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Wednesday, March 30 • 4:00pm - 5:00pm
The political economy of the zero-rating debate in the developing world - what are the stakes?

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This session aims to map the actors and their strategies that make up the pro-zero-rating lobby in the developing world, with a view to identify more clearly where civil society and other actors concerned about zero-rating need to focus their capacity building as well as advocacy efforts.

Zero-rating has become a heated issue in both the developed and the developing world over the past few years. The central questions, and the ways these are approached are, not the same in the North and Global South. This is because at the heart of the zero-rating debate in developing countries lies the question of how to expand Internet access, and its empowering potential, among populations that count vast numbers of poor people amongst them. Is zero-rating an appropriate or effective way to achieve this?

Many civil society organisations have argued that it isn’t. In their work, they are increasingly confronted with strategies from the pro-zero-rating lobby in the developing world that seek to undermine their arguments, in two specific ways in particular:

1. Through an emotional appeal that seeks to cast middle class civil society activists who already have Internet access as selfish people who are merely concerned that ‘their’ Internet will be altered, even if this is to make sure that a greater number of people can benefit from its offerings. A corollary is the argument that the voices from the unconnected are not represented by such activists, and are in fact not represented in the debate at all - ‘nobody asks them their opinion’, it is said.

2. Through the use of technical arguments to take the debate in a different direction and question the expertise of civil society activists. For example, net neutrality is often referred to as a ‘non-existent’ technical concept, because network management is never neutral. The principles of network neutrality defended by civil society members and relating to human rights, non-discrimination and equality are made out to be misguided or irrelevant in this context.

By mapping these, and possible additional arguments, as well as the actors that put them forward, in some detail, the session hopes to provide greater clarity as to what kind of support civil society organisations working in this field will need exactly, as well as how they can sharpen their advocacy effectively to counter such trends. How do we respond effectively to the challenges thrown at us?

The workshop will be conducted in a highly interactive manner, with trigger speakers identified in advance kicking off the discussion on a specific sub-topic, and exercises aimed at getting everyone to actively contribute their experiences and ideas.

avatar for Luca Belli

Luca Belli

Researcher, Center for Technology and Society at FGV
Luca Belli, PhD, is Senior Researcher at the Center for Technology and Society (CTS) of Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School, Rio de Janeiro, where he leads the 'Internet Governance @ FGV' project. Luca is also associated researcher at the Centre de Droit Public Comparé of Paris 2 University. Before joining CTS, Luca worked for the Council of Europe Internet Governance Unit; served as a Network Neutrality Expert for the Council... Read More →
avatar for Raman Jit Singh Chima

Raman Jit Singh Chima

Global Policy Director, Access Now
avatar for Nikhil Pahwa

Nikhil Pahwa

co-Founder, SaveTheInternet.in
Founder and Editor - MediaNama.com; co-founder SavetheInternet.in/Internet Freedom Foundation
avatar for Carolina Rossini

Carolina Rossini

VP of International Policy, Public Knowledge
2016 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader

Maria Pilar Sáenz

Karisma Foundation

Wednesday March 30, 2016 4:00pm - 5:00pm
The Fireside

Attendees (54)