Partners from the MAZI project are speaking at RightsCon Toronto 2018, the seventh event in the RightsCon Summit Series, taking place May 16 – 18th, . This is a leading conference on human rights in the digital age, bringing together business leaders, policy makers, general counsels, government representatives, technologists, and human rights defenders from around the world to tackle pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and digital technology. The aim is to break down silos, forge partnerships, and drive large-scale, real-world change toward a more free, open, and connected world.

Digital inclusion in urban renewal: DIY toolkits for citizen inclusion & empowerment

This session will be moderated by Stavroula Maglavera, speakers are Loretta Anania, Luca Belli, Harris Niavis and Doug Schuler.

Many citizens fear digital technologies. Mastering them can overcome fear. Creating your own networks raises awareness of the potential for social change since DIY Community Networks (CNs) have been shown to give voice and empower community roles to previously marginalized citizens. Urban renewal builds on resilience and trust at local level (digital inclusion, social innovation).

This session links these technology and social innovation themes to focus on CNs. Empirical results are part of the €70 million CAPS R&D in H2020 funded by the European Commission. CN trials ran in 2017 using co-design methods to empower local communities by building trust, sharing data and problem-solving using collective intelligence for non-profit motives.

The hands-on part of the session builds a DIY toolkit, combining community WiFi with FLOSS software. DIY toolkits are free and get people able to build and run their own hybrid, digital and physical spaces at sustainably low cost. Results show impact: collective awareness, social cohesion, conviviality. Despite the complexity of the task, and the unfair comparison with massively global commercial platforms (e.g. FANGS) DIY toolkits have a different flavor of value and personalized connectivity. Citizens can take back control. Empowerment evolves from a bottom-up ‘how-to’ approach. Inclusion will benefit from diversity and give-and-take collaborative work. The toolkit shows how to develop, design, use, customize. Mastering the fear of digital communication technologies such as these CNs helps young and old to be more engaged in both community politics and social issues.

H2020 project MAZI developed a toolkit using low-cost open HW and SW platforms (Raspberry Pi, Arduino, OpenWRT mini-routers, sensors and other IoT devices). You can deploy your own MAZI Zone using WiFi technology and customize it for local needs with the DIY guide (simple, does not require previous coding or internet access). CNs get groups to communicate, “feel” their local environment, self-organize or simply to get in touch with others in physical proximity, constantly acquiring the control of the data flows produced in their MAZI Zone.

At RightsCon 2018, two use cases built around hybrid space, FLOSS & DIY networking are shown. Participants will be able to follow the deployment and configuration of a local MAZI Zone or even try the process by themselves. Social scientists and lawyers conclude the session, by sharing expertise on policy and impact analysis of the role community nets in urban renewal.

MAZI project proposes an interactive session to engage participants in DIY networking setups. The mix of technology and community engagement is typical of digital social innovation. Empowering citizens to take control of the technology around them is one step to revitalize the socio-political communication context, reduces fear and digital exclusion, increases active participation in ‘commons’, and helps to understand why we need more privacy and decentralization of data.

More about the session

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