Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) 2020
Call for proposals
Terms of reference (TOR) for country reports
Theme: Technology, the environment and a sustainable world: Responses from the global South
Extended deadline for proposals: 27 May 2020
The world is facing a climate and environmental emergency. Scientists have identified human activity as primarily responsible for the crisis, with global economies, movement and consumerism driving unsustainable carbon emissions, depleting natural resources, and polluting fragile ecosystems. All of these are placing unprecedented pressure on sustainable development.
The term "sustainable development" can have many meanings, and is often used loosely and uncritically to justify particular policy and political agendas. Sometimes it simply refers to economic sustainability, or foregrounds a technology-driven future, as in the "fourth industrial revolution". In other instances, the term is simply added to policy documents to provide a veneer of authenticity to otherwise poor or unthoughtful policy proposals. Environmental sustainability is far too often absent from policy conceptions of what a sustainable future entails.
Sustainable development can be defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." For the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) this includes challenging structural inequalities and discrimination through working to decolonise the internet and digital technologies. The collective power of activists, organisations and excluded groups and communities, as well as a feminist and rights-based approach, are central to our work. Our goal is ensuring that the internet is governed as a global public resource, leading to greater care for ourselves, each other and the Earth.
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) offer myriad solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation, to cope with environmental disasters such as drought or floods, and to address systemic threats such as the pollution of air, marine life and soil. The internet is also a powerful mobilisation tool for environmental activists, for raising public awareness on the climate crisis and other environmental threats, and for pushing for policy and institutional change. More generally, as digital rights advocates, we promote the internet as a tool for social and political change, and as a way to enable our human rights, and believe that widespread access to the internet is important to achieve this.
But internet rights activists face something of a paradox. On the one hand, ICTs offer an opportunity to build a sustainable future, and are essential to offering alternatives to current economic models of growth, nurturing supportive social relations and building global solidarity. At the same time, they are part of the problem: rampant digital consumerism and the exponential growth of the internet come at a cost to the environment. According to research led by the Shift Project, the increase of carbon emissions from digital technology would draw back the global reduction efforts by 20%. Our e-waste is also increasing exponentially, with many countries still lacking practical ways to recycle and safely discard old technology. Moreover, the internet is now used efficiently by reactionary groups working against sustainable ecological change, such as climate “deniers”, who often have powerful political, industry or even religious backing.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has also thrown our unsustainable economies and encroachment on the natural environment into stark relief. As a result of the massive quarantine of populations around the globe, some changes at the level of natural ecosystems have started to be seen. While it is likely that climate change will result in similar pandemics in the future, COVID-19 has shown the potential for a global response to crises, and for behaviour change at the individual and community level. This offers lessons for responding to climate change, such as an opportunity to seriously explore alternatives to intensive travel and face-to-face meetings as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
How can technology be used for building a sustainable, greener future? What are the ways in which the internet is being used now in your country to protect the environment, change economic modes of exchange and social behaviour, or to adapt to climate change? What works, what doesn’t? What examples in your country help us to critically interrogate sustainable development, growth and future economies through the lens of the environment? What concrete responses to the environmental crisis are necessary and possible?
Our understanding of the global South does not only refer to it as a geographical place but a condition of exclusion, discrimination and oppression, which is also situated in the global North in the form of marginalised, excluded and silenced populations and groups, such as undocumented migrants, ethnic or religious minorities, victims of sexism, violence of various kinds, racism, etc. GISWatch aims to problematise the notions and aspects around these issues.
This edition of GISWatch seeks to provide fresh perspectives on these challenges confronting civil society in our efforts to build a just and sustainable world.
How to participate in this call
1) Read the instructions contained in this call, and if you wish to participate, submit your proposal before the deadline by filling out this online form.
The proposal, which should be written in English, should reach us using the online form by 27 May 2020 at the latest, and include the following information (no more than 400 words):
a) Name, organisation, country
b) Outline of the issue or topic you will write about. We need to know:
What is the specific context you will be writing about?
What definition of "sustainable development" will you be using or critiquing in your report?
What responses to the environmental crisis will you be focusing on in your report? Please be clear on the role of technology in these responses. (200 words) Please note: In this edition of GISWatch we are specifically interested in concrete responses to the current environmental crisis and the need for real sustainable development. These responses might be technological/technical, or social and cultural changes enabled by technology, or ICT regulatory and governance issues, etc. We are interested in critiques of these responses. What is viable, what is possible, what is desirable? What are different stakeholders already doing to respond to the environmental crisis and how can civil society build on these? What is missing from current working models of sustainable development in your country? What has to be done differently? If your proposal is accepted, the final report will contain "Action steps" for civil society, which will need to be considered, specific, and actionable by civil society. We have included some potential topics that might be relevant to your country below.
How will you go about gathering your information or doing your research so that it makes a fresh contribution to the discussion on the environmental crisis and sustainable growth?
How will you engage other civil society organisations working in this field in your country?
What are the envisaged policy advocacy implications of your report that you expect to discuss?
2) The authors will be selected by end of May. If you are selected you will have up to six weeks to write and submit your final report by 17 July 2020.
More on the report writing process
1) If your proposal is selected, the report you write on your chosen topic must be written in English and have a maximum length of 2,300 words. For consistency, the report should be developed using a template that will be provided to authors. APC will provide you with background readings, offer an online session to help orientate you to the topic, and support you during the writing process. A mailing list will be set up where you will be able to share your questions, ideas and resources with other country report authors contributing to this edition.
2) Once submitted, your report will be edited by the GISWatch editor, and returned to you for clarifications or to respond to editorial comments. In order to ensure consistency in the quality of reports published, editorial comments are often substantial, so proper time needs to be allocated by the authors to respond to the necessary questions and changes. Once finalised, the report is sent for proofreading. This process will take place from August through September 2020.
3) Once the final report has been accepted, organisations will receive a payment in support of writing of USD 700 (seven hundred US dollars).
If you have questions do not hesitate to contact us:
We look forward to your report proposal! Remember, the extended deadline is 27 May!
Important: Please note that the aim of GISWatch is to encourage local participation in rights-based issues. Because of this, for this edition it is critical that lead authors or organisations have residence in the country they are writing about. Under certain circumstances, we may accept proposals from lead authors who are not residents in a country they wish to write about, such as proposals from displaced persons, or authors who have strong firsthand experience in a country. Lead authors may also wish to coordinate co-authors for the chapter and those co-authors may not necessarily need to be based in the same country.
Potential report angles
Your report should offer concrete examples of responses to the environmental crisis in your country, and make the link between these and sustainable development (please see proposal requirements above). Some topics or angles you might want to consider include:
Sustainable development, the climate crisis and the open data agenda (some data is available, but not accessible to the public; there also appear to be institutional battles over data credibility, which feed into the “climate debate”).
Thinking through a feminist agenda for the climate emergency and the internet. What transformative potential does the feminist agenda hold for the environment and sustainable development?
Climate denialism and hate speech online. What implications does this have for a sustainable future?
What does environmentally sustainable internet access look like? Do you have specific examples in your country?
E-waste: What needs to happen in your country for the internet to become environmentally sustainable? How does the need to deal with e-waste change our economic model of the internet? Are refurbished computers still used in your country?
ICTs and water sustainability/security.
The COVID-19 pandemic. Concrete lessons for environmental sustainability and the use of technology.
Using technology for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Are their important initiatives in your country that need to be shared?
Green economies and e-resilience. Are their initiatives in your country that are important to talk about? How are they relevant to sustainable development?
Using technology for dealing with pollution and the depletion of resources, such as marine resources.
The smart city agenda. Are smart cities always good?
We also encourage you to take a look at GISWatch 2010, where we dealt with the theme of ICTs and environmental sustainability (https://www.giswatch.org/en/2010).
Extended deadline for proposals: 27 May 2020
Authors informed of accepted proposals: End May 2020
Authors to prepare country chapter: 1 June - 17 July 2020
Deadline for country chapter: 17 July 2020
Editing process: 17 July - 17 Sept 2020
Deadline for final country report: 17 September 2020
 See the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future: http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf