Rohini Lakshané (of The Bachchao Project) and Prateek Waghre (of The Takshashila Institution) spoke with Anirudh Kanisetti on this podcast about their analysis of the 301 entries whitelisted for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir in January 2020. This episode is a part of the All Things Policy series of The Takshashila Institution. The detailed analysis and test results were published on Medianama — Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis.
Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project spoke with Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, Institute of Human Rights and Business, about intentional Internet shutdowns in India, corporate responsibility, and some of the findings from our 2018 research report “Of Sieges and Shutdowns“: https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/information-communication-technology/podcast-rohini-lakshane
Rohini Lakshané (Director, Emerging Research, The Bachchao Project) spoke with Srinivas Kodali (Interdisciplinary researcher) on an episode of Cyber Democracy about the efficacy of technological interventions for public safety. Rohini spoke about CCTVs, mobile phone apps, mobile device-based panic buttons, and the preliminary research report “Evaluating Safety Buttons on Mobile Devices (2017)“, jointly published by the Centre for Internet and Society and The Bachchao Project.
An op-ed authored by Jan Rydzak and Rohini Lakshané on the topic of intentional Internet shutdowns in India was published in the Hindustan Times on May 3, 2019. Jan Rydzak is a research scholar and Associate Director for Program, Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi), Stanford University. Rohini Lakshané is Director (Emerging Research), The Bachchao Project.
Shutdowns have caused billions of dollars in economic damage and deeply impacted lives and livelihoods across India. However, rarely do we hear a more fundamental question: do shutdowns achieve their intended goals? Research suggests that it doesn’t.
The social media shutdown that followed the recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka was no isolated incident. On a global level, more than 40 countries have executed more than 400 blackouts of social media or Internet access since the Arab Spring. India accounts for an overwhelming majority of this tally. Nearly half of the estimated 306 shutdowns executed in India over the last seven years occurred in 2018, amid the surge of lynchings attributed to the circulation of violent content on WhatsApp.
Shutdowns have caused billions of dollars in economic damage and deeply impacted lives and livelihoods across India. But rarely do we hear a fundamental question: do shutdowns achieve their intended goals? State governments in India routinely frame deliberate blackouts as either a public safety response to agitations or a preventive measure to restrain disinformation on social media and communication apps. Not a single time have they provided more than anecdotal evidence that a blackout successfully prevented the escalation of protest or curbed the spread of false information with the potential to stoke violence. The effectiveness of shutdowns in protecting public safety tends to be perceived as an indisputable truth, both in India and abroad.
The Bachchao Project was recently featured in the RightsCon Community voices series: https://www.accessnow.org/community-voices-the-bachchao-project-fights-for-gender-rights-online
Community Voices: The Bachchao Project fights for gender rights online
28 August 2018 | 2:29 pm | Nikki Gladstone
CC-BY 2018 accessnow.org
The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective working at the intersection of technology and gender rights. Chinmayi S K, a computer science engineer by training, is the founder of the project, which she started in recognition of her own experiences developing and using technologies that do not reflect the needs of women and queer individuals online.
“There has always been a gap between those who produce technology and those who use it,” says Chinmayi. When that gap exists, and technological innovations do not represent or consult users, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, they risk coding existing discriminatory biases into tools that do not serve everyone.
The India-based organization works with what they call “both ends of the spectrum”: technologists and users. Both groups, Chinmayi acknowledges, struggle. Technologists face difficulties understanding the on-the-ground reality of user groups, while users new to technology lack the support needed to navigate these innovations. The Bachchao Project seeks to bridge the two, under the overarching mission of equal rights for women, gender minorities, and LGBTQIA persons.
Since the team is made up of both technologists and human rights defenders, they’re able to deconstruct technological concepts while simultaneously understanding the needs of different communities. They also rely on concerned individuals to build circles of trust within their communities and pave the way for impactful interventions.
Despite this, they face ongoing challenges in the work they do. The tendency for organizations to work in silos makes it difficult for them to get buy-in for an approach that seeks to promote collaboration. In some cases, it can be difficult to get organizations not only to consider seriously principles of diversity and inclusion, but also to integrate them in their work and tools.
For the Bachchao Project, RightsCon is an opportunity to confront those challenges head-on, in a space that thrives because of engagement and strategy building across sectors and disciplines. At RightsCon Toronto, the team released its latest publication, Of Sieges and Shutdowns, a report detailing how unreliable mobile networks and intentional internet shutdowns affect women activists and entrepreneurs in the economically underdeveloped and conflict-ridden state of Manipur, India. The project is a starting point for understanding the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by women in the region.
Learn more about the Bachchao Project on their website or follow them on Twitter, and get in touch directly if you are interested in volunteering or collaborating with The Bachchao Project on one of their initiatives.