Event Participation: RightsCon 2015 Southeast Asia Conference

During 24 – 25 March 2015, five ISIF Asia grant recipients attended RightsCon Southeast Asia Conference in Manila, Philippines, see https://www.rightscon.org/manila/. The event was convened by Access and EngageMedia, in partnership with Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), World Wide Web Foundation and the Research Action Design collective, and supported by global and regional sponsors, including APNIC.

RightsCon Summit 2015 gathered more than 650 people from over 40 countries engaging civil society, technology companies, governments, and academia. The program organised around 125 workshops to discuss topics in relation to online rights protection, digital rights, economic development, technological solutions for human rights challenges, and risks in the ICT sector.

With the support of ISIF Asia, five project representatives including Bishakha Datta from Point of View (India), Jahangir Alam from Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh), Arvind Khadri from Servelots (India), Khairil Yusof from Sinar (Malaysia) and Nazdeek (India) participated in the workshops that were relevant to their work. They took advantage of this worldwide conference to get inspired and build cooperation.

Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015

Closing plenary at RightsCon 2015

Sylvia Cadena, APNIC’s Community Partnerships Specialist, who coordinates the ISIF Asia program was particularly interested in this event, as it was the first time it was held in the Asia Pacific region. “It is really exciting to see so many human rights activists to sit at the table with Internet technology experts, business leaders and funders to discuss not only ideals and position papers about how technology can or cannot do, but to draft strategies to collaborate, be aware of funding sources available, tools available, to overcome the challenges ahead. A very hands-on approach, very much needed to bring about positive and timely change.” She also congratulated FMA, former ISIF Asia grant recipient, for their active role as local partner, to put the conference and the pre-events together and generate the appropriate space to share, discuss and learn.

When reviewing their experience to participate at RightsCon 2015, ISIF Asia project representatives presented that it was a unique opportunity to explore rights issues both online and offline and look at different perspectives around the world. They benefitted from the exchange of new ideas and expanded their network of contacts not only among activists and practitioners, but also with funders as well as Internet industry representatives concerned about how human rights manifest online, which open doors to facilitate their operations, serving local communities.

ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon

ISIF Asia supported projects meet during RightsCon

Sinar is using open source technology, development and ideas to make Malaysian government transparent and accountable. Khairil Yusof learned that “the data we’re gathering to make government more accountable might actually cause harm to groups and communities we are supposed to be helping” after Open Data and Privacy session. The reflective article by Khairil was published on Sinar website http://sinarproject.org/en/updates/institutional-support-eco-system-for-digital-rights.

Point of View contributes to amplify the voices of women and remove barriers to free speech and expression. Bishakha Datta (India) attended sessions about CyberSex and online fundamentalism. During the session, she was able to discuss how physical rapes are turning into digital porn in India and Pakistan with the speakers from Indonesia, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31313551. Bishakha described RightsCon as “Getting a taste of digital rights in other Asian countries, hearing voices from Asia”.

Servelots works on empowering population that cannot read standard web content due to illiteracy, partial literacy or language issues with web accessibility. Arvind Khadri (India) participated in eight sessions including technology vs. policy rising debate, networking for trainer storytellers, and Brave GNU World. For him, RightsCon was an opportunity to network and collaborate. He was able to built connection with the Internet Society, and explore the opportunity to apply for a fellowship to speak about Servelots work at the Internet Governance Forum later this year. “RightsCon makes us understand challenges of various people and organisations by meeting friends and discussing future plans with them”, Arvind reported.

Jahangir Alam represented Machizo Multimedia (Bangladesh) which does photojournalism, reporting and digital campaign on popular culture, human rights and development issues. Jahangir Alam attended seven sessions focusing on human rights promotion, activism, media productions and digital campaign issues. The inspiration he took from RightsCon was that “we need to promote the local content on human rights education online via school networking. We will soon open a section ‘Amader Odikar’ (Our Rights) in UnnayanNews new portal”.

Participants also attended pre-events organized the day before RightsCon started. At the Responsible Data Forum Nazdeek reported that “In our context, it is imperative to understand how technology shapes the struggle to advance fundamental rights, as well as what safeguards must be put in place to ensure technology does not further perpetrate discrimination against marginalized groups and individuals.”

For the ISIF Asia fellows, RightsCon 2015 unraveled a bundle of issues such as online freedom of expression, surveillance, privacy and digital security for human rights defenders.

For overview and conclusion of RightsCon 2015, please check out the Outcome Report at https://www.rightscon.org/files/RC_SEA_outcome_report.pdf.