on data like telephony and reversing the advances made through the internet.

    In 2022, Open Net Korea successfully defended net neutrality and opposed the “network usage fee” bill. Open Net Korea campaigned against the bill and attended a public hearing hosted by the Korean legislature. Close to 300,000 people took part in Open Net’s petition drive. Today, the “network usage fee” bill is on hold.

    Image: The poster for Open Net’s petition drive to oppose the network usage fee bill.
    Image source: Open Net Korea.

  • PROTEGE QV released an interactive map of legal responses to disinformation in sub-Saharan Africa

    With the support of Global Partners Digital, PROTEGE-QV, alongside other consortium partners including ARTICLE 19, CIPESA and the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, are currently conducting a project titled “Promoting Rights-Respecting Approaches to Tackling Disinformation”. The goal of the project is to bring about human rights-friendly laws online through the development of both a capacity building training plan and a national advocacy strategy. So far, the project has yielded a prominent outcome with the release of LEXOTA (Laws on Expression Online Tracker and Analysis), an interactive map that highlights the legal and regulatory responses that states in sub-Saharan Africa are deploying to combat the phenomenon of disinformation.

    Online disinformation has become a major global concern, and so has the legislation designed to tackle it. Cameroon is no exception when it comes to laws that contain provisions restricting the enjoyment of online freedoms – whether directly aimed at the digital environment or not. Therefore, how can Cameroon craft responses to disinformation that respect the right to freedom of expression? PROTEGE QV explored ways to improve the situation, from respecting international commitments to taking into account international human rights standards when formulating laws on online freedom of expression.

    Image: LEXOTA logo.
    Image source: PROTEGE QV.

  • Pangea published guides for ethical technologies in Spain

    Pangea promotes ethical technologies and their socially and environmentally responsible use. In 2022, Pangea carried out a new chapter of these environmental advocacy actions by publishing four new guides and graphic materials specially focused on email services. With support from a 2022 APC research and campaign subgrant, they developed, published and disseminated four new educational and practical materials on critical decisions in the consumption and use of information and communications technologies. The materials are available in Spanish and Catalan and include two guides on email use, one on phishing and one on URLs shortener services. These guides expand the work started in previous projects (in collaboration with APC) to better explain and expand critical choices, practices and concepts related to internet services. Also in 2022, in collaboration with eXO (Expansió de la Xarxa Oberta), they offered their members a test of the BBB (Big Blue Button) service, an open source web conferencing solution for online learning, using Pangea's Nextcloud and eXO BBB server to evaluate interest in a possible new service.

    Image: An icon from Pangea’s guide on phishing.
    Image source: Pangea.

  • Nodo TAU in Argentina joined hands with APC members in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica and Spain to share projects and learnings

    During 2022, Nodo TAU had the joy of sharing several projects with members of the APC network. They joined the ANERA project with AlterMundi for the promotion of community networks in Argentina. They started a conversation with Colnodo in Colombia and Sulá Batsú in Costa Rica to work together on gender-related issues.

    In 2022, Mireia Roura, a member of eReuse and Pangea, visited Nodo TAU’s Electronic Waste Management Plant. Nodo TAU started the plant in 2019 with three objectives: to provide a sustainable solution to e-waste, promote digital inclusion by recovering equipment for community use, and create a work space for young people. Roura visited the organisation to learn about the experience of the plant and to share knowledge with the work team. Together they reviewed the operating systems and registration tools at the plant and the traceability system that Nodo TAU uses, which was developed by eReuse. During her visit, Roura also offered training to the members of the plant team, who were developing a training process towards creating a work cooperative run by young people. With Roura, Nodo TAU also revisited experiences of the Digital Communities project, a programme that brings together the municipal government, tech companies and Nodo TAU to equip spaces for community access to technology. There, Roura was able to learn about the programme and also collected data for her research on measuring the environmental impact of reusing equipment.

    Image: Mireia Roura from Pangea with Eduardo Rodríguez from Nodo TAU during the visit.
    Image source: Nodo TAU.

  • Intervozes ran a successful campaign against misinformation about the Amazon

    Amazônia Livre de Fakes is a project by Intervozes that aimed to combat misinformation and hate speech in the Amazon region, based on a survey of 200 web pages and profiles that propagate misleading content and through strategic campaigns to confront this digital environment. The project was run by a working group formed by Intervozes and eight other Amazonian organisations, including Indigenous people, quilombolas, young people, women, researchers and community members from the countryside, the rainforest and the city.

    With further information, the group arrived at a list of 70 content producers operating in the states of Pará, Amapá, Amazonas Mato Grosso, Roraima, Tocantins and Acre. These were segmented into three large groups of producers and disseminators: right-wing social movements, channels/journalistic companies, and representative public figures (legislators or candidates in the 2022 elections). Since their initial strategy to combat disinformation was a campaign to demonetise pages that propagate disinformation, they decided to delve deeper into journalistic channels based on two criteria: visibility and self-designation of doing journalism. Therefore, they arrived at three pages: Portal Novo Norte, Vista Pátria and Terra Brasil Notícias, with millions in traffic and shares by other pages and profiles of Amazonian territories. As a result of their campaigns, they had a disinformation propagator withdraw from the candidacy for the senate, brought about a change in Google's attitude by providing more information about candidates, and fostered a debate in society about ways to finance disinformation.

    Image: The logo of the Amazônia Livre de Fakes campaign was created by an Amazonian designer.
    Image source: Gil Reis.

  • May First raised awareness about the critical role of community journalism and autonomous technology in Mexico

    In April 2022, May First Movement Technology launched its first Engagement and Communications team, recruiting folks directly from its membership to help spread awareness of the critical role that autonomous technology plays in the movement for liberation. It got off to a fast start – organising several sessions at the World Social Forum in Mexico City in May. This was followed up with a webinar, Get the Tech Off My Body, highlighting the technology implications of the US court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade in the United States Supreme Court and the links between technology and reproductive justice.

    Over the summer, May First collaborated with its member La Coperacha (Mexico City) to present a session on community journalism at the Allied Media Conference. The organisation interviewed over a dozen members to write a paper on the reasons movement organisations value autonomous technology and how they understand its role in their strategies for change. In September, May First joined a coalition of US-based movement organisations called "Rising Majority" for a multi-day strategy session to build a shared agenda for liberation. In November they partnered with their member Media Justice to organise "Turning Up the Heat on Big Tech", where they pulled together activists organising Amazon warehouse workers, fighting local/police surveillance (e.g. Amazon Ring), and targeting big tech military contracts with the Israeli military.

    Image: May First logo.
    Image source: May First.

  • EsLaRed developed a platform to train teachers in open technologies in Mérida, Venezuela

    It was clear that in 2022, Venezuela urgently needed to set up technological infrastructure for remote education and to establish the foundations of a system adapted to the new educational realities. During the COVID-19 pandemic and after it as well, the country experienced a sharp need for access to innovative technological platforms that facilitate online learning, the management of open educational resources, collaborative work, intelligent interaction with students, and access to knowledge repositories, among many other resources.

    Educational centres in Mérida, Venezuela have suffered a great lack of participation of teachers and students to comply with the training plans provided by the Ministry of Education and, in addition, there were great needs in the management of technological resources. As a response, EsLaRed implemented campaigns, programmes and training plans in digital technologies in Mérida. EsLaRed developed (with funds approved by APC) its project CATAE, which stands for Training in Open Technologies for Education. EsLaRed is currently training its first pilot group of 20 educators selected by the Centre for Teacher Research and Training (Educational Zone) in the Libertador Municipality of Mérida State, in Venezuela, which should become the first link in a continuous chain of training of trainers. In this way, teachers and students will have the knowledge that will allow them to carry out remote educational processes in an emergency in a more efficient way.

    Image: Group of educators engaging in a training from EsLaRed.
    Image source: EsLaRed.

  • TEDIC promoted reflective online practices that contributed to better mental health in Paraguay

    The pandemic has meant a radical and abrupt change in human lives: changes in daily life, in the ways we work and study, and above all, in the ways we socialise. In the face of the need for “social distancing”, everyone found themselves looking for other means of connection with others. This meant spending more time isolated and more time in digital spaces. Since excessive use of technology is related to an increase in behaviours and emotions related to anxiety, depression, stress and other psychosocial risks, it is important to have practices that contribute to an agile and reflective use of technology that contributes to our mental health. That is why TEDIC created the Mente en Línea website, the Mental Health on the Internet campaign where they share resources in the form of podcast episodes, illustrated fanzines that can be obtained both digitally or in print, and articles and research to delve deeper into the different factors that impact our behaviour and mental health when interacting with technologies.

    In 2022, they developed a new fanzine focused on people who care for children and adolescents with the goal of accompanying and rethinking their use of technology at a key age for their development. "Our Life on Screens" touches on topics such as the suggested screen use time for children and adolescents and the differentiation between healthy and unhealthy habits in front of screens, among other things. They e-delivered more than a thousand copies of this fanzine to different institutions including the Ministry of Public Health, Enfoque Niñez NGO, UNICEF and Centro de Desarrollo para la Inteligencia.

    Image: TEDIC distributes copies of their fanzine Our Life on Screens.
    Image source: TEDIC.

  • Open Culture Foundation promoted open source technology in Taiwan with a board game

    Through promoting open technology and cross-field collaboration, Open Culture Foundation continues to connect tech communities and public and private entities in Taiwan. By doing so, they promote open co-creation and protect digital human rights, thereby supporting a more transparent and inclusive digital civil society. In 2022, OCF launched “Open Source Star Village“, a board game designed for newbies who don’t know how to use or collaborate with open source technologies. The board game was designed in traditional Chinese and is Creative Commons licensed and free and open for everyone to download, print and remake in other languages.

    2022 was also the year in which OCF collaborated with the US-based think tank New America Foundation on their international evaluation tool Ranking Digital Rights, designed to measure the extent to which corporations in various countries are protecting digital human rights during their operation and service provision to consumers. By collecting and releasing quantitative data on corporations' digital human rights practices, OCF hopes everyone can better understand the current status of digital rights protections by corporations and use this information to inform policy decisions and increase accountability across the digital landscape.

    Image: Open Source Star Village, the board game designed by Open Culture Foundation.
    Image source: Open Culture Foundation.

  • ALIN brought the power of online learning to offline school environments in Kenya

    In 2022, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) with support from APC implemented their “Bringing the power of online learning to offline environments” project. The project piloted the Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning (RACHEL) in five schools at Ng'arua Maarifa Centre, ALIN's ICT hub. RACHEL is a portable plug-and-play server with a five-hour battery life. A free offline digital library, RACHEL stores educational websites and makes content available over any local (offline) wireless connection.

    Through this project, ALIN built the capacity of 86 teachers and facilitators to incorporate RACHEL technology and content into their classrooms. They were able to create, access, reuse, repurpose, adapt and redistribute digital content to learners. A total of 1,521 students learned how to access educational content via RACHEL.

    RACHEL enables the schools to share quality education materials widely, challenges teachers to incorporate digital technology into their classes and helps learners access quality content autonomously.

    As an open educational resource (OER), RACHEL has a central role to play in Education 2030 in the framework of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which calls for the international community to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” with its key pillars of access, equity and inclusion.

    Image: ALIN Director Mr James Nguo handing over the RACHEL equipment to the teachers.
    Image source:ALIN.

  • Jokkolabs Banjul empowered marginalised Gambian youth with knowledge of digital rights and skills

    Through its Youth and Digital Inclusion Project with APC, Jokkolabs has launched initiatives to help empower Gambian youth. Through its Digital Human Rights Workshops, Jokkolabs was able to provide resources and guidance to youth on how to use technology safely, identify and protect their digital rights, and develop basic digital literacy skills. The organisation also established a safe space for youth to discuss digital rights issues, fostering collaboration among different youth groups.

    Jokkolabs also trained over 600 young people from vulnerable and marginalised communities in digital literacy skills, such as using computers and the internet, digital marketing, and simple data analysis. Jokkolabs organised students to build a database of public goods and services, using information collected by recent high school graduates and tertiary institution students. The database will help students understand the use of public services, develop policies, address disparities in access, and inform education initiatives to build trust and increase public participation in policy-making processes. These initiatives have fostered digital skills and human rights knowledge, supported digital inclusion for vulnerable individuals, and encouraged governance of the internet as a global public good, aiming to help create a just society where all young people can access essential digital tools and knowledge.

    Image: Young men and women in a Jokkolabs digital literacy workshop in the Lower River region of Gambia.
    Image source: Jokkolabs Banjul.

  • KICTANet advocated for people with disabilities to engage in ICT policies in Kenya

    Digital access, digital accessibility and women's rights are at the core of KICTANet’s work. The passion for improving access to information is evident in the village of Mtondia, Kilifi County, home to the Dunia Moja Community Network, which was bootstrapped by KICTANet. As a 2021 local access network grantee, Dunia Moja connected 15 schools in Kilifi with an average of 1,000 students each. One interesting beneficiary is the Kibarani School for the Deaf. In a silent world, the students perceive and conceptualise things better visually. Internet access provides them an equal opportunity to experience the world.

    In 2022, through the ICT Access and Equality for Persons with Disability Programme, an initiative was born to address the digital divide between non-disabled and persons with disabilities in Kenya. Two fellows were onboarded to create content around accessibility issues for persons with disabilities. During the 2022 global IGF, the fellows highlighted various ICT issues around disability and digital access. The programme has fostered networking and potential partnerships with disability rights organisations and provided a national and international platform for people with disabilities to actively engage and contribute to ICT policies and conversations affecting them directly.

    Under the Our Voices, Our Futures programme, a Feminist Tech Exchange on digital storytelling brought together women who had been candidates in the 2022 general elections in Kenya. They were trained on how to blog and record podcasts by seasoned content creators. Today they are active on digital platforms telling their stories on community development.

    Image: A classroom at the Kibarani School for the Deaf, run by the Dunia Moja Community Network.
    Image source: KICTANet.

  • Digital Empowerment Foundation helped rural women engineers to connect the unconnected in India

    Beyond certified degrees, true engineering lies in real-time problem-solving skills with a good understanding of the underlying technology. Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) has been training women to connect the unconnected and Nisha Kumari is one of DEF’s Wireless Women Engineers. Nisha is an unexpected sight in rural India. Nisha is a member of an agricultural household in the village of Bartoli, in Jharkhand in central India. Keen to learn how to use a computer, she joined DEF’s wireless training programme to learn how wireless connectivity works and how it can help the community. Once she attended the training, she started using a wireless network. She has since been enthusiastic about learning more wireless technology and introduced it in her village so that her community members could stay connected. She has also been encouraging everyone in her village to get trained as well. Nisha is now set upon establishing her own wireless centre and providing better network and other digital services to members of her community.

    Image: Nisha Kumari, trained by DEF in wireless networks, introduces the concept to women in a village in central India.
    Image source: Digital Empowerment Foundation.

  • Nupef implemented 18 new community networks in Brazil

    In 2022, Nupef implemented 18 new community networks within Indigenous lands and traditional communities in Brazil. As one of Nupef’s leading projects, community networks are part of a strategy to 1) reaffirm that everyone has the right and should have the means to access the internet, information and services, as well as to communicate; 2) contribute to the protection and preservation of the land, territories and environment by Indigenous people, quilombolas and babassu coconut breakers; and 3) help develop local knowledge around the use of ICTs. Establishing 18 community networks was a record, the highest number implemented by Nupef in one year.

    In 2020 and 2021, Nupef’s capacity to implement infrastructure in these territories was seriously affected due to the pandemic. Even so, they managed to implement a few when restrictions were less severe. They also continued mapping the needs and planning future actions in the territories with their partners Movimento Interestadual das Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu, Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza and Coordenação Nacional de Articulação de Quilombos. The isolation imposed by COVID-19 triggered and sped up the development of online public services and made the inequalities and digital gaps clearer than ever. Meaningful access, with minimum quality and price standards, is what is needed for equal access to services and education.

    Image: Nupef Community Networks team runs an introductory session on community networks in Quilombo Matões dos Moreira (Maranhão).
    Image source: Nupef.

  • Servelots organised an annual hackathon in India that initiated a collaborative project with community networks around the world is an annual event in Karnataka’s Community-Owned Wireless Mesh (COWMesh) region organised by Servelots in a rural village near Bangalore. It is an annual hackathon where experiences and skills are shared and networks built and tested. In 2022, it brought together many people who aspire to a decentralised internet and independent community networks with meaningful access and many local services. This also initiated the LokaLR project: loka is world, lokaL for local, LR for LibreRouter, and R for router, so it is loka LR, alias lokal R.

    The LokaLR project aims to foster collaboration between technical teams supporting community networks around the world by building on the closely related ongoing technical work of APC members and partners. Engineers from Servelots, Coolab, Wakoma, IIT, Freifunk and SLS working in the design and implementation of “minimum-viability” offline off-grid wireless networks and information servers took advantage of the two-week-long Anthillhacks event. The prototype off-grid network will build on the work Servelots has been executing with support from ISIF to develop a do-it-yourself kit, which aims to allow someone with no internet access to set up a wireless access point with their own COWMesh local access information and communications server.

    Image: Community members setting up a bamboo tower for a COWMesh node.
    Image source: COWMesh Anthillhacks.

  • Fantsuam Foundation trained Nigerian women survivors of sectarian violence in ICT entrepreneurship

    In southern Kaduna, sectarian killings have persisted for years and women continue to bear the brunt of the savagery. There has been no let-up and the situation often seems beyond the capabilities of the security agencies. In the thick of murders and sexual violence, women survivors have been left with severe trauma which they have to bear as they pick up what is left of their lives. The survivors have had to nurse the wounded, look after older members of the community, as well as attempt to restart their small-scale businesses and smallholder farms.

    Fantsuam Foundation hosts the offices of the Southern Kaduna Women Peace Network (SKWPN) that ensures that women’s voices are heard above the din of war in our communities. Amidst the violence, Fantsuam was able to organise ICT entrepreneurship training for some women survivors with the hope that digital literacy skills will eventually help with their emotional and economic recovery. These training sessions are not merely for skills and knowledge. They also serve to reassure the women that their resilience is recognised and saluted.

    Image: A group of women and men at an ICT entrepreneurship training session organised by Fantsuam Foundation.
    Image source: Fantsuam Foundation.

  • Pollicy built a digital resilience programme for African women political leaders in Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal

    Women political leaders should be equipped with digital skills to handle the increasing demands of the internet as they are a highly targeted group due to their role in society. Moreover, they are at high risk of experiencing gender-based violence online, which can hinder their political and leadership progress. Pollicy’s Amplified Abuse report demonstrates this, as they found that women political leaders experience online abuse at a rate of 27% compared to their male counterparts who experience abuse at 18%. They also found similar findings on the extent of online gender-based violence through their cross-sectional study in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. The study interviewed 3,306 women, with about 23% of the interviewees acknowledging they had experienced some form of online abuse as they interact with the internet.

    All these findings influenced Pollicy to design the VOTE: Women programme, which is a leadership springboard for women political leaders to build their digital resilience while aspiring to political careers online and offline. The implementation of the programme employed a mixed approach of co-creation, gauging interests, establishing advisory boards, expert consultations, and interviews with women political leaders themselves on their uptake of digital resilience. They were able to design an open-source curriculum that equipped 40 women political leaders from the council levels in Uganda and Tanzania with key digital skills, including digital safety, creative writing, engaging with different audiences and digital advocacy. The VOTE: Women programme is now expanding its implementation to Senegal, where Pollicy hopes to learn more experiences of women political leaders in West Africa. For the next two years, the VOTE: Women programme will also focus on advocating for strengthened regulatory frameworks across Africa that promote a safe internet for women political leaders.

    Image: Women political leaders at Pollicy’s VOTE: Women inception meeting.
    Image source: Pollicy.

  • Colnodo enabled rural women in Colombia to participate in the digital transformation of their communities

    Colnodo created initiatives to enable women living in rural Colombia to participate in the design, construction, management and sustainability of community networks. The appropriation and use of ICTs is contributing to the empowerment of women and the reduction of the gender digital divide in the country. Red Weiniun Walapuin, Red Poliniza, Red Ovejas Verdes, Red Verbenal Renace, Red San Isidro del Oasis, Red Consejo Comunitario de Zacarías and Red Páramo del Almorzadero are community networks in rural areas of Colombia that are being managed in collaboration with Colnodo. In these networks, women of all ages strengthen their capacities for community leadership. These initiatives are giving women and girls the opportunity to creatively and productively use ICTs to generate content from their voices and experiences, document situations of discrimination and violence, as well as find educational and social opportunities. ICTs are making it possible for women entrepreneurs to market their products on fair and equitable terms. Colnodo continues to promote the active participation of women in the design, creation and governance of technology for social development.

    Image: Collage of pictures depicting local women performing different activities.
    Image source: Redes Comunitarias Colnodo.