CIPESA At the 2022 Internet Governance Forum

By CIPESA Writer |

The global internet governance community is set to convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) from November 28-December 2, 2022. Ethiopia is hosting the IGF 2022 against a backdrop of internet freedom reforms, a recently liberalised telecommunications sector and an ongoing conflict that has seen the Tigray region without internet access for two years. 

The IGF 2022 theme of Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future, and the five sub-themes which are drawn from the Global Digital Compact (GDC) in the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report, resonate with the work of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

  • Connecting All People and Safeguarding Human Rights
  • Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
  • Governing Data and Protecting Privacy
  • Enabling Safety, Security and Accountability
  • Addressing Advanced Technologies, including Artificial Intelligence  (AI)

CIPESA will co-convene and participate in various sessions at the IGF 2022 to showcase its work that supports the ambitions of the GDC.

A joint effort by DefendDefenders, Greenhost, Digital Society of Africa, Dig/Sec Initiative, Digital Security Alliance, AccessNow, CChub, Center for Digital Resilience, and CIPESA will run an onsite digital security hub to build the digital resilience of at-risk groups and organisations.

At a session titled “Jointly tackling disinformation and promoting human rights” facilitated by the AU-EU Digital for Development (D4D) Hub, CIPESA will contribute in an open exchange of ideas, experiences and lessons learned on how to address disinformation through a multi-stakeholder and human-centric approach.

Furthermore, CIPESA is among the organisers of the Dynamic Coalition roundtable on Strengthening digital ecosystems through shared principles and the Day 0 event on Shaping global digital governance and measuring meaningful connectivity for all: the ROAM approach, both of which are in support of ongoing efforts by CIPESA and UNESCO to raise awareness about and application of the Internet Universality Indicators across more countries in Africa.

The CIPESA team will also feature on a panel discussion on technology and human rights as part of the Peer Learning Event for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) hosted by Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Further, CIPESA will participate at the Africa member convening of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and at a Digital ID Civil Society Summit hosted by the Open Society Foundations, under the auspices of an external digital ID fund and initiative (DIDIF), housed at Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors.

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Safeguarding Digital Rights in Africa’s Growing Digital Economy

By Loyce Kyogabirwe |

Increased digitalisation and adoption of technology in Africa has fuelled the continent’s economy, with commerce and transactions increasingly being conducted online. Innovation and use of web and mobile applications have also encouraged the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which has advanced financial inclusion and employment, and made the technology sector a key contributor to African countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For instance, platforms such as Jumia which is operational in 11 African countries have transformed the retail, travel and food markets. Other notable online platforms include Appruve and Esoko (Ghana), mFarm (Kenya) and Novus Agro (Nigeria).

African governments have prioritised the integration of technology into more sectors to drive social and economic transformation. However, the rapid adoption of technology tools and platforms has also been met with growing concerns about the impact on digital rights, including data protection and privacy, the digital divide, freedom of expression and surveillance. Other worrying trends include network disruptions, digital taxation, data localisation requirements, and encryption regulations. There is a growing consensus among digital rights advocates that the adoption of technology tools and policies impacting the digital space should not only advance economic inclusion, but also be carefully assessed and implemented in a way that respects human rights in the digital age. 

According to a GSMA report, in 2020, “mobile technologies and services generated more than USD 130 billion of economic value” while USD 155 billion is projected to be generated by 2025. The report further says that “495 million people subscribed to mobile services in Sub-Saharan Africa” by the end of 2020, representing 46% of the region’s population, and this is expected to increase to around 615 million subscribers by 2025, reaching the mark of 50% of Africa’s population.

In an effort to advance digital rights across Africa’s growing digital economy, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) through the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) has worked to support advocacy initiatives, skills development, and movement building to effectively influence policy and practice on digital rights and the digital economy. Efforts by the ADRF grantees have engaged with state and non-state actors, providing replicable insights into how governments and the private sector in the region can safeguard digital rights while advancing the digital economy. 

In Ghana, the Financial Inclusion Forum Africa developed a Data Protection and Privacy Policy to serve as an internal guide on how digital financial service providers in the country should collect, store, and process individuals’ data. The policy outlines principles on the management of personal data in compliance with Ghana’s Data Protection Act 2012 and the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission Standards for Information Security Management – ISO 27001:2013. The policy benefited from reviews and input from leading digital financial service providers such as Appruve, Jumo, Vodaphone Cash, and G Money, alongside industry experts and regulators such as the eCrime Bureau, RegTheory, and CUTS (Consumer Unit and Trust Society) Ghana. This provided insights into the policy’s viability and applicability by tapping on real-life experiences of these service providers. 

Similarly, the Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment (CUTS) and Mzalendo Trust have worked to advance consumer protection, security and inclusion, and public awareness within the digital economy in Kenya. The two Kenya-based grantees engaged with stakeholders such as the Capital Markets Authority, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Association of Freelance Journalists, Open Institute, The Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University, Article 19, County Assemblies Forum, Internews, and the Election Observation Group (ELOG).

In Mozambique, efforts by the Mozambican Disabled Persons’ Organisation Forum (FAMOD) under ADRF focused on accessibility and compliance assessments of online services, including for employment, telecommunications, and revenue collection. These assessments helped identify key areas where advocacy campaigns for digital inclusion of persons with disabilities would be most impactful. Meanwhile, in an effort to promote women’s safety and participation online in Namibia, the local chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC) conducted policy engagements on the protection of women and girls as part of the Data Protection Bill. 

In Somalia, the work of Digital Shelter made significant breakthroughs in stakeholder dialogue and engagement on aspects of digitalisation that previously have not been prioritised or discussed regularly. Engagements, including in partnership with the Institute of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (IITE), the ICT and e-Governance Department in Ministry Communications and Technology, the private sector and activists, have focused on youth skilling, digital empowerment, data protection and privacy, and an open and inclusive internet. 

Finally, ADRF grantee, Alt Advisory, recently published research on a rights-based assessment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in South Africa. The research involved inputs from 14 leading companies in the country’s financial services, retail and e-commerce sectors and two government bodies – the Home Affairs Department and the Department of Health. The findings of the study indicated human rights gaps in AI profiling and the need to bolster compliance with rights guarantees under relevant laws and policies and enforcement by the country’s data protection watchdog, the Information Regulator, and other regulatory bodies.

The ADRF grantees’ interventions in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, and South Africa highlight the value of evidence-based advocacy that informs multi-stakeholder deliberations on the digital economy and digital rights. Together with the work of the broader ADRF cohort, it presents key lessons on digitalisation in Africa and the need for operationalisation of supporting frameworks such as for cyber security, data protection and privacy; increased participation of minority and marginalised groups in the design of initiatives; multi-stakeholder collaboration; harmonisation of national and local government plans; and digital literacy skills building. To learn more about the ADRF programme, please visit https://cipesa.org/the-africa-digital-rights-fund-english/

Training webinar on Internet Universality Indicators convened for African Countries

By Juliet Nanfuka |

On 26 October, the International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) convened a regional training webinar to raise awareness of the Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators and their potential to promote Internet development to advance media freedom and digital rights in Africa. ), The UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP) and International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) jointly supported the training.

Present at the meeting were PROTEGE QV (Cameroon), Youth Net and Counselling, YONECO (Malawi), namTshuwe (Namibia), Digital Shelter (Somalia), and CIPESA (Uganda). Each partner presented the state of digital rights in their respective country as a foundation for discussing the ROAM-X indicators with Malawi and Somalia hosting physical convenings. 

In her opening remarks, Dorothy Gordon, Chair of UNESCO’s IFAP stated: “There is a need to take control of the digitally mediated future and understand the impact of policies on our digital environments: the ROAM-X indicators give stakeholders factual tools to discuss and advocate for the future we want to see in Africa.”  

Xianhong Hu, UNESCO’s Programme Specialist  representing IFAP Secretariat, unpacked the 303 the Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators and elaborated on the eight-step multi-stakeholder methodology of conducting national assessments. She highlighted that the unique value of applying ROAM-X indicators is to improve national digital ecosystems and foster cross-border and cross-jurisdictional digital collaboration. 

UNESCO encouraged more African countries to pursue a ROAM-X assessment as a tool to evaluate the ever-changing developments in technology, reverse the digital divide, and to harness digital transformation. Given the launch of the Namibian national assessment and the follow-up ROAM-X assessment in Kenya, as well as the monitoring of new developments following the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2022 national elections, incorporating ROMA-X assessment is critical.

UNESCO and CIPESA jointly reaffirmed the need for increased mobilization using the multistakeholder approach to ensure an open and inclusive implementation process and to scale up Internet development in African countries over the next two years. 

Participants urged UNESCO to continue its support in organising more capacity-building activities to meet the growing demand to assess ROAM-X indicators in African countries.  

All participants were invited to continue their engagement with UNESCO and attend its events  on the ROAM-X indicators : the Day-0 pre-event and Dynamic Coalition session to be held at the December 2022 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), in  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Localisation Des Donnees, Base De Donnee Biometrique Et Identite Numerique

Par Astou Diouf |

L’étude de la gouvernance des données personnelles intervient dans un contexte où le Sénégal
dispose d’un centre national de données pour promouvoir la souveraineté des données
conformément à la Stratégie numérique 2025. A cet effet, les agences de l’État sont tenues
d’héberger toutes leurs données dans le centre de données de Diamniadio.

La gouvernance des données doit nécessairement promouvoir une politique et des pratiques
efficaces en matière de collette et traitement des données des citoyens, de l’administration
publique et du secteur privé d’une part et d’autre part, à tenir compte de l’impact de la
localisation des données, de la biométrique, du paysage de l’identification numérique et de tous
les droits numériques tels que la vie privée et les données personnelles.

À cela s’ajoute une croissance exponentielle d’acteurs non régulés comme les réseaux sociaux
ou moins régulés comme les prestataires de service d’information sur les comptes et la
prolifération des contenus haineux, racistes, antisémites, des atteintes à la vie privée, des
fausses nouvelles, de la désinformation et de la manipulation de l’information. L’ensemble de
ces facteurs incitent la société civile du secteur du numérique à s’interroger sur la gouvernance
des données personnelles au Sénégal.

La méthodologie qui a été adoptée pour cette étude comprend essentiellement la recherche
documentaire et de données disponibles auprès des bibliothèques, des centres de
documentation.

Ce travail scientifique est le résultat d’une étude sur : « la gouvernance des données personnelles
au Sénégal », afin de permettre un plaidoyer pour une gouvernance des données participative
et inclusive au Sénégal.

En outre, une étude sur la gouvernance des données personnelles nécessite une note introductive
de l’évolution des TIC et une bonne compréhension des concepts qui ne sont pas souvent
familiers aux lecteurs. C’est dans cette suite logique que des éléments de réponse
mériteraient d’être apportés à la problématique de la gouvernance des données personnelles au
Sénégal. L’Etat, acteur principal de la gouvernance des données intervient pour encadrer la
collette et le traitement des données dans un cadre normatif et institutionnel. Il est de coutume que le traitement et la collecte des données personnelles est souvent source d’atteinte
aux droits fondamentaux des personnes.

Des risques potentiels peuvent résulter des programmes de collecte de données biométriques
numériques, de localisation des données ainsi que des politiques d’institution d’identité
numérique (V). Pour se faire, on s’efforcera de conclure et de formuler des
recommandations à l’endroit des parties prenantes concernées (Administration, secteur privé,
société civile) pour une protection efficace des données à caractère personnel.

Localisation Des Donnees, Base De Donnee Biometrique Et Identite Numerique

Countering Digital Authoritarianism in Africa

By Apolo Kakaire |

The Internet which is viewed as the panacea for democracy, participation and inclusion is increasingly becoming a tool of repression deployed by regimes across the world to stifle rights and voice.  Africa, a continent already replete with poor democratic credentials and practices seems to be rapidly catching up on the new ‘epidemic’- digital authoritarianism.

The use of technology tactics to advance repressive political interests has come to be  referred to as digital authoritarianism. However, the tactics employed by authoritarian regimes have also been deployed by democratic states for purposes of surveillance, spread of misinformation, disinformation, and the disruption of civic and political participation under the pretext of fighting cybercrime, and in the interest of protecting national security, and maintaining public order.

Big technology companies are key drivers of digital authoritarianism through the creation, innovation and supply of repressive technology and related support. Moreover, political parties, interest groups, and smaller private companies have lapped it up too, developing and using tools and strategies of digital authoritarianism.

Digital authoritarianism is a great case study in understanding and appreciating the impact of technology on human rights. While laws legalising surveillance and interception of communications, and widespread data collection and processing may not be a problem in themselves, it is the ambiguity often present within those laws that give governments wide latitude of interpretation to facilitate the rights abuse that is a growing challenge.

At the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2022 (FIFAfrica22), Global Voices Advox, shared findings from the Unfreedom Monitor– a project exploring the political and social context that fuels the emergence of digital authoritarianism in 17 countries. They hosted a panel discussion in which project researchers from India, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe presented the project findings on the connections between political contexts, analogue rights, and the growing use of digital communications technology to advance authoritarian governance.

The findings paint a grim picture for  freedom of the media, expression, and democracy in general. In Zimbabwe for instance, the Unfreedom Monitor report notes that; “the press walks a precarious line between national security and the professional obligation to report truthfully” on issues that happen in the country. It is an observation that is replicated in the mapping conducted in Morocco, Egypt, and Tanzania 

In Sudan, where internet censorship, bad laws and repressed liberties and network disruptions are commonplace, Khattab Hamad noted that the contours and motives of digital authoritarianism include fear of losing power, protecting the existence of regional or international alliances, and geopolitical motives protecting private and family interests. He added that terrorism and support for terrorist groups was another motive for authoritarianism in the country. 

In Tanzania, researchers found that often, laws are enacted as precursors to enable various methods of digital authoritarianism. For example, the Cybercrime Act which was hurriedly enacted just months before the October 2015 elections. “There were many other such laws, including the amendments to the Non-Governmental Orgnaisations (NGO) Act, that saw NGOs being deregistered and control on them tightened in the lead up to the 2020 elections”, they revealed.

In Uganda, network disruptions in the run up to and during recent elections is another example of digital authoritarianism. “Sometimes the internet is restored after elections. So, the question is what exactly is the purpose? What are you hiding? Why do you deny your people access to information? Internet shutdowns also question the credibility of elections”, said Felicia Anthonio of Access Now. She added that network disruptions affect engagement between voters and political candidates, in addition to limiting  electoral oversight and monitoring by human rights activists and election observers. 

As part of the Unfreedom Monitor project, Global Voices Advox has established a publicly available database on digital authoritarianism to support advocacy in light of the “urgency of a fast deteriorating situation”, said Sindhuri Nandhakumar, a researcher  with the project. 

While applauding the research and database in supporting evidence-based advocacy, digital rights activists at FIFAfrica22 noted that given the behaviour of authoritarian regimes, advocacy at the national level may be met with a lot of resistance. As such, more engagement was called for  through special mandates and periodic human rights review mechanisms at the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Human Rights Council.   

“Advocacy [against digital authoritarianism] at national level will be difficult. Positive results could be registered through Special rapporteurs at the AU and states through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), towards securing accountability”, said Arsene Tungali from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

For African digital rights activists, the Global Voices Advox research and database unravels new  avenues for collaborative advocacy and transnational opportunities for interventions to stem this spread of digital authoritarianism. The findings however also point at the need for a concerted and robust response to its growing traction.

As elections in Africa remain a major flashing point for digital authoritarianism as all manner of manipulation of voters, narratives, even results abound, it remains a key area of transnational cooperation. Ahead of the elections in Zimbabwe, slated for July-August 2023, Advox will come up with tips on awareness raising on voter rights and the role of technology in elections. Zimbabwe provides a good opportunity to pilot, learn and perhaps adopt some interventions to counter this behemoth.