NRIs perpsectives: Rights in the digital world (first segment)

20 Dec 2017 11:30h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Read more: Our report from the second segment

The session started with introductions by moderators Mr Janis Karklins, Ambassador of Latvia to UNOG and Ms Anja Gengo, IGF Secretariat, looking back at the history and evolution of the NRIs which now numbered 91, and focused on the fast growth of youth initiatives globally.

Questions which were predetermined beforehand, voted on by each participating NRI, were explored one by one starting with ’How do the NRI communities understand the rights in the digital world?’. IGF China stated that digital rights could be perceived differently by different communities and cultures, so imposing a singular view is not desirable. Karklins disagreed by saying that online rights, like offline rights, were mainly universal, while SEEDIG presented the sub-regional approach to digital rights in relation to cybersecurity, design and the use of IoTs and the freedom of expression online. IGF Brazil referred to Marco de Civil and its clear outlining of digital rights. the second question to be explored was, ’From the perspective of your NRI, what are our rights in the digital world, and do you see access as one of them?’ West Africa stated that they did see access as a right, and were working towards increasing access in the region. IGF Afghanistan, who had their first IGF this year, with more that 200 participants, talked about the infrastructure in the region, especially being the only fiber optic country, the costs being high and the problem of the  Taliban cutting fibers. IGF Spain echoed the messages of the previous two countries when it comes to access and cost, adding digital literacy as an important point. IGF Nigeria listed access, youth and SMEs as crucial to improving the economy. IGF Brazil mentioned Marco de Civil as having freedom of speech, privacy, data protection, and right to access the Internet and information. IGF of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was organised only 10 days ago, was the youngest NRI in the session, mentioning challenges to access to infrastructure, costs and political will to pass the two bills waiting in  parliament which would help improve access in the country. IGF Asia Pacific underlined the importance of access for use of e-government services, education, information, health services and the importance of digital literacy to utilise access. IGF Nepal stated  hardships that the earthquake of 2015 created for access, as well as the challenges posed by the mountainous terrain.

’Are there any challenges and limitations in exercising our rights in the digital world, according to the views of your NRI?’ was the third question. Youth IGF Turkey presented the national youth’s perspective in seeing the government as one of the challenges in exercising the right to access and information, the lack of digital literacy, exclusion of people with disabilities, the gender divide, and self-censorship due to surveillance.

IGF Sri Lanka stated that the community did not want to hold sessions on digital rights and that literacy was needed to change the perception of the issue. IGF Croatia which was organised for the third time this year, identified a lack of digital literacy and media literacy as one of the biggest obstacles, in addition to the use of e-government services which is only 9.3% in the country. IGF Poland  stated that the IGF saw the digital rights issues stemming from the clash of different perceptions of what rights are. IGF Netherlands stressed the role of the private sector in the rights debates, and presented a new project by NL IGF, SIDN, Article 19 studying the interaction between businesses and their impacts on rights. IGF Panama IGF stated the outdated legislation which is not in sync with contemporary issues that the country is facing. IGF Uganda highlighted the abuse of defamation laws resulting in chilling the freedom of online expression, and the lack of laws regarding data protection and privacy. IGF Dominican Republic which is in their third year specifically focused on digital rights in each edition, and in collaboration with ISOC, they produced a report on digital rights of women online. IGF Kenya (10th edition), had a School of Internet gGovernance, a Youth IGF and a policy brief on Internet shutdowns. Another issue raised was surveillance and the lack of trust it creates offline and online, lack of data protection laws and enforcement.

Key messages of the first segment:

  • Online rights are offline rights
  • Access alone is not enough; awareness raising on digital rights, digital literacy, overall digital capacity building
  • Online rights must be inclusive of all communities, especially most vulnerable communities.

Read more: Our report from the second segment

By Su Sonia Herring