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#KeepItOn via U.S. Summit for Democracy Technology Cohort

At the recent Tallinn Digital Summit in Estonia, Access Now presented testimony from #KeepItOn partner Teklehaymanot Geremeskel calling on human rights organizations to push for an end to the ongoing two years-long internet “blockade” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

Since the conflict began in Tigray in November 2020, authorities have used deliberate and sustained internet and telecommunication shutdowns as a weapon of information control and censorship, directly impacting the lives of approximately six million people in the region, as well as their networks and communities abroad.

The weaponization of internet shutdowns by authorities in Ethiopia and across the world is on the rise, resulting in violation of people’s right to access a free, open, and secure internet. The need to align on digital rights issues and coordinate a unified response in defense of civil society is greater than ever.

To facilitate this, Access Now, together with the governments of the United Kingdom and Estonia, launched the Technology for Democracy Cohort of the U.S. Summit for Democracy. Our organization is proud to be serving in a co-leadership role for the Cohort. We are responsible for bringing together stakeholders in pursuit of enhancing connectivity and democratic safeguards around the world, both online and off.

The Cohort’s work is separated into three primary strands of activities that seek to advance critical areas of policy relevant for connectivity. The cohort’s strands are: 1. Technology to support open and secure access to the internet; 2. Harnessing the potential of technology for the benefit of open, democratic societies; and 3. Technology for good governance.

How the cohort will #KeepItOn

Of these work threads, Access Now’s focus is the first strand: Defending access to the internet around the world, in line with the objectives of the #KeepItOn coalition – a global network created in 2016 to fight against internet shutdowns. Through this strand, Cohort members are working to document internet shutdowns and their impact, not only through numbers, but also through the lens of individual experience and narrative. This is because we recognize that elevating experiences such as Teklehaymanot’s is essential for understanding the human impact of internet disruptions and combating them wherever they arise.

The Shutdown Impact Stories Project does just this — it centers the voices of those impacted by uplifting the human and economic costs incurred when the internet is deliberately shut down. Specifically, the Cohort members and the #KeepItOn coalition are working to solicit written, audio, and video testimonials on the impact of these disruptions from the Coalition’s 291+ organizations in 105 countries, allied civil society partners, private sector companies, and state actors. The aim of this is to catalyze global action among governments, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector to push for an end to these acts of repression and protect human rights.

We need your support

If the Shutdown Impact Stories Projects aligns with your individual expertise or that of your organization or community, we encourage you to reach out. Your voice is important, and we want to include your perspective in the Cohort’s ongoing work to amplify the impact of internet shutdowns globally. Please share your story with us via this form, which is available in several languages, and reach out to Felicia Anthonio ([email protected]), #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now.

The creation of digital spaces has transformed how we live, work, and communicate with others. This enables each of us to exercise critical rights such as freedom of expression and access to information like never before. However, as the importance of these spaces for empowering individuals and society grows, they also present complex challenges for policymakers and civil society. Your voice is critical in ensuring that the Shutdown Impact Stories Project reflects your unique perspective and approach to ending internet shutdowns for good. Come join us to #KeepItOn.