FOC Task Force, Duke University Partner for Digital Inclusion

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The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) Task Force on Digital Equality (TFDE), of which the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, is one of the co-chairs, is collaborating with students from the  Applied Ethics+ Program of Duke University in the United States to conduct a research on promoting inclusive and transnational digital equality

The Programme was hosted by the Duke Initiative for Science and Society and provides an opportunity for Duke undergraduate and graduate students to work together with host organizations to address pressing real-world challenges in policy, technology, research, and ethics.

The initiative was led by Freedom Online Coalition and some of its Advisory Network members including the Association for Progressive Communications, Media Rights Agenda, and The Business and Human Rights Group, dedicated to promoting digital equality and fighting against exclusion and poverty in digital services across the globe.

Recognizing the importance of collaboration in achieving their goals, the TFDE recently embarked on a groundbreaking partnership with Duke University’s Applied Ethics+ Programme.

Over a span of ten weeks, a dynamic team from Duke’s Applied Ethics+ Programme comprising two motivated students, a dedicated faculty instructor, and an experienced faculty advisor took up the challenge and worked tirelessly on three critical objectives.

The team developed a comprehensive glossary of key terms related to digital equality which promises to be a beacon of clarity in the complex landscape of digital inclusion. The team also created an academic repository dedicated to digital equality and inclusion which aims to become a wellspring of knowledge for students, researchers, and policymakers. To better understand the efforts being made around the world to bridge digital gaps, the team also compiled a repository of strategies and initiatives undertaken by FOC member states that showcases diverse approaches and insights.

At the culmination of their efforts, the Duke students presented a comprehensive report to the FOC Task Force and Advisory Network Members. This report highlights key findings and showcases initiatives that are making a difference in addressing digital divides, exclusion, and poverty in various regions.

This collaboration is a testament to the FOC’s commitment to digital inclusion. The research outputs of this partnership will play a crucial role in furthering the TFDE’s mission by fostering a shared understanding of key issues related to digital equality and inclusion.

This initiative also builds upon the foundation laid by the FOC’s Joint Statement on Digital Inclusion, released in February 2020. The statement emphasizes that true digital inclusion is essential for people to fully benefit from the Internet’s potential. It calls for reliable connectivity, digital literacy, civic participation free from undue censorship, and the safety of all online users.

Looking forward, the TFDE is dedicated to continuing its mission. Task Force Members are actively supporting the Coalition’s priority to strengthen digital inclusion under the US Chairship, as outlined in the Programme of Action 2023. This includes facilitating learning calls and exploring collaborative opportunities with various FOC sub-entities and external partners.

The partnership between the FOC Task Force on Digital Equality and Duke University’s Applied Ethics+ Programme is a shining example of how collaboration between dedicated organizations and passionate students can pave the way toward a more inclusive digital future.