Chapter Seventy-six: Leave No Voice Behind - an open, free and secure digital future for all

In an earlier edition of TypeRight, we spoke of the UN’s Global Digital Compact that was one of the decisions of the recent Internet Governance Forum - and how the Digital Empowerment Foundation was planning to conduct the consultation of the same in India.

This happened on Monday, the sixth of march, along with several other launches and awards, including the mBillionth award. This week's TypeRight focuses on the event, what we had to say to the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Technology, and the several winners of the awards vis-a-vis eNGO Challenge, Social Media for Empowerment Award and mBillionth Award.

Leave No Voice Behind.

Following the consultations held as part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the UN adopted a declaration that pledged the participation of all stakeholders in deliberations on digital cooperation. In response to the Declaration, Secretary-General Guterres’ report, Our Common Agenda, proposes a Summit of the Future with a technology track leading to a Global Digital Compact.

... building on the recommendations of the road map for digital cooperation (see A/74/821), the United Nations, Governments, the private sector and civil society could come together as a multi-stakeholder digital technology track in preparation for a Summit of the Future to agree on a Global Digital Compact. This would outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all. ... Complex digital issues that could be addressed may include: reaffirming the fundamental commitment to connecting the unconnected; avoiding fragmentation of the Internet; providing people with options as to how their data is used; application of human rights online; and promoting a trustworthy Internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content. ... More broadly, the Compact could also promote regulation of artificial intelligence to ensure that this is aligned with shared global values.

As one of our chief guests, Abhishek Singh, who heads the NeGD and the Digital India Corporation, reminded us in the beginning of the consultation, India has both the largest number of people who are connected as well as unconnected to the Internet. Summarising the rest of the keynote address, by Amandeep Singh Gill, the UN Secretary General's Envoy on Technology, this precisely is the challenge and motto of our contribution to the UN's Global Digital Compact - we must address how we imagine the future of the Internet to be, set out a roadmap for digital collaboration and make sure this transformation is inclusive and human-centred. We need to look at who benefits from the way we see the digital future now, who gets left out, and how can we ensure no one gets left out. Keynote speaker and representative of the EU, Laurent Danois assured us that Europe, as well as the rest of the world is very interested and listening to what the stakeholders from India have to say.

The keynote address was followed by a discussion session with the community on the seven main points for the digital compact. Members of the community on the ground from as many states as 15, including well known SoochnaPreneurs (rural digital entrepreneurs), discussed with academics, CSO representatives, and bureaucrats to highlight key issues and commitments that were submitted to the UN. The final report would be out soon, but keep reading for the highlights of the discussion-

Here are some glimpses from the event:

  1. Connect All People to the Internet, including All Schools


Equal access- everyone regardless of gender, geography, economic status are to get access to the digital.  All programs designed have to be based on real life contexts, and it should not be the case that lack of connectivity is going to affect my rights and therefore, the right to remain unconnected is just as important

2. Avoid Internet Fragmentation


Counter a potential threat to the One World One Internet, a key pillar towards building a Free to Access, Open and an interoperable Internet, caused by government actions blocking access to internet, commercial interests charging differential fees and for preferential access. Leads to security vulnerabilities, and lesser democratisation.

3. Protect Data


Personal data is important and needs to be protected. Consent on what data is being used and where is required, and needs to be made understood - as well as establishing an international standard for data protection.

4. Apply Human Rights Online


Challenges of poverty and literacy in rural areas, leading to both limited human rights and digital frauds. How do people who do not have basic access to food/resources raise the issues of human rights? International law to prevent governments from engaging in internet shutdowns.

5. Introduce Accountability Criteria for Discrimination and Misleading Content


There needs to be an understanding as well as a template of accountability. Technology has to be responsible, it should not be promoting misleading content. Ensure all marginalised groups or the groups that tend to get ignored  - have to be focused on.

6. Promote Regulation of Artificial Intelligence


Discussion on three 'E's- Ethical: human-centered; Equity: access needs to be equitable, to prevent gaps of people who are outside data; Expertise: AI will not achieve its goals and won't be useful if the data which it draws is not good. How do we loom at verifiability and authenticity of the data? It was also talked how we need to apply shorter time frame to regulations, given the nature of development of technology.

7. Digital Commons as a Global Public Good


Digital resources and access is critical for everyone, and based on Right based principles - of universality, diversity, accessibility, access agnostic.

Also from the event was the Discussion and release of India's Million Missions: 75 years of Service Towards NationBuilding.

Member Report - India's Millions

This is an excerpt on what the report is about:

In the 75th year of India’s independence, this exercise through multiple reports, attempts to measure the significant contribution of the Indian non-profit sector to the nation. We are on a mission to document credible evidence of the contribution of non-profit organisations, widely disseminate the findings and constructively engage with government, business and citizens.

Through this study, we wanted to provide a snapshot on what millions of non-profit organisations have done in 75 years in India. We welcome journalists, policy makers, governments, educators, students and the general public to write about the good work being done with dedication across the country, with meagre resources raised in difficult circumstances, to reach the ‘unreached’, the ‘last and the least’.

You can read the report here.

mBillionth Award, Social Media for Empowerment Award and eNGO Challenge Award

Awarded to mobile practices that bridge the digital divide, empower people, and advance socio economic equality, the award recognises and rewards best practices in mobile world. The mBillionth Award recognises and felicitates innovations and excellence in mobile tech solutions, innovations and initiatives in addressing key social, economic and sustainable development and transformation changes in the South Asia Region (SAR).

The eNGO Challenge under the umbrella of Digital Empowerment Foundation’s eNGO Programme was put into conception with an objective to recognise and facilitate the grassroots organisations doing exceptional work using digital tools. The eNGO Challenge is now seven years old and recognises best practices across South Asia.

Mr Jayesh Ranjan, the IT secretary of Telangana was the chief guest of the award ceremony.

The winners will be announced on the pages:

mBillionth Award

eNGO Challenge Award

Social Media for Empowerment Award

Following are some of the other news that got our attention from the other media. In particular, there was a huge coverage and discussion over the fake news and misinformation that was spread on the issue of mistreatment of migrant workers in Tamil Nadu… All media coverage proved with evidence that it was a concentrated effort to spread fake news and misinformation and there was no truth that migrants from Bihar face any kind of mistreatment from Tamil Nadu.

And of course the media was full of the coverage around the importance of women coinciding with the International Women’s Day on 8th March.

Following is a thread of tweets that Osama Manzar posted about how the case of SoochnaPreneur is chosen by researchers from ISB Hyderabad and Doane University, Lincoln, Nebraska USA; Aindrila Chatterjee and Amit Chauradia respectively to analyse and conclude that women rural entrepreneurs could be far more dependent, efficient, economical, and socially influential in making benefits and services, including digital, reach the village folks. The name of the report is The Impact of Recruiting Women Entrepreneurs on Reducing Mission Drift.

It was an exhilarating, and rewarding twenty-year journey with the commitment of connecting the unconnected population - this week's event was just one of the several milestones. Subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on our work! We pledge to Leave no Voice Behind.

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TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad, is a weekly conversational bulletin curated through the news and discussions on social media as well as what's happening on the ground. Through the eyes and ears of Digital Empowerment Foundation across rural India and global south, TypeRight aspires to focus on bringing the contextual relevance of digital technologies and developments on the society - both connected and unconnected.