In the Middle East and North African Region, technology has become a tool that mediates a vast set of relationships that touches fundamental aspects of the dailyuser’s life on the internet. This includes issues that concern cyber security, human rights, and anti-surveillance measures.
The numbers of individuals that can understand, build, and work with these evolving technological tools and platforms remains relatively small in the Arab world. Further, these people are greatly exposed to human rights violations, mass surveillance, and insecurity in cyber space.
Civil society has shown potential to be the engine forward for a collection of technically skilled and creative people including programmers, designers, engineers, and innovative thinkers with crucial skills incomputer science, data science, and the Internet. These talented people represent a growing fraction of thehuman capital across the many sectors of civil society in the Arab world that tackle issues related to online human freedom and human security.
Concerning anti-surveillance policies, civil society has a key role in checking abuses and improving government operations and legal processes. Inclusive laws and implementation could help prevent situations like the lack of delivery of services to citizens or wide-scale mass surveillance.
The first thing government needs is a service delivery implementation strategy that would consult civil society. It needs to be able to think about how to do what it traditionally does with a smarter technological strategy to allow for more transparency, inclusivity, and trust in relation to its citizens’ use of a safe internet cyberspace.
Civil society in the Arab World has a major role to play in helping to bring about inclusivity, safety, and the technological ‘upgrading’ for all. This would improve service delivery and quality and could influence positively on the nature of the government’s use of the internet.
The current lack of tech talent in civil society leaves the Arab world mired in a fundamentally undemocratic model of internet governance where it is impossible to acquire the policy solutions that can check and balance the government’s hegemonic abuse on the internet.
On one hand, State governments are key promoters of internet freedom, while they also commit human rights abuses. On the other hand, civil society represents a vibrant human capital in the Arab world that is increasing the pace of technological investment.It would be beneficial to government agencies and to the public if civil society adopts a more intelligent approach through public-private partnership in order to acquire more in house tech savviness.
As a result, civil society would be able to do its job better, quicker, and more efficiently. Further, improved technological capacity would provide more tools for advocacy to civil society, thus helping achieve specific policy goals relating to human rights, cyber security, and mass surveillance.
The use of information technology to help achieve a national policy goal should target internet education, IT awareness and funding disconnect gaps in the pipeline to the advantages associated with the presence of technologists.
Those with a deep understanding of technology in civil society organizations should ran parallel to those in government by improving nonprofit techniques, bolstering credibility, and enhancing organizational effectiveness.
To counter the hegemonic internet governance in the Arab World by government, civil society should target the improvement of the technological capacities of non-profits. This knowledge will provide civil society organizations with a more modern toolkit for the critical work being carried out to defend a more inclusive use of the internet through a human rights focus.
Technology, if used actively in civil society can open one’s work to an entire new community of people who may not belong directly to the cause. Many of these people are simply individuals who are looking to be connected to something they believe in.
Further, technology can help civil society organizations dramatically extend their reach in the same way that businesses have done. Through civil society, citizens could acquire better access to information technology that gives them the kind of safe scale, scope and space to understand, use, and create awareness of how to use the internet for economic, legal, and social purposes.
There are examples of some organizations that start off small, on the scale of one person or a small group, and end up having an outsized impact. Examples include Wikipedia, Khan Academy, andUshahidi, which started off with good ideas combined with the ability to mobilize the talent and financial resources to support them. Civil society can also have an impact in a way that was extremely difficult to do in the past.
In the Arab world, it is important to bolster human rights, cyber security and mass surveillance policies through public-private partnership. Consulting with technological experts will be vital for undertaking technology-related policymaking in a credible way. Civil society in the Arab world would find it difficult to advance public interest around technology issues without this technical expertise, which must come from a diversity of people including governments and the private sector.