Talk:WS 2: Confronting the digital divide (1) - Internet access and/as human rights for minorities

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NOTE: The Session CONFRONTING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE is comprised of two workshops looking at internet access and human rights for minorities and refugees. WORKSHOP 2, is entitled Internet Access and/as Human Rights for Minorities. WORKSHOP 10 is entitled Refugees, human rights and Internet access.

Detailed session description

This session is the first of two workshops looking at internet access and/as human rights. It will be addressing a range of social, legal, and technical issues at the intersection of human rights and internet access (including physical and mobile access points and the means to fully engage with, and enjoy services once online) for minorities, broadly defined. The session will consider themes such as:

1) Perceptions around access for people with disabilities as a separate rather than an integral element to the intersection of technical and policy-based dimensions to human rights-based internet design and term of use; e.g. when and how policy agendas need to account for the technical aspects to ensuring that online content is accessible to people with various disabilities, and to account for these features as they are developed collaboratively by the technical community and people with disabilities.

2) Regulatory and commercial environments as enabling, and reasons for when they may be obstructive; e.g. consider how to reconcile the needs and design requirements of disadvantaged communities with varying regulatory requirements around who funds and supports roll-out of applications and software that can mandate appropriate technical solutions respectively.

3) Terms of Reference: Reconsidering what we mean by both “access” and “minorities” and their implicit relationship to human rights frameworks for internet governance includes, but is not restricted to considering the following points:

  • For public discourses across Europe, how to develop ways of re-articulating “minorities” as a category that goes beyond a term for those with disability, migrants and/or refugees and so include ethnic minorities, linguistic minorities, LGBTiQ communities, and users requiring support in acquiring computer-skills and other sorts of digital literacy.
  • The practical implications of recognizing the intersectionality of these issues; i.e. incorporating policies and practices that acknowledge the ways in which people belong to more than one group/community or experience and how this impacts on their experience at single, or multiple points of digital exclusion.

4) Sociocultural and Techno-legal Contexts in which policy-makers, commercial and government service providers set agendas around access and terms of use include such issues as

  • Lack of understanding about what people can do with access, and why it is important to ensure that once online all can participate fully and without being disadvantaged through design factors or discriminatory terms of use.
  • How terms of use such as Informed consent impact on minorities and disadvantaged users e.g. in relation to privacy, the right to participate fully in online life, access to education and information in particular.
  • How to reconcile the gap between free services by commercial providers with governmental obligations towards all citizens’ human rights once they are online; e.g. issues around privacy and protection of personal data for those with disabilities or from minorities when required to supply sensitive information before accessing a service.
  • What is a safe space online in social spaces dominated by mainstream conventions, such as is the case in free services hosted by commercial networks or censorious public service providers in particular. For instance, should persons with minority needs or those potentially subject to trolling or other discriminatory behaviors be "required" to set up their own spaces, or should this be the obligation of the service provider, or platform owner?

5) The Future of Public access. How can access to the internet, and once online to a full range of goods and services be supported by public institutions and in public spaces? Read more…. How can access to the internet, and once online to a full range of goods and services be supported by public institutions and in public spaces? This raises questions such as:

  • What are the techno-legal challenges to developing, and maintaining “trusted neutral spaces” as a means that is integral to providing vulnerable populations, within and outside of Europe, access to the internet.
  • How do these concerns, and undertakings in the European context resonate with commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals? E.g. as the Global Connect Initiative has underlined, libraries can be just such an example.
  • If this principle of public access is recognized, how to implement it e.g. with both adequate investment (in both capital and personnel), as well as a privacy framework which inspires confidence for all users, including those with less know-how or resources? This is particularly valid for asylum seekers, who face both an uncertain status and need to be connected with home (see Workshop 10).


This workshop is in tandem with Workshop 10 which focuses on issues specific to how these issues relate to the access needs, internet uses, and emerging challenges once online for refugees during their journey and, once settled in Europe, for communities of newcomers.