Frameworks for Innovation and Free Expression - FIFE

Internet governance debates are raging in international bodies, but much of the policy affecting the Internet is made at the national level. Therefore, encouraging open and participatory policy processes locally that will contribute to producing laws and regulations that respect human rights and promote an open and innovative Internet is essential. Participatory governance environments at the local level will also support multi-stakeholder Internet governance internationally. Working with partners we will help foster local initiatives in select countries around the globe to support open and inclusive policy frameworks that encourage creativity and innovation, and respect freedom of expression, privacy and other rights.

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Much attention has been focused on Internet governance and Internet policy at the international level, but that is not where the medium- to longer-term strengthening of the Internet will occur.   Strengthening the Internet will increasingly occur locally, at the national level, where current and future Internet users can, through the right enabling framework, be empowered to exercise creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and bring about social, political, and economic progress.  To achieve this, however, enabling law and policy environments need to be created based on open participation and respect for human rights.
The Internet’s power to transform flows from certain characteristics that have defined the medium since its inception.   Yet these characteristics –openness, trust, innovation, and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic – are increasingly subject to pressures from different quarters.  Security-related policies increasingly threaten the privacy rights of users; laws forcing platforms or search engines to suppress controversial content inhibit free expression and access to information; policies that inhibit investment and entrepreneurship limit local content creation; and regulatory policies favouring incumbents keep services out of the reach of many.
To respond to these threats, the potential of the Internet will best be realized through people-centered and inclusive governance models at the national level. Encouraging the development of national level enabling environments that are developed though participatory processes and built upon openness, innovation, and respect for human rights will also powerfully shape the international Internet governance agenda.
CDT proposes to work with civil society partners and other stakeholders around the globe to create multi-stakeholder and open approaches to building national frameworks for innovation and free expression.  These approaches would involve representatives from government, business (particularly entrepreneurs and small business owners), civil society, academia, and others, with the goal of developing policy frameworks and governance models that will promote innovation and expand access while protecting human rights.
Potential partners include the Internet Society (ISOC), Internews and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), among others.
The project would encompass the following steps: 1) securing partners; 2) identifying best practices; 3) drafting (in collaboration with partners) locally relevant templates and roadmaps; 4) organising local framework meetings with stakeholders; 5) drafting the proposed policy framework; 6) supporting local partners in seeking adoption and implementation; 7) review and assessment.  We anticipate a 2 year initial programme.

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In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

CDT and partners will work at the national level to build open and participatory governance processes that can shape Internet policy frameworks in support of creativity, innovation and freedom of expression.

Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?

FIFE (Frameworks for Innovation and Free Expression) will benefit local Internet users by encouraging governance processes and policy environments that promote an open Internet that emphasizes access to, and the ability to share, information of the user’s choice. Observations at the international and national levels lead us to believe that inclusive and open governance models are most likely to produce policies that respect human rights and promote openness and innovation, resulting in greater investment and empowerment of individuals and contributing significantly to social and economic development.

What progress have you made so far?

CDT worked with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and other partners at the Africa IGF on the development of a principles-based multi-stakeholder policy roadmap for use at the national level. CDT has worked with a range of civil society partners and other stakeholders to promote human rights-based governance in fora as diverse as the WSIS, the Brazil NETmundial governance meeting, and the Freedom Online Coalition. We have seen some progress in the adoption of human-rights-based frameworks at the international level, but far more needs to be done nationally, both to strengthen local policy development as well as to support international efforts.

What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?

The creation of local multi-stakeholder forums and the adoption of locally driven frameworks and policies that support creativity and innovation and the realisation of human rights.

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

Our team is led by Matthew Shears, who has many years of experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors working on Internet policy issues globally. He will be assisted by Emma Llanso, CDT’s Free Expression Director, and by the full range of CDT experts on privacy, net neutrality, intellectual property, government surveillance, and human rights. Beyond these resources, CDT will reach out to experts in partner organisations and in the extensive stakeholder networks we have collaborated with and helped to nourish.


Global – target countries to be identified.


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