Beyond the Net Internet Governance

Building Awareness of Digital Violence Against Barbadian Women

Research carried out primarily in North America and Europe shows that the most severe forms of online harassment are especially affecting women and girls. While anecdotal evidence suggests this is also true in Barbados, there is no available research to highlight the prevalence of online abuse against Barbadian women. Though legislation against online abuse exists in Barbados, few cases have been heard in court, and victims perceive the response of law enforcement to be inadequate.

The Internet Society Barbados Chapter, supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme, has taken a major step towards ensuring online abuse awareness in their community through the project C.A.R.E – Combating (online) Abuse through Research and Education. The initiative, being hailed as the first of its kind in Barbados, will conduct an awareness campaign about the effects of online abuse on women and girls and create a dialog between law enforcement and victims.

“The project is managed by registered charity No! to Online Abuse and Harassment (NOAH) and all team members are members of the ISOC Barbados Chapter,” explains Ashell Forde, project manager and President of NOAH.

“There is a clear need for stronger strategies to help women escape online violence and support them in addressing the ways in which abuse has eroded their self-esteem. We are organizing a multimedia campaign by engaging local online celebrities and employing the use of social media to reach the largest audience. The project will also measure the awareness of police officers and challenges they experience in enforcing existing legislation.”

What is the project background?
Barbados is a small island in the Caribbean with a population of 285,000 and is one of the most connected countries in a region where rates of domestic violence, sexual harassment, and rape are higher than the global average. The high Internet penetration rate has resulted in symptoms of gender inequality being translated into the online space. Barbadian women and girls are now experiencing the more severe forms of online abuse, including revenge porn and cyber stalking.

Why did you decided to implement this specific project?
NOAH was born out of a desire to help victims of online harassment and revenge porn. We designed the C.A.R.E  project to address the lack of quantitative research in this area, raise awareness about this issue in Barbados and create a dialog with law enforcement and victims affected by this type of abuse.

What are the main objectives?

  1. To address the lack of research on gender based online abuse in Barbados by conducting a quantitative survey among at least 400 participants
  2. To challenge the culture of gender abuse online by raising awareness among aged 16-45 Barbadians through the production of 4 short videos and at least 5 infographics
  3. To improve the response of law enforcement officials in reporting online abuse through a 3-day training workshop that will be attended by 20 law enforcement officials. 

What is the first step?

Prior to undertaking a national research project in Barbados, NOAH took advantage of annual pop culture convention AnimeKon to carry out a brief survey of its attendees. More than 500 patrons aged 16-60 were surveyed revealing the following preliminary insights:

  • Approximately 20% of respondents were previous victims of online abuse.
  • 65% of respondents reported receiving nude or semi-nude photos that they believed were intended to be private.
  • Women appeared disproportionately affected by revenge porn, with 49% of respondents indicating that a woman was the subject of the most recent picture or video they received.
  • While most respondents (82.6%) reported that they never shared a nude or semi-nude photo without permission, 17% were comfortable to share that they have done so in the past.

The NOAH team then conducted a survey among 16-45 years old Barbadians citizens to ensure maximum representativeness. This is the first time such research was done in Barbados and we will use these numbers as an input for our awareness campaign and dialog with law enforcement.

On completion of the survey, 643 respondents were captured, (49% were men and 51% women). The average age of respondents was M=36.7 years, SD=13.3, with the youngest person being 17 and the eldest being 74. The quota sampling approach allowed for proportional capture across the various parishes, with 47% coming from the more densely populated St. Michael and Christ Church parishes. The data is currently being cleaned and prepared for analysis.

Related articles:
Leveling Up Women One Edit at a Time

Digital Self-Defense for Palestinian Schoolgirls
Internet Chalao, Patriarchy Dabao. Leveling up Pakistani women.

Digital abuse against women. Nighat’s fight in Pakistan.

Want to build a safer Internet for women? Join SIG Women to “promote a global space that works towards the involvement of women in technology”

The Internet Society is a proud member of the EQUALS Global Partnership for Digital Gender Equality.

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. The Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme funds projects up to $30,000.00 USD.

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Beyond the Net

Leading Uruguayan Students to Thrive in the Future Economy

Current researches show that children are exposed to both increased risks and increased opportunities when accessing  the Internet and using apps and social media. The UNICEF’s “Children in a Digital World” 2017 report takes a comprehensive look at the different ways digital technology affects children. It is critical that children have necessary training in digital literacy to acquire the skills to minimize risks and to confidently navigate the web to maximize their opportunities. Evidence suggests that technology has benefits where positive human forces for learning are already in place.

The Internet Society Uruguay Chapterin partnership with the The University of the Republic and the Consejo de Formación en Educación and financial support of the Beyond the Net Funding Programme has taken significant steps to help children and teenagers to develop digital skills in a creative and innovative way in three of the nineteen segments in which Uruguay is politically divided, Paysandú, Rivera, and Salto. Their project  Flor de Ceibo Conecta2 aims to train young people from disadvantaged communities using digital resources in creative and challenging learning classes to help them improve their everyday lives and expand their chances for a better future.

María Julia Morales González, project manager and professor at the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Space of the University of the Republic, reveals the motivations that led to start this project: “Since 2008 we have been working on the issue of social appropriation of ICT by citizens. Our previous project, Flor de Ceibo, started in 2008 as an initiative of faculty members from the University of the Republic. While exploring the reasons behind the violation of freedom and rights of citizens in our country, we started to rethink the strategies that promote the responsible use of ICTs. We are convicted that the digital divide can be reduced with actions that facilitate the social appropriation of technologies and the development of digital skills. That’s why we decided to work with disadvantaged communities that are generally characterized by multiple negative outcomes.”

How your community will benefit from this project?

Flor de Ceibo project ended in February 2017 and only because of the financial support received by the Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme was possible to continue with a new one called Flor de Ceibo Conecta2 . We will continue to work on our goals, incorporating civil society in the process. The project aims to empower children and adolescents in the meaningful use of ICT, fostering the use of ICT for citizen participation, access to education, exercise of freedom, and the defense of their rights. Uruguay government has taken significant steps to narrow the access and connectivity gap with actions and public policies directly addressing this areas. But according to academic studies, the historically disadvantaged departments in the north of the country are less developed due to the lack of undertakings that create employment for the population.  It is expected that during the development of this project these populations will acquire the skills to empower themselves on the use of ICTs to be self advocates of their knowledge and thereby enhance citizen participation in a country where infrastructure is almost universally given.

What are you are working on at the moment?

During the first year, we worked with 4 and 5-year old boys and girls on the subject of healthy eating and with adolescents on citizen participation and cybersecurity topics. At the beginning of 2018, we started collaborating with territorial actors and institutions. We actually have six teachers from two institutions, the Education Training Council, and the University of the Republic, which intervene in formal and informal education across different disciplines.

We work with a participatory methodology in three phases:
a) diagnosis and construction of demand
b) intervention in territory
c) evaluation

These phases are not linear and overlap on occasions, as well as sometimes we need to adjust them depending on different territories and realities. The evaluation is continuous in order to adjust the interventions.

Read the Flor de Ceibo Connecta2 Project Blog and follow Beyond the Net on Twitter!

Beyond the Net

Montenegro: Learning Coding in Primary School

Although coding has yet to be upgraded from an extracurricular activity, a growing number of countries are introducing programming as part of the school syllabus. Coding is considered a new literacy that is becoming more-and-more important as technology innovation is impacting every field of human knowledge. Educators have a key role in teaching primary school children to be passionate about computer science and stimulating their imagination and spirit of competition to solve problems. Learning how to code starting in elementary school helps pupils acquire skills that will be relevant in tomorrow’s labour market and get the highest-paying entry level jobs as they become college graduates.

Motivated by a successful programming course held in 2017, the Internet Society Montenegro Chapter decided to organize a CodeWeek Java Programming and applied for the Beyond the Net Funding Programme Chapter Small Projects, an initiative intended to assist Internet Society Chapters with financial support to fund small projects such as events, learning opportunities, skill development, and networking with local entities.

“This was more than great. I had fun in every sense of that word. I would recommend this course to every friend. Can’t wait till next year!”

“I like this way of studying. I have learnt a lot and met new friends. I hope there will be more courses like this.“

“I will remember this course fondly. The teachers were great and they tried so hard to transfer their knowledge to us.“

These are some of the many enthusiastic comments collected from participating students.

“Programming courses in Montenegro are rather scarce and are all held in the capital”, explains project manager and teacher Ivana Corovic. “We are working on strengthening the community and encouraging others to get involved and organize courses in their towns as well.”

Who was this course for?
This time, we targeted grades 7th, 8th, and 9th and invited children to start learning Java. Children of this age know English well enough to understand the Java programming environment, and they are trying to decide what to study next. It is a great advantage if this decision is made early on, whether they decide for or against programming. Although we wanted to give a chance to participate to as many children as possible, we needed to avoid having a knowledge gap between them so we organized a simple aptitude test. This way, the study plan was appropriate for all, instead of going either too slow for some and too fast for others. Some of the students were already in our previous course, which was a truly amazing testimonial to our work.

How did you organize it and how many pupils attended?
We promoted the course on national TV stations, online portals, on our website, and Facebook account. We accepted online applications. Our partner, Mtel Digitalna Fabrika was more than happy to let us use their space. The classroom could fit 12 children, but we decided to add a few chairs as we got more applications. We ended up with two groups of 17 students and two teachers for each group. We met twice a week for two hours. We provided snacks and drinks for each session, as well as computers for those who didn’t have one. We planned a set of problems every student needed to solve in each session in order to go on. Students who were faster would get more complicated problems to work on so they wouldn’t get bored. We posted the lessons on our website for all those who were not enrolled in the course, but still wanted to learn Java. At the end of the course, everyone got a certificate and event bag.

What was your impression about the learning outcomes?
Due to a non-traditional teaching approach, students were very happy with the course and no one dropped out. Interacting with them instead of giving long theory lessons helped them to stay focused. Algorithms and programming were completely different from what they were used to study, so it took some time to get used to. They struggled with some tasks, but they managed to complete them all successfully.

What are your future plans?
We helped organize the Programming Day and invited all our former students to attend the workshops. A lot of them showed up, which is the greatest testimonial of all. We learnt so much from this experience. We will certainly plan to make these courses on regular basis and maybe longer than a month.

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Internet Governance

Leveling Up Women One Edit at a Time

Only 1 in 10 Wikipedia editors is a woman. Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of female perspectives is quite common within the tech world. In order to help achieve gender equality in content creation and dissemination, Wikipedia Editathons are held as a way of bridging the gap and encourage female editors to increase the coverage of women’s topics.

The Internet Society India Delhi Chapter, in partnership with the Women Special Interest Group and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, organized the 1st Global Editathon “Girls in ICT” on 28 April, 2018. Various Chapters and groups participated in this event to increase Wikipedia pages about Asian women who have contributed to any technology-related fields.

“Women are seriously underrepresented in Wikipedia’s content,” says Amrita Choudhury, treasurer of the Internet Society India Delhi Chapter. She has over 17 years of experience in IT and the Internet industry and is a member of the SIG Women team. “Exact figures vary depending on which research you’re reading, but only around 17% of individuals profiled on Wikipedia are women.”

What Chapters were involved and how did you work together?

“As devoted to the #ShineTheLight movement, we decided to collaborate with the SIG Women, whose main interest is the empowerment of women in technology issues, and with the support of the Wikimedia Foundation, we organized an online Editathon involving the South Asian Chapters. Eleven women from various Chapters – Bangladesh, India (Delhi and Trivandrum), Nepal, Sri Lanka, and South Korea participated to the Editathon both in English and in local languages.

Few days before the event, SIG Women held a webinar to teach how to create a Wikipedia page. The Internet Society provided participants with an online video conferencing platform to discuss during the session. Apart from that, we held our own discussion on how to participate in the Editathon and selected the women whose pages we wanted to create. On the day of the Editathon all the participants attended the event remotely and the APAC Chapter Development Manager Subhashish Panigrahi came online to answer any queries regarding the Wikipedia editing. Subhashish is more than an expert on Wikipedia content development. In the past, he managed a flagship program to grow the reach and contribution of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in the Indian subcontinent. During the one-day event, eleven female volunteers were trained to create articles about women in science and engineering.

How do you measure the success of the event?

By the end of the training all participants acquired new skills. They:

  • Became aware that many women in ICT do not have a dedicated Wikipedia page
  • Learnt Wikipedia editing for the first time
  • Created new content in local languages such as Tamil and Korean
  • Researched and collected details about ITC pioneer women from their region and built their Wiki pages. Here are some of them: Vanitha_Narayanan, Debjani Ghosh, Minal Sampath, Kanchan Amatya

Related articles:
Global Editathon: Making Women in Tech Visible
Help Make the Internet Open to All: Join SIG Women!

The Internet Society SIG Women is a neutral space for projects, initiatives, and stakeholders that advocate for greater inclusion of women in technology and contribute to gender equality in the field.

Join SIG Women!
Follow SIG Women on Twitter!

Beyond the Net

Visually Impaired Students in Rwanda Get a New Chance

Jacqueline is attending S4 secondary school HVP Gatagara. She used to read well, but when she reached primary five she went blind and started using audios.

“Studying with audios was challenging” she explains. “Sometimes I got bored and fell asleep. As time went by, I got experienced and I was able to pass my national examination regardless of my blindness.”

A project led by The Internet Society Rwanda Chapter and supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme is implementing a breakthrough solution that will impact Rwanda’s education sector, addressing the urgent need of a functional learning environment for the visually impaired students.Visual impaired people are not aware of benefits they can get from the Internet. Awareness of what is possible and what is already available is crucial, especially for blind students. Young Jacqueline believes that big things have small beginnings and that the Internet will give all students a better opportunity for a successful education: “We have a lot of books here, but we can’t take them home as others do. My request is to turn these books into audios and make them accessible to allow me and my classmates to keep on studying.”

A project called Internet for Education-Online Audio Library for visual impaired people will convert textbooks into audio files and store them into an online database that will be available to all blind learners. The solution focuses on replacing the current education method based on converting physical books into Braille documents – a process that makes every single page generate ten pages written in Braille language.  Braille equipment is also bulky and difficult to use, resulting in a challenge when training a large number of students.

Jean Benda Nkurunziza, project manager and coordinator, goes into detail: “The database will be hosted in Gatagara, an institution for disabled persons. ISOC Rwanda Chapter will ensure to provide access to educational resources through online streaming. Downloading and storing files on smartphones or other audio digital devices will be possible. A new way of providing recorded homework and student tests will be introduced as the project is making progress.

What drove you to start this project?

According to a report released in 2012 by the World Health Organization, one out of every 100 people in Rwanda is visually impaired. The current number of visual impaired people is about 400,000. Only two schools in the country are specialized in teaching to visually impaired students. Ideally, every district should have a school for the blind to avoid children travelling from one point of the country to the other. Most blind people are not getting jobs because people think they cannot work or operate machines such as a computer. There is an obvious need to help this people using the Internet by providing a database of information that is suitable to their lives.

What are the long term benefits of this project?

The availability of online educational resources will allow any school to have teaching space for visually impaired pupils and traditional classrooms will turn into digital ones. The entire country will finally find a solution to the lack of special schools. People with visual disability will be introduced to other ways of communication such as voice texting through social media platforms. As a result, we will achieve the inclusiveness of blind people in the society and the digital literacy objective.

What are your first steps?

We are working on stakeholder engagement and database development. We are also exploring possibilities using available solutions such as Vimeo platform. The school has started selecting the textbooks that will be digitized.

Find out how the Internet can be an enabler of change for the education sector in Africa within the framework of the Global Education Agenda adopted by the United Nations.

Download our report:  Internet for Education in Africa – Helping Policy Makers to Meet the Global Education Agenda Sustainable Development Goal 4

Related articles:

Do you have a great idea to make your community better via the Internet? Apply for a Beyond the Net grant, which funds projects up to $30,000 USD, and follow Beyond the Net on Twitter!

Beyond the Net Community Networks

How the Lenca Are Restoring the Past to Build Their Future

Beyond the Net Journal

The Internet has the potential to enable Indigenous communities to continue living on remote traditional lands without diminishing their access to services and information. The potential can go a long way towards closing the digital divide and offers new opportunities while preserving Indigenous culture.

In the ongoing debate about what difference the digital makes to the concept of Indigeneity itself, the voices of Indigenous people are what has been missing. It should be left up to community members to be caught up in this age of information and build the future on their own terms.

This is the story of Lenca people of Azacualpa, an Indigenous community of Yamaranguila in Intibucá, Honduras. In June 2017 they decided to start their relationship with technology by creating Radio Azacualpa, a radio station run by women, with the support of Cultural Survival’s Community Media Grants Project. It was a dream come true.

The radio tagline “La voz de las Mujeres” – the voice of women –  says it all. “One of our goals as a radio station is to achieve recognition of our rights as women and to achieve equality,” explains Maria Santos, leader of the Azacualpa community.

In 2018, the Lenca decided to take a big step forward and started the “Comunidades Inteligentes”, a project led by Red De Desarrollo Sostenible (RDS) in partnership with the Internet Society Honduras Chapter and supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme. Comunidades Inteligentes aims to establish  a Community Network with free Wifi and to connect 300 families with the rest of world.

Although their Indigenous language is extinct and their culture has changed in other ways over the centuries, the Lenca no longer want their knowledge to reside only in the minds of elders. They consider the Internet as a tool to empower their community. These people are curios and proud, they like to learn new skills while remaining true to their roots. Women wear beautiful traditional clothing while holding their babies in colorful wraps.  Men are committed to farming, carrying on old rituals such as “Las Composturas” to thank mother earth for its gifts during the harvest season.

What are the origins of Lenca people and the problems they are facing?

Eduardo Tome, project manager, explains: The Lenca tribe has its roots deeply entrenched in Honduran soil. In 1537 the Indigenous leader Lempira led the native resistance against the Spanish conquerors. Despite losing his life in battle, he remains one of our most beloved national heroes to this day. Nonetheless, his tribe and his people have suffered quite a different luck, as they have lived in a constant battle to protect and withhold their language, their customs, and their lands.

While there has been a growing national acceptance of Indigenous rights and culture in both Honduras and El Salvador”, says Eduardo, “the Lenca continue to struggle in both nations over land rights. The reality of our Indigenous communities is extremely bleak and painful. They are often isolated from major cities and towns, which makes their access to basic services such as electricity, running water, medical assistance, communications, and education very limited, without having to travel long distances. The challenges they face in health care and education are just as important. Due to the lack of access to proper medical care, there is a high mortality rate amongst infants with diarrhea and pneumonia. This is in part due to the lack of a public sewage and running water in the area. The literacy rate in the population is around 50% with the biggest demographic affected being women. In the Azacualpa community there is only one school and it only reaches until the 9th grade.

How did the idea of “Comunidades Inteligentes” come about?

We fell in love with this community about a year ago. As a part of Red de Desarrollo Sostenible, we started working with the local women in early 2017 and created the first radio station in the country to be fully operated by women. Since they are a very close-knit community, the first contact was very difficult but once we gained their trust, we discovered that they were very curious people. They have a great desire to learn about technology and communications. They understand that these tools could enable them to empower the community with greater ease, since they no longer have to walk for miles just to make their voices heard. Providing Internet access to Lenca people through community networks, seemed like the next logical step that motivated us to create the project and participate in Beyond the Net Programme.

How did you move from project idea to project proposal?

As the first steps, we began socializing the project in the community. The ILO 169 Convention states the community needs to be properly consulted and informed of any projects or laws that might directly affect them, their lands or beliefs. We visited the community and had brief talks with local leaders regarding the project. On our second visit, supported by a local church, we were able to gather most of the community members to see if they would support the project. The acceptance was overwhelming. Most of them did not know what the Internet is, but they are aware of its potential. Committees to oversee the development of the network were elected with a combination of local leadership and curious youth who are eager to open their minds to technology.

How the access to the Internet will empower Lenca people?

Azacualpa poses the greatest challenge our Chapter has ever faced. We are welcoming it with open arms for we understand the great impact that Internet access can have on their lives. We are going to connect 300 families and decrease the existing digital gap compared to the nearest city, La Esperanza, by at least 70% within 12 months. We will promote, through the establishment of a telecentre and hotspots in different points of the community, the human right to Internet access that was approved by the United Nations in the summer of 2016. We aim to document the entirety of this process so that our experience will help others to empower their communities and inspire them to take action.

Indigenous movements are attempting to revive the Lenca language, and recent press reports from Honduras indicate that elementary school textbooks in original language have been distributed to public schools. The Internet will give the opportunity to create spaces where Indigenous art, language, culture, and traditions can be shared, learned, and distributed. This project will make Lenca people free to digitize their oral culture and identify complementary knowledge from global resources to build a better future.

Indigenous communities face unique challenges to Internet access and inclusion. Learn how you can support indigenous connectivity, then find out how you can  build a Community Network yourself!

Do you have a great idea to make your community better via the Internet?

Learn more about our Beyond the Net programs offered by the Internet Society Foundation.

Learn more and apply!

Beyond the Net Women in Tech

Teaching Sri Lankan Girls How to Code

Girls in Technology is a community-based initiative to help increase schoolgirls’ participation in emerging Internet technology careers. The pilot project, lead by the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter and supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme, will provide grade 9 girls with coding lessons and extracurricular activities to help them select ICT subjects at grade 10. Niranjan Meegammana, project leader and director of the Shilpa Sayura Foundation, explains how this initiative will contribute to gender equality in STEM education and help the young women reach for the stars.

Internet Society: What motivated the Chapter to take this initiative?

Niranjan Meegammana: Sri Lanka is fast becoming a hub for technology and innovation, offering a wide range of careers in technology fields. However, girls pursuing a career in technology still remain a limited number. Girls are representing 50.28% of school population, but only 20% are actually studying ICT. The gender gap keeps on growing and generating a labor surplus. The root cause of this problem is the scarcity of opportunities for girls and teachers in the Internet sector.

Which innovative solutions will the project attempt to solve this problem?

Girls in Technology is implemented by Sri Lanka Chapter with the partnership of Shilpa Sayura Foundation and Computer Society of Sri Lanka and aims to involve many stakeholders. The project will train 800 teenage girls in coding and IoT (Internet of Things), 80 ICT teachers and 40 university students in 40 different communities using embedded devices and electronics. We are going to provide IoT kits, conduct local workshops and engage girls in after school activities. University students and teachers will assist students to create innovative solutions. The students will attend schools exhibition and take part in a competition. The innovative aspect of the program will be the creation of an extracurricular Coding Club to improve creative thinking through the Internet and STEM educational resources.

How will this project be a great opportunity for Sri Lankan schoolgirls?

This project’s aim is to create a community platform to address the gender gap issue. We are going to develop innovative strategies for technology education and try to deal with the problem of girls not selecting ICT as a subject. We are going to identify challenges, barriers and best practices to replicate this project at a national level. This project is a great opportunity to advocate gender gap in technology sector and influence policy about gender equality education. We hope this project will make the educational system grow so that young girls will finally have a voice and challenge themselves to be part of the future society.

How will the project contribute to the Internet Society’s mission?

Our project model is aligned with the Internet Society mission of supporting gender equality and ITC education. Girls in Technology will use open standards and the power of the Internet to develop quality education to enrich teenage girls lives. We are going to create an open community to motivate them to select ICT at grade 10. Globally speaking, our project will also contribute to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDG4 and SDG5.

How can people engage with your Chapter and learn more about the project?

By visiting the Girls in Technology project page , our blog and our social media page that will keep you updated about project activities and progress.

Do you have a great idea to make your community better via the Internet? Apply for a Beyond the Net grant, which funds projects up to $30,000 USD, and follow Beyond the Net on Twitter!

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting “Los Nevados” on the Roof of the Andes

Beyond the Net Journal: Venezuela Chapter

Have you ever been to Los Nevados?

Reaching this tiny village, located in the Sierra Nevada National Park at 2,711 m. above sea level, can be a real adrenaline adventure. The scary and dangerous cliff road leading to the town is one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous. The rough terrain can get very muddy and slippery after rain, making it challenging to get through.

As you can guess, not less challenging was bringing Internet access to 2,000 inhabitants living in this remote area.

The idea to develop a wireless architecture to provide Los Nevados with Internet services and reduce their isolation came to Paola Perez, a computer systems engineer and Internet Society member. At that time she was based in Merida, the capital city, 69 km away.

Paola remembers: “Initially my dream was to bring connectivity to the Canaima National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I changed my mind when I recalled my friend Yeiny, who lives in Los Nevados. She attended university in Merida, but she couldn’t return to her village on weekends because she had no Internet connection to download the contents of the exams.”

Gabriela Muñoz (left), Paola Pérez (right)

Empowering “Los Nevados” through ICTs usage for social benefit” was funded in 2016 by the Internet Society in collaboration with the Venezuela Chapter. Although it seemed impossible to overcome the technical difficulties, the project team never lost sight of their dream to connect that remote place to the rest of the world. At the end, the talented and devoted team succeeded and also won the Chapterthon – a marathon open to all LAC Chapters to achieve a common goal for the development of their region.

The fruits of persistence are now providing endless benefits to Los Nevados, who are overcoming their physical and cultural isolation.

New educational opportunities are offered to the local students through access to relevant content and remote learning. Parents with children studying away at university are now using live chat and email services to get in touch.

Farmers, who represents the majority of the population, are exchanging seeds and marketing their products. Artisans are promoting their crafts online.

Not only los Nevaderos are now enjoying the Internet connection with unlimited services but also the visitors.” Paola explains: “It’s hard to imagine because it’s a place so difficult to reach, but about 500 people per month are visiting the village. Hikers use it as a base for climbing Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela (4,978 m). When there was no Internet connection all payments were only in cash, and people were not aware of it until they arrived at the site. Now tourists are able to book accommodations and make online payments.”

The Civil Registry of the village can finally provide inhabitants with any digital document downloadable from public websites. It is also possible to keep records of births and deaths in digital format, sharing the data with institutions. The “Village Radio Station” is using streaming technology to share in real time the news from the world. Los Nevados also take pride of publishing stories and photos about the community to preserve their traditions. The Internet has become an essential tool for information and citizen participation.

These are only few examples of how this project is empowering the life of Los Nevados and helping to achieve SDG goals 3,4,8,9.

Do you feel like renting a burro for three hours trek to Los Nevados, getting lost in the magnificent tropical zone of the Andes? Now you can book online.

Do you have a great idea?

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Barev dzez! You are listening to Radio MENQ. The voice of the visually impaired of Armenia.

Beyond the Net Journal: Armenia Chapter #3 Episode

When Armenia declared independence in 1991, the Internet access finally became available, allowing people to be part of the world again. The creation of an Internet Availability Center in 2012 (funded by Internet Society’s grant) at the Culture House for the Blind in Yerevan, triggered creative ideas among active members of the center.

They came to conclusion that an Internet radio station would be the greatest opportunity for helping the blind and visually impaired. The project started in January 2016 supported by the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme”. Today, it is a dream come true.

Radio MENQ (“We” in Armenian language) has become a platform empowering people with disabilities. The programming covers practical and psychological matters. Many artists and scientists with disabilities have been invited as guests to share their lived experiences. This radio station is opening up new horizons for the visually impaired and their families.

The project team is comprised of people with disabilities of various specialties. All of them are proficient in their areas and highly motivated in bringing change to people’s lives. Radio MENQ is contributing to the cultural and spiritual development of its audience through psychological advice, reading of prose and fairy tales for children, gaming competitions, and hours of music.

Just taking a look at some of the programs currently on air illustrates the important role this station plays:

  • “You can” – 13 episodes about people who are blind, from ancient to modern times, who demonstrated notable achievements, like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Diana Gurtskaya, Louis Braille
  • “Internet and the blind” – Opportunities and how to use them
  • “Psychology in life” – How to use internal resources to achieve goals
  • “Toward Independence” – Ways to improve self-dependence
  • “Problem and solution” – What role can visually-impaired people play in the society. The role of family and education in the process of socialization. How to overcome psychological barriers when searching for a job.
  • “Rights and privileges” – About legislative solutions for blind people
  •  “Loving a person” – How to destroy barriers in relationships
  •  “My Universities” – How to get a higher education and find a job
  • “Sports and We” –  Brilliant victories in Paralympics sports
  • “Learn to play Chess” – Lessons from the blind master Yura Awetisyan

Radio MENQ has been promoted through mass media, social networks and public events with the involvement of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia Republic. We are proud to say that the blog is getting up to 2,800 visits monthly, and a mobile application to reach a wider audience is in the pipeline.

In Armenia, the estimated number of blind and visually impaired people is 25,000 and in Diaspora 50,000. While the team was discussing ways to expand the project to Diaspora communities, they received this message from United States: “Barev dzez! My name is Laurel and I am a blind student studying at the University of Oklahoma. My instructor is Armenian, and I got inspired to learn Armenian as well. I found your radio station online. I love listening to your programs, and I use it to help teach myself Armenian. When I discovered how hard it was to read with a screen reader in Armenian, I thought why not do something. I am actually working on creating a project that could help blind people in Armenia, Georgia and Russia through technology and educational opportunities. I would really like to connect with the blind community in Armenia, and I plan to visit Yerevan in September.”

The famous blind pianist Levon Karapetyan, who used to move around with helpers, is another inspiring story. While he was in France for a study period he listened to Radio MENQ’s “Toward Independence” and he got very interested in self-development tools mentioned in the program. When he came back to Armenia he visited the station and asked the team to teach him how to use the white cane and other tips to move independently. The mobility training changed his life for the better. A special episode devoted to his experience will be broadcast in the future.

In addition to being a public health concern, blindness also has a great impact on the social and economic wellbeing of an individual. First efforts to educate the blind were attempted at the beginning of the 19th century thanks to the Louis Braille system. Until that time, blind people were considered mostly uneducable and untrainable. One of the worst stereotypes about blindness is the belief of that it limits to the kind of jobs you can do. Blind children acquire this sad way of thinking from society.

The radio station aims to raise awareness about how an appropriate environment can increase the ability of a person with disabilities to work independently and add value to society. After Radio MENQ went on air, many young people have started to learning how to be program presenters and sound technicians. The Armenian blind community is starting to break the stereotypes and prove they are able to work on equal footing.

This project is illustrating the power of the Internet in creating innovation and local solutions with global impact. Radio MENQ is becoming a reference for visually impaired people, also facilitating the collaboration and partnerships needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the video and see the amazing job they are doing

Listen to Radio MENQ

This project is relevant to achieving the following SDGs goals:

More projects for the visually impaired:

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

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We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet Human Rights Privacy

A safe Internet for Aragonese kids under 12

Beyond the Net Journal: Spain Aragon Chapter #1 Episode

In a society where Internet in schools is become more and more common, knowing how to face the learning process in kids under 12, became an essential building block. Parents and teachers need to recognize that on the Internet kids aren’t just watching, they are interacting with other people. With this in mind, the Aragon Spain Chapter applied to Beyond the Net Funding Programme with the aim of educating Aragonese parents and kids with skills and tools for a safer use of online resources. I asked few questions to Andres Gomez to get a deeper insight of their project.

Tell us the purpose of this project and what is your role.

As a manager of the Spain Aragon Chapter, I  launched this project along with some other members. Our aim is teaching children how to use the Internet in a responsible way. They will learn how to protect themselves against online threats and how to avoid kids bullying. We don’t want to use parental control or similar vigilance tools because we firmly think that prohibition is Not the Answer. We are going to create new educational tools, providing children with the right skills to detect and avoid dangers. My role is Project Coordinator.

What background led to this project? 

Children and the Internet is one of our biggest concerns.  I worry about my sons, but I think that parental overprotection can be as dangerous as a lack of protection. Your decision could deprive them of access to fantastic resources for legitimate information.  But your children might be sneaking around the Internet filters without your knowledge, and that’s when the danger increases. They may come into contact with demeaning, racist, sexist, violent, hateful and false information, or even worst they may encounter online predators. I decided to create this project starting from my point of view, bringing together a team with the best professional skills to make it a success. Our final goal will also be the creation of a new Chapter dedicated to children security policies.

The project team: Alexander Dobbie, Teresa Auseré, Angelina Gracia del Rio, Andres Gomez

What do you expect to achieve, listing three main project objectives?

As a first step, we are going to take a survey of parents and teachers concerns about the safety of their children when surfing the Internet. A clear understanding of the problem will provide us the right information. Next step will be creating educational tools to make children safer. Later we will provide parents and teachers with surveillance tools to watch their kid’s behavior.

How will this contribute to Chapter’s local presence and Internet Society’s mission in general?

Currently, the interest of Internet Society in our local community has declined. I think this project will be an opportunity to rekindle interests on Internet policies. The involvement of external agents is satisfactory, and we are working to increase it. Also to enhancing the Spain Aragon Chapter, the ultimate goal of the project is the creation of a Chapter for children where they will express their wishes and needs. A key role of this Chapter will be ensuring the legislation and the protection tools to be the most helpful for children. We want our community to be aware that these children will be the Internet users of the future. We hope that our activities will increase people’s interest in this important topic.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

Do you have a great idea? We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Find out More about Beyond the Net Funding Programme.
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Human Rights Internet of Things (IoT)

Planting the seeds of The Internet of Things in Africa

Beyond the Net Journal: Zimbabwe Chapter #1 Episode

In a country where schools are operating on shoe-string budgets and families barely afford to pay fees, being a student is not always a positive experience. Some endure difficult conditions, like inadequate teaching materials or lack of competent teachers. Access to modern ways of learning such Internet and IoT is a pipe dream.

Zimbabwe currently has an unemployment rate of 85%, but estimates reveal that by 2025 Africa will have tripled internet penetration to around 600 million people opening new opportunities. In this scenario, the software engineer Solomon Kembo and his team believe that The Internet of Things is the real chance for Africa to be part of the global economy.

In collaboration with Zimbabwe Chapter, he applied to “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” with the aim of establishing IoT Makerspaces in selected Zimbabwean schools to inspire and equip local students with IoT skills and resources.

Solomon explains about the origin of the project:  “We thought that a IoT  Makerspaces could provide a flexible model for exploring how schools could better cultivate the interplay between students’s interest, peer culture, digital tools and academic success.”

The pilot project started at St Peter’s Mbare High School  in a suburb of Harare, attended by 20 enthusiastic pupils aged between 12 and 18, who proudly refer to the Makerspace as “The Freedom Makers”. The training will last 9 months with frequency of 2 days a week.

First year program is based on Genuino/Arduino systems due to their low power requirements and flexibility. A starter kit includes components and 15 projects cards to walk students through the basic of coding and electronics. The Do-It-Yourself nature of the project enables them to develop real things and see the fun side of learning. Artifacts build in classroom instill a “maker mindset” stimulating creative thinking and problem solving.”

The students are working on several projects:

  • Making an interacting traffic light
  • Creating an Alarm System
  • Moving a servo to sound signals
  • Detecting vibration
  • Sensing temperature and triggering an alarm
  • Controlling LEDs with a remote control

Next steps for the following year will be:

  • Extending the Arduino boards with different types of shields to add more functionality
  • Getting Raspberry Pi units to explore more powerful applications
  • Developing IoT applications
  • Considering to expand the project to other schools
  • Organizing public events to promote the Chapter activities

Solomon and his team are really passionate about the futuristic nature of this project: “We see daily how the Internet is empowering our students in ways we never imagined before. Developing real IoT applications will provide solutions to problems relevant to their communities and create new career paths. I feel we are giving a chance to their future. “

Hear from their voices

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

Do you have a great idea? We are interested in your project.

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Find out More

Beyond the Net Funding Programme