Digital | Shelter
Digital Shelter (DS) is a local initiative founded in March 2018 by human right defenders who are passionate about the intersection between technology and human rights in Somalia with the aim of promoting digital safety, digital rights and inclusion and internet freedom in the growing digital civic space of Somalia. DS sees a world where people are becoming increasingly connected through the Internet and digital tools which brings opportunities and threats particularly those who are using internet to fight for particular cause such as human rights defenders, activists and bloggers.
In Somalia, today, the internet has become the primary sources of news and information as the number of internet users is increasing by the day with use of social media and the availability of digital devices such as smartphones.
With the increasing use of internet and communication comes a great opportunity for activists, bloggers and journalists who now have a global platform to fight for their causes and ideas. For instance, activists have already used the power of social media to overthrow tyrannical regimes, organized online and offline mass protests and most importantly publicized pressing human rights issues such as the plight suffering of women and girls around the world. events like Arab Spring and #FeesMustFall campaign could be referred as perfect example of how social change can be achieved with the power of social media.
However, the internet comes with its risks and poses serious threats particularly against activists and journalists as previously witnessed multiple times in Somalia. Deliberate online attacks, defamation of character and libel are often targeted against activists and journalists who are active on social media or publicizing issues related to human rights. Female activists face more serious online threats than their male counterparts, these threats are more gendered and sexualized which cause serious consequences on their lives and their families.
Several online accounts including personal and organization emails as well social media accounts of activists have been compromised mainly because of their limited understanding of the growing digital threats.
The digital safety and security has become a global concern that the United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted resolutions in 2013, which declared that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.” These resolutions have also been centered around digital privacy and access to anonymity.
In lights of this context, DS plays role in working around the following four thematic issues at grassroot and national level:-
1- Promoting Digital Safety: One of DS’s main purpose is to improve digital safety and respond to digital attacks against activists, journalists, bloggers and social media activists in Somalia by building their capacity with basic and advanced digital tools and the required skills to protect them themselves from the growing online attacks.
2- Advocating for Digital Rights: DS believes that digital rights are just extensions of the traditional human rights like freedom of expression and the right to privacy. As our society increasingly conduct our lives and our work online, our digital rights, particularly the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, are becoming more important. DS engages in grassroot advocacy on understanding how our data is being used by the state and private companies.
Moreover, DS focuses on raising public awareness on how internet giants such as Facebook and Google are using our personal data. Is it being handled fairly and carefully, or sold or even shared without our consent?
3- Digital Inclusion: One of our key priority is to build digitally inclusive society in Somalia through capacity building program to ensure that the most underprivileged groups in our communities (women and youth) have access to, and skills to use, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and are therefore able to participate in and benefit from today’s growing knowledge and information society
4- Fighting for internet freedom: We advocate for absolute Internet freedom where digital rights of the citizens is protected, we fight for freedom of information including the right to Internet access, freedom from internet censorship, and net neutrality.
Digital Shelter is striving to expand digital civic space in Somalia through capacity building, research and advocacy programs aimed at empowering citizens on digital safety, digital rights & inclusion while at the same time advocating for internet freedom.
Digital Shelter wants to be the premier sources of digital safety awareness and education in Somalia. We are envisioning a digitally inclusive society where digital rights of all citizens are respected and where activists, journalists, bloggers and social media communities are able to use internet free from online risks so that they can enjoy their online freedom of expression.