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
Economy Growing the Internet Human Rights

The Internet Society and NetBlocks Team up to Keep it on!

How much do government shutdowns cost? How do they impact growth and prosperity?

In 2016 Internet shutdowns cost globally about $2.4 billion USD, and across 10 African countries they led to loss of $237 million USD over 236 days.

If we don’t act now, shutdowns and restrictions of access will continue to rise and the economic cost will increase over the next few years. At a time where developing countries can benefit the most from Internet access for economic growth, education and health, we cannot let this situation become the new normal.

The economic rationale of keeping it on

The impact of shutdowns on freedom of expression and human rights is already well understood. Unfortunately, this has little effect in reversing the trend. This is why we need the ear of economic and trade Ministers, investors, development banks, and others who can ensure the Internet isn’t shut down. Because they care about the growth and prosperity the Internet can bring.

Today we are excited to announce that the Internet Society and NetBlocks are teaming up to develop a tool to better measure the cost of shutdowns, and convince governments to keep the Internet on. The Cost of Shutdowns Tool (COST) will be a data-driven online tool that will enable anyone – including journalists, researchers, advocates, policy makers, businesses, and many others – to quickly and easily estimate the economic cost of Internet disruptions. The tool will cover shutdowns affecting social media, key content platforms and full Internet blackouts. Development of this online and mobile platform has started, and we expect an early functioning platform to be available by summer 2018.

In Africa alone, we know that there is untapped potential for the Internet to enable much greater economic benefits and to create jobs across the continent. In the spirit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must make all efforts to leverage the Internet as a driver of opportunities, and minimize its restrictions.

This is the message we are conveying this week at the African Union Commission meeting in Addis Ababa.

Learn more about NetBlocks.org, a network observatory that monitors Internet shutdowns, network disruptions, and cybersecurity incidents and their relation to global politics and conflict in realtime.

Read the Internet Society’s statements on Internet shutdowns.

Categories
Women in Tech

Solutions needed! It’s time to close the digital gender divide

If you could sneak peek a future in 10 years in which the Internet is everywhere, would it still be the same access for men and women, boys and girls?

The latest Internet Society report focused on the future of the Internet Society shows that new digital divides are emerging. One of them is a gender divide.  Today 250 million fewer women than men use the Internet. If we don’t act now to close this gap, we will lose out on a digital future that includes everyone.

Closing the digital divide and bridging the gender gap is a promise the world made to itself in 2015 when world leaders ratified the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

This week more than 100 Ministers and 1,500 delegates are attending the World Telecommunications Development Conference, a 10-day meeting dedicated finding new solutions on how Information and Communication Technologies can advance development.

We’re here to send a message that to shape a digital future that benefits all of humanity, we need new thinking, new approaches and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

We need your help.

If you’re at the World Telecommunications Development Conference register now for the side event dedicated to finding solutions to techs gender gap not through building relationships, sparking inspiration and offering concrete solutions for policy and decision makers.

If you’re not in Buenos Aires we still need to hear your ideas! Go on Twitter and tag @internetsociety with your ideas.

Don’t wait. The time to take action is now.  If we don’t, we risk loosing generations of women who can contribute to shaping the Internet’s future.

Photo: “Women of Takalafiya-Lapai village” © 2010 World Bank Photo Collection CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

Do you have a great idea?

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Privacy Women in Tech

Internet Chalao, Patriarchy Dabao. Leveling up Pakistani women.

Beyond the Net Journal: Pakistan Chapter #2 Episode

In the absence of any laws to tackle cyber harassment, Nighat Dad, digital rights advocate, created Hamara Internet (Our Internet), a pioneer project to raise the awareness of digital violence against women. The project, funded by Internet Society’s Beyond the Netis now completed and opened a new chapter in the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan.

Hamara Internet is all about WOMEN and their right to use the Internet free from harassment. Under the slogan “Internet Chalao, Patriarchy Dabao” (Use the Internet, Destroy Patriarchy), Hamara Internet provided women with skills to create safe online spaces and advocate for gender-inclusive Internet governance processes at a national level.

“The project has been successful in many ways.” says Nighad Dad “The main target of the campaign was to train about 300 students, but the program ended up training more than 460. Our efforts to involve women in large numbers were rewarded with an enthusiastic response. The more seminars we held the more we were asked by other colleges and universities to hold similar trainings in their institutes as well. The Internet Society mission had been introduced in every seminar we conducted by Mr. Faisal Shahzad, vice president of Pakistan Chapter. At the end of the campaign, the national conference we held in Islamabad attracted more than 100 young women from Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.”

Informative brochures about privacy and online safety have been created in both English and Urdu languages and distributed in the form of ten flip cards during seminars and conferences. The website hamarainternet.org was built to give legal and security advice, providing with the first digital harassment Crisis Center in Pakistan.

Hamara Internet success is providing key evidence that the Open Internet is an essential tool in facilitating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, leveraging collaboration and partnerships needed to make them a reality. This is how the project is relevant for the following SDG’s goals:

1. No Poverty
In Pakistan poverty has a “woman’s face”. Women’s lives are affected by economic deprivation. They have been deprived of adequate education and forced to live in the tight bind of the patriarchal tradition. Hamara Internet is teaching women to take control of their lives and to catch online opportunities to reduce poverty.

3. Good health and well-being
One Pakistani woman dies every 37 minutes from complications during childbirth indicating poor maternal healthcare in the country. Domestic violence is still a main cause of complications related to pregnancy. Women safe access to the Internet allows to find information for a healthier life and to discuss about reproductive issues and domestic violence.

4. Quality education
We are talking about a country that has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Where women are forced to just bear children and stay within their houses. Where separate schools for girls are not available in several regions. In this scenario, offering access to appropriate technology allows all female students to get in contact with a world of opportunities, opening up access to education and training in a very cost-effective way. Women empowered through education will be able to improve their own living conditions, as well as the conditions of their society.

5. Gender equality
Pakistan has been ranked the second worst country in the world for gender equality (first is Yemen). The gender gap is dramatically widening and today is larger than 10 years ago. Hamara Internet is spreading awareness about the imbalances between women’s and men’s access and participation in ICTs and is fighting to ensure that women equally share the benefits arising from the global digital economy.

8. Decent work and economic growth
The main factors contributing to poor employment trends include low literacy rates, social taboos and regulations preventing the active participation of women in the economic growth. They are forced into low-paid jobs where their abilities remain unused. The project showed women that the possibilities to improve their lives going online are endless. Some are starting to use the Internet to run their own business, others are using it to manage entire projects or to create presentations for their colleges.

10. Reduced inequalities
There is a growing evidence of multiple inequalities in Pakistan: race, gender, geography and economy. The project is aiming to increase the capacity building of women and set a new paradigm of Internet governance in Pakistan by engaging women in political discussions.

16. Peace, justice and strong istitutions
The annual report by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded hundreds of rapes, kidnapping, acid attacks, amputations and burnings. Almost 800 women attempted suicide in 2016. Women are frequently too afraid to report the crimes or are forced to withdrawing complaints. The project team is working with institutions to integrate Hamara Internet workshops and training manuals in the educational programmes of schools and colleges to make the next generations more secure and well-informed.

This pioneer project had become a women’s movement contributing to make a better world, a world of more compassion and equality. The key to a better future of Pakistan lies in giving priority to the development of human capabilities for which the Internet role can make a difference.

Watch the video to hear from a cyber harassment victim

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog post and follow our stories on Twitter

Share this story
If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project
We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Find out more about the programme

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Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Internet of Things (IoT)

A drone project to change humanitarian disaster response in Philippines.

Philippines is the 4th most disaster-prone country in the world. When a natural disasters hits we are completely wiped out. In remote and rural parts of the Philippines, telecommunications networks can be spotty most of the times. This scenario is willing to change thanks to the Internet Society’s Philippines Chapter new project supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme.

The aim of the project is to send UAVs — or what most of us call drones — in disaster zones to act as wireless relays and data aggregators. The drones would set up a local MESH network to help people to get in touch with the loved ones. It would also help emergency workers to work safely and talk to one another. The project will also make possible that the drones will be able to work with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to find information about the situation on the ground.

In the recent years, interest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has been evidenced by innovations in this emerging field. Hobbyists and scientists alike have leveled up the use of UAVs in many ways such as forestry surveys, remote sensing and disaster management. While much of the focus of drones to date has been on military applications and as toys, the future of drones as humanitarian tools is getting more promising by the day. Commercial industries view drones as the new logistics support mechanism for parcel delivery, they are also used by environmental bureaus for tracking river flow changes.

In a country prone to disasters like the Philippines, researchers saw the opportunity to implement drones in the field of disaster management. Over the years, the Ateneo de Manila University Innovation Center has been developing use cases for drone technology, mostly for mission-critical scenarios as decision-support platform. Dr. Nathaniel Joseph Libatique, a professor at Manila University said: “We can all do optimization on battery life, rotor design, and frame aerodynamics, but at the core of engineering for humanity is the UAV’s payload – this niche is a breeding space for innovation. Say for example, we can do a fly-by and detect victims in a collapsed building, or do cooperative flights with ground teams – we can cover the breadth of a situation while scaling up value-added systems such as location detection, risk profiling, and even internet connectivity!”

Using hybrid communications technologies and devices – Push-To-Talk (PTT) Radio, Android-based protocols, Raspberry Pi hubs, 915 MHz and 760 MHz transceivers and delay tolerant communications standards (RFC 5050) – the project team continues to demonstrate how critical information such as victim or survivor identities and needs can be robustly transmitted to command and control using bump communications, aggregation and store and forward techniques. Information analysis such as facial recognition and pre-stored information of survivor social networks, especially for the elderly and PWDs, enable an efficient and targeted response.

Flying over the municipality of San Juan, Batangas, a province 140 kilometers south of Metro Manila, the team did a series of experiments that demonstrated the role of UAVs integrating connectivity, highlighting cooperation and underscoring collaboration. In a disaster situation, responders use various radio communication media and this presents an opportunity to interface drones with these devices. Systems incorporating ground vehicles and UAVs provide the breadth and scale necessary to respond to disasters and undertake victim rescue apart from purely imagery missions. In this series of tests, the team did propagation measurements between “victims” and drones functioning as rescuer/alert vehicle. The UAV was flown above the antenna setup subject to the applicable civil aviation rules, utilizing the frequency (760 MHz) as approved for experimental use by the telecommunications regulator. Initial results reveal the potential of UAVs to complement ground teams in the performance of victim rescue support.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

How to apply Beyond the Net

Find out more about the programme 

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet

Zenzeleni – Do it Yourself! – How a rural community in South Africa became a telecommunication operator.

Mankosi, in the Eastern Cape Province, is one of South Africa’s most economically disadvantaged communities. Most of the 3,500 residents live on less than $2 per day. In spite of this, residents spend an average of 22 percent of their income on the ability to connect and communicate. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of residents are online in any given month. Mankosi needed an alternative to expensive, spotty service. Zenzeleni Network was set up in 2012 to provide voice service to the community, using analog phones connected to WiFi routers and Voice over IP (VoIP) technology.

Now, the Internet Society’s South Africa Gauteng Chapter and the University of Western Cape, supported by ISOC’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme, are assisting Zenzeleni Networks to upgrade the system in order to create a powerful and stable network, helping to get more people online. The programme also will provide computer labs in Mankosi’s primary and secondary schools and computer literacy training for teachers. The goal is to get people online for a fraction of what it currently costs to connect, and turn Zenzeleni into a model for community-owned telecommunications companies. On March 2017, Zenzeleni Networks was selected as a semifinalist of the Mozilla’s Equal Rating competition, recognizing the potential of  this amazing “community network” as a viable alternate way to communicate.

Carlos Rey-Moreno, senior researcher at the University of the Western Cape and project manager, talks about his experience in this fascinating project:

“If I had to explain what I do, I would say that I’m a telecommunications activist. I try to bring forward the voice of those that are underserved by communications operators and communications ecosystems. I came to rural areas of South Africa about five years ago, and I tried to understand the way people here communicate and how they communicate. When I first got here, I did quite a lot research on how much money people spend on communications, and how they communicate. One of the things I found was that people here still spend a lot of money on telephone calls. In rural South Africa, families are very disrupted because people have to migrate, particularly the men in the family. They go off to work in the mines and the large farms near Cape Town, and their families want to be in touch. As a result, households are spending, on average, 22 percent of their disposable income on communications. Community networks like Zenzeleni are crucial to cut these costs.

Zenzeleni is a partnership between the University of the Western Cape, where I’m a post-doctoral fellow, and Mankosi, the community I work in. Everything we do is based on what the people in Mankosi want to do. We have a cooperative board that sets the agenda.

Initially, we were focused on VoIP calling. That seemed to be the most logical way to help bring down people’s communication costs. It didn’t require a lot of bandwidth, and it fit under the existing regulatory framework. So, we set up a MESH potato network (Steve Song is the creator of MESH potato and you can find a link here to Steve and MESH potato), that allowed analog phones to work via a VoIP network. We had the tribal local authorities select some people to be in charge of the phones. They had to select 10 houses that “see” at least three other houses, and that have people who were at home to help for security reasons.

That VoIP project got a little bit of momentum behind it, but it didn’t catch on like we’d hoped. The people in those houses used the phones and some neighbors used the phones, but mostly people kept using their mobile devices. Changing the consumer dynamics of people in rural areas is very difficult. Change takes time. They like to stick to what they know works.

What did catch people’s attention, though, was the fact that the MESH potatoes were solar powered, and that those solar panels were producing excess electricity. So, people asked if we could use that power for a mobile charging station, so it suddenly cost half as much money for people to charge their phones. This changed the way people used their phones, and how much money people had left over.

Now, we’re also looking at setting up our own local mobile network using unlicensed GSM spectrum, similar to what Rhizomatica has done in Mexico. The next project for Zenzeleni is setting up backhaul to a fibre network in the nearest city. We’re making that happen with a series of wireless relay towers. The elders and leadership here in Mankosi are really eager to get a proper, reliable, affordable Internet connection. The plan is to set up computer labs in the primary and secondary schools, to have a community WiFi network that people who have WiFi enabled phones can use for free, and we’re getting some old personal computers (PCs) donated to set up access points for people who don’t have smart phones. The people that are running the cooperative are very much interested in the education of the youngsters. They are doing this to open up opportunities for the next generation.

Zenzeleni is really a community network in the truest sense of the word. Our cooperative board set the priorities, they set the rates for things like mobile charging. We just try to help them make it happen. We’ve already done some cool things here, but once we get this fibre backhaul, I think there are amazing things that are going to happen. It’s all about giving opportunities. When you give people opportunities to explore, with a little bit of money, or a little bit of bandwidth, or a little bit of spare electric energy generated by the solar systems, people do amazing stuff.”

We wondered how the Zenzeleni project would benefit ISOC’s Gauteng Chapter. This is the truly comprehensive answer of the former President, Gabriel Ramokotjo.

“The success of the project will contribute immensely to the development of the Chapter. The Chapter will grow its membership beyond the province of Gauteng in South Africa, and also will attract the interest of the Youth in the rural areas. The first phase of the project has already received positive coverage from the Media, which has led to partnerships with the University of the Western Cape and the Right 2 Know Campaign. There’s no doubt of the benefits that the Chapter will derive from the project, such as forging and strengthening collaborative partnerships with academic, civil societies, and the private sector. Even more important, the project is aligned with the goal of our Government National Development Plan: to have all South Africans connected and using the Internet by the year 2020. With the support of the Internet Society, it’s a new opportunity also to create closer collaboration with our Government on policy and technical issues affecting the Internet in our country.”

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

How to apply Beyond the Net

Find out more about the programme 

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights IETF Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Technology

How the IETF community is shaping technology to build a better society

The continued advancement in technological landscape enabling more people having Internet access in the global arena has meant that IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) remains at the forefront of integrating technology with humanity. In fact, IETF has made significant use of social dimension to articulate its area of work and research. It is beautifully reflected in section 4.1 of the RFC 3935 wherein it states that “We want the Internet to be useful for communities that share our commitment to openness and fairness.  We embrace technical concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the core values of the IETF community”. This focus of inclusion remains at forefront of integration of IETF with human dimension of technology. The standards created in IETF are testimony to technical developments and enables innovation by providing a platform for the innovation and interoperability.

Indian IETF Capacity Building (IICB) Program Phase II has received Beyond the Net Support from Internet Society and focuses on creating technical capacity development for increased participation and contribution of technical standards on Internet from India. The program aligns itself with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals such of economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

The IICB program was conceived as a traditional program which is hierarchical in nature, meaning it has fixed KPIs rolling up-to objectives and further upward roll up to mission and vision. However, in reality, the program has taken a shift and has focused on creating communities as well which decides their own course of action. This was a marked shift as it required adjustments in the delivery of the program and larger emphasis on adoption. As individuals are important in IETF process, it asked from the program implementers to develop a greater understanding of the role of individual who is going to contribute in the IETF process, the collective beliefs one possesses, the world views on standards and standardization, the priorities of making a contribution as well as loyalties as time has to be taken out from different parts of day, personal and professional space for inching into this community.

Hence, the awareness sessions being carried out in the program focused on human concerns in the technical standard development process in IETF like. The workshops focused on societal benefits of collaborative work happening in IETF and remote participation was not hearing the speakers over Internet, but was a presence across the seas and directly learning from the activities therein.

A significant milestone for IICB program was in late 2016 when a community of technical researchers and academicians based out of 150 KMs from main city of Kolkata, at a place called Mallabhum wherein we had done our awareness sessions and workshops, proposed us their own plans of execution and the task at hand was now just to enable them. Since then they are moving out to do IETF awareness sessions, remotely logging on to IETF sessions, have created smaller sub groups to focus on specific areas of technology and following the debate in IETF mailing lists. Emboldened, one of the key movers is working to get his visa for his first physical participation in IETF in Chicago.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Barev dzez! You are listening to Radio MENQ. The voice of the visually impaired of Armenia.

Beyond the Net Journal: Armenia Chapter #3 Episode

When Armenia declared independence in 1991, the Internet access finally became available, allowing people to be part of the world again. The creation of an Internet Availability Center in 2012 (funded by Internet Society’s grant) at the Culture House for the Blind in Yerevan, triggered creative ideas among active members of the center.

They came to conclusion that an Internet radio station would be the greatest opportunity for helping the blind and visually impaired. The project started in January 2016 supported by the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme”. Today, it is a dream come true.

Radio MENQ (“We” in Armenian language) has become a platform empowering people with disabilities. The programming covers practical and psychological matters. Many artists and scientists with disabilities have been invited as guests to share their lived experiences. This radio station is opening up new horizons for the visually impaired and their families.

The project team is comprised of people with disabilities of various specialties. All of them are proficient in their areas and highly motivated in bringing change to people’s lives. Radio MENQ is contributing to the cultural and spiritual development of its audience through psychological advice, reading of prose and fairy tales for children, gaming competitions, and hours of music.

Just taking a look at some of the programs currently on air illustrates the important role this station plays:

  • “You can” – 13 episodes about people who are blind, from ancient to modern times, who demonstrated notable achievements, like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Diana Gurtskaya, Louis Braille
  • “Internet and the blind” – Opportunities and how to use them
  • “Psychology in life” – How to use internal resources to achieve goals
  • “Toward Independence” – Ways to improve self-dependence
  • “Problem and solution” – What role can visually-impaired people play in the society. The role of family and education in the process of socialization. How to overcome psychological barriers when searching for a job.
  • “Rights and privileges” – About legislative solutions for blind people
  •  “Loving a person” – How to destroy barriers in relationships
  •  “My Universities” – How to get a higher education and find a job
  • “Sports and We” –  Brilliant victories in Paralympics sports
  • “Learn to play Chess” – Lessons from the blind master Yura Awetisyan

Radio MENQ has been promoted through mass media, social networks and public events with the involvement of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia Republic. We are proud to say that the blog is getting up to 2,800 visits monthly, and a mobile application to reach a wider audience is in the pipeline.

In Armenia, the estimated number of blind and visually impaired people is 25,000 and in Diaspora 50,000. While the team was discussing ways to expand the project to Diaspora communities, they received this message from United States: “Barev dzez! My name is Laurel and I am a blind student studying at the University of Oklahoma. My instructor is Armenian, and I got inspired to learn Armenian as well. I found your radio station online. I love listening to your programs, and I use it to help teach myself Armenian. When I discovered how hard it was to read with a screen reader in Armenian, I thought why not do something. I am actually working on creating a project that could help blind people in Armenia, Georgia and Russia through technology and educational opportunities. I would really like to connect with the blind community in Armenia, and I plan to visit Yerevan in September.”

The famous blind pianist Levon Karapetyan, who used to move around with helpers, is another inspiring story. While he was in France for a study period he listened to Radio MENQ’s “Toward Independence” and he got very interested in self-development tools mentioned in the program. When he came back to Armenia he visited the station and asked the team to teach him how to use the white cane and other tips to move independently. The mobility training changed his life for the better. A special episode devoted to his experience will be broadcast in the future.

In addition to being a public health concern, blindness also has a great impact on the social and economic wellbeing of an individual. First efforts to educate the blind were attempted at the beginning of the 19th century thanks to the Louis Braille system. Until that time, blind people were considered mostly uneducable and untrainable. One of the worst stereotypes about blindness is the belief of that it limits to the kind of jobs you can do. Blind children acquire this sad way of thinking from society.

The radio station aims to raise awareness about how an appropriate environment can increase the ability of a person with disabilities to work independently and add value to society. After Radio MENQ went on air, many young people have started to learning how to be program presenters and sound technicians. The Armenian blind community is starting to break the stereotypes and prove they are able to work on equal footing.

This project is illustrating the power of the Internet in creating innovation and local solutions with global impact. Radio MENQ is becoming a reference for visually impaired people, also facilitating the collaboration and partnerships needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the video and see the amazing job they are doing

Listen to Radio MENQ

This project is relevant to achieving the following SDGs goals:

More projects for the visually impaired:


Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

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If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Categories
Human Rights Women in Tech

Not Backing Down: Women Across The Globe Fighting To Make The Internet Safe

There is nothing worse than showing up to a party uninvited.

The awkward conversations, the constant justification of why you’re there, and often facing up to the downright hostility of the hosts. It’s enough to make any of us want to quietly make our way towards the closest exit sign we find and never look back.

And that’s exactly what’s happening to many women around the world for simply taking the time to log on.

For those of us that work with the online world, there isn’t any doubt. Online harassment and cyber bullying are real. In theory, these things can happen to anyone— but they don’t.

They happen overwhelmingly to women.

According to 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, the worst online harassment, including attacks that go beyond name-calling to include stalking and sexual harassment, is disproportionately targeted at women.

Too often women are told they must quietly adapt. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated online, you should log off.

In other parts of the world, women don’t even get through the front door.

So, as the Internet increasingly becomes woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, it means many women are blocked from the limitless opportunities it offers.

This shouldn’t be something that we accept. But the good news is, many women are pushing back.

Some are technologists changing how to build the Internet, some are journalists pushing for the free flow of information, others are bloggers questioning ingrained value system, and still others – millions of others – are logging on time and time again to take part.

Let’s not underestimate this act.

So on March 8th, International Women’s Day, the Internet Society is calling on everyone who believes the Internet should be for everyone to celebrate this spirit of persistence.

Over the course of the day, we will be shining the light on stories of women who are making the Internet a safer and more trusted place, many by logging on.

Take Japleen Pasricha, an Internet blogger and campaigner who leads the Delhi-based non-profit organization called Feminism in India. It offers online spaces for women to write about gender equality issues and combat sexual harassment. Japleen’s research explores challenges to women and girls’ online freedom of expression in India.

Or then there’s Olutosin Adebowale. Olutosin is a passionate gender equality advocate and founder of the non-profit organization, Star of Hope Transformation Center in Lagos. Its programs empower local communities to end child sexual abuse, heal survivors and train women to earn their own income. Olutosin is researching methods for improving women and girls’ Internet access in rural Nigeria.

Or Angélica Contreras, a young Mexican blogger and one of the founders of the Internet Society’s Youth Observatory. She is deeply involved in creating a more inclusive culture online.

By celebrating the work of women like this, we are letting others know they are not alone. There are, in fact, millions of women who are logging on every day.

This act, as simple as it may seem, is essential to creating a culture that emulates the very building blocks the Internet is founded on – diversity, inclusion, and collaboration.

If we don’t celebrate these every day acts of persistence, we stand to lose the millions of voices and ideas that women can bring to the table.

Ideas that are critical to our world.

So critical, in fact, that world leaders agreed that women and girls having access to information and communication technologies would be a key indicator of the success of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Consider this:

  • The OECD estimates that on average, across its member countries, a 50 percent reduction in the gender gap in labor force participation alone would boost GDP an extra 6 percent by 2030, with a further 6 percent gain if gaps closed.
  • Eliminating barriers to employment for girls and women could raise labor productivity by 25% in some countries.
  • If 10% more girls attend school, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 3%.

This isn’t news.

But a recent report by ONE shows the Internet’s gender gap in the poorest countries grew by 2 percent between 2013 and 2016. Based on current trends, 71 percent of women in the forty-eight poorest countries will still be offline in 2020.

While higher rates of Internet access help to boost GDP per capita, the report notes, cultural, economic, and educational barriers, as well as lack of awareness, prevent many women from accessing and benefiting from online content and services.

For any policymaker that is serious about expanding Internet access to benefit their societies, the inclusion of women needs to be a priority. As described in the Internet Society’s policy framework for an enabling Internet access, infrastructure can only take you so far. An Internet that can support development and economic growth has to be inclusive, trusted and accessible to everyone – and that requires more than fiber and routers. If this idea is now mainstream in global policy fora, from the ITU to the Internet Governance Forum, translating it into reality is the real indicator of success.

From the stories we’re sharing today — and the millions more that are out there — we know that women getting access to the Internet are using it to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Faster than we ever thought possible.

But for that to happen by 2020, we need to make sure that all people —and especially women —have a voice in building and shaping the tools that will affect their lives.

For the digital revolution to truly be great, it can’t just be for a certain set of people. Join us and celebrate everyday role models of women, everywhere, who are making the Internet a safer place we can all trust.

Want to help?

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Internet & Seniors. Falling in love with life again.

Beyond the Net Journal: Harlem – New York. Meeting Up With HICAP students after 6 years to recall how the Internet can change seniors lives for the better.

The Internet is able to keep seniors engaged in a variety of ways that were not imaginable a few decades ago. The Harlem Internet Computer Access Program, started in 2010 by the US New York Chapter and funded by a Community Grant, is still a shining example of how the Internet can be a great resource for seniors. The project provided Internet access and computer education to low-income, disabled senior citizens. HICAP’s impact to the Harlem community is still palpable. All participants, who attended to 80% of their classes and passed competency tests, now have computers and Internet access in their homes.

Merle Bush, the passionate computer instructor of HICAP, is firmly convicted about the need for seniors to be connected. Events like the death of a spouse or a medical recovery increase feelings of loneliness and depression. When living at home alone, life becomes smaller and options for socialization decrease. “Some people believe that when they become seniors, that’s the end of the line. ” Merle says. “The Internet is as good for them as it’s good for me, to see what’s going on in the world and to connect with friends and relatives”.

Merle takes pride opening up a whole new world of possibilities to people who may otherwise miss opportunities “Medicare, social benefits, paperwork, on line shopping, social media… these are all great things that seniors can do with what they learnt” she explains, “but this project has been more than imparting knowledge, we all gained lifelong relationships.”

The impact this project has made on seniors is unbelievable. An example is Ms. Barbara Stephens, who lives on the fourth floor and has a prosthetic foot. For a period of six weeks, the building’s elevator was being expanded for wheelchair access. So it was supposed to be wise suspending classes until the date of completion. All the tenants were offered $500 toward expenses and a six week hotel stay. But the students took a vote: they all wanted to stay and forgo the cash to attend class. They did not miss one session, including Ms. Barbara Stephens. Enjoy her dance at the end of our video….

Now Merle has a full-time job, but her students, including Barbara Stephens, Mamie Perfet, Joyce Walker, The Wu Family… they all keep in touch. We attended one of their meetings to hear from their voices how the project is still affecting their lives.

Watch the Video

Special thanks to Joly MacFie, President of US New York Chapter, for his kind collaboration.

Share this story

If you like this story please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

Do you have a great idea? We are interested in your project.

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $30,000 USD.

Find out more about Beyond the Net Funding Programme.
Categories
Beyond the Net Growing the Internet

Beyond Access: Partnering for a Win-Win

Los Nevados, one of the most remote areas in Venezuela, at 2700 meters above sea level right in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Beautiful and remote.

Agriculture is its main export, and while it’s a passage for tourists looking to climb Pico Bolivar, this is a land of tradition and history.

Earlier this year Paola Pérez decided that it was time to expand the opportunities for the people of Los Nevados, and she decided that something that could build economic growth, more efficient agriculture, better access to education.

As she put it, she wanted to put her town on the world’s map.

So She partnered with Fundación Ymago and, through the Internet Society’s Venezuela Chapter, applied for a grant through our Beyond The Net community grants programme. She wanted to connect Los Nevados to the Internet so its people could use it to build their dreams.

From one day to another (ok, it took a little longer than just one day) things started to change.

  • Farmers gained access to the weather forecast and could ensure better crop harvest.
  • Children in the school could look up information online and could even participate in online courses that they would never have had access to before.
  • Families could communicate through things like Skype or Facetime.
  • Guides could put up websites for tourists showing the tourists
  • The local woodcarver could sell his handicraft online

The opportunities for the people in Los Nevados were, and are, endless.

At the Internet Society, we would like these opportunities to be available to everyone, everywhere.

But for that to happen people around the world need access to an open, secure Internet that we all trust.

Why Am I Saying This?

The Internet has transformed our lives.

It reflects who we are as humans.

It helps us build businesses from the spark of an idea, to innovate without having to ask anyone.

We use it to drive social and human development.

It brings hope. It drives discovery, creation, education, exploration, and celebration.

It opens a world of opportunity.

But there are many of us who still aren’t online.

  • Some of us can’t afford the Internet.
  • Some of us live where some technology just can’t go.
  • Some of us live in the places the world has forgotten about.
  • Some of us choose not to go online because there’s nothing online in the language we speak or there’s nothing that answers to our needs.

This is just about 4 billion of us.

That’s just about half of the global population.

Now 4 billion is a number that can feel overwhelming.

Four billion of us not only need access to the Internet but need to know how to make the most of it.

Can we do this? I think we can.

As long as we all can commit to one thing: To connect 4 billion people, we need to build partnerships.

Let’s Start At The Regional Internet Development Dialogues.

The Internet community is founded in collaboration, coordination, and cooperation. These concepts are deeply rooted in who we are.

And we need more of it. That’s why we are launching the Regional Internet & Development Dialogues around the world. These meetings will be to bring together International Development and Aid agencies, governments, businesses, and people. Together, come up with concrete plans on what we can do to help connect the next billion and how we can work together to help those plans succeed. You can join one in Latin America now.

Because it is not just about the technology anymore, it is about what we do with it.

The Internet community will need to form new and different partnerships that will bring us outside of our traditional expertise. Likewise, the International Development and Aid agencies can benefit from the deep expertise we hold in Internet policy, development, and technology.

All of us will need to work with governments and policy makers to make sure we create an environment where access can happen, meaningful access. Easily and effectively.

Partnerships that will help answer the question of what happens next.

Because it’s not just about a connection. It’s about how all of us can use it to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of our friends, families, and communities.

We see this kind of change every day.

  • Young people were able to speak to world leaders on global Internet policy at the 2016 UN’s World Summit on the Information Society Forum. This is thanks to the coordination and action taken by the Internet Society Youth Observatory – a project funded by Beyond the Net and started here in Latin America.

This can only happen if all stakeholders, all parties cooperate, collaborate and coordinate.

Everyone can play a part in connecting someone, but we also need to think about what happens next.

But it’s going to take all of us.

Join us at the Regional Internet Development Dialogues in Latin America and throughout the world in the coming year.