Court Admits Expert Views from CIPESA, Access Now and Article 19 on Uganda’s Digital ID 

By CIPESA Writer |

On March 24, 2023, the High Court of Uganda at Kampala ruled to allow experts from Access Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) to offer their opinions on the human rights red flags around the country’s digital identification (ID) system. 

The ruling followed an application by the three organisations for admission as “Friends of Court” in a case which challenges the use of the National Identification Register as the sole data source and primary means of identification prior to accessing various social services. Uganda’s national digital ID, also known as Ndaga Muntu, is a mandatory scheme for accessing various socio-economic services.

The court admitted the amicus brief submission by the trio despite objections from the Attorney General and the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) on grounds that the application was facilitated by bias and partiality of the applicants. The respondents further argued that the applications introduced new, inadmissible evidence – an assertion the court did not agree with. The court, in fact, noted the significance of the arguments raised  by Access Now, ARTICLE 19 and CIPESA, particularly on data protection, digital inclusion, surveillance, and the sufficiency of protection measures and their impact on the right to privacy.

The admission means that the court will consider the opinions of the three organisations in determining the case challenging Uganda’s digital ID system. In his ruling, Justice  Boniface Wamala noted that the matters the three organisations raised did not constitute evidence. Rather, they “constitute legal concepts that are new, unfamiliar, unusual or unique. Such aspects constitute the quality of novelty.”

The organisations made the application as neutral parties and experts to assist the court to be better abreast with novel areas that potentially contribute to the development of the law. 

The joint brief seeks to help court fully grasp the potential impact of the national digital ID program on online and offline rights including the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression, as well as intersecting economic, social, and cultural rights by providing expert evidence at national, sub regional, regional, and international levels. It also explains how the digital identity system might contribute to excluding citizens from basic access to services, thereby leaving them in a vulnerable state.  

The case challenging the ID system was filed by the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights,  Unwanted Witness, and Health Equity and Policy Initiative, against the Ugandan Attorney General and the NIRA. The NIRA is the body charged with creating and managing the National Identification Register by registering births, deaths, citizens and non-citizens. 

In its affidavit in support of the amicus application, CIPESA argued that as an expert in  advancing internet freedom and governance, civic participation, and data governance, it saw the need to intervene as a friend of court, in public interest and the interest of justice, to promote and protect human rights.

According to CIPESA’s Legal Officer, Edrine Wanyama, the ruling to hear the opinions of the expert organisations could help in shaping new and emerging areas of the law in Uganda on the need to respect privacy and other rights in the deployment of digital technologies in public digitalisation programmes, including initiatives like the Digital ID.

“This is a demonstration of the commitment of the courts to remain open to new and emerging knowledge and jurisprudence and to receive expert opinions on how to protect citizens from potential harms associated with the use of technology,” said Wanyama. 

CIPESA anticipates that the court will draw considerable knowledge from the amicus submissions and reach a decision that ensures that the roll-out of the digital ID system does not serve as a tool for exclusion but as an inclusion tool for all persons in accessing social and economic services.

Access Now, ARTICLE 19, and CIPESA aim to continue offering the court expert views that could help to ensure that the digital ID system is implemented in a manner that respects minimum human rights standards and promotes and protects rights and freedoms.

Kampire Nadine Temba

Nadine is the Co-Founder and Associate Editor of Afia-Amani Gran-lacs, a community based online media outlet that serves communities in the North-Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She is passionate about freedom of expression online and has previously served as a media consultant for Internews and was a 2022 Fellow with Media Defence.

Boosting Web Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Mozambique

By CIPESA Staff Writer |

In March 2021, accessibility testing on more than 90 public and essential services websites in Mozambique revealed various barriers preventing individuals with visual, hearing, physical or cognitive impairment from fully engaging with the web. Among the most common barriers  were low colour contrast, the absence of “alt text” for images, lack of landmarks to identify regions of a page, non-apparent links, and the lack of descriptive text for interactive elements. The findings of the investigation, which was conducted using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and 2.1 (WCAG 2.0 and 2.1), informed a web accessibility campaign to push for accessible and inclusive websites in Mozambique. 

Two years on, the campaign that was initiated by the Forum de Organizacoes de Pessoas com Deficiencia (Mozambique Disabled Persons Organisations Forum (FAMOD), with support from the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF), has directly engaged web content creators, designers and developers on web accessibility through open source tools and an open access library for accessible web design components. 

As part of the initiative, FAMOD developed a resource library for accessible website designs based on the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. The library includes web accessibility standards; guidelines and checklists; code inspection and validation; as well as tools for colour contrast, screen reading and document formats. The library also includes information on courses and certification in accessible website design. 

Based on the library, two startups – one in construction and the other in catering – were supported to develop accessible websites. The two websites were tested for compliance and their success fed into the design of templates (available in the library) that can be easily adopted by other web designers. 

In the spirit of “Nothing About Us Without Us”, the development of the library and all its resources actively involved persons with different types of disabilities and using a diverse range of assistive devices. “It is a responsive solution to the challenges identified in the 2021 investigation and the wider exclusion of persons with disabilities online,” said Amicalr Paco, the IT Manager and Data Engineer at FAMOD. 

Other interventions have included a Hackathon with nine developer teams, and two stakeholder workshops on digital accessibility, which were held with the Mozambican Ministry of Science and Technology.

Nonetheless, there is a need for more engagements. Paco noted that the library and resources are not an end in themselves and that continued dialogue and skills development among technologists were necessary to promote awareness and understanding of accessibility and compliance in digital tools and platforms. 

The ADRF is an initiative of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). Launched in April 2019, the ADRF supports advocacy, skills development, and movement building to effectively influence policy and practise for digital rights protection in Africa by offering flexible and rapid response grants. To-date, USD 649,000 has been disbursed to 52 beneficiaries across 39 African countries. 

Read more about how CIPESA is Working On Advancing Digital Inclusion for Persons With Disabilities in Africa.

#Tech4Equality: Advocating for Gender Inclusive ICT Policy and Governance

By Alice Aparo |

On March 8, 2023, the International Women’s Day (IWD) will be commemorated globally under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Set to recognise and celebrate women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education, the day will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities. This year’s IWD will also spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and technology-facilitated gender-based violence.

Across Africa, the digital gender gap has remained a constant concern. This has impacted the potential of women and girls to be active digital citizens. Despite the promise of inclusion offered by technology, African women remain on the lower rungs of internet access and use. Further, while some national strategies attempt to address increased gender equality in internet access, this cannot be achieved where progressive policies – including policies which uphold women’s safety online – are not being implemented.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) notes that if women are unable to access the internet and do not feel safe online, they are unable to develop the necessary digital skills to engage in digital spaces. This also diminishes their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Although women comprise half the world’s population, they are grossly underrepresented in STEM careers. The United Nations (UN) reiterates this and adds that “bringing women into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality”. Their lack of inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs. This calls for more policy efforts, investment and advocacy that advances women and girls in innovation and technology, particularly in Africa.

According to the Harvard Business Review, only 2.3% of venture capital funds globally were invested in women’s tech startups in 2020 – far less than the funds invested in men’s startups. This move is against the United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 5 which aims to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, and Goal 9 which focuses on building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation.

Empowering women and girls through the provision of meaningful access to the internet and digital technologies can enhance the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Further, building their digital skills and awareness levels could undoubtedly provide them with opportunities to start businesses, and to access education, health, social and financial services. Also, it could be a powerful tool to enable women and girls to realise their rights, participate in governance and decision-making processes, freely associate, assemble, and express themselves on issues that are important to them, and develop relevant content for their empowerment. In addition, increasing women’s representation in leadership and decision-making roles within the ICT sector will also remain a critical need.


In commemoration of this year’s IWD, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will host a webinar to discuss what is shaping and influencing the innovation and technology landscape in Africa and what needs to be done to advance gender Inclusive ICT policy and governance.

When: Friday, 10 March 2023
Time: 11:30 (EAT)
Where: Zoom (Register)

This initiative builds on past CIPESA work documenting and aimed at addressing the inclusion of women in the digital society including through advocating for improved affordability, access to information, political participation, media representation and safety online.

Nelson Otieno

Nelson Otieno Okeyo is a Kenyan litigation and compliance lawyer, academic and a legal researcher. He is passionate about human rights and data protection regulation in Africa with a particular bias to regulation of drones and design of data protection impact assessments.
Nelson’s current engagements include conducting doctoral research at the University of Bayreuth where he also doubles as a Teaching and Research Assistant to the Chair of African Legal Studies. His research focuses on role and impact of stakeholder voices in design and implementation of data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) in Africa. The research is conducted as part of International Doctorate Programme on Business and Human Rights at the Centre for Human Rights in Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.
Nelson finds happiness in holding one-on-one conversations with real human subjects on wide range of issues. When he is home, he prefers to play his favorite hymnals on his acoustic (Ibanez) guitar during his free time. He is also exploring his newly found love for snow hiking and bowling, often in company of friends.