How Tech Communities Can Contribute to Shaping the Internet We Want
By Mary Rose Ofianga, 2018-2019 Open Internet Leader
An open internet, as defined by the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative, means “all citizens can freely express themselves, share and debate ideas, and engage in economic activities. Ensuring that the internet remains both open and accessible is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability.”
In order to maintain and promote an open internet, internet governance that promotes a democratic and inclusive online space must be in place. Internet governance is a set of evolving mechanisms and policies for internet development and use, typically hinging on the actions of policymakers.
Effective internet governance requires mulistakeholder consultations to define the most reasonable policies that do not infringe on the user’s fundamental rights, as outlined in the Democratic Principles for an Open Internet. As policymakers may not have enough expertise in the way the internet functions, the tech community can play a crucial role in shaping internet governance.
Being experts in the design and use of internet platforms, tech communities can provide valuable insights for policymakers on the development of the internet. By playing this type of advisory role, diverse stakeholders play a role in accountability so that decision-makers can create optimal solutions to global internet-related issues.
The tech community can also play an important role in developing solutions that address the end users’ ever-changing needs, such as making information more accessible, particularly for marginalized communities. In order to develop such solutions, it is important to gather input from civil society organizations.
As a member of the tech community, here are some examples on how to become involved in order to play a key advisory role in shaping internet governance:
Join the internet community. Get involve by connecting with the Internet Society chapter in your country or city. The Internet Society is a multistakeholder group that seeks to promote an internet that enriches lives and is a positive tool for society. As an individual or organization from the tech community, your knowledge and skills are valuable to a forum or group such as the Internet Society chapter, as you can be a resource for technical discussions, while also learning from other members of the Society.
Engage with civil society. Help break the digital divide by creating solutions, platforms, and programs that are accessible by marginalized sectors of the society. Consult with civil society organizations, and other groups such as persons with disabilities, senior citizens, or youth, and offer your help to develop a solution with and for them. By directly asking these groups what the needs are, you will develop a more effective technology solution.
Reach out to policymakers and government agencies. Reach out to government entities to let them know that you are willing to help when new policies and regulations affecting internet governance, such as data privacy, are being formed to provide your expertise. By building rapport with the government, you can play a key advisory role in developing policies that ultimately keep the internet open, inclusive, and secure in your city or locality.