Promotion of Digital Rights in Towns and Communities of Oaxaca, Mexico


Promotion of Digital Rights in Towns and Communities of Oaxaca, Mexico

SURCO (Servicios Universitarios y Redes de Conocimientos en Oaxaca A.C.) implements a project to promote and protect the digital rights of native communities in Mexico and to guarantee access to information in at least four indigenous languages spoken in the state of Oaxaca.

Supported by LACNIC’s FRIDA Program, the initiative promotes the participation of indigenous peoples in digital environments, based on access to information in indigenous languages in the Triqui, Mazateca, Mixe, and Zapotec communities, part of the cultures recognized by the Oaxaca Law of Indigenous Peoples and Communities.

Kiado Cruz, coordinator of the Indigital project; Oliver Frohling, general manager of SURCO; and Alejandra Mendez, creator of the microsite in the language of each of the communities, are responsible for shaping the proposal that attempts to adapt Information Technologies to the needs and culture of the indigenous peoples of the state of Oaxaca located in southern Mexico.

Members of SURCO pointed out that the goal of the project is to enable the political participation of indigenous peoples in digital environments through the promotion and appropriation of digital rights, including the right to decide what is shared or stored in cyberspace.

 What is the main line of the project? What do you wish to accomplish with the initiative?

Our intention is to create an Internet website specializing in access to information in four languages spoken in Oaxaca (Triqui, Mazatec, Mixe, Zapotec). With these four languages we began to work on digital rights, Internet freedom, net neutrality, linguistic justice, and other topics. We started to use Mexico’s National Transparency Platform by INAI, the body that is responsible for guaranteeing the right to access public information in Mexico.

The project included a community training process which focused on three axes: digital rights, access to information, and community data (governance). Workshops were conducted in the four regions of the state of Oaxaca and in the native languages spoken by these communities. The workshops provided not only technical training on digital rights and the use of platforms, but also discussion forums to collect the community’s concerns and ideas about the possibilities, dangers, and forms of governance of community data. In addition, we created the INDIGITAL platform to support and follow up on the community training workshops.

The final part consisted of a communication campaign that was disseminated in the four languages by means of radio capsules focusing on the three axes mentioned above.

What challenges or needs did the initiative face?

During the course of the project, we were faced with various problems.

It should be noted that infrastructure in Oaxaca is very poor. For example, we had to travel 50 km to get to a community and the trip took us eight hours. In the case of telecommunications, many communities can only access low-speed Internet, which is also quite expensive and sometimes non-existent. We couldn’t rely on stable connectivity on the day of the workshop, as access conditions are unpredictable. We had to find strategies to show the platform by means of videos, screenshots, and offline. The lack of Internet was one of the biggest difficulties, yet it did not diminish participation. It is worth mentioning that, while an Internet connection is not always available, almost every person has a cell phone which is their main means of access to the Internet, and the use of various social media platforms is common, albeit intermittent and differentiated by age.

Language was not an issue, as the training was provided bilingually, in Spanish as well as in the local language. This was possible thanks to the support of workshop leaders who are part of the communities themselves. Creating materials in the indigenous languages was another challenge, as it was necessary to coordinate, agree on, and verify the entire technical vocabulary related to rights and ICT.

What results did you achieve and how do they represent a specific advance or improvement for Internet development in the region?

Several achievements and learnings resulted from this project.

An important learning was the issue of digital rights, both at the individual and at the community level. There were many concerns, and the workshops were able to clarify the different ways to access these rights and their legal basis. Here, we were also interested in bringing the authorities’ attention to this new aspect of community life, to options for contributing to the decision-making process, and to the potential misuse of information. In this sense, we are pleased to have promoted the conversation about what community data are and how they can be protected. We also talked about the data generated at the community level regarding the territory, cultural or spiritual aspects, what happens with this data on the Internet, what rights the community has, and how these rights can be defended.

In short, this project strengthened the use of indigenous languages in the field of ICTs, the exercise of digital rights, and the conversation about the need for communal data to be governed by the community.

The goal of the FRIDA program is to support projects, initiatives, and solutions that will contribute to the consolidation of a global, open, stable, and secure Internet.

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