Strengthening connections with the Tayolchikawalis Initiative

In 2020, we worked with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) to find 5 organizations working on projects that strengthen connectivity in their communities, especially in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We provided financial contributions to these 5 organizations for them to specifically address the fact that the crisis has made digitalization and connectivity even more necessary than ever before. This series of blogs will introduce the organizations that we worked with and what they achieved with their project.

Connecting Communities in Mexico

Established in 2004 in Mexico City, Mexico, Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad A.C. (Association for Diversity, Equity and Sustainability), or REDES A.C. for short, is a civil association dedicated to the formation of support networks and process facilitation for community groups and organizations in Mexico. Their fundamental aim is to nurture conditions which allow indigenous peoples to create media that reflects their own principles and values as well as enjoy access to non-indigenous media.

This is achieved through three programs: rights, which generates legal conditions through political and regulatory advocacy actions; training, which promotes the development of capacities and the creation of teaching and learning spaces for indigenous communicators and community networks, which consists of the facilitation of telecommunication projects for indigenous communities. 

REDES A.C. seeks to strengthen the networks being developed by indigenous communities to hasten their technological and communication autonomy. To this end, REDES A.C. supports specific projects in the field of wireless networks, community intranets, WiFi and community GSM networks.

Promoting Sustainable Connectivity

Since 48percent.org exists to promote equitable access to connectivity, we found much in common with the purpose of REDES A.C. It was an easy decision to partner with them, especially in the context of the global pandemic.

Given the reduction of physical contact brought about by COVID-19, access to digital communication in rural and indigenous communities has become indispensable. As commercial models of connectivity are not compatible within the reality of many of these communities, REDES A.C., together with their partners, strives to bring to fruition a sustainable project that works with an alternative model of connectivity.

With this in mind, the grant from 48percent.org contributed toward the Tayolchikawalis Initiative driven by Unión of Cooperatives Tosepan with the accompaniment of REDES A.C and other organizations. The project’s aim is the creation of a connectivity model that strengthens the ability of the Masehual and Tutunaku people of the Sierra Norte of Puebla to face COVID-19.

Amongst other things, the initiative works to simplify the intricate licensing process for access to the connectivity spectrum and the acquisition of new equipment to improve infrastructure. It also facilitates the fast-tracking of optical fibre installation together with the training and skills upliftment required to accomplish this goal.

Strengthening the connection to Tayolchikawalis

The Tayolchikawalis Initiative continues to act as an important mediator and translator between the government and the Masehual and Tutunaku communities. Working side by side with the community radio station, the initiative creates content tailored to the specific needs of the local population.

Despite the relevance of content creation, a bigger challenge was discovered: bringing connectivity to communities. A connectivity that responds to various indigenous realities is only possible if communities design, create and develop their own infrastructure and services.

This is the essential challenge for the Tayolchikawalis Initiative: safeguarding community memory, knowledge and using the appropriate ICT for its dissemination and preservation.

The initiative focused on promoting a training network and obtaining an official 6GHz band license, an ambitious goal which was only achieved after a successful legal battle in the Supreme Court of Justice in January, 2021. This landmark legal victory paved the way for indigenous communities to manage their own communication media.

The Tayolchikawalis Initiative also produced a series of materials such as radio programs, infographics and audiovisual content in the Masehual and Tutunaku languages to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Spreading love for the project throughout Mexico

During the span of the initiative, REDES A.C. developed a fruitful relationship with the youthful activists from Radio Tosepan Limakxtum. By working together for accessible and affordable connectivity for their communities, both groups were able to generate valuable learnings for the region.

The national attention attracted by the Tayolchikawalis Initiative was an unexpected surprise. The region was visited by Hugo Lopez Gatell, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health and Maria Luisa Albores, head of the Ministry of Development.

Both were eager to learn about the initiative in order to develop further understanding of how public policy can contain the pandemic in indigenous and rural contexts. Several newspapers and other media outlets were interested in the way in which the Tayolchikawalis Initiative works from a holistic perspective to prevent the spread of disease.

Proving that resourcefulness and innovation on a local level can resonate at international scale, the Tayolchikawalis Initiative was recognised by Freedom House, the U.S. based democracy advocacy group. In their Freedom on the Net 2020 report, Freedom House noted that: ‘During the COVID-19 crisis, the Tayolchikawalis Initiative launched an online platform and communications campaign in the Nahuatl language for pandemic response.’

The success and impact of the project has unequivocally proven that a combination of commitment, dedication and intrepid strategic partnerships is a winning recipe for creating and sustaining the kind of equitable access to connectivity that respects, protects and celebrates indigenous communities and their place in the world.

At 48percent.org, we are proud of what REDES A.C. was able to accomplish during this project, and are happy to have partnered with them to further their mission. To learn more about their current and future projects, you can visit their website or follow them on twitter at @redesac_mx.