Internet Policy Analyst Information Session in Sfax, Tunisia  

Dozens of participants gathered at the Franklin Center library in Sfax, Tunisia for an information session on the Internet Policy Analyst project.

Sfax is considered the economic capital of Tunisia. I hosted the session as a contributing author for the IPA, a Hivos programme that brings voices together from the MENA region on Internet governance and policies with the aim of improving knowledge on Internet governance and promoting legislation that protects human rights online.

The presentation lasted about 20 minutes and was followed by vibrant discussion. In the presentation, I first introduced Hivos as an organization and then talked about IGMENA’s program objectives. After that, we talked about how to draw on technology, policy, and advocacy disciplines to prepare civic actors to take the lead in advocating for online human rights and Internet policy, while working closely with other concerned stakeholders. The remainder of the conversation focused on the IPA project specifically.

IPA seeks to give a voice to Internet governance advocates, including  journalists, bloggers, academics, and cyber-activists in the MENA region. There is currently a community of 70 IPA authors represents countries cross the Arab region. These authors have contributed more than 75 articles on online freedom of expression, censorship and surveillance, and data protection and privacy themes. 
The IPA project seeks to develop a new generation of Internet policy analysts who can report, analyse, gather data, and write about current developments specific to Internet policy and governance in their respective countries. Authors circumvent the constraints that young people face when utilizing the Internet and enlighten the wider Internet governance audience on how to think analytically about local Internet issues from the grassroots.

The IPA supports progressive activism that empowers authors, and particularly youth, as thought leaders. The project feeds into a wider effort in the MENA region to promote dialogue, collaboration, and research. Authors assemble evidence and facts in write-ups that propose advocacy strategies and policy reforms.

I discussed how IPA contributors have engaged in a number of recent events and processes in the region:
I highlighted that the city of Sfax has a large number of activists and experts who are willing to write and report about Internet governance issues and encouraged everyone to contribute to the IPA. Drawing on Tunisian authors outside of the capital Tunis will bring different perspectives and opinions about the issues of online freedom of expression, surveillance and censorship, and data protection and privacy. By diversifying the group of IPA authors, we can make the community of Internet policy analysts in the Tunisia and the Arab world more influential in policy processes.

Finally, I shared my appreciation to the driving force behind the success of the IPA, Mr. Hamza Ben Mehrez.

Marwa Jabran (Tunisia) (MA Buisness) is a civil society activist and member of the Executive Commission of Sfax Capital of Arab Culture 2016.