Grassroots Initiatives for Digital Rights: Bringing Local Vision to a Global Debate

Grassroots Initiatives for Digital Rights: Bringing Local Vision to a Global Debate

We believe that civil society in every country should have the freedom and the support to promote, protect, and defend digital rights as fundamental human rights.

Digital Rights are fundamental rights. At Internews, we believe that civil society in every country should have the freedom and the support to promote, protect, and defend digital rights as fundamental human rights. We also believe that broad context and perspective is critical to informing global digital rights norms and debate. That’s why, in 2017, our Global Technology team designed a project to introduce the concept of digital rights in countries and contexts where no such conversations were previously taking place, and to support the contribution of new voices and perspectives in the global digital rights community.

As part of that initiative, over the past three years, Internews partnered with individuals, academics, and civil society organizations in 16 countries across four regions. We strove to ignite dialogue, produce policy materials, and develop awareness raising and advocacy strategies that would introduce these rights at the local level, in ways that resonated with local context and communities. We also offered our partners, many of whom worked outside of the digital rights space, an opportunity in global fora to highlight their alternative approaches to promoting and protecting digital rights. Although we couldn’t come close to supporting all 181 proposals we received from advocates around the world, we remain committed to finding new ways of supporting emergent digital rights advocacy and activism.

The following nine case studies showcase the range of approaches our partners took to promote digital rights in their respective communities, as well as some of the successes and challenges they faced in their work. We hope their creativity, resilience, and vision inspires you, as it has inspired us.

Case Studies

2 men sit in a computer lab

Emmanuel Vitus, Afrotribune, Togo, Small Grant Holder

Togo does not have appropriate legislation governing internet use and freedom, leaving the government and judiciary to apply the existing penal code to online activities. Learn more

A woman works on a laptop computer at an Internet cafe

"Ms Q," Bolivia, Small Grant Holder

Bolivia has no adequate legislation to protect digital rights, and while this affects people throughout the country, the issues differ from region to region. Learn more

Outside of an Internet cafe in The Gambia

Alieu Sowe, Givel Project, The Gambia, Pioneer

In 2017, in The Gambia any criticism of the government was punishable with imprisonment, and in the run-up to the 2017 election, the internet was shut down. Learn more

Cover of Compu Magazine with the headline "Para Navagar Internet"

Analía Aspis, Weiba Foundation, Argentina, Small Grant Holder

Argentina has adequate legislation around intellectual property, but the majority of artists are unaware of their rights.  Learn more

A group of women sit around a computer

Nonibala Narengbham, RiseUp, India, Small Grant Holder

RiseUp is working to improve women’s participation and representation in governance and decision-making at all levels. Learn more

4 women take a selfie

Natalia Li, Kyrgyz Republic, Small Grant Holder

The absence of legislation governing social media is having extremely negative effects on the lives of ordinary people in Kyrgyz Republic. Learn more

A man works on a computer at a desk; two women stand behind him

Vita Volodovska, Digital Security Lab, Ukraine, Pioneer

Over the six months of their involvement with Internews, the Digital Security Lab focused on preventing censorship, and promoting rights-positive legislation. Learn more

A man sits working on a computer

Charles Ngounou, AfroLeadership, Cameroon, Pioneer

AfroLeadership had been working on open data for several years, when internet shutdowns in Cameroon led them to investigate digital rights. Learn more

A blind man works on a computer

Nancy Reyes, Accessibility Lab, Mexico, Pioneer

Accessibility Lab’s mission is to promote and defend digital rights, so that all people have equal access to information. Learn more

PDF of Grassroots Initiatives for Digital Rights Case Studies