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Digital Advocacy Around the World: Who We Met During IDIW2018

The inaugural International Digital Inclusion Week is over! (Not that it’s really ever over, but technically.) It was a week full of discussion and spreading awareness of digital inclusion issues not only in our own backyards here in the States, but all over the world.

International Digital Inclusion Week was the brainchild of two advocacy great organizations, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance. The two groups hosted a web panel at the beginning of the week, featuring four digital inclusion advocates from different countries, to discuss the kind of strategies being tried around the world. You can find the recording of that panel here.

As a kind of round-up of the week, let’s talk a little about some of the different international groups mentioned. Events like last week are such a good opportunity to remind ourselves that this kind of work is not done in a regional vacuum, but a global issue. If you have a chance to listen to the recording, the discussion really highlights all the unique angles that digital inclusion advocacy can take, and the challenges of working with such a variety of demographics. As the point is made over and over, not everyone who is excluded from digital access fits in the same neat box, and the spectrum of what inclusion looks like is wide.

Starting Point Community Learning Partnership : As was pointed out repeatedly in the opening panel discussion, digital inclusion is inextricably linked to social inclusion issues. When Starting Point began to address digital inclusion in their own community of Stockport, UK, they found that the barriers to digital participation were much more complicated than simply infrastructure or access. For instance, if someone can’t read, that’s a pretty big first barrier to being online. Starting Point tackles both social and digital issues, from food bank services to computer training and workforce development, and even financial coaching.

DAISSy, which stands for Dynamic Ambient Intelligent Social Systems, is a research group based out of Hellenic Open University in Patras, Greece. Their mission is to develop technology and networks that support a better standard of human life, and the group of includes professors, experts in computer science, artificial intelligence and social sciences, and experienced engineers and programmers. The long group of products they have developed include smart classrooms, peer learning platforms, tech to support precision agriculture, and much more. But they work on policy as much as products, developing digital literacy frameworks, literacy coach training classes, and policy consulting.

The Digital Literacy Project, at the University of Queensland, AU, is currently developing training modules and curriculum recommendations to enhance their students’ potential as citizens of the digital economy. This includes topics like learning to recognize fake news, how to use social media responsibly, and how to be a politically engaged online citizen. The project seeks to equip students with a base set of standard capabilities that help them be fully engaged in the digital world, from work skills to life skills.

In India, Trickle Up is piloting a program to connect women in extreme poverty with smartphones, giving them access to essential information like government benefits, job training, and financial options. While only in the pilot stage now, the goal is to scale up the program to connect over 25,000 women eventually, not only giving families access to key services and increasing their potential livelihood, but also helping government services respond to the needs of their communities by providing them with real time data and feedback about accessibility.

While not international, let’s give the Digital Inclusion program at the San Antonio Housing Authority an honorable mention. In 2015, San Antonio was named one of the 28 pilot communities to participate in the Connect Home initiative. This government-funded program includes digital literacy training, refurbished tech options, and the expansion of physical fiber installations. SAHA recently won a 10,000 grant through Mozilla’s Smart Community Networks Challenge, and used the money to create a solar-powered mesh network, bringing wifi to 757 housing authority customers.

We’re looking forward to hearing more from all these groups in 2019!