SIF13 (VII). Internet freedom for global development – making progress?

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Wrap-up: internet freedom for global development – making progress?

Moderator: Emily Taylor, Consultant, Non-executive Director Oxford Information Labs Ltd, Member of Multistakeholder Advisory Group at UN Internet Governance Forum.

Panelists: Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation; Yoani Sanchez, Journalist, Generation Y; Sang-yirl Nam, Research Fellow at the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI); Andrew Wyckoff, Director, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry at the OECD; Carlos Affonso Souza, Vice-Coordinator, Center for Technology and Society (CTS/FGV); Sylvie Coudray, Chief of Section of Freedom of Expression, UNESCO.

Internet freedom means physical access to infrastructures, but also access to content without any political bias or censorship and, at last, the freedom to publish content or opinions without any fear of harassment or personal harm.

The “Internet without the Internet” is about using USB keys to find and share all that it is not legal to be found and read and shared. Just like people are used in Cuba to look for illegal food in the black market, so do people look for illegal information on the Internet.

But what are the limits of freedom on the Internet?

Freedom is also having the skills to be able to operate the Internet.

Freedom is not being above the law, being free from the law. So, you are free not against the law, but because of the law.

ICTs give freedom to people through empowerment, providing tools to manage their own lives, to innovate, to leapfrog the stage of development they are in.

Freedom of the Net should be approached from a Human Rights point of view, which are “above” specific laws, sometimes disrespectful to Human Rights.

Multi-stakeholder initiatives are great for creating debate and a state of opinion, but at the end, it is elected representatives the ones that have the responsibility to make a decision and to make this decision happen in the real world. On the other hand, citizens can engage now much more through ICTs, so we should include them, not only as organized civil society, but as individuals, in decision-making processes.

When we speak about “responsible” citizens, what it sometimes happen is that totalitarian governments want “responsible” citizens that will only read and say what is “responsible”. And what happens is that once people reach the content that is on the Internet, they become critical and will read and say whatever they want, despite it is considered “responsible” by their totalitarian governments.

More information

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

SIF13 (VI). Transforming international development through ICTs

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Transforming international development through ICTs

Moderator: Bertrand de La Chapelle, Program Director at the International Diplomatic Academy, Member of the Board of Directors at ICANN.

Panelists: Marlon Parker, Founder RLabs; Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the UN Global Pulse; Juliana Rotich, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Ushahidi; Usha Venkatachallam, Founder & CEO, Appropriate IT; Laura Walker Hudson, CEO, Social Impact Lab Foundation, the Makers of FrontlineSMS.

We are witnessing a paradigm shift in international development through the use of ICTs.

Then we talk about ICT4D, it is not more about infrastructures, but about applications. How are these new technological platforms allowing development cooperation to do things?

Ushahidi allowed, with very low cost, to raise awareness on political issues but also on crisis response, environment monitoring, etc. The technology is only an small part of the whole project, where training and human interaction are the most important part of all.

Global Pulse is about collecting information in real time and to use it for decision-making. Before, it was about letting information flow and feed development projects; now it is about seeing the patterns that people leave in the data that are automatically generated and try to infer policies after that. There is a powerful field in passively generated data. The UN has a lot of maps on almost everything, but they are missing one thing: people. With passively generated data, you can put people on the maps and in real time.

FrontlineSMS lets you manage SMSs virtually with any device, which makes of it a universal tool that can be used by anyone. The choice of platform is usually very political and has different impacts. Being platform neutral is crucial in development not to exclude anyone.

Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) put the tools in the hands of the citizens for they to use them for their own purposes, without a third party directing a specific usage of a given tool. And if a community is created around the lab, the more advanced ones will hep the least advanced users.

Appropriate IT does not teach programming, but how to learn (by yourself) how to develop software. Training is about giving tools and giving voices.

The inclusion of ICTs or technologies in general change the social tissue of the community that appropriates them. They will change the relationships of power, they will change how socialization happens… so, we have to be very careful on these bottom-up approaches because, as legitimate and well intended as they may be, they can also cause social harm that will only be visible in the medium or long term, but not in the short term.

One thing about Scale is horizontal scaling, that Is what FrontlineSMS is doing: trying to get nearer communities or clusters where almost everything learnt in one place can be replicated easily.

Social franchises are a way to quickly replicate methodologies or specific applications of technology. It also creates a sort of meta-comunity, a community of communities doing similar things with similar tools. Indeed, this meta-community has high returns of scale, as everything that is developed by the meta-community can be applied in the local communities.

But how too coordinate the whole sector of innovation for development? How to avoid the “pioneers’ curse”, where the pioneer always remains a pioneer walking in their own? Pioneer projects should try to open gates for others coming behind, to make connections between communities and projects.

When speaking about open data and opening data from big carriers, the approach is not that carriers should be opening their data for free (which actually is at a positive cost), but to think about what “business model” will invite the carrier to open their data because they will benefit (and/or profit) from it, and which you can build upon your development project.

Data driven development is a paradigm shift from ICT for development approach. Enabling platforms, generative. Big data, visualization, build on top.

Sustainability and scaling through horizontal scaling. Investment in tools providers, to generalize the technological layers.

Strong emphasis on cooperation, on sharing data: data analysis, dissemination, visualization, decision-making. Sandboxing as sharing what you do with data, in the open.

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

SIF13 (V). A free and open internet for global inclusive growth

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

A free and open internet for global inclusive growth

Moderator: Rebecca Mackinnon, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation, Author.

Panelists: Tim Unwin, Secretary General, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation; Anne Jellema, CEO, World Wide Web Foundation; Anna-Karin Hatt, Swedish Minister for Information Technology and Energy; Parminder Singh, Executive Director, IT for Change; Grace Githaiga, Associate, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet).

It’s not just the pipes, it’s what we deliver; it’s not just the Internet, it’s what we use it for and how we use it. How can we commit to the goal that the more marginalized, the more in risk of exclusion, can benefit from the tremendous potential of the Internet, mobile phones and mobile broadband. The market will deliver for many many people, but it won’t deliver for them all.

There’s a lot of innovation but the quality of broadband is a challenge. There’s also diversity in use of technologies.

Lots of innovations in the South are being captured by companies in the North, where they have more power to make them grow and establish a market power. More protection for South innovators should be a priority.

How can governments put focus on what technology can do? Transparency, open data, e-government or e-democracy are good ways to.

How can developing countries have a say in the global Internet Governance issues? Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach should be taken into consideration to broaden the importance and potential of the Internet, out of just economic issues and more into human issues. And this will change the way we approach Internet Governance. First of all internet is a public good. It’s not a choice between market and public.

Universality and accessibility of the net goes hand in hand.

Is Facebook Zero a good or a bad thing? Is it good because it provides access to the Internet at zero cost for the user? Or is it a bad thing because it de facto reduces the Internet to Facebook? There is another danger that the free as in free beer Internet is the commercial one, and the free as in freedom of speech Internet is expensive and will be killed, just like some Internet is killing community radio. People not only want to communicate with their peers through social networking sites, but there also is hunger for information.

Affordability has to be addressed urgently in many places in the world. Until prices do not come down — while keeping up quality — e-inclusion will be but a nice word. And this goes by designing a better regulation that breaks monopolies, or at least monopolistic practices — in some areas, monopolies are natural monopolies, so it makes no sense to include competition, though this lack of competition, of course, should not go against the citizens.

We have not to use rights and rights advocacy to avoid our own responsibilities, responsibilities that are shared between governments but also citizens.

If choosing in between the fast and easy to shadow internet, better to have slow,but secure.

My personal take on these issues: ICTs for accessing agricultural market information or to stop food speculation? ICTs for e-health apps or to stop medicines speculation and health system corruption? ICTs to reduce the cost of judicial procedures or to avoid governments tampering on justice? ICTs to make polling easier or to promote direct, deliberative and participative democracy? Grassroots approaches are OK, but we have to focus also on changing the whole system.

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

SIF13 (IV). Cyberactvism: Caught between love and hate?

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Unconference. Cyberactvism: Caught between love and hate?

Moderator: Vilhelm Konnander.

In Egypt: have treats on digital activists increased after the Arab Spring? Threats have increased, but also has the number of users of social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook). And not only are there more users, but they are active users that look for and share information and news. The bad thing is that now the government is also on Twitter or Facebook and can monitor and track who said what, when and to whom.

In Ethiopia: all media are owned by the government. So, social networking sites are the only place where the citizens can get some information not controlled by the government. The problem is now that the government aims at controlling the Internet too. All the websites that are critical with the government are automatically blocked. The government also uses spyware to monitor their citizens.

In Iran: before 2009, bloggers got arrested, there was some censorship and blocking. After 2009, people began to use Twitter and Facebook and share photos and videos. So, now the Internet is a target to be controlled. The government is working now for a national/halal/Islamic Internet by replacing third parties’ solutions by their own (their own Twitter, their own Facebook, etc.).

In Russia: Russia is very afraid of revolutions (Georgia, Ukraine, etc.) so it wants to control the Internet to avoid further revolutions. Just like in times of the Soviet Union, “dissidents” are targeted, identified (online and offline) to “deactivate” them.

We have not to misunderstand freedom of expression and the freedom to risk your like by speaking out. There might be freedom of expression and not “freedom after expression”.

Is it possible to get funding for cyberactivism? From abroad? Is it a good thing or is it harmful?

In Ethiopia is very difficult to get funding from outside, but it is very much needed: for reaching out, for expanding one’s networks, to scale up training and skills of volunteers/bloggers, etc.

A problem that most activists face in Egypt — and elsewhere — is that as they are not constituted and registered as a formal ONG, it is very difficult to (a) get funding and, in case they got it, (b) manage money the “appropriate” way, as a normal institution would (with accounting books, budgets, and so on).

Should we encourage some actions, or some donations… or does that put people in danger? Or will that hamper or worsen the relationships between governments and NGOs and make development cooperation more difficult because of bad diplomatic relationships?

For any major change to happen, steps have to be taken slow but taken sure.

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

SIF13 (III). Free and secure communication in a multinational context

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Free and secure communication in a multinational context

Moderator: Ben Wagner, European University Institute.

Panelists: Cynthia Wong, Senior Researcher on Internet & Human Rights, Human Rights Watch; Lucy Purdon, ICT Researcher, Institute for Human Rights and Business; Hafiz Rahman Khan, Specialist Head of Unit, Grameenphone Limited; Colin Crowell, Vice President, Global Public Policy, Twitter; Ihab Osman, CEO, Sudatel Telecom Group.

Sovereign states should have not the right to regulate what citizens from other sovereign states can or cannot do on the Internet. It is a matter of sovereignty.

It is interesting to note that the problem from some Western countries may not be the problem of the whole world. For instance, in West Africa, child pornography is surely not the main security problem, but IP monitoring, content surveillance, etc.

For companies that operate worldwide, it is very difficult to know what is the exact issue that is more relevant in a given country. Or indeed, it may be not that difficult, but putting it in context of the whole company strategy and line of action, that may be the most difficult part.

On the other hand, what is “bad” in one country or under a specific culture may not be “bad” in another one.

The problem is not that there are good and bad things, but trying to deal with them in a centralized way. That is filtering. “Filtering” should be brought closer to the citizen, so that this citizen can have their say on what is “good filtering” and what is “bad filtering”.

A thing that Twitter does is not only withholding messages, but making it public that a message has been withheld, also sending a notice to the sender. On the other hand, both Twitter and Google perform transparency exercises where they publish who asked for content removal and why (e.g. under which specific Law).

An issue that has not been raised is what happens when the government controls the telecommunications industry (e.g. the government of Sudan has 21% of the shared of Sudatel Telecom — Ihab Osman argues that the company is independent and that only 2 out of 12 board members come from the government). In any case, sometimes have to follow the law, besides the fact that they are or are not owned by the government.

Sometimes companies take positions — Libya, Egypt — depending on the context: but what is that context? could this be generalized?

Telecoms benefit from traffic, for making data flow. So, there usually is a strong pushback against regulators from telecommunications companies.

Security is now much better than five years ago. The more people use social networking sites, the more they press for them to be open, to act legally, to regard human rights. The more people use social networking sites the more money is to be made, the more important is the medium, and the more money is put for it to work properly, including respecting human rights.

Telecoms have to follow the law, but many times the Law is full of blacks and whites and shades of gray.

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

SIF13 (II). Reconciling freedom and security in cyberspace

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

Reconciling freedom and security in cyberspace

Moderator: Stephen Sackur, Journalist, Presenter HARDtalk at BBC World News.

Panelists: Ron Deibert, Director at the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies; Leslie Harris, President & CEO, Center for Democracy and Technology; Renata Avila, Global Voices, Guatemala, Ingeniero en Ciencias Informáticas; Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs in the Barroso Commission; Elaine Weidman, Vice President Sustainability and CR, Ericsson.

Govenrments are massively using technology for deep and comprehensive surveillance and, when contested, they ban or bar access to technology for the citizens to communicate, organize and have a voice.

There are three main pillars in the development of today’s technology: mobility, broadband and cloud.

Why should we trust corporate players in their commitment to privacy or security? Human rights are a political and moral construct, and only occasionally successful as a legal one. As such, easy to ignore. We have to maintain the same human rights in the digital world as in the physical world. Concerning trust, it is very important because if there is no trust that will affect the bottom line of a company.

Many citizens are concerned by internet security: will they be able to buy online without their money be stolen, will they be able to use social networking sites without their data being used for malicious purposes, etc.

But the problem is the Law or the platform? Because laws on hate speech already exist. The problem is that the Internet has been a game changer and many concepts just scape the boundaries of Law.

When we talk about cybersecurity we tend to call everything cybersecurity, and then begin to propose overreacted “solutions”. We need to have a common understanding of what is and what not cybersecurity, because security is not one single thing. When we talk about security, we need to define what we mean and then to have a sense of proportionality. Hate speech, political liberties, anonymity, etc. are not matters of security.

We are witnessing a roll-back of checks and balances in democratic nations. Legislation is becoming extreme and, worryingly enough, escaping the control of the citizen. Without democracy on the internet, we cannot use internet for democracy. Language, indeed, has been hardening when related to the Internet: e.g. plain activism has become cyberterrorism.

We have to tell ‘freedom’ from ’emancipation’, which are sometimes synonyms but sometimes are not. The best way to fight cybercrime is to protect human rights and the rule of law. You can’t have security without human rights.

The incorporation of new users to the Internet will mainly come from countries where there are totalitarian regimes, where religion plays a major role. And this will necessarily change the balance of forces or approaches that we now have on the Internet.

Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)