Next month, it’ll be five years since I left the weird and wonderful world of local government. In the years that have followed, I have explored different career paths, developed new skills, worked for a range of organisations and as a freelancer, moved from London to Birmingham and got married.
Why digital rights matter to me – a personal perspective
With the exception of getting married, what’s tied all these activities together and made experimentation possible has been digital technology and the open internet. Digital technology and the open internet has enabled me to discover new and interesting ideas beyond the mainstream media. It has given me the tools to express myself and develop greater confidence in my own thinking and outlook. Social media, particularly Twitter, has allowed me to connect with, learn from and partner with a wider range of people and organisations both for work purposes as well as independent pursuits such as Roots of Reggae and Bournville Social Media Surgery. And very significantly, throughout the last five years digital technology and the internet has been instrumental to me earning a living and developing my new career in communications.
While the circumstances of my initial career change in 2010 have played a role in deepening my relationship and sense of connection with all things digital, I also know from talking to friends, family members and colleagues that I am not alone. It’s become a platitude to say we now live in a digital world but when we look around us, it is hard to ignore the scale of social, economic and political changes that can be attributed, at least in part, to digital technology.
Bringing digital rights into the mainstream
Given the transformative effect digital technology is having on us as individuals and our society, I believe we need to find a way of bringing discussions and decision-making about digital technology into the civic and political mainstream.
By working hard to put across a persuasive case for being both pro-digital and pro-human rights I believe we can help decision-makers and people in positions of influence to realise the decisions we take in relation to digital technology and the internet have far reaching implications for our rights as citizens and the society we live in.
Moving from reactive campaigning to a positive vision of a digital society
Currently, a lot of attention has been given to the government’s revival of the so-called Snoopers’ Charter and the implications for privacy and freedom of expression arising from mass surveillance. Public scrutiny has also been applied to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is being negotiated in secret between the EU and the USA, and which potentially brings intrusive measures associated with copyright policy. While these high profile cases provide an opportunity to rally supporters and often see off the worst aspects of different proposals, we must do more than simply respond to threats when they arise, we need to come together and develop a movement that is capable to putting across a convincing, positive vision for a society that is both pro-digital and pro-human rights.
Introducing the Open Rights Group
After quite a lot of research and enquiry as to how people around the world have approached the issue of ‘digital rights’, I came across the UK-based Open Rights Group, whose vision of a digital society I share:
As society goes digital we wish to preserve its openness. We want a society built on laws, free from disproportionate, unaccountable surveillance and censorship. We want a society in which information flows more freely. We want a state that is transparent and accountable, where the public’s rights are acknowledged and upheld.
We want a world where we each control the data our digital lives create, deciding who can use it and how. We want the public to fully understand their digital rights, and be equipped to be creative and free individuals. We stand for fit-for-purpose digital copyright regimes that promote free expression and diverse participation in culture.
We believe people have the right to control their technology, and oppose the use of technology to control people.
Time to build a grassroots campaign for digital rights
Following last month’s general election win for the Conservatives, which has resulted in the reintroduction of the Snoopers’ Charter in the Queen’s Speech, I decided I had to become more active on promoting digital rights. It was at this time that I became a paid up member of the Open Rights Group.
Now that I am a member of the Open Rights Group, I want to help more people become aware of the importance of digital rights and maintaining an open digital society that works for the many, not the few. To achieve this goal, I am in the process of setting up a local Birmingham Open Rights Group. The idea is to bring like-minded people together, both in person as well as online, and for us to work together to ensure digital rights become embedded into the everyday fabric of our society.
I’ve already started to reach out to friends and colleagues in Birmingham who I think might be interested in supporting the Open Rights Group. The next step will be organising an initial meet-up. This will help me to determine the current level of interest in digital rights in Birmingham (does anyone really care?) and for members of the group to decide on what the next steps should be. Look out for more information shortly about our first meet-up.
Would you like to help set up an Open Rights Group in Birmingham?
Would you like to help set up an Open Rights Group in Birmingham? If so, please get in touch with me and we can get the ball rolling. I would be extremely grateful for any help you can provide – no matter how much or how little.