Public Knowledge Cultivates Learning Community of Digital Rights Advocates

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The Open Internet Course is available for free here. The course was designed to be enjoyed on a self-learning basis, so we encourage readers to take it independently or explore the wide range of topical resources available. For more information, please see our dedicated course page.

Last week, Public Knowledge concluded the third iteration of its Spanish-language Open Internet Course for digital rights advocates in Latin America. The online course, presented in collaboration with Peer 2 Peer University, began in 2015 as an open sourced and open licensed capacity building project. Its goal is to train, inform, and support advocates and policymakers to effectively engage in technology policy discussions and push for greater transparency and accountability in the policymaking process.

This year’s tutor-led class ran from February 6 - May 22 and hosted an enthusiastic group of 26 participants including academics, researchers, government officials, private sector consultants, and practitioners in the digital rights field. The course serves as a tool to provoke strategic thinking and support for community building through goal setting, strategy development, and campaign organizing. The comprehensive digital rights training enabled participants to build upon their existing knowledge, share their regional expertise, and think critically about the use of technology to enhance political participation and promote fundamental human rights.

This year’s class saw a significant increase in graduation, with a nearly 80 percent completion rate, the highest since the course initially began. To boost the sustainability of the training program, we welcomed alumni participants to serve as volunteer mentors and contribute to the course activities. The program provides a valuable forum for advocates to connect and share their knowledge and experiences. This is amplified as it encourages participants to learn from one another and gain a better understanding of the wider regional context in which they are operating.

Over the last three years, we have cultivated a growing community of expert advocates to actively engage and rally against some of the most oppressive initiatives posed by Latin American governments that threaten human rights and democratic values, including increased digital surveillance, repression against political activists, and attacks on media and journalists. Since 2015, Public Knowledge has trained close to 100 digital rights advocates and policymakers from almost every Latin American country. Thus far, the course has been enormously successful in reaching key audiences among leading digital rights organizations, providing practitioners with a core set of tools to help increase their strategic engagement, enhance their democratic participation, and positively influence technology policy moving forward.

Hover over the map to view the number of Open Internet Course participants by country

We have also worked with a community of allies to provide expert knowledge and skills that help advocates impact their government’s policies in a coordinated and thoughtful way. This year, we hosted webinars with new and returning digital rights experts, including Amalia Toledo who spoke about equality and non-discrimination online, Olga Cavalli who presented on the convergence of internet governance and trade agreements, and Leandro Ucciferri, an alumni from the 2016 Class, who discussed the main challenges to privacy and cybersecurity in Argentina. The live webinar sessions are highly regarded by students as they afford participants the opportunity to not only directly engage with top practitioners in the field, but to also share personal stories and experiences with their classmates on the relevant subject.

In addition to strategy development and best practices, our course also equips participants with the basic principles of internet governance and outlines multiple avenues and forums for direct engagement and participation. One of our participants contributed a guest blog post detailing her experience as a fellow at the Ninth School of Internet Governance, which was supplemented by her learnings on internet governance from the course readings and online discussions. Throughout the course, we encouraged participants to take advantage of similar fellowships and professional development opportunities to gain real world experience, including with the Organization of American States, ICANN, and the Latin America Internet Governance Forum.

Looking Forward

One of the key goals of the course has been to facilitate dialogue among digital rights advocates and policymakers. Based on participant feedback from the last three years, it is clear that this course has proven its ability to serve as a forum to help participants exchange knowledge and experiences, thereby allowing them to gain a deeper regional understanding of technology policy issues across Latin America.

Our course is ever evolving and we are constantly looking to adopt and improve our materials, as technology changes and new issues emerge. We are also continuously incorporating participant feedback into our content and the structure of the course. One of our 2017 participants, Raquel Rennó (Senior Researcher, Coding Rights), said of her experience:

The Open Internet Course by Public Knowledge was key to achieving a better and deeper understanding of important topics on internet governance and what constitutes an open and free internet. There is a focus on the Latin American context, but at the same time it’s possible to learn how topics are handled in other Global South and Global North areas, allowing for a big picture understanding. The course offers high-quality learning material, dynamic methodology and very supportive tutors. The discussion with other students from Latin America is also a relevant part of the course, making it possible to understand specificities and similarities between Latin American and Caribbean countries. I would strongly recommend the course to any professional in Latin America working with digital rights and internet governance in general.

An alumni from our 2016 Class, Martín Borgioli (Project Director, Hiperderecho) commented (translated):

The Open Internet Course is extremely important for our region. It serves all who want to enter into the internet governance dialogue with theoretical and practical materials. The platform facilitates the interchange of ideas with representatives from different countries, promoting a lasting community. The topics discussed address real and current issues, such as digital security, data protection, and spectrum management. It is always good to share our experiences and our successes and failures - that is why this course has become an invaluable tool for capacity building in Latin America.

See a full list of our testimonials here.

Public Knowledge is very proud to have hosted the Open Internet Course for a third year and welcomes additional collaborators to expand its global reach. We would also like to note that the course is designed in a manner that makes materials easy to integrate into other courses and training activities, so we encourage you to utilize them and to go through the materials at your own pace. We look forward to using the feedback we receive to facilitate another session of this course in the future.

To learn more details about the course, please refer to our related posts, PK Empowers Latin American Digital Rights Activists with its First Open Internet Course and PK’s Open Internet Course: What We’ve Learned and What’s Next.

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