Iranians are actively seeking to have their voice heard on a range of civil society issues such as economic inequality, women’s rights, minority rights and democracy. Replacing physical civic gatherings and events is a growing online community of concerned Iranians. With high Internet and mobile penetration rates, the Internet brings new opportunities for civil society organizing and citizen empowerment for a young and tech-savvy population. Like citizens everywhere, Iranians have taken to social media, chat apps and other forums to share information, engage in dialogue and access the latest news about current affairs and other issues.
However, this arena is not without constraints. Access to information is hampered by censorship and other information controls, while online activism carries some risk of harassment, arrest and detention. Regardless of online activities, Iranian activists and journalists might find themselves under surveillance or hacked by agents in Iran. Despite debates about Internet policy reform, these trends are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
Given these trends, there is a need for the global community to support efforts at improving access to digital rights in Iran. To encourage such initiatives, ASL19 is running the Iran Cyber Stewards program for individuals working on innovative projects that support and strengthen civil society initiatives in the digital sphere. This year-long program will support 3-5 individuals working on initiatives that directly contribute to practical responses to civil society issues. This program was inspired by Citizen Lab’s Cyber Steward program, although it operates independently of The Lab.
Each Iran Cyber Steward will be expected to lead the development and implementation of their project, submitting brief quarterly reports. ASL19 will provide mentorship remotely via online channels. The program is expected to run from August for a one-year period.
This program is designed to support individuals working on innovative projects that support and/or strengthen civil society initiatives. They can be projects in any stage of development, from ‘just an idea’ to ‘already under implementation’.
Please submit all documents to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59pm PT, July 1, 2016 with “Iran Cyber Stewards Proposal” in the subject title.
Projects will be judged based on ability to contribute to practical responses to civil society issues, innovation, sustainability and impact. Preference will be given to projects that adopt constructive engagement strategies using technology to respond to civil society needs. Projects that improve access to rights, responsive governance and citizen interests in Iran are also highly encouraged.
ASL19, Farsi for Article 19, is a technology and research lab working to build practical responses for access to information challenges such as censorship. Our work helps Iranians assert their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information, rights which are essential for a vibrant civil society in Iran. Originally founded in 2012 to help Iranians bypass Internet censorship, our work also includes the development of ‘post-circumvention’ platforms that enables easy access to information that was previously diffuse, difficult to obtain or unavailable.