Connected Citizenship: Digital Literacy and the Role of Civil Society and Academia

Organized by the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR (IACHR-RELE) in collaboration with the Educadigital Institute. 

Date: Friday, March 04, 2022

Time: 11:30 am to 1:00 pm EST

Zoom registration for attendees (non-panelists):

Simultaneous audio interpretation in the following languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) recognize that the region is at a turning point that requires attention to the impact of digital technologies and the Internet on the exercise of human rights and the exercise of democracy. In accordance with their mandates, efforts have been focused on promoting guarantees of freedom of expression in digital spaces, monitoring possible limitations and warning about the consequences of stigmatizing speech online.

In order to open the discussion and offer recommendations from the Inter-American Human Rights System, the RFOE has convened a variety of actors to participate in the first phase of a multi-sectoral dialogue – the Americas Dialogue on Freedom of Expression Online, which took place virtually throughout the second half of 2021. Among the Dialogue’s axes, digital literacy for the development of civic competencies is understood as the set of skills, knowledge and attitudes that a person needs to functionally develop within the information society, so that he or she can use technology to create social and economic opportunities. See the Dialogue of the Americas on freedom of expression on the Internet here

However, even though the number of users who share and consume content on the Internet has grown exponentially, it seems that there is an urgent need to reflect on the skills and abilities that we should forge as democratic societies, in order to promote plural participation as an online value and the construction of critical citizenship. Hence, digital literacy is one of the guidelines that can contribute to reduce or eliminate the digital divide that exists in relation to access and knowledge about the use of new technologies. This implies that users (being these recipients and producers of content) have access to the Internet without undue interference by multiple actors and with sufficient technical skills to effectively exercise their rights.

This discussion will be a space to reflect on the evolution and conceptual differences between digital literacy for the development of civic competencies and other terms such as digital inclusion, digital fluency and data literacy. Issues related to legal and social obstacles existing in the region, namely the digital divide in all its manifestations, the lack of adequate infrastructure and the training of educational public administrators, will be discussed from a human rights perspective, among others.


11:30 to 11:35 am | Opening and positioning of the theme

Pedro Vaca Villareal – Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

11:35 am to 12:15 pm | Round of questions for each panelist. 

Speaking time for each panelist: approximately 8 minutes.

Moderator: Carolina Rossini – Consultant, Dialogue of the Americas and Co-Founder and Director of Impact at the Datasphere Initiative.

  • How can we define “digital literacy”? What role does Digital Literacy play for the development of civic competencies in the exercise of human rights considering the scenario of mobiles for all/everyone?

Priscila Gonsales – Founder and Director of the EducaDigital Institute

  • What do we mean by data literacy? Is data literacy the next frontier of digital literacy and how can it be used as a tool for building civic competencies and citizen participation?

Javiera Atenas – Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Suffolk University.

  • What are the challenges of training public educational administrators (education managers) to understand how education and rights can be guaranteed in an increasingly digitized society?

Julio César Gaitán – Full Professor at Universidad del Rosario and Director of the Internet and Society Center (ISUR)

  • How is the cooperation and/or articulation between academic institutions with the third sector and governmental institutions to promote digital inclusion initiatives? What are the main challenges of the digital society in this area? 

Edward King – Associate Professor of Portuguese and American Studies at the University of Bristol

12:15 – 12:45 pm | Discussion and/or conversation among the panelists based on the following questions:

  • What role do accessibility and digital inclusion play when we think about digital literacy for civic competencies development? (10 minutes)
  • What types of civic competencies in particular do you think should be able to be strengthened through digital literacy curricula? Mention and/or share examples of Digital Literacy for civic competencies development curricula that can be adopted in the region? (10 minutes)
  • What is the role of the different actors and how should this issue be thought from now on, taking into consideration, for example, the post-pandemic issue of COVID-19 and the tipping point between human rights and technology? (10 minutes)

12:45 to 1:00 pm| Questions from attendees and/or closing