2015 Iran Cyber Dialogue Addresses Opportunities and Challenges

March 25, 2015

Hivos partner ASL 19 hosted the third annual Iran Cyber Dialogue (ICD) on 5 and 6 March in Valencia, Spain. The conference brought together government actors, civil society members, journalists and technical experts to discuss the state of Iran with respect to technological infrastructure, Internet policy, and human rights. Host ASL 19 (Article 19 in Farsi) is an international research lab that develops technology and projects that bolster strong civil societies.

“Our aim was to bring together Iranian and global actors to discuss the opportunities and challenges of increasing access to information online for Iranians”, said Ali Bangi, Director of ASL19, explaining the choice behind this year’s conference theme.

Bangi further elaborated, “Right now, there are so many interesting and exciting initiatives taking place inside and outside Iran with respect to technology startups, which represent significant opportunities. And yet, many challenges remain, such as sanctions and censorship. If access is our concern, we also need to examine the overall relationship of technology and its impact on human rights, on society and on the economy”.

The first day of the conference included three panel discussions, which were open to the public, a first ever for ICD. The first panel, moderated by BBC Persian journalist Bahman Kalbasi, looked at developments in international relations with a focus on Iran’s relationship with the West.

Roya Soleimani, a Communications Manager at Google, moderated the second panel’s discussion of the situation on the ground in Iran from a technical perspective. Speakers on this panel explored the opportunities for response from the ICT community and Iranian civil society. Mahmoud Eynat, Director of Small Media, engaged speakers on the third panel in a lively discussion, taking a comparative look at trends in government controls and circumvention technologies in Iran and across the region.

The second day of the conference was comprised of closed sessions designed to facilitate development of practical solutions and strategies.

Timed to coincide with the ICD conference, Hivos’ Internet Governance Program for the MENA Region launched a Farsi language version of the IGMENA website on 5 March. Director of the IGMENA Programme Hanane Boujemi described the importance of this new site: “The launch of the IGMENA Farsi website was inspired by the need to have a platform which covers Internet policy updates specific to Iran. Providing content in Farsi will help us reach out to the Farsi-speaking community interested in Internet Governance, Internet policy, digital rights and cyber security.”