• Global Internet Governance Forum [2016]
  • 12 Dec 2016

Guadalajara, Mexico. 6 – 9 December, 2016

View my Schedule for the event

Workshop An Internet of women by 2020

Activists and development workers shared successes and challenges they have faced over the past decade while trying to address the digital gender gap.  The conversation was hinged on the WSIS+10 review which set new targets for 2020. My reflections on the session and issues that I found interesting and worth carrying forward include:

  • Is there adequate and contextual research that can inform us on the barriers women face while trying to access Internet Communications Technologies?
  • To what extent are capacity building/ training initiatives for digital literacy relevant to the target groups
  • How can we build up on the already available expertise we have as women to facilitate mentoring initiatives in the sectors?
  • The reality is that the internet if not necessarily a safe space for women, and it is important to begin to have serious conversations on how the online environment can be ‘safer’ for especially women and girls.

The main issues and recommendations raised were as follows:

  • Increase in the number of women accessing the internet does not necessarily translate to a shift in the cultural barriers that limited women’s empowerment offline. What this means is that there should be parallel efforts  ensure that any interventions take into consideration the cultural barriers that exist offline at community level.
  • Research needs to go beyond collating sex disaggregated data to qualitative data that reflects the existing power dynamics that have in some instances widened the gender divide in this new digital era.
  • Women are not a homogeneous group, therefore mapping of interventions should take into consideration race, age, economic background, sexual orientation and social classes.
  • There is need for activists to engage government on the importance of gender mainstreaming in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives and policy if any meaningful impact is to be realised at country level.

Workshop Local Content and sustainable growth

The workshop was coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. Its main objective was to understand the complexities of Internet video services  and in general their benefits to sustainable growth and local content production. Speakers included film and TV producers and independent content producers from Africa, Asia, and, Latin America. Participants discussed legislative, regulatory and economic realities and possibilities that could make local content industries significantly sustainable and contribute meaningfully to national and regional Gross Domestic Products, innovation and cultural diversity.

The main issues and recommendations raised were as follows:

  • Local content producers in developing countries should approach Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for opportunities and partnerships in the  promotion of local content over their networks.
  •  Content producers must explore new distribution channels that can be monetised to shift the consumption of free content online.
  • Most African independent productions do not make it to the cinemas at global level. For that reason, the increase in internet penetration and diversity of audio visual productions becomes an alternative for the promotion of local African talent, although there could be an improvement in the marketing and returns for the producers.
  • Platforms like YouTube have over the years offered served as a good platform for the promotion of independent content producers, however what remains a challenge is having institutions such as Google to pay for content.
  • African content producers remain at a disadvantage as they have challenges with online payment systems
  • Issues of censorship remain a critical issue especially in countries where there are political insecurities around free expression, good governance and environmental contestations.

Workshop – Encryption and safety of journalists in digital age

This workshop, which was organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), explored privacy and safety of journalists globally. It noted the developments and debates on surveillance and encryption among media stakeholders in the United Nations member states. Presenters emphasised the role that anonymity and encryption play in enabling the protection of privacy and freedom of expression of journalists and the protection of their sources and whistleblowers.

The main issues and recommendations raised were as follows:

  • Emphasis on the need for media rights activists to build on the recommendation in the 2016 Report by the Special Rapporteur, David Kaye on Freedom of expression that focuses on anonymity and encryption in the  guaranteeing of freedom of speech for journalism practice.
  • Journalists should employ different levels of encryption of their communication – during the research for their stories, and also when sharing their opinions and information.
  • Internet governance conversations must reiterate the need for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to respect their role as privacy intermediaries and the media should begin to hold them accountable in respect of the obligation of the  privacy of their clients.
  • The need to strike a balance between the limits to encryption in relation to vulnerable communities and national security. Internet Governance platforms should engage on the yardsticks and measures to be put in place to ensure the balance.
  • Human rights activists and journalists must employ a sensible and practical balance between new online and traditional off line security measures.

Dynamic Coalition – Internet Rights and Principles

The roundtable discussion was organised by the Amnesty International and  attended by Human Rights experts, activists and Internet Services Provider(ISP) representatives. Presentations covered cyber harassment, censorship online with particular focus on social media.

The main issues and recommendations raised were as follows:

  • The online space is slowly being used to restrict democracy through the marketing and commercialisation of misinformation, defamation and  hate speech, online violence targeting mostly women , journalists, bloggers and activists.
  • There is need to increase lobbying for the protection of the aforementioned groups against censorship, hacking and Denial of Service (DOS) attacks of  their online platforms or accounts.
  • Civil Society has an important role to play in the monitoring of online violations, demands on transparency and accountability of the relevant actors on surveillance requests and ensuring quick responses attacks through follow ups.

Workshop – Analysing the Causes and Impacts of Internet Shutdowns.

The workshop explored the causes and ground-level impacts of internet shutdowns with a view to uncover the motivations behind the measures, laws and policies that aide them.

  • Internet shutdowns have not only had adverse affects on human rights but also on the economy of the country’s that they have been imposed.
  • It is easier for countries with a single exchange points to shutdown the internet than for those with multiple points in which the internet can be accessed.
  • The justification of internet shutdowns is problematic as it seeks to normalise them. Internet shutdowns are form of censorship and censorship never be justified.
  • Civil society organisations should monitor and document evidence on internet shutdowns in spite of their variation of either surgical or blanket shutdowns. That way it is easier for trends to be studied.
  • African activists must draw up a regional African strategy on Internet shutdowns.