Digital Citizen/المواطن الرقمي – Keeping tabs on digital rights in the Arab world

Digital Citizen, or المواطن الرقمي is a monthly newsletter that aims to cover all sorts of issues related to technology, policy, and human rights. The project came about when friends and colleagues from several organizations—at first SMEX, Access, and EFF—realized that there was a gap in coverage about Internet governance issues in the Arab world and decided to do something about it. Realizing any such project would have to be bilingual (if not trilingual), they enlisted Global Voices to join the team and thus Digital Citizen was born. The wonderful Jordanian team at 7iber joined shortly thereafter.

The newsletter is very much a team effort, with volunteers working from Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, the United States, and elsewhere, and the team is constantly growing. We met at AB14 this week to discuss our process, hoping that by announcing the meeting publicly, we might gain a few new members…we were very surprised, then, when at least eight people joined our meeting, excitedly sharing their ideas for the project.

From the meeting emerged several important ideas: First, syndication. Most of the subscribers to our newsletter seem to be based in the United States, but the analytics for the published version on Global Voices indicate that our Arabic version is more popular than the English (and Spanish!) versions. So, in order to ensure greater distribution, we're seeking syndication with publications that will re-publish and spread our content. Partners will be encouraged to publish Digital Citizen as a whole, but are also welcome to publish only the sections relevant to their country or context (Digital Citizen is licensed under Creative Commons!).

Furthermore, we also managed to recruit some new faces to the project, from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon. One struggle we've faced is ensuring good, accurate content from countries where we have no local contributors, and so these partnerships are key to the project's survival. We're also going to begin publishing the newsletter in French as well as English and Arabic.

Finally, like any good project, we've experienced growing pains that have sometimes delayed publication or made the contribution process painful. To that end, we're working to find ways to create better internal processes and hard deadlines.

We're excited to see Digital Citizen grow and hope you'll join us on the journey!

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