Two weeks from now, Access will head to Manila to host RightsCon — our signature conference featuring digital rights activists, companies, government officials, technologists, and academics — together with our partners Engage Media and the Foundation for Media Alternatives. We’ll be tackling the most pressing issues affecting digital rights and the open internet.
The conference marks the fourth iteration of RightsCon, and will continue our commitment to rotating the event between important regions throughout the world and Silicon Valley. We do so because Access is a global organization — and because the next billion internet users are coming online regardless of geographical or political frontiers. For example, Southeast Asia had some 190 million internet users in 2013. And today Indonesia and the Philippines already have over 400 million mobile subscribers between them.
More than 400 participants from 50 countries will be attending RightsCon Southeast Asia. Everyone will arrive with the express goal of learning, strategizing, networking, and innovating in the effort to protect human rights online. Our goal isn’t to host a talk-shop but to build capacity and to help arm attendees with the knowledge and tools they’ll need to get things done. That’s why, as you’ll see, every aspect of the program encourages engagement, dialogue, and real-world outcomes.
You can find the draft agenda, as well as highlights from the program, here.
Just a quick glance reveals the richness of our programming. We’ll have sessions on pressing policy issues like internet governance and data sovereignty; intermediary liability and cybersecurity; privacy, surveillance, and data protection; Net Neutrality, innovation, and intellectual property; as well as a plethora of other digital rights issues facing Southeast Asia and the world.
All countries, regardless of culture or politics, are grappling with fundamental questions about freedom of expression and privacy. Southeast Asia is home to numerous countries with conservative political agendas and unique cultural norms that impact the ability of citizens to exercise their freedoms both online and offline. Like all regions, it’s also home to a range of democratic traditions, a thriving civil society, and an emerging tech scene.
We hope to incorporate a culture of respectful engagement into RightsCon — especially for the civil society organizations that have been so diligently working on these issues in the region. RightsCon provides a unique opportunity for people to seek out new forms of collaboration and innovation. We believe that retrograde or oppressive ideas and practices should be challenged, and we’re encouraging dialogue among all parties — aiming to create a safe space for all involved.
Safe space means a commitment to promoting the physical and digital security of our attendees. We’ll have more than 40 interactive events in our tech demo room, but we’ll also help equip participants with the tools they need to practice good digital hygiene. In addition, some participants hail from political environments that may challenge their presence at RightsCon. Accordingly, our tech team will hold a digital security clinic to allow participants to check the security of their devices and their online practices. We will also do our best to respect the privacy and anonymity needs of attendees.
Our goal of promoting dialogue extends to corporations. The reality is that tech companies and telcos reach billions of people, and their decisions significantly impact our rights at an unprecedented scale. These companies now interact with states over issues including surveillance, freedom of expression, and data protection in ways that they may not have expected, and which now require interrogation and a response. That’s why it’s essential to invite companies to join us at RightsCon, to listen to their perspectives, to voice our concerns, and to build strategies to ensure the enjoyment of our human rights.
RightsCon may well be a defining moment in the trajectory of digital rights in the region, with more than 155 civil society organizations, 50 companies, and numerous governments in attendance. We have a real opportunity to help shape our digital future for users in the region and beyond. We look forward to seeing you in Manila on March 24th!
A limited number of tickets are still available here.