IGF 2022 Town Hall #81 Digital Rights Learning Exchange

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (12:00 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (15:00 UTC)
Banquet Hall A

Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 30 Min


In a growing wave of restrictive digital spaces and strained online freedoms, digital rights advocates encounter a wide array of challenges in safeguarding human rights and democratic values of freely exercising their citizenship in the digital space and beyond it. Furthermore, a significant number of digital rights activists, specifically coming from the marginalized communities, face economic and social challenges that are often overlooked in the discussion about digital advocacy. This includes such issues as Internet accessibility and affordability, lack of capacity-building, Internet shutdowns, digital exclusion. In this light, the session is intended to provide a space for Internet advocates to present their work and share approaches, good practices, and challenges related to digital rights advocacy across diverse contexts and communities. The session also aims at spotlighting stories of digital rights advocates coming from underrepresented communities, providing space for connecting digital rights activists and creating and mapping strategies for creating a democratic digital space.

All participants, both online and onsite, will be an important part of the audience. Therefore, online and onsite moderators will cooperate to ensure that both online and onsite participants will have an equal opportunity to join the discussion with speakers and to ask them questions. Moderators will especially ensure that there is a common queue of questions for online and onsite participants, so that each group has the same priority to ask questions to the speakers, whether they are online or onsite.


Digital Grassroots
Esther Mwema, Digital Grassroots, Civil Society, Africa Hanna Pishchyk, Digital Grassroots, Civil Society, Europe Rachad Sanoussi, Digital Grassroots, Technical, Africa Uffa Modey, Digital Grassroots, Technical, Africa


Meri Baghdasaryan, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Civil Society, Europe David Aragort, Civil Society, Latin America Richard Mugobo, The BIG Conversation, Media, Africa Innocent Adriko, Internet Society, Technical, Africa Connie Nagiah, WoMin: African Women Activists, Civil Society, Africa

Onsite Moderator

Hanna Pishchyk

Online Moderator

Uffa Modey


Rachad Sanoussi


4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: The importance of Internet connectivity and digital access in an emerging economy is well established today. However, the excesses of governments persist despite the intense mobilization of civil society. Defending digital rights, including affordable quality Internet connectivity, privacy, protection of online freedom of opinion, expression and association, is critical to peace and security, inclusive development, rule of law and respect for human rights. SDG4: Internet outages affect the ability to access the Internet and educational resources available in other parts of the world. SDG5: The cost of the Internet, according to the GSMA, is one of the factors that limit many women in some parts of the world from accessing the Internet. SDG10: Digital rights in all their aspects enable access to information about innovation and scientific research conducted in different parts of the world. All this affects development. SDG16: The problems and challenges of digital rights further aggravate the inequalities caused, among others, by the digital divide, especially in developing and least-developed countries. It limits the increased representation of developing countries in global decision-making. Without equal opportunities on the Internet, true equality cannot be achieved.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Promoting open and democratic Internet will take everyone, not just well-established professionals and elites, but those from different sectors and geographies. Hence, it is crucial to support entry-level digital advocates and provide them with opportunities to make an impact.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Connect with digital rights advocates from the Digital Rights Learning Exchange program for collaborations on Internet advocacy projects.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


The session aimed at discussing challenges faced by digital rights advocates and spotlighting the Digital Rights Learning Exchange (DRLX) program that Digital Grassroots held in cooperation with the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative. During the opening of the session, the onsite moderator and Digital Grassroots co-founder, Uffa Modey, introduced the objectives of the program, highlighting the importance of providing capacity-building for digital rights advocates coming from underrepresented communities. As part of the program overview, one of the program leads and Digital Grassroots founder, Esther Mwema, presented program core components and highlights from participants' feedback, mentioning that the majority of program alumni found it specifically beneficial to work with other advocates from different regions on developing a campaign and learning from each other over the course.

Sarah Moulton, the deputy director for the National Democratic Institute, discussed how the Digital Rights Learning Exchange came to life as a learning space for emerging digital rights activists starting their advocacy work to acquire basic skills across such areas as stakeholder mapping, communications, digital safety, and security. The panelist also emphasized the lack of foundational programs that can help budding digital advocates start and lead their advocacy projects and the need to support activists at the entry level. 

After the program overview, the word was given to a DRLX alumna Fatou Sarr, who shared her experience of participating in the program. Fatou acknowledged the importance of the participatory and interactive nature of the program, where participants have space to engage with hands-on learning materials and build connections with fellow participants and advocates from different backgrounds.

During the open floor, the program leads were asked about the commonalities of the participants in the program cohorts. It was noted that coming from different countries, the participants were able to find common ground for cross-country collaboration and take a regional perspective on the hypothetical advocacy campaigns that they were working on during the program. Another feature of the program spotlighted by the program leads was participants' interest in particular thematic areas, such as access and affordability, freedom of expression, and internet shutdowns. The panelists also covered the issue of program sustainability, stressing the significance of building networks between the participants and hosting organizations and offering alumni different pathways to engage after the program, i.e. as project mentors and guest speakers.

The session was attended by 12 online participants, who had an opportunity to engage in discussion with onsite panelists. The participants came from different backgrounds, including individuals interested in digital rights training programs, civil society representatives working with digital issues, and IT specialists. The questions were asked on the Zoom platform and the social media channels of Digital Grassroots by participants following the session live stream on Youtube.