Categories
Development Growing the Internet

Youth@IGF Fellow Story: How Far Are You From the Internet?

Growing up, a family friend will run all the way from her house with a pot of soup hoping to find out something we had at home that could complement the soup she had. On days when my twin sister and I were also missing a part of a meal, she will also return the good deed. Though the distance was not a short one, the thoughts of having a complete meal urged us on.

This neighbor of mine currently studies in Ukraine and none of us has or late had any thoughts of running all the way from Ghana to Ukraine – that will be a new record for the longest run.

The world is currently undergoing a difficult transformation with a rapid migration of almost all manual process to digital and the effect is a massive one both in advantages and disadvantages.

Just like distance resulted in the gap with my friend who now studies many miles away, several reasons have also been identified to be the ones causing the widening digital gap.

Some of the common ones are:

  • Access – the ability to actually go online and connect to the Internet (largely relying on the constant supply of electricity)
  • Skills – to be able to use the Internet and understand it.
  • Motivation – knowing the reasons why using the Internet is a good thing – seeing the Internet as a tool and not just a space.
  • Trust – the risk of crime, knowingly or unknowingly or not knowing where to start online.

Closely related to these reasons are the issues of Gender-based violence and the language barrier online.

As the number of Netizens (Internet users or Internet citizens) rapidly increase, we all should be able to have access to, and skills to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) while being safe online and hence reaping the numerous benefits that comes with using the Internet as a tool.

Again with the current trend in most places being the use of IT tools and online platforms to gradually replace the manual processes which has been in use for a long time, the way forward will be to act responsibly and herald initiatives that:

  • Teach the relevant skills that will help people easily use the Internet not only for leisure but to benefit fully from them. Some of these initiatives will be to volunteer to physically teach groups to first know the environment they will be working in by laying emphasis on what the Internet is and Internet Governance. Again, to be able to accommodate others who are far from our geographical location, a couple of us will herald the creation of online schools with certificates of completions awarded to motivate more people to come on board. Through this program, many people can be mentored to eventually choose careers in IT.
  • Encourage and motivate the use of the Internet through periodic online challenges that encourage rigorous participation.
  • Advocate for the bridge of the digital divide that stems from the unavailability of devices through online campaigns and applying for grants to implement fully resourced mobile labs that will travel places to bring digital skills to the grass root and the marginalized especially those who do not know about these tools or basically cannot afford them. In addition, simple educational resources mainly graphics with captions in local languages will also be produced to help reach people who do not read or speak the English language. In future, I would lead campaigns to have an all-inclusive digital front where all can utilize and benefit greatly from applications regardless of one’s physical disability.
  • Provide community network services that could either run on quota basis or properly implemented to serve wide areas also with the ability to withstand adverse weather conditions.
  • Discourage the gender-based violence online by reporting such cases to administrators of the platform and educating persons on when to sense abuse and to report accordingly.
  • Encourage staying safe online by teaching basic security hacks such the avoidance of posting very private information online, connecting with only people who they can verify online, updating anti viruses and using safe and strong passwords.

This is therefore a clarion call to have everyone rally behind me and the team implementing the Global Repository for Internet Studies by following and participating on social media and the call for online trust with the hashtag #3kNetVoices.


This is the second blog post in the series of stories from Youth@IGF Fellows. Read other impressions on the Youth@IGF Program and the IGF. 

Categories
Community Networks Development Growing the Internet

Learning by Doing: Have You Heard of the Suusamyr Community Network in Kyrgyzstan?

Last week, the Internet Society together with our Kyrgyz chapter and the wider local community held discussions about Internet connectivity in remote areas in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Approximately 35% of the Kyrgyz population use the Internet (ITU data, 2017) and most users are located in cities and urban areas.

In cooperation with its Kyrgyz chapter, the Internet Society is piloting the community networks approach in the village of Suusamyr, located some 150 kilometers south of the capital city Bishkek. We had an opportunity to visit this village of about 4000 people, tucked away in a wide valley surrounded by high mountains. The economic activity revolves around farming, horse and cattle keeping, and tourism.

While the final phase of the Suusamyr community network is still under implementation, we can already draw some lessons learnt from the preparatory and testing phases.

Partnerships

As a starting point, the Internet Society Kyrgyz chapter consolidated a partnership with the government, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and the local community in Suusamyr. The Kyrgyz government saw the opportunity for local economic development. Two ISPs agreed to lease their existing backbone infrastructure to connect the last mile. And most importantly, the local community embraced this initiative with a hope that it will provide new opportunities for the people in the community. It is important to have the backing of the key stakeholders.

Licensing and permissions

As in most countries, building Internet infrastructure requires licenses and permissions. While it was relatively simple to get the network operator license, the rules for spectrum licenses in Kyrgyzstan involve costs and time-consuming application processes. Our project team partnered with a regional ISP to share their existing spectrum license. Permissions for land use and power supply for masts can also be complicated. Following discussions with landowners and the national electricity company, the permissions for the Suusamyr project were agreed on by a case-by-case basis. An enabling policy framework is necessary to make progress with connectivity in remote areas.

Demand generation

During our visit to Suusamyr, it was clear that there was enthusiasm and demand for the Internet within the local community. The largest school in Suusamyr had a computer lab, but no Internet connection. The municipality headquarters, the local hospital and small businesses would surely benefit, too. However, the municipality does not yet have concrete plans on how to use the Internet to boost local economic development. There is a need for a local “action group,” which could raise awareness and provide skills training amongst the village population.

The President of the Kyrgyz Republic has named 2018 a year of rural development. This ambition is perfectly aligned with the Internet Society’s goal to connect everyone to the Internet, with a focus on the communities in the hardest to reach places. We aim to have a fully operational community network in Suusamyr in a few months’ time.

Read Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks and Unleashing Community Networks: Innovative Licensing Approaches and help #SwitchItOn!


Photo: The village of Suusamyr, Kyrgyzstan ©Internet Society/Nyani Quarmyne/Panos Pictures

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights Improving Technical Security Open Internet Standards Privacy Technology

From Idea to Action: Beyond the Net Selects 15 Amazing Chapter Projects!

The Beyond the Net Funding Programme is pleased to announce the results of our 2018 grant cycle. A total of 49 applications were received, and after a thorough reviewing process, 15 amazing projects were selected.

These projects are at the core of our mission, and will use the Internet to develop Community Networks in underserved areas, to empower women through ICT, as well as bringing awareness on Internet policies around the world.

This is the result of months of effort from our Chapter Community. Many discussions, numerous clarifications and proposals, updates, and revisions from the Beyond the Net Selection Committee. We are proud of you all.

Please join us in celebrating the following projects!

Developing community networks in the Northern region of Brazil – Brazil Chapter

Supporting and promoting the development of the Internet to enrich people’s lives, the project aim is to contribute to the growth and improvement of community networks policies and practices in Brazilian rural areas, in order to strengthen those who are marginalized. Instituto Nupef will work to develop a new network in the state of Maranhão as well as a developing a communications plan for the Babassu coconut breakers organizations and movements. Objectives include expanding the reach of community networks with broadband Internet, monitoring of legislative and regulatory issues, and consequently documenting the work by disseminating the experiences by way of videos, photos, and texts.

Migrant Community Networks – Mexico Chapter

Aiming to understand how a particular community of migrants lives and communicates beyond societal spaces. We plan to analyze the re-appropriation of space and communication, digital connectivity and social discourse, through observation, data collection in forms of digital communication and social interaction, and by means of audiovisual recording of refugees’ everyday lives. This project doubles as an exploratory and social intervention that will help open a dialogue on connectivity among the migrant community. Objectives include implementation of a community network with trans-border communication in the Tijuana area and the creation of a digital archive of migrant communities’ experiences.

Creation of an Internet Traffic Exchange Point (IXP) – Dominican Republic Chapter

The project aims to create an IXP in a neutral, reliable, safe,  and efficient place, achieving the interconnection and exchange of traffic between those involved. Objectives are to raise awareness among local stakeholders regarding both the need and the advantages of an IXP, reducing costs of international interconnection and maintaining local internet traffic at national borders. Improvement of stability and resilience of the Internet service can optimize response times to security incidents and technical problems and the creation of a “community” of operators will give continuity to the project, promoting its expansion and operation according the best local and international practices.

Improving Livelihood of Women Through ICT Empowerment – Malaysia Chapter

The project target is to train 400 women to use the MyHelper crowdsourcing application to encourage earning extra income. This three-pronged project provides opportunities for women to develop essential entrepreneurial skills through ICT, empowering them to start their own businesses and use the Internet to improve their livelihood. Training modules will be developed in English as well as local languages such as Malay and Tagalog during a 3-month period, benefitting a large pool of women and ensuring the sustainability of the project. The creation and improvement of profiles will increase crowdsource worker visibility and the application of jobs.

Creating Networks – Youth Special Interest Group (SIG)

Firstly, the project aims to map organizations “of young people” in Latin America to identify how many work with issues related to the Internet and ICT, and leveraging its importance.  A website will be created displaying this information, followed by a capacity building phase and introduction, plus chartered topics and sessions related to individual work modules. Objectives will include, after analysis, face-to-face capacity-building sessions on Internet Governance to encourage proactiveness and general connection. Survey results will be published as well as a general guide on the development and experience of the project and the materials used, for use by the general public and in both the Spanish and Portuguese language.

Multistakeholder Internet Governance Training – Guinea Chapter

For the first time, a training project aims to set up a multilateral, inclusive, multistakeholder and discussion platform related to general Internet issues in Guinea and particularly on Internet Governance. Discussions will contribute to the development of the Internet at local, regional, and International level. Specific objectives are the training of approximately 70 people from different areas of life, including government, business, and civil society as well as engineers and standards development professionals. A committee will be created to ensure that Guinea’s concerned are addressed as well as addressing the need to increase Internet Governance capacity for Internet users as well as ensuring that stakeholders are well prepared for improved contributions/interactions.

Zaria Community Network and Culture Hub – Nigeria Chapter

The project seeks to use the Internet to improve the quality of education for the formally enrolled, as well as those outside the formal schooling system, as a resource for basic education, vocational development, and self-employment opportunities. A campaign will be run to enlighten communities on the opportunities available. Goals will include the implementation of free-to-use ISM band to reach research and educational institutions, community WiFi hotspots and solar-powered back-up solutions, culture hub web portals, a shared learning management system and a network monitoring infrastructure. A community engagement session for 500 teachers, students, and individuals will be conducted as well as continuous enlightenment campaigns and surveys to estimate effectiveness of strategies.

Women in Cyber Security – Kazakhstan Chapter

The implementation of the project will increase potential, and ensure that young women have the necessary skills and knowledge to understand, participate in, and benefit fully from cybersecurity and their applications as well as creating future role models thus increasing the percentage of women in the field. The aim of the training is to bridge the digital gender divide in cybersecurity in Kazakhstan by conducting 8 training sessions of approximately 50 students over a period of two years. Experienced female trainers will use up-to-date cybersecurity educational programs with the objective of increasing to up to 50% the number of women in this field over the next decade.

LibreRouter Phase 2 – Community Networks Special Interest Group (SIG)

The LibreRouter is the first multi-radio mesh router that is designed for community networks. It enables simple mesh deployment with little to no manual configuration and provides easy to follow documentation on technical aspects but also for planning and coordination. This Phase 2 project intends to cover an important missing piece: organized remote support for LibreRouter based networks. Main objectives are the design and implementation of a support system dashboard with a support request and follow-up mechanism, as well as extending LibreRouzer software tools to improve on problems identified. Other aims include the completion of documentation materials, hardware improvements and exploration of designs with the objective of lowering costs.

Spring of Knowledge – Kyrgyzstan Chapter

Schools in Kyrgyzstan have a great need for teachers with over 2500 teaching positions unfilled every year. The project aims are to improve the quality of education in Kyrgyzstan and increase the number of personnel to allow teachers to spend more time with students as well as providing additional materials to improve their own training. Objectives are to expand opportunities for studies in pilot locations, stimulating independence and responsibility and reducing the divide between school children in developed countries and those living in Kyrgyzstan in both rural and urban areas. Our aim is to increase the digital literacy of schoolchildren in Kyrgyzstan in pilot locations within 1 academic year.

Better Internet for Everyone in Lebanon – Lebanon Chapter

In Lebanon, the daily challenge is the peak time when the Internet user’s consumption outgrows the total bandwidth capacity and the quality of service is degraded for shared bandwidth offerings constituting more than 90% of the residential Internet market. Our project is a new business model for shared bandwidth offerings, consisting of a different pricing model based on the time of use as well as a subscriber panel to monitor service quality and accountability. The proof of concept will be tested first with up to 10 local community WISPs and later with other developing countries and ranging from 50 to 1000 subscribers. Comparisons will be made of aggregated graphs effects, consumption behavior, old vs new ISP revenues, and finally community polls to evaluate the new model and prepare to scale once proven.

DigiGen– Serbia Belgrade Chapter

The project aim is to explore how ICT technologies and the Internet can play a role in decreasing the existing gender digital gap and how to take into consideration gender awareness in developing new and evolving technologies. Our objective is to determine how new technologies can meet societal challenges across gender lines to promote and accelerate access to quality education, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Research topics include understanding the factors for acceptance of new technologies across genders and using the learning acquired for maximum impact and developing a leadership platform in rural areas. Our aim is also to leverage free access to the Internet through “Internet Light” as well as creating digital literacy recommendations in documented form for further program implementation in the region.

Contributing towards better ICT Policy Environment in Nepal – Nepal Chapter

The project goal is to build ICT and Internet related laws and policies in Nepal compatible with both international standards and best practices and ensuring the fundamental human rights of individuals. It will, after analysis, organize consultations with stakeholders and prepare policy recommendations aiming to ensure an open and sustainable Internet and ICT for the benefit of all. Objectives will incorporate the review of draft bills from international standards perspectives, inform major stakeholders of loopholes by sharing policy recommendations, and publishing a policy brief for the enhancement of knowledge. Our aim is to ensure the best adoption of Internet-related laws that will uphold Internet rights.

Empowering Village Development Committee Leaders – Botswana Chapter

In Botswana, Village Development Committees (VDCs), are “the main institutions charged with the responsibility for community development activities.” This project will provide training to VDCs committee leaders on use of the Internet as well as introducing the opportunities on offer. The project aims to target VDCs leaders in 2 remote regions with the aim of empowering these village leaders by showcasing to the best of its ability the benefits of using the Internet. By donating a laptop for use by the VDCs of the 4 most rural areas, we can empower these leaders to access information and facilitate communication. No local program has yet targeted these leaders and yet they are influential in community development. The full objective is to target 40 leaders in 4 regions to become Internet champions in their respective areas and contribute to village development issues in a productive way. 

KASBUY: Promoting Moroccan Women’s Participation in the Digital Economy – Morocco Chapter

Our proposition is the project KASBUY, a web platform to help cooperatives overcome marketing difficulties in advertising their products and reaching out to clients. KASBUY is an e-commerce platform and will allow any registered cooperative to have its own online space from which it will sell its products and manage its business and inventory management activities. The project will encourage the best use of the Internet for sustainable development of local communities and includes opportunities from which women and their families will benefit.  With the promotion and preservation of Moroccan artisanal heritage and the use of a universal and accessible web showroom, we aim to improve the maximum employment for women and families, particularly in rural areas.

Do you have a great idea to make your community better via the Internet? Find out if you’re eligible for a Beyond the Net grant!


Image: Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda, which was connected to the Internet via a Beyond the Net project, ©Nyani Quarmyne

Categories
Development Growing the Internet Internet Governance

European Agenda on Digital for Development: Can the Multistakeholder Approach Help?

The year 2017 was an important milestone in moving forward the European agenda for Digital for Development (D4D). The European Commission (EC) paper on mainstreaming digital technologies into EU development policy and the European Council conclusions on Digital for Development have activated the European development community to share opinions and ideas on how to help bridge the global digital divide.

In the past month, we have had a couple of open events in Brussels to discuss this important issue. The European Parliament’s EPP group hosted a public hearing on Digitalisation for Development to collect ideas and to push for more progress. Two weeks later, the EC held the first multistakeholder meeting for Digital4Development with a focus on Africa.

Building a Balanced Agenda

There are a number of pillars of activities that most stakeholders agree on. These include Internet access with a focus on last mile; Internet as an enabler across different sectors; skills; and entrepreneurship. During the recent meetings, the EC, the national development agencies and the private sector showcased impressive and innovative digitalisation programmes.

However, several stakeholders pointed out that while it is important to continue to invest in Internet access, this is no longer enough. We need to make cybersecurity and privacy an integral part of the digitalisation efforts in the developing world. The Internet Society has worked on guidelines on Internet security and privacy specifically aimed at the African community.

Making the Most of Our Resources

The European development institutions tend to focus on large-scale digital infrastructure or sector modernisation programmes, while the private sector makes efforts to build an eco-system that supports their business interests. What about the digitalisation of the most remote and deprived communities? How do we extend the “Internet opportunity” to the most challenging countries or regions, where there are limited diplomatic ties and no commercial incentives?

Going forward, civil society organisations need to take a more prominent role in sharing their expertise with the other stakeholders and in highlighting the needs of these communities. The Internet Society is helping remote communities connect to the Internet through our Community Networks initiative.

Consolidating the Multistakeholder Approach

The EU and its Member States continue to be the world’s leading provider of development assistance and hence have an important role in promoting the D4D agenda. Bringing a multitude of stakeholders together is a great first step and the European tech sector was present in great numbers. However, we need to find a way to increase the civil society participation in these discussions to have a truly balanced approach to D4D in terms of expertise and coverage.

It was clear from these discussions that most stakeholders share the bottom-line principles for D4D and are keen to engage. But it will take some time before we will understand each other’s terminology and ways of working. And we are likely to face some serious bumps on the road before the multistakeholder approach will show its strength. However, working together is the only way to accelerate our D4D efforts and to make real progress.

Read Internet Governance – Why the Multistakeholder Approach Works.

Categories
Deploy360 Development Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) Technology

Internet Society, LACNIC, and LAC-IX Partner to Strengthen IXPs in Latin America

Wednesday, 2 May 2018, the Internet Society signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Internet Exchange Points (LAC-IX) and the Latin American Registry for Internet Numbers (LACNIC) to create and strengthen Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) for a stable, secure, and open Internet and to maximise the impact of our activities across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Internet Society’s work on interconnection, traffic exchange, and IXPs not only improves local Internet service in developed regions, but also engages with the local communities that are instrumental in advancing the Internet Society’s mission. The IXP program helps develop Internet technical communities and network operators across the globe.

The Internet Society cooperates with regional organisations that lead IXP work in the field, supporting their work, promoting new IXPs where needed, and helping spread Internet Society work that is valuable to their communities.

LAC-IX and LACNIC have a unique role in promoting new IXPs, supporting existing communities, and, through them, providing the messages that contribute to a stable and scalable Internet.

This Memorandum of Understanding establishes a reference framework for cooperation mechanisms between the Parties. Plans include supporting capacity-building events, disseminating common initiatives and projects, and promoting good routing practices at traffic exchange points throughout the region.

For the Internet Society, it is a great opportunity to promote Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS). Through the IXP community, we can reach the operators that can implement the required configurations to comply with MANRS to reduce the most common threats to the routing system. We can now count on LAC-IX and LACNIC to help spread the word and encourage the technical communities to do their part in securing the routing system.

This is just the beginning of the work we can do together. Read LACNIC’s full press release here.

Categories
Development Growing the Internet

A Community Network in the Remote Georgian Region of Tusheti

Update: You can now read more about this project in a stunning online story in the January 2018 edition of the The New York Times.


About a year ago, Internet Society partnered with its Georgian Chapter, Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association of Georgia, Freenet LTD Association, Internet Development Initiative and Tusheti Development Fund to help the remote and mountainous region of Tusheti to build access to the Internet. Work was just completed and this true community effort came to life in August 2017.

Impact

When the Internet Society team visited the village of Omalo in Tusheti two weeks ago for an official launch ceremony, the Internet speeds measured at 4-5 Mbps. A dramatic change to a region, where many villages are not even covered by mobile signal!

During our brief stay in Omalo the impact of the newly established Internet connection was not evident at first glance. Apart from a couple of visible repeaters on the surrounding mountains, people were getting on with their usual daily chores while a group of tourists travelled past on horseback. The local community, however, was exuding a sense of achievement and optimism. Internet access opens new opportunities for tourism and cultural preservation. It also provides an essential communication channel for healthcare and potential emergency situations.

Partnership

The engine behind this effort was a solid partnership. It brought together a variety of Georgian stakeholders including the local community in Tusheti. Overall management of the project, technical design and deployment largely relied on expertise by the Tbilisi-based NGOs and Freenet. Tusheti Development Fund – the project beneficiary and local coordinator – took the lead in facilitating skills transfer to the local community, both for technical support and digital literacy, and in raising local enthusiasm.

The Georgian government saw the value of the project for the country’s broadband development efforts and were strongly supportive. The high-level endorsement by government – the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgian National Communications Commission – during the project and at the launch ceremony highlighted the importance of Internet access on the political agenda.

Future

Community networks are typically described as communications infrastructures deployed and operated by citizens to meet their own communication needs. The Tusheti network is a community-led and owned initiative in all aspects. The knowledge and skills base acquired during the project will help the local community sustain the network operationally and technically going forward.

The Internet Society embarked on this project to demonstrate that it is possible to create a sustainable Internet connection even in the most remote areas. While generating positive local outcomes is the primary objective of every initiative we engage in, it is also important to reflect on the global potential of community networks. If replicated, community networks could help narrow the connectivity gap for underserved areas struggling to attract commercial investment. We hope that the Tusheti community network will serve as an example and inspiration for many others.

Categories
Development Events Growing the Internet

Support New Ways of Working to Connect the World

The World Telecommunications Conference (WTDC) begins today. This is a key moment to remind the world that together we can shape a digital future that puts humanity at the heart of the Internet.  But to do this we need your help.

Help send the message that to close the digital divide we’ll need new ways of working, new ways of thinking, and new policies support it all.

Much of what we are speaking on at WTDC serve as real-world examples of the kinds of things we need policy and decision makers to support – community networking being a key focus.

We will keep you up-to-date on what is happening and what we need to do next the conference.

Here’s how you can help:

Take part in a Pre-Event Roundtable

On Sunday, October 8, 17:20 UTC (4:20 PM Argentina Local Time) Internet Society’s Vice President, Global Engagement Raúl Echeberría will speak on the importance of community networks at a Pre-Event-Private Sector Roundtable on Partnering for the SDGs. Watch it here.

 Share Raul’s Blog

Raul’s wrote a critical blog to launch our WTDC message.  Please share it across your channels.

“Every Connection Matters – Shape Tomorrow and Help Close Digital Divides.”

Use your social media channels:

If you’re on social we need your help! Please join us in reminding the world that together we can build a digital future that includes everyone, everywhere.  Hashtags: #ShapeTomorrow #WTDC17 

Other Resources:

Categories
Community Networks Development Growing the Internet Public Policy

Every Connection Matters – Shape Tomorrow and Help Close Digital Divides

We are currently living a special moment in time, a sort of paradox.

Today, almost half of the world’s population already has Internet access. This figure is much higher than anything we could have anticipated 10 years ago, an achievement we should be happily celebrating.

But a recent report by the Internet Society, Paths To Our Digital Future, shows there are no guarantees when it comes to the Internet’s future.  To achieve a digital future where people come first will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

And with this we find ourselves facing an even greater challenge. This is no longer the Internet of 10% of the world’s population. It is the Internet of 50% of the people around the world; in some countries, Internet penetration is now close to 100%.

The Internet has become essential, and the opportunity gap between those who are connected and those who are not is growing each day. We cannot afford to remain indifferent to this Internet revolution.

If we don’t connect the remaining 50%, this gap could have long-term consequences for the opportunities that present themselves later in life.

After the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, discussions on the digital divide have become more concrete and have gained greater visibility. We are no longer talking just about connecting people, but about how we use the Internet and ICTs to achieve development goals in education, health care, employment, gender equality, and other areas.

If we do not make further progress in Internet development, we will not make progress in bringing benefits such as universal education and access to healthcare services. We will not make progress towards achieving the SDGs, which will affect the ability for people to improve their quality of life. In the end, it’s all about people and people should be at the heart of our work.

Next week, the Internet Society will be participating at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC). Government, private sector, and civil society representatives from around the world will meet for this significant international conference organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is where critical work must happen. Policy and decision makers will meet from around the world to make decisions about the future of things like Internet access.

It is critical that the world send a clear message that we need a digital future where humanity is at the heart of the Internet. And for that to happen will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

An example of this can be seen in something known in the Internet world as “Community Networking.” Community Networks are typically built so some of the worlds hardest-to-reach places can connect. Many of them are, in a way, “homemade.” In fact, one of their most exciting commonalities is they can be built by anyone, regardless of technical background

Community Networks are a clear example of what we need more of. We need world leaders to stand behind them and support policies that can make them happen. Especially when we participate along with governments that can help scale activities and make changes to old policies – changes that innovate to enable infrastructure development.

Countries that don’t design and implement concrete strategies for Internet development and Internet-based development may not be able to fully achieve their sustainable development goals, seriously compromising their future.

This is a great opportunity for governments, an opportunity that should not be wasted. An opportunity for sharing experiences, for setting aggressive goals – the time for modest goals is long gone – and for making sure that legal, regulatory and political frameworks will be catalysts and enablers of development, not obstacles hindering its progress.

It’s time to move forward. Together we can tell policies and decision makers it’s time to #ShapeTomorrow and give the world the tools it needs to achieve the SDGs.

Let’s take action and connect the world.

Categories
Building Trust Development Economy Encryption Improving Technical Security Privacy

Encryption is Crucial to a Trusted Internet

The Five Eyes – Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand – recently met in Ottawa to discuss national security challenges. The resulting joint communiqué noted that “encryption can severely undermine public safety efforts by impeding lawful access to the content of communications during investigations into serious crimes, including terrorism.” The Internet Society believes that this view of encryption is misleading and bodes badly for a trusted Internet. Any weakening of encryption will hurt cybersecurity and individual rights and freedoms. In fact, the consequences of weakened encryption would go further.

Encryption . . .

  • Is an important component of a trusted Internet. User trust is critical to the Internet’s utility; without it, the potential of the Internet will be stunted. Today’s increasing cyber threats underscore the need for strong encryption.
  • Supports economic development. Without encryption, the Internet cannot facilitate the online services that drive economic growth worldwide. E-commerce sites and banks use encryption to allow users to make secure transactions that can only be seen by the people involved.
  • Protects social development. We know that activists and journalists rely on encryption for their safety. For the everyday user, encryption protects privacy and freedom of thought, association, and expression.
  • Keeps people safe. Individuals in vulnerable communities, such as victims of domestic abuse and undercover police officers, rely on encryption to communicate anonymously. Undermining encryption would hurt the safety of the people security agencies are charged with protecting.

Introducing measures to weaken encryption would have risks that significantly outweigh the conceived national security benefits. In fact, bad actors will likely find alternative clandestine communication methods.

The Five Eyes’ joint communiqué stated their commitment to “develop our engagement with communications and technology companies to explore shared solutions while upholding cybersecurity and individual rights and freedoms”. If encryption is undermined, that promise rings hollow.

As the Directors of the Regional Bureaus that include the Five Eyes countries, we are pleased that the Internet Society has joined a coalition of more than 80 organizations and individuals calling on the Five Eyes to respect encryption.

  • Mark Buell, Regional Bureau Director, North America
  • Frédéric Donck, Regional Bureau Director, Europe
  • Rajnesh D. Singh, Regional Bureau Director, Asia-Pacific
Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting “Los Nevados” on the Roof of the Andes

Beyond the Net Journal: Venezuela Chapter

Have you ever been to Los Nevados?

Reaching this tiny village, located in the Sierra Nevada National Park at 2,711 m. above sea level, can be a real adrenaline adventure. The scary and dangerous cliff road leading to the town is one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous. The rough terrain can get very muddy and slippery after rain, making it challenging to get through.

As you can guess, not less challenging was bringing Internet access to 2,000 inhabitants living in this remote area.

The idea to develop a wireless architecture to provide Los Nevados with Internet services and reduce their isolation came to Paola Perez, a computer systems engineer and Internet Society member. At that time she was based in Merida, the capital city, 69 km away.

Paola remembers: “Initially my dream was to bring connectivity to the Canaima National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I changed my mind when I recalled my friend Yeiny, who lives in Los Nevados. She attended university in Merida, but she couldn’t return to her village on weekends because she had no Internet connection to download the contents of the exams.”

Gabriela Muñoz (left), Paola Pérez (right)

Empowering “Los Nevados” through ICTs usage for social benefit” was funded in 2016 by the Internet Society in collaboration with the Venezuela Chapter. Although it seemed impossible to overcome the technical difficulties, the project team never lost sight of their dream to connect that remote place to the rest of the world. At the end, the talented and devoted team succeeded and also won the Chapterthon – a marathon open to all LAC Chapters to achieve a common goal for the development of their region.

The fruits of persistence are now providing endless benefits to Los Nevados, who are overcoming their physical and cultural isolation.

New educational opportunities are offered to the local students through access to relevant content and remote learning. Parents with children studying away at university are now using live chat and email services to get in touch.

Farmers, who represents the majority of the population, are exchanging seeds and marketing their products. Artisans are promoting their crafts online.

Not only los Nevaderos are now enjoying the Internet connection with unlimited services but also the visitors.” Paola explains: “It’s hard to imagine because it’s a place so difficult to reach, but about 500 people per month are visiting the village. Hikers use it as a base for climbing Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela (4,978 m). When there was no Internet connection all payments were only in cash, and people were not aware of it until they arrived at the site. Now tourists are able to book accommodations and make online payments.”

The Civil Registry of the village can finally provide inhabitants with any digital document downloadable from public websites. It is also possible to keep records of births and deaths in digital format, sharing the data with institutions. The “Village Radio Station” is using streaming technology to share in real time the news from the world. Los Nevados also take pride of publishing stories and photos about the community to preserve their traditions. The Internet has become an essential tool for information and citizen participation.

These are only few examples of how this project is empowering the life of Los Nevados and helping to achieve SDG goals 3,4,8,9.

Do you feel like renting a burro for three hours trek to Los Nevados, getting lost in the magnificent tropical zone of the Andes? Now you can book online.

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Categories
Beyond the Net Development Growing the Internet Human Rights Improving Technical Security Open Internet Standards Privacy Technology

12 Innovative Projects Selected for Beyond the Net Funding

Beyond the Net Funding Programme is pleased to announce the results of our June 2017 grant application cycle. A total of 102 applications were received and, after a thorough review process, 12 projects were selected.

The new grantees are a group of talented, diverse, and devoted people committed to work on critical issues in their home region using the Internet to bring innovation and empower their communities all across the globe.

The range of issues and approaches these new cycle’s projects cover are extraordinary, such as providing telemedicine solutions in remote districts of Nepal, installing aquaponics and vermiculture technologies in Zimbabwe, connecting remote mountainous regions of northern New Mexico, fighting digital harassment in Barbados, establishing IXP to minimize traffic costs in Kyrgyzstan, and supporting the development of rural and digital libraries in Armenia and Argentina.

Each project also provides key evidence that the Open Internet is an essential tool in facilitating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We would like to thank all the applicants for their efforts, and we encourage them to keep submitting innovative projects.

Congratulations to the new grantees and good work!

Summaries of awarded grants:

Conectando Comunidades, Internet te Incluye
Argentina – Asociación Civil Tiflonexos
El proyecto “Conectando comunidades, Internet incluye”, busca impactar directamente en la vida de las personas con discapacidad. En linea con la misión y los valores de ISOC, buscamos utilizar Internet como una herramienta que mejore la calidad de vida de las personas. En este sentido nos proponemos atacar la falta de acceso a la lectura de las personas con discapacidad, proporcionándoles acceso a una Biblioteca Digital de acceso libre para personas con discapacidad y asì disminuir la brecha cultural.

En el año 2015 y 2016 ISOC apoyó dos proyectos llevados adelante por Tiflonexos y Argentina Chapter lográndose generar 6 puntos de acceso a la lectura en provincias desfavorecidas de Argentina. De esta manera se logró alcanzar a unas 300 personas capacitadas en los beneficios que el uso de Internet puede traer para la inclusión de las personas con discapacidad y lográndose el acceso a la lectura de al menos 90 personas.

Argentina Regional IXP
Camara Argentina de Internet – CABASE
El objetivo del proyecto es poder brindar a la comunidad una mejor calidad de conexion a Internet. En especial en zonas de poco desarrollo o mal atendidas. Generar un punto colaborativo comun donde se empodera a los pequenos ISPS (SMEs) a mejorar su serivicio, permite instalar caches de CDNs (contentent delivery Networks) que seran compartidos entre todos aprovechando sus beneficios. Instalar 2 IXPs en zonas remotas de nuestro pais donde hoy no hay buena calidad de interent en los proximos 12 meses.

Estariamos desmostrando a la industria de internet que gracias a aportes y funding provisto por organizaciones como ISOC y su capitulo local permiten desarrollar la internet en IXPS REGIONALES especiamente en zonas de acceso precario a INTERNET.  La idea es testimoniar la formacion de estos IXPS en un VIDEO donde los propios protagonistas puedan contar el logro de haber formado esta comunidad.

CLIC Québec : Promouvoir le contenu local et les industries culturelles du Québec en ligne
Canada Québec Chapter
Dans un contexte de croissance du e-commerce et de domination de l’offre de contenus étrangers proposés par les plateformes numériques (Netflix, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube) au Québec, le Projet CLIC Québec cherche à sensibiliser les décideurs politiques et à renforcer les capacités des acteurs des industries culturelles québécoises afin de garantir la mise en marché, la promotion, la distribution, la découvrabilité et l’accessibilité en ligne des oeuvres et contenus québécois tant pour les internautes du Québec qu’à l’international.

Le projet contribue aux missions et aux objectifs de l’Internet Society, d’une part dans le domaine de «l’Accès et Développement» puisqu’il favorisera la diffusion et l’accès plus large à des contenus locaux diversifiés sur Internet ; et d’autre part il contribuera à l’amélioration de l’environnement politique de régulation des nouvelles plateformes numériques et des nouveaux services de radiodiffusion de contenus et de produits numériques, en stimulant et en enrichissant le débat public sur les questions réglementaires telles que les quotas de contenus ou la taxation des fournisseurs de contenus ou des fournisseurs d’accès Internet pour financer la création et la production d’oeuvres et de contenus culturels numériques.

Effective Broadband for Health
Nepal – Center for Information and Communication Technology for Development
Dailekh District in the Far Western Region of Nepal has a total population of 260,855 but has only one district level hospital. The ratio of doctors to the population is astonishing figure of 1:52,345. Even worse, people have to travel for hours and even days to reach the nearest urban area for full laboratory services for vital check ups.

The project aims to establish a wireless broadband services and provide telemedicine solutions to the village near the district headquarter. The project is not just to develop the infrastructure but also to create a proper information system related to the public health services. The project also aims to bridge the logistic and communication gap between the district level health office to the nearby urban area hospital for required medical services.

Flor de Ceibo Conecta2
Uruguay – Centro Universitario de Rivera – Universidad de la República
Este proyecto se propone trabajar de manera creativa e innovadora para que niños y adolescentes desarrollen competencias digitales y puedan ser constructores de su propia educación. No se trata de usar las tecnologías y la conectividad como simple recurso con el cual se moderniza la práctica pedagógica, y sí utilizar los recursos digitales que tenemos a disposición, para generar espacios de oportunidades para un aprendizaje creativo, motivador y desafiador, construyendo y ampliando una cultura acorde a la sociedad de información y conocimiento a la cual estamos insertos. De este modo, el desarrollo de competencias digitales permitirá a los jóvenes apropiarse de las tecnologías, beneficiarse una Internet abierta y global que permite asistir al mundo desde sus localidades y potenciar su formación como ciudadanos participativos. Serían capaces de adquirir conocimientos, contribuyendo a su educación, de forma de potenciar la mejora de su calidad de vida en concordancia con la Misión de ISOC de promover el desarrollo abierto, la evolución y el uso de Internet para beneficio de todas las personas del mundo, mediante en este caso el apoyo a la educación.

IT Access and Development in Northern New Mexico: Cultivating Connectivity in the Land of Enchantment
New Mexico – Community Learning Network
We are strengthening connectivity and IT engagement for community members who reside in the highly rural and mountainous region of northern New Mexico, which has low income levels and high poverty rates but is culturally rich, multi-lingual, and steeped in traditions. Due to difficult terrain, challenging weather, limited economic opportunities, low graduation rates, and high poverty, northern New Mexico has not enjoyed easy access to high-quality IT services and according to the New Mexico Technology Council, “New Mexico internet connection speed ranks 48th in the nation and is similar to the average connection speed of Iraq and Molodova. Even a 7% increase in broadband adoption could create an estimated 15,000 jobs to New Mexico, according to Federal Communication Commission study. New Mexico was also recently reported to have the highest unemployment in the nation.”

Our community is coming together to work to change this situation and to support connecting the unconnected while employing education and community mobilization to support IT becoming a valued tool for self-determination and self-empowerment here in Land of Enchantment.

Computers, services and Wi-Fi Internet for rural libraries
Armenia Chapter
There is a large number of rural libraries in Armenia, but the overwhelming majority do not have computers. Book circulation is manual as there are no computers and library management programs. There is a need to provide libraries with computers equipped with library management programs that will enable them to subscribe members, register books, organize the book circulation, search requested books, track the movement of books, and control book check-in and check-out as well as quickly receive any required information for the books in the library.

In 2015 Armenia Chapter, aware of the poor state of rural libraries, started a pilot program aiming to help rural libraries with computers, software, training and services. It became clear that they also need help in troubleshooting and repair, operating system, and application program installation. Thus the following plan of support was developed: develop a lightweight library management program; provide computers to libraries; train librarians to use the library management program; and troubleshoot and repair library computers. The Armenia Chapter finished the pilot program with 20 computers and library management programs installed in rural libraries. They provided timely access to requested materials, simplified search/discovery of library resources, and increased library outreach. However while working on the pilot program we estimated that rural libraries need about 1,000 computers. This project aims to install 50 more computers and provide maintenance and training services to rural libraries. We also plan to set up WiFi access for library visitors.

Off-Grid IoT Urban Farming
Zimbabwe Chapter
Mbare is one of oldest, poorest, crime-ridden, and unhygienic towns in Zimbabwe. Mbare is in urgent need of focused efforts to actualize the SDG Goal 1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The idea of starting a Community Aquaponics Project was inspired by a mini-project implemented by students in the IoT Makerspace Project in 2016 at St. Peter’s Secondary School. As a way to engage the Makerspace students in a real problem-solving project, two Arduino-based Open Aquarium kits were procured from Cooking Hacks in Spain. School authorities were so impressed with the project that they suggested the idea of converting one of their shades into an Aquaponics project whose fish and vegetable produce would possibly be sold to the Mbare community. The project installed aquaponics and vermiculture technologies running on Arduino and Raspberry Pi as taught in the Makerspace sessions. Upon developing the Mini-Aquaponics project the project team decided to up-scale this idea to benefit the Mbare community in a more empowering, self-sustaining, and educative manner.

Inline with ISOC’s Access and Development goals this project will utilise second-hand freight containers to grow plants and fish using internet technologies. Participants will be exposed to how monitoring conditions are achieved by using sensors and automation made possible through actuators within the Aquaponics setup.

Implementing Privacy via Mass Encryption: Standardizing pretty Easy privacy’s protocols
Switzerland Chapter
Since the 2013 Snowden revelations of mass surveillance, the level of trust in Internet services has plunged. While discussions around privacy protection had advanced considerably, little progress has been achieved in designing tools that can be used on a daily basis by citizens around the world. The pretty Easy privacy (pEp) project has to goal to radically ease the use of already existing open standards and their corresponding tools for end-to-end encryption, to allow for mass encryption. The pEp project focuses primarily on written digital communications, with the goal of making end-to-end encryption of emails the norm instead of the exception. This is achieved by automating all steps necessary for regular Internet users, to provide a hassle-free, zero-touch experience to everyone. For that to be possible, the ISOC Switzerland Chapter (ISOC-CH) teamed up with the Swiss-based, tax-free pEp foundation to develop Internet-Drafts (I-Ds) for automatization protocols. The pEp foundation has already provides early drafts of I-Ds (cf. https://letsencrypt.pep.foundation/dev/repos/internet-drafts/) to achieve the goal of an open standardization of the pEp protocols, but the work to develop them professionally and adapt them to the requirements and expectations of the Internet community (in particular the IETF) can successfully be undertaken in partnership with ISOC-CH. This work would further strengthen the links between the Chapter and the IETF.

Ferghana Valley Internet Exchange Point
Kyrgyz Chapter
Ferghana Valley, located in crossroads of three countries, is the most populated area in Central Asia. There is a source of regional inter-ethnic tensions due to water and land irrigation disputes, poverty, and lack of access to communication services. The Internet Exchange Point Project in the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan is aimed to increase regional cross-border collaboration between stakeholders and the communication of people through increase of Internet affordability by lower internet service tariff plans up to 3 times, multiple growth of Internet traffic exchange in region, increase Internet penetration rate due to price reduction, better latency for international, and regional content sources.

IXP will help local small and medium ISPs minimize traffic costs and spend more on infrastructure rather than on internet traffic purchase. Establishing the IXP would greatly enhance the utility and value of the regional Internet and promote the growth of the digital economy. According to Terabit Consulting, “Improvement in ICT infrastructure yields: increased demand for the output of other industries (demand multiplier), new opportunities for production in other industries (supply multiplier), new goods and services for consumers (final demand). It also increases firms’ innovation capabilities and increases the probability of new products, innovations, and organizations.”

Project C.A.R.E – Combating (online) Abuse through Research and Education
Barbados Chapter
NOAH recognizes that there is a general unawareness of the problem of online abuse in Barbados. Research carried out primarily in North America and Europe shows that the more severe forms of online harassment disproportionately affect women and girls. While anecdotal evidence suggests this is also true in Barbados, with first-hand accounts of abuse, threats, and revenge porn mainly impacting women there is no available research to highlight the prevalence of online abuse.

This project aims to inform through an awareness campaign about the disproportionate effect online abuse is having on the lives of women and girls in Barbados. By engaging local online celebrities with a proven track record for highlighting topical issues and employing the use of social media, the campaign will reach and resonate with vulnerable groups. Though legislation exists in Barbados which outlaws the type of behaviors that constitute online violence, few cases have been brought before the law courts and victims perceive the response of law enforcement to be inadequate. To address this the project will contract an experienced consultant to conduct a training workshop with law enforcement professionals on the island. The project will also measure the awareness of police officers and document challenges they experience in enforcing existing legislation.

Modelo de Desarrollo de Conectividad Comunitaria Indígena
Mexico Chapter
En el último año, comunidades indígenas de México han desarrollado iniciativas de conectividad para proveer de Internet a poblaciones que han sido excluidas del uso de esta herramienta. Una de las experiencias más destacables es impulsada por el Colectivo IK’ TA K’OP, integrado por jóvenes educadores indígenas de la comunidad de Abasolo, Chiapas, quienes desarrollaron una red mesh comunitaria de última milla para generar y difundir contenidos educativos llamada IntraNET Comunitaria YAJ’ NOPTIK. Esta experiencia ha servido como base para el desarrollo de proyectos similares en los estados de Oaxaca y Nayarit, quienes están planteando la creación de IntraNETs comunitarias para el fortalecimiento de procesos organizativos, educativos y de comunicación.

Dichas iniciativas implican una nueva forma de acceso y uso de Internet, convirtiendo la desventaja de la mala calidad de la conectividad o su alto costo en una oportunidad a través de la generación de entornos de cooperación y vinculación.

Consideramos que las redes mesh de última milla administradas por la comunidad de Abasolo, Chiapas y, de forma incipiente en Oaxaca y Nayarit, están desarrollando procesos técnicos, organizativos y de producción de contenidos locales que pueden fortalecerse a través de una red de conectividad comunitaria e indígena (red de IntraNETS) que abarque aspectos tecnológicos, económicos, organizativos, jurídicos y de difusión e intercambio de contenidos.

Por ello, este proyecto se propone generar un modelo de desarrollo de conectividad comunitaria indígena que incluya los aspectos arriba mencionados y que pueda ser replicable a partir de la sistematización de las experiencias comunitarias de redes mesh de última milla en Chiapas, Oaxaca y Nayarit y el desarrollo e implementación de una red de IntraNETs en dichas comunidades. Asimismo, se busca que esta herramienta complemente las redes de telefonía celular comunitaria desarrolladas en el estado de Oaxaca hacia servicios de 4a generación.

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Categories
Development Human Rights

Internet Shutdowns Are Not a Solution to Africa’s Challenges

Africa has made considerable gains with regards to the Internet in the last decades. It’s Internet penetration grew by more than 400%; its international bandwidth has been multiplied by 20 just in just 5 years between 2009 and 2014; during the same period Africa’s terrestrial backbone has doubled (Internet Society, Internet Development and Internet Governance in Africa, 2015). This achievement required considerable private and public investment and brought hope for Africans, particularly its youth.

Africa and the developing world are already collecting the dividends of its investment. For example, Kenya’s Internet economy is representing 3.6% of its GDP. More interestingly, a staggering 1.3% of the GDP growth in developing countries comes from the Internet economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, page 55). At the Regional Internet Development Dialogue held in Kigali on May 8 and 9, 2017, representatives of development organizations such as UNESCO, UNECA, and Smart Africa expressed their great hope that the Internet will contribute to help meet all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

However, all these hopes might be dashed by the increasing number of Internet shutdowns in Africa and the developing world in general. Just in 2016, there were at least 56 shutdowns of the Internet around the world, most of them in developing countries. These shutdowns affect individuals and organizations that depend on the Internet for their daily lives. At the “Keep it on” workshop in Nairobi at the African Internet Summit, around 30 young participants listed the reasonswhy no one should shut down the Internet and there were many.

Credit: Mwendwa Kivuva‏ on Twitter

The issue of Internet shutdown dominated this year’s African Internet Summit. In particular, one proposal submitted by three members of the AFRINIC community raised considerable discussions. The proposal recommended taking away IP numbers from governments that shutdown the Internet in their countries. For those who are not familiar with AFRINIC’s process, I would like to note that any individual member of AFRINIC can submit a policy proposal. I would also like to note that even if most members of the community are against Internet shutdowns, the proposal has not been supported by the community and in fact there were an unprecedented number of people who raised their voice against it, during the public discussions. And, I am confident that this proposal will never be adopted as an AFRINIC proposal.

In order to dissipate any confusion, at the closing of the African Internet Summit, the African Internet Technical organizations often referred as Af* (AFRINIC, AFTLD, AFNOG, AFREN, Africa CERT, and ISOC Africa) issued a statement distancing themselves from the proposal and in fact expressing their concern that such a proposal will be counterproductive.

So why did the Internet community refute such a proposal that is supposed to fight shutdowns?

  • such a proposal would be difficult to implement even if adopted
  • this proposal might antagonize governments at a time when we should work more with them
  • the proposal might also impact citizens’ ability to access the Internet

The Internet Society believes that the Internet community should work with governments to help them solve some of their legitimate concerns such as the use of the Internet for terrorism, exam cheating, and violence without the need to shut down the Internet. The Internet is the hope of many Africans, and more particularly its youth, and we should all work so that it is available for them all the time to create a better future for them and for Africa.


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Image credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr CC BY 2.0