CIPESA Joins Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) Project

Statement |

The Collaboration on International ICT for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is pleased to be among eight partners that comprise the newly established Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) project.

The CADE project, an ambitious initiative designed to empower civil society organisations (CSOs) to participate more actively in digital policy processes, was officially launched on May 31, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland at an event attended by Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, Permanent Representative of the European Union to the UN in Geneva, Prof. Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director of DiploFoundation, and project partners.

Co-funded by the European Union, the CADE project aims to enhance the active participation of CSOs in global governance and development initiatives. This initiative is crucial in fostering inclusive and participatory democratic processes worldwide.

In her address, Ambassador Knudsen emphasised the EU’s steadfast commitment to the vital role of CSOs in development. The EU’s Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for the thematic programme Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities from 2021 to 2027 highlights the importance of achieving high quality development outcomes through inclusive, democratic engagement.

“It appeals to one of our top priorities: to support and develop civil societies, which is particularly significant in the realm of global internet governance. This is about digital empowerment, and we need civil society’s active involvement. Our approach has always been strongly multistakeholder,” said Ambassador Knudsen.

Prof. Kurbalija further elaborated on the project’s goal to leverage technology for development, underscoring the CADE project’s innovative approach to enhancing CSO capacities. He noted, “This project aims to bring meaningful and substantive inclusion of civil society. Although many forums, such as ICANN, the WSIS Forum, and the IGF Forum, have open doors for participation, the challenge remains in equipping CSOs with the capacity to effectively engage and impact discussions.”

Dr Stephanie Borg Psaila, CADE’s project coordinator from DiploFoundation, introduced the eight partner organisations, which include the European Center for Non-for-profit Law (ECNL), Netherlands; Forus, France; CIPESA, Uganda; Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Kenya; Sarvodaya Fusion, Sri Lanka; Social Media Exchange (SMEX), Lebanon; Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC), Fiji; and Fundación Karisma, Colombia.

The launch event was followed by a technical session held during the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event (27–31 May 2024 in Geneva). This session showcased the CADE project’s initiatives and concluded with a call to action for individual and institutional efforts to promote genuine inclusivity and participation in digital governance.

The CADE project is founded on the principle of strengthening the fabric of civil society. Its objectives are clear and resonant with the needs facing contemporary society as follows:

  • Enhancing CSO contributions: The project reinforces the role of CSOs as pivotal actors in local governance and accountability, as promoters of inclusive and sustainable growth, as providers of social aid and welfare, and as contributors to digital policymaking in the global process.
  • Reinforcing networks: A key goal is to bolster regional and global networks of CSOs and associations of local authorities, enhancing their capacity for cooperation, mutual support, and active participation in multistakeholder digital governance.
  • Education and awareness: The project initiates and backs efforts towards education and awareness-raising, ensuring populations are well-informed and supportive of development efforts. This underscores the importance of an educated civil society in progressing towards sustainable development, particularly in the context of digital advancements.

Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager at CIPESA noted that through the CADE Project, “CIPESA will continue playing its current catalytic role in supporting actors across Africa to become active defenders and promoters of the multistakeholder model of internet governance.”

Register for the 2024 Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica24)

Call for Registration |

Are you as excited as we are about the upcoming Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica24) taking place on September 25-27, 2024 in Dakar, Senegal?

Be sure to register for FIFAfrica24 and join a diverse community of stakeholders from across the continent and beyond to deliberate on the most pressing issues and opportunities for advancing online freedom.

Further, are you interested in shaping the FIFAfrica24 agenda? Have a look at the call for proposals and applications for travel support here. Successful submissions will help to inform the agenda of the event, which will gather hundreds of policymakers, regulators, human rights defenders, journalists, academics, private sector players, global information intermediaries, bloggers, and developers.

Registration is open for both in-person and remote attendance! Find more details here.

Register for FIFAfrica24

Job Opportunity: Project Assistant

Call for Applications |

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is seeking a Project Assistant to support implementation of activities under the USAID/Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA).

Job Title: Project Assistant

Location: Kampala, Uganda

Duration: Two (2) years Full time with a possibility of renewal

Reports to: Project Officer

Job Summary:

The Project Assistant will support in the planning, execution, monitoring and reporting of the Civil Society Strengthening Activity at CIPESA. Duties include assisting in research, capacity building/training, outreach and advocacy. The position is based at CIPESA’s offices in Kampala, Uganda, with frequent travel within the country.

About CIPESA

Established in 2004, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is a leading centre for research and analysis of information aimed to enable policy makers in the region to understand ICT policy issues, and for various multi-stakeholders to effectively use ICT to improve governance and livelihoods. CIPESA works to defend and expand the digital civic space to enable the protection and promotion of human rights and to enhance innovation and sustainable development. We  focus on disparate actors including government, the private sector, civil society, media, policy makers and multinational institutions.

The Project

The Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA) is a five-year  USAID-funded Activity (now in the Fourth year of implementation) that is implemented by East-West Management Institute (EWMI) in partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). Under the project, CIPESA works to contribute to Component 3, whose goal is to promote a more supporting enabling environment that sustains a vibrant civil society in Uganda; increased in-country resources and capacity of CSOs to navigate government requirements and restrictions; and Ugandan-led initiatives to improve the CSO enabling environment. Activities include providing legal technical assistance, assisting CSOs to navigate and adapt to the restrictive environment and enhancing multi-sectoral CSO collaboration to promote and defend the enabling environment.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Assist in organising trainings in media and information literacy, digital safety, digital rights.
  • Organise stakeholder engagements at national and regional levels.
  • Produce information, education and communication materials for awareness raising and advocacy on the project including through blogs, briefs, commentaries and impact stories.
  • Support research undertakings including data collection and analysis.
  • Conduct field visits and follow up meetings with project beneficiaries.
  • Liaise with CSSA partners on activity progress, deliverables and opportunities for collaboration.
  • Assist with strategic planning, reporting as well as monitoring and evaluation.
  • Perform any additional admin and project related activities as assigned that will enhance CIPESA’s work.

Qualifications and Skills:

  • A bachelor’s degree in law, project planning and management, social sciences, communication, social work and social administration, or related disciplines.
  • Two or more years of experience in programming with a reputable institution, preferably in civil society.
  • Understanding of the digital civic space in Uganda.
  • Excellent verbal, written, and presentation skills.
  • Knowledge of project management principles, practices, techniques and procedures including planning and project implementation.
  • High level of motivation, integrity, and commitment to teamwork.
  • Strong work ethic with an unwavering commitment to quality and professionalism.
  • Proficiency in the use of Microsoft Office Suite and all applications including Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Great team player with capacity to establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, partners and the public.

How to Apply:

Applications including a cover letter outlining how you fit the job requirements and your areas of expertise; a CV; two writing samples (or alternative samples of your work); salary expectations, names and contacts of two referees should be submitted to [email protected].

The deadline for submissions is June 14, 2024, at 18.00 East African Time.

South Africa’s Elections: A Call for Vigilance Amidst the Rising Tide of Disinformation

By Victor Kapiyo |

South Africa is holding its seventh general election today, May 29, 2024. Over 14,000 candidates are vying for seats as part of the 400 members of the National Assembly and at least 445 members of Provincial Legislatures in the nine provinces.

Ahead of the election, misinformation, disinformation and threats to privacy rights have been noted. These capitalise on the issues at stake in the election, such as poverty and economic inequality, unemployment, violent crime, corruption, service delivery failures, difficult race relations, and xenophobia to polarise and shape public opinion. There has been a proliferation of propaganda and doctored news stories, deployment of coordinated trolls, troops and bots of online influencers as part of smear campaigns, and weaponisation of disinformation campaigns for political purposes, which many warn could undermine the integrity of the elections.

A new Policy Brief by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy (CIPESA) reviews how different actors, including political parties, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and social media platforms have leveraged technology to promote a peaceful and credible election. However, the brief also notes that as the internet, social media and technology adoption increase, attacks on information and election integrity could intensify if multi-actor action does not continue to be taken.

The election pits the ruling African National Congress (ANC) against its main rivals, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), even as newer parties such as uMkhonto weSizwe join the fray. The country of 60.7 million people has 27.6 million registered voters, of whom 44.7% are men and 55.2% are women.

South Africa has been renowned for its strong and independent judiciary, free press, vibrant democracy, and generally free and fair elections over the years. However, rankings in press freedom have declined due to increased attacks against journalists, especially by politicians, ahead of the elections.

As of 2024, the country had 45.3 million internet users, representing an internet penetration rate of 74%, and 118.6 million mobile connections, equivalent to a mobile penetration rate of 195%. Also, most people in the country are digitally literate, with the average internet user spending over nine hours a day online. Political parties have leveraged online platforms for political advertising and have since January 2024 spent ZAR 4.94 million (USD 269,961) on Google Ads, with the DA and Freedom Front Plus spending 79.8% of this amount. These developments mean that technology and the internet will play an important role in the election period.

Yet disinformation has taken centre-stage in the election. Some of the misleading information has targeted prominent personalities such as politicians and musicians, highlighted racial and xenophobic undertones or misled the public about the elections. For example, a ‘deepfake’ video published on TikTok and X in March 2024, depicted former United States (US) president Donald Trump endorsing the new uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. It was debunked by AFP, which found that the clip was an altered 2017 NBC interview with Trump.

On January 19, a viral video from Brazil of two men assaulting another man was disseminated on social media with the claim that the victim was a white farmer and his assailants were linked to the EFF. Another video that went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp in April made a false claim that Mozambican migrants were being issued with ID cards by state agents to vote in Gauteng province. Another post on May 25 on Facebook, claimed that voters must bring their black ballpoint pens to voting stations as they will only be given pencils to vote, and their marks would be erased upon voting. The IEC rejected this claim as untrue.

In addition, there have been attempts to impersonate key election officials on social media, and concerns around voters’’ privacy and data breaches. For example, in January, it was reported that the IEC Chairperson, Mosotho Moepya had been a victim of an imposter on WhatsApp. The imposter had on two separate incidents conversed with unsuspecting officials of political parties purporting to arrange to influence the election.

Ahead of the elections, various stakeholders and groups have been taking action to address the potential threats to election and information integrity. There are commendable efforts such as the adoption of the Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Digital and Social Media in Elections in Africa; the signing of the election code of conduct by political parties and candidates; and the use of digital platforms by the IEC to share information on election results, political party statistics, voter registration, voter information, voter education, and e-learning. South Africa’s Information Regulator also published a guidance note on how political parties and candidates could use the personal information of voters ahead of the elections.

There are also laudable efforts such as the Real411 portal to track misinformation and disinformation; enhanced efforts to act-check by Africa Check and AFP; and measures by platforms such as Google, Meta, and TikTok to promote election integrity, including working with fact-checkers, conducting content moderation and labelling, media information literacy, transparency on political advertising and directing users to reliable and trustworthy information.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the fault lines that have fragmented the unity of the Rainbow Nation are being manipulated in ways that threaten its democracy. Various stakeholders must continue to make concerted efforts to promote a healthy information ecosystem and to defend electoral integrity. Therefore, we make the following recommendations:

We call upon all stakeholders including civil society, the IEC, social media platforms, media, fact-checking organisations, political actors, election observers, and law enforcement to be vigilant before, during and after the elections.

We call upon stakeholders to collaborate in monitoring digital threats to election and information integrity and implement robust responses to combat them whilst protecting digital rights.

We call upon civil society and election observers to document the actions of and hold the government, IEC, social media platforms and other actors accountable for their responses.

We call upon the IEC, political parties, candidates and social media platforms to adhere to the Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Digital and Social Media in Elections in Africa.

Read the full Brief here.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Data Protection and Privacy in Africa

By Edrine Wanyama |

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a critical role in digitalisation in Africa and has the potential to fundamentally impact various aspects of society. However, countries on the continent lack specific laws on AI, with front-runners such as Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Rwanda only having policies or strategic plans but no legislation.

Despite its potential, AI poses challenges for data protection, notably in sectors such as transportation, banking, health care, retail, and e-commerce, where mass data is collected.  Yet it is unclear how African governments are prepared to deal with AI-enabled data and privacy breaches.

Today, at least 36 African countries have enacted data protection and privacy laws that regulate the collection and processing of personal data. Similarly, the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention) entered into force in June 2023.

The laws adopted by states and the Malabo Convention stipulate various data rights for individuals. They include the right to access personal information, the right to prevent the processing of personal data, and the right of individuals to be informed of the intended use of their personal data, including in cases of automated data processing where the decision significantly affects the data subject.

Others include the right to access personal data in the custody of data collectors, controllers and processors; the right to object to the processing of all or part of one’s personal data; the right to rectification, blocking, erasure and destruction of personal data; and the right to a remedy in case of data privacy breaches.

In a new brief, CIPESA notes that AI raises concerns of bias and discrimination when dealing with data, perpetrating abusive data practices, spreading misinformation and disinformation, enhancing real-time surveillance, and aggravating cyber-attacks such as phishing. The brief makes recommendations on striking a balance between innovation and privacy protection through reinforcing legal and regulatory frameworks, advocating for transparency and accountability, and cultivating education and awareness.

The right to information requires that data subjects are provided with information, including the justification for collecting data, identification of the data controller, and categories of data to be collected. According to the brief, AI may not ably facilitate this right since it may not adhere to some of the steps and precautions required to observe and guarantee the right to access personal information. Most access-related rights require skilled and competent staff. On the other hand, AI systems are usually programmed to handle specific kinds of data and their capacities are limited to built-in competencies of the tasks they can perform.

With AI systems, it may be difficult for individuals to object to processing of their personal data. As such, AI may not guarantee the accuracy of the data or lawfulness and purpose of data processing. These challenges arise since there is no assurance that technology has been prepared to comply with data rights and principles.

In relation to automated decision making, decisions by AI may be made against the data subject solely based on technologies with no human involvement. Thus, AI may interpret and audit data in an inaccurate or unfair manner. This can perpetrate discriminatory practices based on personal data relating to tribe, race, gender, religion, and political inclination.

The right to rectification relates to dealing with inaccurate, outdated, misleading, incomplete or erroneous data, and an individual may request the data controller to stop any further processing or to erase personal data. However, AI may not fully comprehend this right. Rectification and erasure require human intervention to rightly diagnose existing problematic data issues if the accuracy of data is to be guaranteed.

On the other hand, portability of data as a right requires that data from a controller should be in simple and machine-readable format. Such data transfers can be used by governments to inform development and promote healthy competition in sectors. However, AI presents privacy challenges to portability, such as indiscriminate data transfers that could aggravate the confidentiality risk. In other cases, AI systems may perpetuate transmission of the wrong data. Also, some AI systems can perpetuate data lock-in as they may be designed to make it impossible for data to be ported or for individuals to switch to other services.

Where there are data breaches by data controllers and processors, the right to effective remedy arises. However, AI may not have clear mechanisms for analysing cases of breaches and issuing appropriate remedies. The determination of a violation requires human intervention since AI is largely untrained on how rules of remedy are applied. Additionally, AI may not comprehend various languages and unique procedures as it is often not adapted to suit different contexts or conceptions of justice.

Ultimately, AI presents both opportunities and challenges for personal data protection. Accordingly, there has to be a balance between innovation and privacy protection to ensure transparency and accountability in data collection, management and processing, while maximising the benefits presented by AI. This can happen with coordinated efforts by governments, decision makers, developers, service providers, civil society organisations and academia in developing, adopting and applying policies and other measures that seek to enhance maximisation of the benefits of AI.

Read the full brief here.