In December, we were in Tirana, albeit virtually.
As part of our Citizen Voices for Digital Rights project, we hosted an event with the residents of Albania’s capital and the Municipality of Tirana to discuss digital rights.
Digital rights are human rights in the internet era, becoming increasingly important as we conduct more of our lives online. This includes the right of individuals to access, use, create and publish digital content or to access and use computers, other electronic devices and telecommunications networks. The workshop was run entirely in Albanian and involved a diverse group of participants from different backgrounds. Due to COVID restrictions, the event was held online over the course of five hours.
We divided the event into three main sections – a ‘learning’ session, where participants heard three Albanian digital rights experts, who gave context to the issue and spoke of its specific relevance to the residents of Tirana:
- Orkidea Xhaferaj - project and policy expert at UNDP
- Anxhelo Lushka - UI/UX Developer
- Erjon Curraj - Director of Information Technology at the Albanian Financial Supervisory Authority and Jean Monnet Module Coordinator.
The trio spoke about digital rights, digital literacy and democracy, digital privacy and security, and digital education and accessibility.
Digital rights are human rights and respecting them requires ongoing efforts from local and central government, academia, CSOs, and citizens. During the COVID19 pandemic, citizens’ rights of expression, right to access information, privacy, and data protection, were seriously endangered, which in turn endanger the already fragile democracy of Albania.
This learning session was followed by a conversation about digital rights in the context of people’s own lives and the experience in their communities. We asked people what they considered the most important aspect of digital rights, and their hopes and fears around the impact it will have on their communities and the wider world. The main themes of discussion included privacy and security – “How secure are we really?” – and the ownership and protection of data, including the use of personal data by various stakeholders for profit, and whether protections regarding this should be included in Albanian legislation.
“After the pandemic, we may officially announce that our new norm is a digital world, and as such it requires heavy and continuous digital civic education. All citizens should feel included and should know their new rights and how they can be safe and secure while being smart and effective participants in the digital world. They should be aware of their rights and responsibilities as digital citizens and how to embody the healthy attributes of a digital citizen. This is an urgent call to train educators and start spreading the word, organize the community and show solidarity.”
All citizens should feel included and should know their new rights and how they can be safe and secure while being smart and effective participants in the digital world.
The third section was centered around ongoing engagement and participation about digital rights. Faola Hodaj, part of the Innovation Department and the Municipality of Tirana, spoke about existing opportunities to engage in Tirana, best practices on digital rights from around the world, and ideas for how to build on these. Questions this time focused on ideas and opportunities for residents and the Municipality of Tirana to work together on digital rights, and about what would motivate them and others to participate in this. Three key conclusions were drawn from this session.
- Firstly, workshops about digital rights like ours are crucial and should be more frequently held in Tirana and throughout Albania.
- Secondly, information on digital rights should be a subject in the pre-university education system and a specific curriculum should be designed for this.
- Finally, there should be awareness campaigns in Albania dedicated to the impact that digital rights have and how it is impacting everyday life of all citizens.
Faola Hodaj, who also acted as lead facilitator at the workshop, said at the end of the workshop that she “was amazed by the curiosity and dedication that the participants of showed.” “It was a first for the city of Tirana on this topic, but I believe that this is the beginning of something big. We will do our best in fulfilling the community needs with all the know-how and internal capacities that we have”.
Prior to Tirana, similar workshops – part of a bigger series of conversations with residents of European cities about digital rights – took place in Bordeaux, France, with others to be held during February in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Milan, Italy.
The results from across these local workshops will be compared, expanded on and synthesised by the same people from each city, together, at a central event held online in March. Results from the wider project will then be compiled and published in April 2021.
To find out more about the Citizen Voices for Digital Rights project, and any upcoming events or publications, please contact Beth Wiltshire at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out about the work taking place in the Municipality of Tirana, please contact Faola Hodaj at email@example.com.