Democracy has always required the free flow of ideas. In the modern age, this means a free, open internet where all citizens can freely voice their opinions, share, and debate. Access to an open internet for all is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement and governance, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability.
The Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program – a collaboration between the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) – is a year-long non-residential leadership program that empowers emerging leaders from across the globe to build their advocacy and organizing skills to protect internet freedom.
The Open Internet for Democracy Leaders is a unique cohort of global advocates from civic organizations, media, and the private sector who are passionate about protecting and promoting an open internet.
The program aims to:
- Empower emerging open internet advocates to advance internet policy discussions and organize for change in their country and/or region.
- Strengthen the Open Internet for Democracy Community by connecting emerging open internet advocates with their global peers.
2022-2023 THEME: UNITING GRASSROOTS VOICES FOR DIGITAL DEMOCRACY IN AN ERA OF RAPID POLICY CHANGE
Ensuring that the internet is governed in a way that protects human rights and fosters inclusive civic and economic participation is essential for democracy to survive in the digital era. Yet, over the past decade, there has been a global decline in internet freedom, and it has become easier for governments and non-state actors to close the digital space. Over the past year alone, at least 48 countries have proposed laws or new policy directives aimed at regulating social, economic, and political engagement online, according to research from Freedom House. Change in the digital policy landscape is accelerating as governments and policymakers feel compelled to develop and implement laws as quickly as possible.
It has become increasingly difficult for diverse stakeholder groups to quickly provide meaningful input at the national, regional, and international levels. Without broad-based multi-stakeholder engagement, there is a higher chance that new policies will be poorly conceived or infringe upon internationally recognized human rights.
This year, the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative seeks to adapt and strengthen digital rights advocacy tactics in a context of rapid digital policy change. The Leaders Program is looking for advocates from diverse stakeholder groups (media, civil society, the technical community, and the business sector) who are defending digital democracy by pushing back against harmful legislation impacting the digital space in their countries and regions. Leaders will connect and collaborate with peers and mentors around the world to discuss how they are grappling with these rapid policy challenges.
The Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program is looking for applicants who pinpoint a particular digital rights policy issue occurring in their country or region that, if left unaddressed, poses a direct threat to democracy. In particular, we are looking for applicants who are interested in building connections and close collaborations with other stakeholders to address these problems. Collaboratively, they will develop a research product to raise awareness about these policy developments in a global context, contributing case studies from their own country’s experience with the issue. This research product will take a novel approach to tackle these rapid digital policy developments and share findings at regional and global forums. Following this publication, each Leader will conduct an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the policy or policies threatening an open and democratic internet in their country or region.
1. Create a joint policy paper on ways to strengthen digital governance
- Together, the cohort will collaborate on a joint policy paper to produce recommendations and case studies that identify opportunities and threats around a specific policy trend with a significant impact on an open, and democratic online space.
- The cohort will select the topic during a four-day in-person project design sprint (anticipated to take place in late January 2023, location TBD). The policy paper will be further developed and finalized through ongoing virtual engagement with the cohort throughout the remainder of the Leaders program.
2. Conduct national or regional advocacy to strengthen digital governance
- Individually, Leaders will be responsible for organizing a local or regional activity with diverse stakeholders (e.g. civil society, independent media, and local business) to disseminate the findings from the policy paper produced as a cohort (see first bullet point). Some examples of possible advocacy activities include:
1. An advocacy campaign to raise awareness among policymakers about the pitfalls of policies that would contribute to the spread of digital authoritarianism.
2. Training modules or videos that explain the implications of digital authoritarianism for civil society, media, and/or the private sector.
3. A multi-stakeholder workshop or roundtable discussion (with civil society, media, and/or the private sector) to discuss a proposed government action that threatens digital rights.
4. A clear strategy for engaging local and regional open internet advocates and groups to collaborate on future efforts.
3. Communications and Outreach
- Produce at least 1 blog post or article for https://openinternet.global
- Actively engage in conversations on open internet issues, such as on Twitter with the program’s @OpenNetGlobal account.
4. Community Collaboration & Thought Leadership
- Participate at the 2022 Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (virtually or in person – TBD)
- Contribute to knowledge and awareness of the Open Internet for Democracy Community about local/regional/national threats to an open internet through participation in relevant events and ongoing information sharing.
Selected applicants will be joining a community of like-minded advocates in which they will have opportunities for peer learning and sharing their work. During the program, Open Internet Leaders will:
- Receive an honorarium of $2000 USD for completing their required activities
- Learn from leaders in the digital rights and advocacy community during presentations and workshops
- Access mentorship and soft skills training opportunities
- Connect with a cohort of Leaders during an in-person project design sprint*
- Participate as Open Internet for Democracy representatives at international conferences such as the Internet Governance Forum* and RightsCon
* Note: participation is anticipated to be in-person, but may change depending upon COVID-19 restrictions.
- Demonstrated interest or experience working on digital rights and open internet issues, with preference given to those focused on media, local private sector/business, or civic/political participation
- Experience in one or more of the following areas: policy, activism, research, or technical expertise
- Strong writing skills
- Ability to work independently with minimal supervision in collaboration with colleagues across different time zones
- Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills
- Fluency in written and spoken English
- Demonstrated public speaking experience speaking a plus
- Ability to travel to at least one international conference (location TBD; costs covered; In-person participation in such events is contingent on health considerations related to the COVID-19 pandemic) a plus
- Access to a reliable internet connection that will enable participation in video or virtual workshops or conferences
- Ability to actively participate in regular check-in calls with program organizers and in virtual orientation sessions
- Applicants must live and work in an OECD-DAC eligible country.
- Applicants must go through the official web portal to access the application link.
- Fill out all the information carefully.
Application Deadline: July 8, 2022Application ClosedOfficial link