IGF 2018 WS #413
Digital Security at the Grassroots:Realities,Needs&Challenge

Organizer 1: Smita Vanniyar, Point of View
Organizer 2: Datta Bishakha, Point of View

Speaker 1: Datta Bishakha, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Lisa Garcia, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Gilberto Cutrupi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Anja Kovacs

Online Moderator

Smita Vanniyar


Smita Vanniyar


Panel - 60 Min


Bishakha Datta, from Point of View, India, has been facilitating a series of workshops on digital rights and digital security work called The Missing Link. These workshops are done with gender and sexuality rights organisations which work at the grassroot levels, and in peri-urban and rural areas. She will be bringing in the learnings from these workshops on what doesn’t work, what works, and what is needed.

Lisa Garcia has worked with human rights defenders working on the issue of the drug wars in Philippines. Based on this work, she will be speaking about how the widows from the drug wars protect themselves in the online space.

Gillo Cutrupi is a digital security trainer who has worked with several organisations in different countries, who are dealing with a variety of threats. As a holistic digital security practioner, his knowledge on what can be adopted and adapted from existing cybersecurity practices, and what more can be done will be very beneficial in bringing together the existing practices and tools and what more is needed.


Bishakha Datta and Lisa Garcia both identify as women and currently work and reside in global south economies of India and Philippines respectively. Datta works extensively at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and technology.

Gillo has been part of the cyber security circles and has worked closely with human rights defenders and organisations closely in varied economies.

One of the first steps one takes to protect their device, a mobile phone or the computer, is to use a password to lock the device. But what if you’re a 19 year old college student living with her parents in India and they ask you unlock your phone? What if you are woman who has no choice but to share your password with a family member, husband or partner? When one mobile phone is shared between the whole family, how can one ensure that their privacy is maintained? When WhatsApp may not be the most secure of instant messengers, it is immensely popular. Can grassroot activists afford to not use it anymore due? What about the digital security of widows and orphans of those killed in the drug war in Philippines? And the human rights defenders working on this?
These are some of the questions which we will be discussing and trying to answer during this session. Without taking digital security practices to the grassroots as per their needs and requirements, it will be very difficult to get digital security to the next billion, who are coming online. Or to the billions who need digital security to meet them where they are - and to offer them solutions based on the low-tech mobile phones they use everyday.

This session will be in the form of a panel discussion with speakers presenting their learnings and work derived from working on digital security with diverse demographics. The main aim of the session is knowledge sharing with the focus on bringing together digital security, usability, and grassroot users.
The session will also have a digital security trainer inputting from a technical and training perspective. A combination of this will help in bringing out solutions which can be used by people at different levels of internet usage.

There will be a question and answer, and input round after the speakers present. A mic will be passed around in the room for taking inputs and questions from the onsite participants. Smita Vanniyar will be reading out the questions and inputs from the remote participants to the whole room so that they are a part of the discussion and not isolated from it.

This workshop foregrounds the experience of addressing digital security in grassroots communities in Asia, and is based on their lived realities, holistic security needs, and technical challenges. The communities we represent are low-income, based in urban, rural and semi-urban regions of Asia. While individuals in these communities use mobile phones, these are often shared family phones - most of these are older ‘feature’ phones or basic phones, not smartphones. Conventional digital security curricula do not always meet their needs.
However, like everyone else who uses digital devices, women and young people in these grassroots communities are aware of the need for digital security - security that is holistic, based on their lived realities and tailored to the digital devices they use.
This workshop contributes to the mandate of broadening and including issues which are of relevance in developing countries in relation to technology and internet governance. It is important to look at cybersecurity, trust, privacy and human rights from the point of view of grassroots users. It is important for digital security to meet the needs of all users, not just security professionals, those working on technology or digital rights, or those with access to more sophisticated technologies. Some of the most popular and well known digital security practices do not work with large sections of the population as their specific needs are not answered by the solutions which are commonly known and used.

This workshop will have speakers from different regions and working on different issues sharing their work around ensuring privacy and human rights at the grassroot levels, and pull out best practices which can be adapted and implemented in other places. This will be a direct capacity building outcome of the workshop and will help in greatly increasing the diversity of the participants as well as the conversations around cybersecurity, privacy, and trust.

Online Participation

We will be live tweeting the whole session to ensure that the conversation does not just stay inside the room, or just at the IGF. This will also include provisions to take questions from the online participants via social media as well as from those participating remotely on the IGF platform.

We will also set up a Sli.do page which will be promoted before and during the session to allow for more continuous inputs and questions from the participants, both onsite and remote.