The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. I think we are about ready to get started. Can you all hear me? All right. Thank you so much for attending. It's Friday, the last day of a very long and exhausting IGF.
So you are all really wonderful for showing up at 9:30 in the morning. Especially to talk about research, which I think many of you might think is boring, but I'm really excited about. So I hope we have some fun today.
My name is Laura Schwartz-Henderson. I'm a research and advocacy advisor at Internews. And I worked on a project called on Optima. It's not working. There we go.
Which is a project that works with advocacy communities in different countries around the world to build skills and resources to respond to internet shutdowns. To predict, prevent and develop advocacy in the long-term.
And what we will talk about today are some country needs assessments that we've conducted over the past 6-9 months. And those needs assessments really feed into everything that we do as part of this project in the countries we're working with.
As part of that, each country has a national prepare and prevent network which I will allow all of our panelists to talk about a little bit more because they are the ones who are making those networks happen.
We also implement trainings specifically on network measurements and have a number of resources available. And the needs assessments feed directly into one- to two-year advocacy campaigns that were developed as part of this process.
And then that all feeds into an internet shutdown toolkit that we have online. You can check it out. It's at PreparePreventResist.org. As well as a small grants program. So people can apply to create a resource that responds to some of the needs we've identified as part of this research.
But also who we are is all of the organizations that we work with. Right now we are working in four countries. In India we are working with the Bachchao Project and SFLC. On the panel today we have Chinmayi from Bachchao, Radica from SFLC is also in the room. And I just want to give a shout out to Torsha Sicar (phonetic) from CIS who was a main author on this project as well.
In Senegal we are working with an organization called Jonction and Computech. And (?) here is our representative of both institutions.
In Tanzania, we're working with Change Tanzania and Internet Society Tanzania. We have (?) here as well as (?) from Internet Society.
And then in Bangladesh, last but not least, we are working with Voice and Digitaly Right and Miraj Chowdhury is here as well representing.
Rebecca, who is also one of the main authors on the Tanzania report will be presenting the findings today.
So this clicker goes a little slow. And if you are here in the room and not tuning in online we have summary reports. So all of the reports are between 30 and 60 pages. And we didn't want to make you all read all of those, so we've printed out five to six-page summary reports for each of the country reports over there. And we encourage you to take those with you. Thank you.
So why are we doing all of this? When we have been working with a number of actors who work on internet shutdowns, we were thinking of some of the problems that advocates face. One of those being not all shutdowns are the same.
Sometimes we talk about internet shutdowns as if they happen the same in all places. But technically they happen in a lot of different ways. You can have full blackouts. You can have the network throttled and slowed. You can block specific platforms, messaging services.
And then the political context is really different. You will notice that the four countries that we are working in, two of them have, you know, legal systems and more democratic operating environments. And two it's a little bit harder for advocates to work with government and talk about why internet shutdowns are probably not the best way to go about things.
So we wanted to think through what does nuance look like. And then there are a lot of different stakeholders involved. It's roaming.
There are a lot of different stakeholders involved in shutdowns and impacted by shutdowns. So obviously government is a huge stakeholder in this work as well as ISPs.
And the people we think about in this community are activists, lawyers, journalists, technologists, but it is important to keep in mind that everybody in impacted.
So there is also banking sectors. Mobile finance. Basically any industry that is relying on the internet. People who are trying to communicate with their families abroad. Everyone is a stakeholder in internet shutdown.
But not everyone thinks about themselves as being a part of pushing back or knowing how to prepare for when a shutdown happens.
And then the last one, which you can't see, I don't know why the slides aren't showing it, but often when we do this kind of work and this kind of advocacy we are in rapid response mode.
Shutdowns often happen around crises. You know, governments are using them to control a situation. They happen around elections. So sometimes we can anticipate them. Sometimes we think we can, and we start mobilizing a few months in advance, but it's not a lot of lead time.
So what we found is that civil society often doesn't really have the expertise and capacity to fight shutdowns before they happen. So it is a bit of a chicken and egg.
Let's see if this clicker wants to work. There we go. So what are these community needs assessments? We wanted to understand civil society and a variety of stakeholders' perceived risks around shutdowns. Do they think that shutdowns are coming up? What were their experiences in past shutdowns? As well as what the existing technological and political context is.
We also wanted to know what they think their skill and resource gaps are for better doing this kind of advocacy and also what their needs are. And how we as a wider global community can build resources and support mechanisms.
And then finally, as I said before, with so many stakeholders invested in the internet staying on, especially during crisis, we want to understand how to broaden coalitions, improve stakeholder outreach, and build more sustainable campaigns.
So this slide is about our methodology. I'm a research nerd. I know most people don't care about methodology, but I'm pretty excited about this work because we wanted to really bring in a participatory design and so this research was done in stages.
We first run a survey. We did a snowball sample, so we really tried to get specific stakeholder groups that are both involved in internet shutdown processes but also impacted. And then we followed up. Once we did the initial analysis of those surveys, we ran workshops in a focus group setting and talked to people about the findings that we had.
We wanted to understand what some disagreements might be amongst groups. We wanted to get it a little bit more nuanced. I don't know why this keeps skipping ahead.
And then finally as a part of that we had co-design workshops. And a co-design workshop is kind of borrowed from the UX community. It allows people who are involved in processes to be more involved in designing the outcomes than they might normally be.
One thing that happens a lot in this space is because this advocacy is so rapid response we presume what is needed. And so in this case we really wanted impacted communities to tell us what they needed.
So that co-design process happened where everyone who was involved in the research told us how they wanted to respond to the strategic priorities and set advocacy goals. And we'll talk more about that in all of the countries. So I'm going to stop there.
I'm always happy to talk about methods. So if anybody has questions in the Q&A about that, I'm really happy to do that.
But I'm going to pass it over now to Miraj Chowdhury from Digital E-Rights to talk about the findings from the Bangladesh report.
>> MIRAJ CHOWDHURY: Thank you, Laura. It is a pleasure to be here. I will be brief.
We did this research like in a six months period. It was quite a long time. We consulted different people and organizations. But here you can see an overview.
From 2012 to April of 2022 we have seen at least 17 internet shutdowns of different types in Bangladesh. Right now when I'm talking -- and just in this month from October 23 to November, end of November, we have seen at least four throttling events targeting political rallies in local areas.
So I think it tells you that internet shutdown is nothing very rare in Bangladesh, rather it is very common, and it happens almost regularly, and it is growing.
So far we have seen that the main approach of throttling is the main approach of the internet censorship in Bangladesh. And we can see that it is growing since 2018.
And we know that there is election in 2024. We have seen that there was nationwide internet throttling in the 2018 elections. So the reasoning is that in January of 2024 there will be more events of censorships.
In this event in cases we have seen that government justification for this kind of restriction has been national security, technical problems, and disinformation, containing disinformation whereas all of the events were mostly targeting political tension and particularly communal riots that was hyper local and sometimes local.
So when this is the trend, we can talk about like Laura already talked about the methodology. So there was workshop. There was survey. There was consultations.
But what you see, the result we are going to see right now is the outcome of talking with hundred different people from different organizations. And they are mostly from civil society. There are male, female respondents. And there are journalists and students as well.
I would like to focus now on mostly the -- our what we found in the research. You can see that the people surveyed, 88% say that they had experienced internet shutdown in past three years. And shutdown -- when we asked both in workshops and in surveys, when we asked what impacts, what are the impacts of shutdown. So most say that it is business and economy.
Because Bangladesh has a growing digital economy. And even though the freelancing and business process outsourcing has become one of the largest foreign currency for Bangladesh, so I think it is one of the biggest sectors that is being impacted by internet shutdowns in different areas.
And unlike many other industries, this -- these IT-based workers are spread across the country irrespective of region and irrespective of geography. So they are the most impacted. And it is also reflected in the survey.
But what we also learned that it has economic impact. It has impact on speech because most of the shutdowns actually were targeting political protests. And when opposition, even students try to protest on social issues, we have seen there were throttling and blocking events.
So does shutdown really contain disinformation? Our workshop says yes and no. Because we -- most of them said like even the minorities when there was communal riot so when there is a shutdown actually they don't get the proper information.
When there is no internet, and therefore what they are receiving is the misinformation or disinformation that created the political riot or the communal riot. So this has been one of the key findings. Whereas one of the key justification of internet shutdown is containing disinformation.
So going further on why it happens. 63% view there are laws that enable internet shutdowns in Bangladesh, which is the Telecommunications Act and partly other acts as well that says when there is national security issue the government is capable to shut down the internet.
And we have also seen that whenever there is a shutdown there is no accountability because neither the telecom service providers nor the government issues any statement that we are shutting down internet or throttling internet for this reason or that reason.
So advocacy capacity. Only 6% of the respondents you can see that they are prepared for past shutdowns. They are not prepared when there are shutdown events.
And you know, there are future risks. I have told about this. There are election and this is a very turbulent time. There will be political events. And I told you that there were four internet throttling events targeting political rally in just one month, so it is growing.
And civil society doesn't have the capacity nor the technical capacity but also greater understanding of digital rights. So whenever there is an internet shutdown incidents, we don't see much talk about this. All these newspapers are reporting that yeah, internet speed is low or reduced in that area, but there is not a common consensus or understanding among the civil society that this is an important issue. And this is one of the reasons there is not enough research on the space so that they can take their argument to the authorities and service providers that this is how it is impacting our society.
So I think this is one of the needs that came out in our particular work that people need more technical training of network measurement so that they can document and create materials for informed advocacy so that you can take these discussions to different level so there are greater awareness of not only the policy makers but also the people that this is bad, actually internet shutdown is a violation of right.
So also that civil society, not only technical capacity but also there is a greater need for understanding that civil society needs more understanding over digital rights issues as well. Bangladesh doesn't have any digital rights community.
What is the positive side of circumvention? Most people use VPN, they know how to use VPN. And we have seen it across different ages, male, female. Mostly urban people they are using VPN circumvention. But they are not responding to shutdowns in the situations to create advocacy in the national level. The next slide, Laura.
So recommendation. So I addressed this a bit. So build digital rights capacity in our communities. And we need to support -- we are already trying, but we need to support to create volunteers who can measure internet shutdowns and create reports.
We need to document the impact of internet shutdowns which is currently absent. It helps inform advocacies in taking grassroot level impacts to the greater policy debate. And we should also include the vulnerable communities because we have seen that particularly in the remote areas even if there is a shutdown it is never reported. And that is why in cities people can talk about this, but for these communities no one talks about it.
So we need to document these cases and bring their voices into this discussion. And Bangla is a pretty dominant language that people speak in Bangladesh. So we believe that if you want to take this internet shutdown advocacy forward, we need resources, localized and contextualized, that needs to be developed.
And the key finding, I want to end with this slide, for a country like Bangladesh internet shutdown advocacy will need to start from the scratch.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Miraj. I will pass the mic over to Daouda Diagne who will be talking about the findings from our Senegal report.
>> DAOUDA DIAGNE: Thank you so much, Laura. Thank you all for being here and listening to us on the great work that we did with Internews.
I'm going to share a quick overview. Senegal, which is a peaceful country with a vibrant democracy and a lot of internet users. Because our population is around 15 million, and 12 million of them are using internet. 97.36% mobile users, they use internet from mobile users. Because we have a high rate of internet penetration and a high rate of on mobile devices penetration also.
As I said earlier, we are seen in Africa as the most vibrant and stable democracy in Africa. It doesn't mean that we cannot face internet shutdowns, okay. Because we have the government is talking about, for example, regulating the social medias. We have some signs that show that we can face shutdown. And the main one that we face was in March '21 where we have -- when we have a protests around the whole country.
And social media platforms were shutdown, was blocked. Because mostly people, and young people was using that to communicate and to give their positions and information on what they were going to do during the day and the location they are and yeah, to strengthen the protest.
Unfortunately, that shutdown was not well documented because we see it further in the presentation that we were not prepared for that, and we did not have skills or persons on the ground to document that shutdown.
And we have some, like I said, we have some signs that will -- that is showing that we can face some shutdowns in the future because we have upcoming election in 2024. And yeah, this is possible.
As Laura mentioned earlier, we did the same -- we shared the same methodology, okay. Conducting a survey. One month survey during March '22 where we targeted at least 70 people, different stakeholders. And then we have 56 responses that was very interesting and that made us organize a codesign workshop and focus groups in Dakar to gather those respondents and discuss the findings of the survey.
And we found that, for example, large majority of those people who responded lived in the capital city, Dakar. And only 31 of them were females. And as I said, we targeted several stakeholders, private sectors, businesses, technology sector, et cetera. Go ahead.
Thank you. And regarding what we found during that survey and confirmed during the workshop, we found that civil society is not very well prepared on that, on internet shutdown topics. And this is why we don't have a lot of clear data on those shutdowns, mainly on the one happened in 2021.
People don't know if the shutdown occurred or not. When the internet is not working they just went ahead to the operator and they said this is technical, okay. And it may be a shutdown.
So but we can't know if it is ordered shutdown or technical. As I mentioned, we don't have the skills on the ground to show -- to show if it is technical or ordered.
Okay. And that's why we have a lot of confusions on that survey and the response from the survey and from the workshop because 90% reported that they did not -- they didn't know how shutdown happen if it is technical or legally ordered.
Because on that shutdown we have no communication not from the government, neither from the government or from the operator.
So and we are -- 64% of those respondents that participate in the workshop are sure that it is likely that we will have shutdowns in the next future.
Okay -- sorry, unlikely. I was reading the opposite. And we have also found that it is likely that we face significant worries about the internet censorship and shutdown during the next election upcoming in 2024.
Civil society is not well prepared for that. So that is why when that shutdown occurred in 2021, we were really surprised. We got surprised. And a lot of activities were blocked. Journalists could not make their online papers. Businesses were blocked, and it was a great deal.
And during that brief survey and workshop, we found that only 6% reported that civil society was prepared. So we need to raise the capacity of civil society.
Only 32% used VPNs so this means that using circumvention tools is very few in Senegal. And most of the people don't know how to use that which is very, very, very, very important.
Also regarding network measurement. It is a problem. It's a problem because we don't have the capacity, okay. We don't have the capacity which means that the technology is here, but we don't know if -- how to use that. We don't know, people are not aware of the technologies to measure the network. So there is a big job to do on that point also.
And if there is a shutdown, we cannot litigate. Okay. There is no capacity of litigation on that issue. So also it was some of the main findings of the -- from the survey and the workshop.
And then what we -- moving to the recommendations just quickly. The main points are just we need to build capacities for civil society, for people on the ground to be able to measure the network, to be able to know if the shutdown is technical or legally ordered and prepare them for next shutdowns.
So that is why we built a network, prepare and prevent network which has been built after the workshop. And we are working around that to deliver activities in a next few months through Senegal to raise awareness to train people on how to measure the network and how to use circumvention tools. So we are going to build the network and build also capacity on those two main points.
We are also going to build capacity on the litigation. But we face some laws, okay. We don't have a specific law on internet shutdown, but we have laws that can let the government shut down the internet. We have the press code, we have the telecom code that can be used for security reason to shut down the internet.
And I will finish by just sharing the comments from a participant person at the workshop who said that all of the impacts are grim for a shutdown in next coming years in Senegal. Thank you so much. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Daouda. And now we will move on to India and Chinmayi from The Bachchao Project will be presenting the research findings. As many of you know, India is an exceptional country when it comes to shutdowns. So there is a lot of information. This is the longest report as well. Lots of work went into this.
>> CHINMAYI S K: Hello, everyone. So I'm going to be talking about internet shutdowns in India. Our work, that is the Bachchao Project work, SFLC work and (?) work with respect to the needs assessment in India.
We all know India has -- it is actually one of the leaders for internet shutdowns. Just in 2021 alone there was like 106 shutdowns. So we have a lot of internet shutdowns. And these internet shutdowns have been in various parts of the country. It is not in one place, but it is distributed around the country. And it is for various reasons. Some of it is for law enforcement. Some of it is for checking on cheating on exams. Some of it is for preventing like conflicts during elections. So it is various -- the shutdowns are used for various things.
One other thing to be noted about India is that we are on an index where we are declining media freedom. When you look over the years and when you look at the digital rights space in India, we see that the media freedom is decreasing, internet censorship is increasing, and that is a reality we live in.
Apart from this we do have certain laws which enable censorship, which enable shutdowns, so this also adds to an easy access to using shutdowns as a tool to prevent certain or rather like to use it for certain scenarios, I would say.
So given this context, we wanted to understand more about how it is affecting people in India. And we wanted to build and plan based on how people are affected and what their needs are essentially.
So that's where we went on to build this methodology. Of course like we used the same methodology that Optima built out to start with. That is we had surveys, we had interviews and then we had the co-design workshop. In the surveys, there were like 60 respondents and interviews that originally that was 26 interviews. The reason we had interviews in addition to the survey was because surveys just reached out to the English speaking respondents. But we also needed to include people who not necessarily are comfortable with English but have different language speaking abilities.
And also sometimes it is very difficult to access a survey in a place where bandwidth is not right. So we needed the access to be able to do for people who did not have the bandwidth. So we did interviews in addition to the surveys.
And the third thing that we did was co-design workshops. We did four workshops in four corners of the country. On in the north, Delhi. One in south, Hyderabad. One in the west in Jaipur. And one in the east which was in Guwahati. There is a reason for the location of these workshops, which I will speak further as well.
And then in these workshops we definitely shared what we learned from the surveys and the interviews and asked the participants of the workshops if they found these findings to be coherent with their experiences or there was something differing from their experiences. And we recorded those.
And essentially like we were able to involve 14 states, people from 14 states in India. And we had a lot of students involved in this. But we also had civil society, we had researchers, we had journalists. We had women who worked on gender rights, who worked on -- also people who worked in right to food, all of that.
So we had 36% of them who identified as minority linguistic, ethic, caste or religious group. We could increase that and should increase that, but this was a start.
In the workshops that we did, we were very intentional in terms of including people who were affected by shutdowns, who had seen shutdowns and interacted with shutdowns. So they had lived through shutdowns. And they had either, you know, interacted with the ISPs or interacted with the courts and challenged shutdowns in some cases.
Talked to people who were affected by shutdowns and were trying to circumvent shutdown or find ways to address the needs during shutdowns. So we tried to invite all of these participants and we tried to invite people from all the states. Like we said, we had people from 14 states. And that was intentional, we wanted people from every affected community to try and be there. So we wanted to support them to come to these workshops and we had smaller groups in the workshops so discussions could be free flowing.
And they were very less bias to discussions so that was also one of the things. And these were two-day workshops so we also in these workshops talked to them about if they wanted to learn something, if they wanted to have other conversations around shutdowns. And also provided a space for them so they could think about their needs without having to think about oh, I have to think about my needs in one hour or five minutes or ten minutes. So they could articulate their needs well in these workshops here.
So here are key findings from India. The respondents -- and this could be like a little bit of bias because we intentionally sought out people who had experienced shutdowns. So the respondents, 76% of the respondents had experienced at least one internet shutdown in the past three years.
And, of course, like there were certain states and communities which were having more shutdowns than others. Jammu and Kashmir had the longest shutdown in Indian history and followed, they also had like a lot of shutdowns. Then Assam, Manipur, West Bengal, Uttar, Pradesh and Haryana. They had more shutdowns. Rajasthan also followed it.
So we also found that even though a state had a shutdown, it's not necessarily the whole state had a shutdown, right. So in some of our workshops when we were talking to people, two people from the same state but maybe from different cities had like they had different experiences of shutdown. Some had more and some had less, and some did not even know of the existence of a shutdown. So that was it.
And then when it comes to the technical and legal understanding, there were a fair bit of people who know how to interact with the legal system. But only 38% considered themselves to be shutdown experts. 60% were familiar with the shutdowns. But a lot of people who we spoke to did not understand like how they were implemented or what are the orders -- sorry, what are the laws that they had to be used for implementing shutdowns and all of that.
So there was a little bit of less understanding in terms of technology that is used for shutdowns and how do they work with it. Yeah. Shutdowns are like I mentioned they occur for many reasons. Protests, communal violence and to control cheating on exams.
So we figured that the capacity -- around capacity we saw that only certain pockets of like the country had certain capacities. So only certain places people had the capacity -- the understanding of fighting shutdowns. And when it comes to network measurement, there was only like 33% reporting capacity. But I also think this is quite high. This is very few people knew how to use network measurement tools or report on shutdowns. We do have shutdown tracker in India which is run by SFLC so that does a very good job of documenting the shutdowns so that is one thing.
However, like when you looked at like network measurement tools, and when you about specific tools like people are not very aware of what tools to use or how to go about doing this, which is kind of expected given that we had participants from different parts of the country and not just like these pockets. So that is one.
One good thing with India is that we have been able to engage in litigation and we have been able to work with the courts. Like we have been able to file cases questioning the necessity and proportionality of shutdowns and the Courts have been able to look at them. Sometimes they have not been able to look at them because the duration of the shutdown is quite low. But in some cases they have been able to give good judgments around shutdowns. So that was there.
When it came to circumvention, though the awareness was high, the usage was low. One of the things, there was like concerns about usage of the tools. And there is a lot of hesitancy in usage of any sort of circumvention tool. So that was very much expressed through our workshops, through the surveys, and the interviews. Everyone expressed this.
So that is something that to think about that circumvention, when there is a need, especially in shutdowns you have needs, you have medical needs, you have -- you have needs of ensuring that your loved ones are safe. So how do you provide for these needs, how do you take of these needs when shutdowns are happening? Shutdowns don't just affect like somebody who is running a business or somebody who is working in the information technology sector. Especially with India we have the welfare system that is tied to internet and that does affect a lot of people's access to it. And it is also upsetting people who use the internet for gig work. A lot of common people who get affected by the internet shutdowns and it is not a few set of people.
And having a way for communication, having a way to work for the needs is important. Okay.
So what are we doing? What are we planning to do? One is we just definitely want to engage with more and more of people who are outside of the pockets of digital rights activists. And we want to help them understand what is a shutdown and how -- like what are their rights around shutdowns and what are the laws and understand how they can prepare for shutdowns, that is one. So that is definitely there. And then there is capacity building around measurement because it is also important to document even if you are not able to fight back it is very important to know that the -- why the shutdowns occurred, if they occurred like are they affecting people or not. So essentially building around measurement or documenting the shutdowns and also we are thinking about are even the circumvention tools working? So that is something that we want to try and see. And then the most important part of what we want to do in India is we want to support local communities, think for themselves and fight their fight which a lot of the communities are doing.
Frankly, like you might hear only from like a few organizations from India who are (?), but (garbled audio).
So it is important that we support those local efforts so that is what we will be prioritizing as well. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you. We are going to move on to Tanzania. Rebecca is joining us. Rebecca Ryakitimbo who is a Mozilla fellow. She is joining us remotely, she was unable to make it. Rebecca, can you hear us. Can you speak?
>> REBECCA RYAKITIMBO: Yes, Laura, I can, I can hear you.
>> MODERATOR: Great. So whenever you want to begin, happy to hear from you.
>> REBECCA RYAKITIMBO: Thank you. Hi, everyone, I hope the IGF has been going well for you.
I'm Rebecca from Tanzania, and I was one of the researchers working on the needs assessment for Tanzania. So the case for Tanzania was not much different from what has been happening across different countries when it comes to shutdown.
However this was its gravest shutdown that happened in 2020 during election time. And there was a lot of telltale signs that had been there previously to show that there was a possibility of a shutdown come October 2020 during Tanzania's general election. Some of these included the political context of the country at the time.
When you see that between 2015 and 2018, there were a lot of restrictive legislation that were passed. And most of these legislations that were passed were affecting on how people are able to interact online. This included things like restricting freedom of expression online through acts and acts which sort of made the government the single source of truth. The Media Service Act which led to ban of newspapers and magazine and online media outfits.
Sort of stifling and then making the price to be very suppressed so this was one of the parts that happened in terms of legislations that were passed between that period.
But at the same time there was amendments made to things such as the Electronic and Postal Acts Communication which led to fines blogger's that was brought up. This also led to restraining the sector itself because now the content creators were sort of safer in one corner and had to have a lot of requirements for them to be able to publish content on the space.
But there was also restrictions to NGOs which led to the NGO Act that led to a number of changes which led for the internet shutdown to happen in 2020.
We had a new president in early 2021 with the passing of the late president. The new sort of brought in some kind of cautious optimism because people were hopeful there could be specific changes that could come up. However, people are still very cautious, and they are trying to look out if there is a possibility this could be a repeat of such because as I mentioned earlier the 2020 shutdown was the first of its kind for Tanzania and had not happened before.
Now with the thought or knowledge this has happened before the communities are more thinking about what will happen in the next election and how they can be able to better prepare. So part of this survey was trying to understand. Some indications there is some hope and somehow is that some of the restrictions have been lifted. However, this does not justify the fact that the same laws that were used to make these oppressive decisions or cause harm still exist.
So without these significant changes to laws that happened and the practices that exist within the country, there is no hope that we can hundred percent state for sure that during the coming election or any kind of imbalances that might face the country in the coming future might not lead to an internet shutdown. The possibility is still there.
So as I said before, people are cautiously optimistic. Activists have been taken out of prison, but the laws that put them in prison are still there. People spoke about the possibility if there is no significant changes to the legislation then the hope that this won't happen again is still not there because there are still the mechanisms that enable shutdowns.
So this shutdown history itself just to give a brief is that this practice began with censorship and laws that led to a lot of censorship in terms of how political parties operate and people interact in the cyberspace, how people share content, all of this was sort of leading towards that. And the first major one happened in the 2020 presidential election which there was a shutdown a day before the election October 27. And this end date between November 7 and 11. Approximately 11-15 days total of internet shutdown. And this included a longer shutdown of Twitter space.
Also something else that happened at that time was the banning of the SMS sharing. So it was a limited factor in terms of sharing information. The shutdown took on different approaches but also VPNs were banned and electronic (?) another way that legislation can we used to restrict or force things such as censorship.
Moving on to the methodology that was used on the needs assessment research. There was a survey that was sent out widely on an online forum and we had about 140 respondents who responded to questions around what they know about the shutdown. First of all, what is a shutdown? What is the shutdown experience? What is the potential capacity for NGOs to prepare, prevent or respond to internet shutdowns.
So we had 150 respondents who responded to the survey. But also had a focus group with youth digital content providers who make their business on the online space. Why do I say they make their business on the online space? They make use of social media platforms to be able to share content on their work. They publicize their work there and they also are able to get clients through the same platforms by using different applications such as WhatsApp and ATC.
We found out that most of these youth online content creators, most relied mostly on the online platform and did not have physical offices for work, so they were greatly impacted by the shutdown. So one we tried to understand how frequently the internet users were impacted by the 2020 shutdowns and the different needs.
And we looked at how this affected vulnerable groups such as youth and women. But we also had a codesign workshop in Dodoma which brought participants from different parts of the country, and we presented the analysis from the survey findings. And then from there initiated different discussions with the participants to understand their view and different concepts including things like circumvention tools, network measurements, how can you carry out and there were interesting factors that came out in the process.
So for demographics of the respondents, they represented 14 unique regions across Tanzania. Then we had 62% female and 38% male. Majority of the respondents were journalists, 46%.
Moving on to the key findings that we got from the research. So one interesting factor was that people had a challenge in defining what really an internet shutdown is. There was confusion in terms of how people define the internet shutdown and what the internet shutdown means to them. So there was sort of a disagreement also as well over the likelihood of a shutdown. As I said, people were kind of cautiously optimistic at the time because of the new presidency that had come into power.
So about 49% of them were do not know or were not sure if the government would shut down the internet in the next three years. They were in the midst of it all and trying to understand how this new government would be operating. Probably somebody did a survey a few months later, two years into the new presidency the results might change because of how they are seeing how things have been operating.
But at the time of the needs assessment most of them were not sure. They were cautiously optimistic and kind of hoping for the best but not sure if that is what will happen. 20% thought a shutdown is likely or very likely to happen. Some of them during the discussion thought the nature in which the new president came in gave the president the possibility of trying to maintain power and stay in office after the election. So the possibility is there they could also make use of the same tool of internet shutdown to make sure they are able to control or manipulate the coming elections. So there was that fear as well amongst the participants.
19% regarded the shutdown as unlikely or very unlikely. There were bugs listed on newspapers and magazines and changes made to how different sectors in the digital ecosystem operated. So there was that disagreement of the likelihood of possible shutdown. But also (garbled audio). As you saw in the 2020 election for the first time there was a shutdown but also all of the underlining factors that sort of stifled how the election took place. Things like the laws that came into place and statistics and how they worked out.
Something else that came up from the findings was that the awareness about shutdowns so 71% of the respondents -- then you find that only 71% of them say they have experienced an internet shutdown. So what does the rest of that percentage tell you when they think that an internet shutdown, they have not experienced an internet shutdown when it is obvious it happened in 2020.
That already shows that the knowledge is low on what an internet shutdown is, first of all. And most of them were kind of confusing it with technical difficulties that happened. Sometimes when there is challenges with connection connected they couldn't tell a difference between the shutdown. And that already shows the gap in terms of awareness on what the internet shutdown means and if it happened and how do you detect this is an internet shutdown and not a technical issue.
Also they had a significant impact, so we asked the participants to identify the areas which they thought were very impacted a lot by the shutdown that happened in 2020.
So a large percentage, 74% thought that they were affected because the businesses that rely on the internet were greatly affected at that time. It was a participants who worked in the digital marketing and sales who say that at the moment they had to really just scale down because much of the work was on promoting content on social media platforms, creating digital content for customers, so they were kind of stuck in the phase where they did not know what step to take next.
And then 58% reported that the shutdown in the democratic actors and parties and activists. In the sessions, the in-person workshop in Dodoma, we found that people thought that during the shutdown political parties who maybe were making use of different platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to mobilize share information with the communities follow up on elections, sort of hold accountable the election bodies had the challenge because this was not possible because the platform which is large mass of people at the same time was not working the way it was supposed to.
Then also this is the same with activists, democratic actors following up elections and sharing information. Some of them were already aware on what to do and were making use of tools that enable them to access the internet despite the challenges.
However, if the people you are reaching out to are not all aware and connected the information is not shared so the issue about saying if we can possibly say that the 2020 election was free and fair remains something that cannot really be concrete and you cannot really say because the shutdown hindered the ability to hold the election accountable in cities was free and fair because people did not have a chance to obtain access to information.
74% also reported that the shutdowns prevented them from doing jobs. Reports that online meetings and, et cetera. 48% said it prevented them from conducting business online. Those were the things that really stood out in the space.
They also said that civil societies were unprepared for the last shutdown. 64% reported they were unprepared and very or prepared. Only 6% said they were prepared. This shows that the gap because the civil society for people to push or speak about this were left behind.
Some other things that came up from the respondents when expressing the capacity as low in the case of future shutdown so there's also the fact that about 69% reported that civil society still had little or no capacity to stop an ongoing shutdown. If that possibility happened again in the coming elections they were not yet ready or prepared to respond.
52% said there is little to no capacity to engage in preventative advocacy. There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of making sure that the communities themselves build digital resilience to respond to internet shutdowns when they happen again in the near future whether due to elections or other matters within the society.
And there was also a digital gap identified in terms of network measurement. There was a lot of confusion especially around network measurement tools and circumvention tools and how they were used, the difference between the two, where we find that participants had very narrow understanding especially on network measurement tools and how they are used.
So we spoke to journalists trying to understand how they can make use, for example, of network measurement tools to prepare and know this information ahead, document the shutdowns and be able to share maybe the community advocacy efforts.
And that part showed already there was quite a small -- a huge knowledge gap actually in terms of network measurement tools. The same applied in terms of how civil society did not have or had very little capacity, there was issue on (?) knowledge.
So most of them, they say that the laws in Tanzania sort of made it easy for the government to shut down the internet and censor online content. And there was also the fact that there were little agreement on avenues for reform. Most of them believe that the avenues that could be used in terms of the court or litigation efforts against shutdowns were very much limited to capacity, first of all, of the judiciary system. Capacity of the advocates and legal workforce, but also just the laws themselves that do not provide enough avenues for people to see redress in case of internet shutdown.
54% believe that civil society had little to no capacity for (?) shutdowns in court and engage in strategic litigation. So the strategic litigation act was something that really stood out because most of the people who participated in the survey as well as the in-person workshops believed that civil society in Tanzania did not have enough capacity to hold or engage in strategic litigation and also the judicial system itself did not have much experience in responding to such when it comes to the digital space itself.
So when it comes to circumvention tools, awareness and usage, 71% had some knowledge of tools and had used them. However, 14% had fears of using the tools. Some of the fears that came out first was that it is illegal. During the uprising or the beginning of the shutdown reported at that time some who did not have the knowledge on VPNs were actually forced to purchase from people.
So the clever ones within the communities were now selling and installing the VPNs in people's phones at a price. So people already felt that that was also a factor to limit them from accessing or using the VPNs. Moving on.
To the last -- the part that talks about what are the recommendations and next steps for the prevention. The first key thing that came up was a need to develop legal expertise and build legal strategy. So as I spoke earlier, that there is a gap in terms of strategic litigation how legal actors respond or carry out advocacy or how they are able to respond to an internet shutdown have the legal perspective so there is an imbalance there and lack of skills. So the legal professionals need more upskilling and how they can determine what kind of avenues they can use for reform within a context such as the legal framework of Tanzania, which is kind of cross-trained because of the different legislation that has been brought up recently.
But there is also a need to provide training for key stakeholders on network data collection. As I said, there was a confusion between connection measurement tools and circumvention tools and how he they are used. So the training on people and different stakeholders or understanding how each of these work, how they need to do more network testing, how they can also present the findings and use that -- the findings for advocacy.
So special training, specifically for journalists, activists, lawyers how they can use this network data reporting and advocacy.
There is also a need to engage in research to understand the attitudes around the VPNs and other circumvention tools. When we asked and shared about some specific VPNs, I think there were about two which were famous. One was Siphon that people spoke about. And one of the things they said about the use of Siphon is because there was a lot of campaigns around it before prior to the election because it was localized in Swahili so people kind of had some awareness in the community around the use of Siphon. Unlike the other VPNs that also exist.
And then engaging in outreach to impacted communities such as online business, content creators and also very special support to marginalized communities. So the vulnerable communities that we spoke to or participated in the workshop including People with Disabilities and women spoke that they had specific needs when it comes to the digital space and how they access information.
So the internet shutdown definitely affected them in a different way. But how can we ensure that we provide the first enabling environment for them to be able to prepare and prevent for -- to prepare and respond to the internet shutdowns. But at the same time how best can we ensure they have all these different avenues to be able to access information especially during critical times such as election.
So marginalized communities such as women, youth, and People with Disabilities were definitely greatly impacted by the shutdowns.
As one of the courts says we need more collaboration with the government to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2020. They need to understand how shutdowns impact the country overall. That is looking also at specific groups, how does the internet shutdown affect marginalized communities, how does it affect the economy and others. Next -- I think I'm at the end actually.
>> MODERATOR: We appreciate you joining in and having all of your contributions with the research.
So there is so much we can say about the research (echo in audio). All the reports are now available online.
And also, if we had so much more time I would want everyone who is on the panel and also a few other of the partners who are in the room to talk more about how they are taking these recommendations forward in their advocacy.
As part of this project we provided some funding for them to operationalize on these recommendations, but it's my job to say to any funders and supporters in the room, if you want to support these groups and the work they are doing there is already a strategic priority so please reach out to us.
Also if anyone wants to replicate the methodology in another country, we are really open to sharing and doing this in other places.
If you also want to design a resource or engage more with any of the communities please reach out to us. And as has been said over and over gain, localization efforts are really important for training, for resources. If you want to be involved in translation, localization, please reach out to us.
I'm going to go to Q&A. We have about a half hour for Q&A. I will start with one of my own questions in part because we are at the IGF which is a nice opportunity for us to engage with government. And the tension, the elephant in the room I think here, and all the shutdowns has been the threat of hate speech, incitement of violence, communal violence that is really hard to figure out how do we control that.
And, you know, human rights communities are like shutdowns are not necessary and they are not proportionate. But also one of the things that we're trying to say, they're really not very impactful in controlling some of these big problems that we all really want to come up with solutions for. So my question to everyone on the panel is how do you think we can talk to government more to make them understand knowing that all of you are coming from different political contexts where maybe that's harder to do or easier to do. So, I guess, Miraj, if you want to start with that.
MIRAJ CHOWDHURY: I guess in my context it is like creating arguments, evidence based arguments. So if there is no research on impact, how it is impacting vulnerable groups, businesses, students, health and psychological impact like when there is any crisis, ex pat or a migrant worker cannot reach out to their family people, talking to them.
So if we cannot document the impacts how do we create the arguments that the internet shutdown is bad, and you should control it? If we cannot document like yes, although no one notified but we have observed internet shutdowns in this, this, and this area with proper network measurement, how do we create these evidences to create arguments?
I think this is where we lack, at least in Bangladesh there is no organization or initiatives that documents the impact, documents the trends, and documents arguments so that they can create advocacy and go to the government that this is what is being done and this is how we are doing it.
I think this is one side. Another side that came out is like another way is to engage businesses. Sometimes business associations are more -- have a stronger voice than civil society in different countries because of their -- I'll use the political and state situation.
How do you engage them? We have seen in many cases that the business community uncomfortable to talk so you cannot induce shutdowns during exams because it is convenient but when there is a political protest they are not doing it.
So what kind of advocacy is needed to empower and engage business community so that they also talk about the situation because it also impacts business. So I think that I would suggest creating evidence research and take the arguments to different policy makers would help, but there is not initiative in Bangladesh in that area. Thank you.
CHINMAYI SK: I think in case of India there is enough documentation to start conversations with.
There are enough instances that have been documented around the -- the effects of a shutdown, how it is affecting people around. What sort of problems that marginalized groups are facing. What sort of problems that different communities are facing are documented.
Yes, the documentation can be strengthened. But it is now for us to have the governments look at this documentation and think very hard on necessity and proportionality. Shutdown is probably easier to implement but it's not necessary or it is not proportional. The harms it creates are much more than what you seek out to do by implementing a shutdown.
So the appeal would be to think this, to think about is there a necessity and is there other ways to address it. And to engage with the civil society on this. I think it is time that conversations are had more and more.
And in terms of India, local governments having these conversations because that's where the shutdowns get implemented. So having more education around this and having -- strengthening the laws around when a shutdown can be implemented, what is the necessity and what is the proportionality sort of measurement is also something that would be a way forward for India, let's say.
>> DAOUDA DIAGNE: Thank you so much. I think that showing interest is a key point on talking with -- when you want to talk to the government. Because internet shutdowns affects everybody, affects anyone in the country, even members of the government. But they cannot say they are against those shutdowns because they are members of the government.
And if I take, for example, the case of Senegal where we have a strong civil society. That civil society can take the lead showing interest that if there is a shutdown it can economically affect the country.
And then that will help that civil society move towards building capacity on how we can circumvent -- how we can use circumvention tools, and how we can measure, how we can build litigation strategies, and how we can make effective those litigation.
And then if you move towards those points I think we can also move towards a great advocacy capacity that will help the, you know, people and the stakeholders fight against those internet shutdowns in the country. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: And when it comes to Tanzania, we have a few of our partners who are working on this specific advocacy, so I don't know if you want to speak on the government engagement or Nazur, I saw him come in. I'm not sure if he is still here. There he is.
So if you want to talk about what that looks like in space that is a little bit tenuous and unpredictable in Tanzania.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. Unfortunately, for Tanzania it is very difficult to engage the government in this matter because, first of all, they're denying there is a shutdown. So if you go with this type of argument then you might need to bring evidence. And with the cyber law you might have some issue of a problem. So I think the reality there to engage the government is not something which can bring results because of the restriction of the law as well.
You have to know the statistic and also research has to be approved by the government authority. So before you conduct any kind of a research to come out with evidence you need to have a permit from government authority to do that in which for this case I don't see if you will get such kind of a permit.
So the only way maybe to address the matter of a shutdown is to engage the people to get them understanding importance of having this connectivity and the use of internet. And for us we have been doing that. We have like a Twitter space because everything is shut down like media, political rallies, and there is not any other form of platform people can talk about the issues.
So via the Twitter space people are coming up and kind of being -- creating a movement in which most of the time the government is listening to it. But unfortunately the laws, which Rebecca mentioned, they are still there. And, for instance, the media law, it has been named as unconstitutional by the East African Court of Justice. But it's still there, the government cannot implement those judgment.
So you see they are tricky, and the political will is not there. So you should know why we have shutdown in Tanzania. That's a key question. It is political. So the government is feeding from this kind of a shutdown because of election. If they want fair election, then we can see they can be ready to talk about shutdown. So that is what I can say about Tanzania.
>> AUDIENCE: If I may add. My name is Nazur Nicholas from Tanzania and I work for Internet Society and I'm also the advocate for Keep It On.
We believe that and I believe -- I have been a victim of internet shutdown 2020. I believe that internet is not guilty, has never -- it is not, and it will never be guilty of what is happening in the internet.
And it is true, you know, the laws that we have in Tanzania do not paint a very good picture of us. But I think there has been a light at the end of the tunnel with the change of regime from the late President Magufuli to Samia Suluhu Hassan. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
And what she personally said, and I quote, if you have anything that you feel that you can, you know, help the government to do, or if you want to criticize the government, you are welcome, but do it constructively.
So I believe with the regime change there is a space to engage with the government. We cannot be afraid to engage the government. I would rather be a bad guy by engaging the government and, you know, and get my point across in terms of what we need.
For example, now the government is talking about, you know, OTT taxes. It has seen that there is a huge potential for internet to bring in revenue. And actually, they are bringing revenue.
So the -- if we can engage the government -- and I know for sure the ministry that -- the current ministry and the officials are very engaging. They will come to a meeting like this, and they will sat through the meeting and take the notes back to the government.
And I believe that it is a ripe time for us including my friend Misha Baja, I'm ready to engage with him and with the government to make sure that we get the message across that internet shut down is, first of all, repressive.
It is -- it has some economic impact. It brings poverty to individuals and families that are doing their business on the internet. So I think we should get the message and engage. If I were to mention like three words is engage, engage, and engage. Because some of these leaders or ours are illy informed and ill advised by the bootlickers so they can secure their positions.
So I think we need to get the message because internet is very important. And it is important to engage the officials in the government to make sure that they understand the economic impact of the shutdown.
Thank you so much. And I believe freedom of expression must be upheld and also accountability must also be upheld. And where it is necessary it is important to lawyer up so that they understand that, you know, the citizens are up and they are there to protect the internet because the internet is their life and internet is critical for the digital economy that we are talking about, you know, fourth industrial revolution and all that. And the government is talking about fourth industrial revolution but internet shutdown or throttling, for that matter, is very bad for the future of digital economy. Thank you so much.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I think you get the debate we had in the Tanzania workshops on what is possible currently. We have just a bit of time left and there are some hands.
I'm going to ask people to say your question and then we'll have the panelists address whatever we can in the time that we have. So we can start from here on the right.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you. Thank you very much. My name is Bara Abbas (phonetic). I represent myself. And I really appreciate your presentations, and I realize your work is an honorable job that you are doing so I appreciate that. And I also appreciate all of the presentation. They were fantastic. I learned a lot.
But I want to see or evaluate the impacts of internet shutdown and reasons for shutdown. Let's see this for a second. What are the impacts of internet shutdown. Economic -- impacts on economy and impacts on democracy mainly.
And reasons for international shutdowns are political tensions and stability and so on and so forth. What is political tension? I am an Ethiopian living here in Ethiopia. And let me tell you what political tension is in my context. Political tension means destruction of telecom infrastructure, destruction of health sectors, disruption of financial sectors, disruption of the entire country.
And it means millions and millions of refugees. It means tens and thousands of deaths. This is what political tension is.
And my question is what would you do if you know for sure that your country is at risk because of disinformation? What would you do? I'm not an advocate of internet shutdown. I strongly believe that internet should not be shut down.
But if it is the -- if it plays a biggest role for your country's destruction, what should you do?
And let me -- let me ask you again that in -- I hope you know that what has happened in the past two years in this country, war has been going on. And I hope you know some about it. I mean let's evaluate the information you have, you I mean those of you coming from abroad and those of us living here.
Let's evaluate the information about the war. The information I have is the information I have living the situation and the information you have about the war is the information you get from the internet generally.
Do you think they are similar? No, they are not similar. So how do you evaluate all of these things?
And we might -- you remember that Mark Zuckerberg has been repeatedly summoned to the Senate and asked questions. And America, if America thinks something is at risk, Mark Zuckerberg will immediately be summoned to the Senate. And this time not -- he is not going to be asked, but he will be instructed, okay, he will we be instructed to do this and do that, and we don't have that luxury. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for bringing that up. I know again we are talking about elephants in the room.
>> AUDIENCE: I have additional, please. I have additional support question. Please give me a minute.
>> MODERATOR: Sure, okay.
>> AUDIENCE: Okay. Thank you giving me this opportunity, golden opportunity to present my question.
My name is (?). My research is fair physical currency to fair digital currency and also digital banking also, that is my research.
Good morning and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start and speak for you.
Honorable ladies and gentlemen --
>> MODERATOR: So we are doing questions.
>> AUDIENCE: It's question yes, okay, please. Let me sit. Honorable ladies and gentlemens, and the civil society, representatives, the United Nations member of representatives, and the corporate public and private representatives, please give me -- please give me your heart and mind for a minute, okay.
I may be wrong, but just analyze what I'm saying. On behalf of the following public organizations, the newly formed Alpha Region Network or News Society, Ethiopian Digital Defending Task Force, Ethiopian Software Testing Qualifications Board, Global Africa Migrant Community Association, Ethiopian Diaspora in Australia and New Zealand.
As a coordinator of civil organization, I believed the 17th UN IGF historical event here in Ethiopia because the internet connected is badly affected, as he said there, badly affected the country and the people and the citizens as a society, especially the last two years.
Mr. Donald Trump, this is the cap I actually simulate for him, what he said, he was 45 President of the United States, what he said clearly is I said loudly and clearly, blow up the dam -- which is Ethiopian Renaissance Dam called --
>> MODERATOR: Sir, we have to move on.
>> AUDIENCE: I finish now. This is my question now.
If he say like that, if the Ethiopian government, what happen he said? Sudan and Egypt blow up the dam. So Ethiopian government protect the citizen to react for these countries and they stop shut down the internet.
Because that protects the conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia, okay. You need to analyze what is going on.
>> MODERATOR: So we are moving -- sir, we have to move on to another question.
>> AUDIENCE: The question, is that fair Ethiopian government to shut down that particular situation? Is that fair or unfair, okay.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you.
>> AUDIENCE: And the next one is what I said is what we hear from this presentation, what we hear is actually the urgency of international internet governance law.
>> MODERATOR: Okay, sir, we have to go to another question.
>> AUDIENCE: We have to stand and drafting this constitution. Thank you very much.
>> MODERATOR: Do you want to just start.
>> AUDIENCE: My question of the panelists is do you feel in your jurisdictions that local ISPs are aware of the avenues that they have to push back against shutdown orders? And are these ISPs mostly locally based or foreign owned?
>> AUDIENCE: I think even few, few months back I think there was not enough understanding among the civil societies that this is the issue to carry forward.
So now there is a greater interest after a few workshops we have seen major citizens organizations sending the submissions to the election commissions that there should not be -- should be no internet shutdown during the next election. So this was never before.
But on accountability of the tax, I think this is an area where we should look at. So there are two like broadband internet that is ISPs that is local. But the mobile telephony, that is Telenor, that is Asiata, that is big companies. So now these big companies, they are shutting down internet without any notification, without any SMS to the users and no one is talking about it. Yet they are the largest advertiser of media. They are the largest supporters of CSR activists.
This is one area we have seen where the politics is not stable. Where democracy is at stake times when there is effort it make the big companies accountable there is also some efforts to develop processes so that there is more accountability in shutdowns.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. I know that we are out of time. I know there are many people who want to speak. We could talk about this for days as said yesterday during the session.
We said a lot of numbers, percentages, and this is an emotional issue. Upon arriving here, my cab driver told me he hadn't talked to his mother in a year. So just imagine that. And I know that everyone feels this really strongly.
So just take that forward, think about it when you are thinking about what is possible in your context, who you can have support you. Please reach out to us.
We want to continue to do the work. We want to think about creative solutions. We know that the challenges and things that governments are confronting are real, but we also know that shutdowns are not the way forward. Thank you so much for all attending and participating and your attention.
And please take the reports, do not make me put them in my luggage. I have to bring lots of coffee to my family at home so take the reports. Thank you.