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.

Building Cyber Smart Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria

By CIPESA Staff Writer |

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Nigeria is among the countries with the highest number of women entrepreneurs, most of whom conduct their business online. However, with the increasing prevalence of cyber attacks and fraud, the success of women-owned Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country is under threat. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, Sophos reports that 71% of businesses were hit with ransomware attacks in 2021.  

In 2021, cybercrime caused an estimated USD 4 billion loss for African economies, equivalent to 3.5% of the continent’s USD 115 billion digital economy. Despite significant threats such as online scams, digital extortion, email compromise, ransomware and botnets, Interpol figures indicate that over 90% of businesses on the African continent operate without the necessary cyber security protocols in place. 

In a bid to counter such threats, Tech Hive Advisory in partnership with Ikigai Innovation Initiative implemented the Cyber Smart Woman project to build a sustainable digital ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. The three-phase project featured 12 focus group discussions on data governance, cybersecurity challenges, and digital security needs of the women-owned SMEs, followed by four knowledge and skills workshops, and the development of a toolkit on data protection and cyber security practices for sustainability and competitiveness.

Tech Hive Advisory and Ikigai Innovation Initiative were one of ten initiatives awarded grants in the sixth round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF). The supported initiatives focused on promoting effective data governance in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal; countering gendered and election-related misinformation and disinformation in Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda; building digital resilience within the media fraternity in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda; promoting digital inclusion in Uganda and Kenya; and building grassroots-based movements for internet freedom in South Africa.

The focus group discussions featured participants from various online business sectors, many of whom revealed that they lacked adequate digital protection for their businesses. Up to a quarter of the participants had been direct victims of device theft and cyber attacks such as scams and hacking. As a result, their businesses had suffered monetary loss, reputational damage, and, in extreme instances, loss of online assets such as social media accounts and client databases. 

The discussions further revealed that despite the SMEs collecting various personal data, the majority did not include online security or data protection measures within their business strategies. Meanwhile, many clients did not invoke their rights as data subjects, which made their data more susceptible to abuse. Indeed, one participant admitted that she had  shared a client’s contact information without permission. 

Most of the focus group participants believed that with the appropriate knowledge and skills, business owners, just like data subjects, would be able to minimise vulnerability to cyber attacks  and data breaches. Accordingly, four capacity building workshops were convened in four regions – Abuja, Ibadan, Kaduna and Lagos –  benefiting 167 SME owners. Topics covered included data protection rights and obligations; compliance with data protection regulations; and cybersecurity best practices.  

To complement the training workshops, a toolkit for data protection and cybersecurity was developed and disseminated. The toolkit outlines Nigeria’s data protection frameworks as well as the obligations and compliance requirements for business owners. It also provides tips and resources for data subject access procedures, privacy policies, records of processing activities and retention periods. The second section of the toolkit focuses on cybersecurity, also outlining the prevailing legal and regulatory frameworks, common vulnerabilities, best practice guidelines and resources. 

Ayodeji Sarumi, the Co-Founder of Tech Hive Advisory, says the project has equipped female-owned businesses in Nigeria with better approaches to handling data protection and cybersecurity issues,  which could be essential for their survival in a highly digitised world where cyber fraud is rampant.

Pushing Back Against Gendered Disinformation in Uganda

By Loyce Kyogabirwe |

Across Africa, a gender-inclusive digital society remains largely elusive. Beyond the challenges related to the gender digital divide and online gender-based violence, the growth in form and prevalence of online disinformation in Africa is also taking on a gendered lens. Pushback against gendered disinformation is thus critical to  combating online harms against women and attaining gender equity.

In Uganda, there has been a notable upward trend in gendered disinformation, with attacks targeted at organisations working on sexual and reproductive rights. This, against a backdrop of offline attacks such as the August 2022 suspension of the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) on allegations that the organisation had failed to register with the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations.

During the second half of 2022, the activist group Her Internet implemented a project to create awareness and understanding of gendered disinformation including its effects and perpetrators in Uganda. With a focus on sexual minorities and sex workers, the project supported by the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) also worked to build alliances and networks as support systems for mitigation of impact and countering false narratives.

HER Internet convened an interactive dialogue in Uganda’s capital Kampala to share real life experiences as well as strategies on how to avert the negative effects of gendered disinformation. Targeting 20 individuals from communities of structurally marginalised women, the dialogue also covered aspects of fact-checking and safety online.

Extract from HerInternet handbook on understanding gendered disinformation

The dialogue called for non-discriminatory enforcement of current cyber laws and the need for diverse narratives to eliminate biased reporting, amongst other measures. In addition to the dialogue, Her Internet also conducted a campaign on its social media platforms on the key concepts of gendered disinformation, its manifestations and counter strategies. The project also compiled and disseminated a handbook on understanding gendered disinformation as a go-to guide for communities to understand and further engage beyond the campaign and dialogues.

According to a 2020 report by  UN Women,  women  with  multiple identities, such as sexual and ethnic minorities, are often targeted online through discrimination and hate speech, which often forces them to  self-censor  and  withdraw  from  debates and online discussions. Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, has stated that some  groups  of  women, including women belonging to ethnic minorities, indigenous women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and women with disabilities are particularly targeted by technology-facilitated violence.

Research by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has found that cyberstalking, online sexual harassment, blackmail through non-consensual sharing of personal information, promotes and normalises violence against women and girls who use the internet in Uganda. Her Internet’s project builds on ADRF’s gender and sexual inclusivity portfolio. The ADRF has previously supported digital literacy and safety programmes for sexual minority refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, South Sudan and Sudan, living in Uganda.

CIPESA, DefyHateNow Support Fact-Checking in South Sudan

By Emmanuel Bida Thomas |

Disinformation thrives in conflict situations and in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, years of political uncertainty have cultivated a severe information disorder. In the face of another postponement of elections, community peace building including through debunking disinformation is critical to the country being able to stave off hate speech and incitement to violence.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), word-of-mouth remains the most prevalent source of information for the masses in South Sudan. However, with increased mobile and internet penetration, an explosion of user-generated content has created an environment where rumours fueled on social media take hold offline and become difficult to counter.

With support from the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF), an initiative of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), DefyHateNow has recently concluded a six-months knowledge and skills building project on countering disinformation and hate speech, complemented with digital rights and cybersecurity advocacy in South Sudan.

Leveraging the 211 Check and SafetyComm South Sudan platforms, monthly trainings on fact-checking, rights and safety online benefitted 98 content creators and civic actors.

I loved it. We would like it to be regular; it should be a module in South Sudanese schools like universities and training for professionals,” said a trainee.

Select training beneficiaries were awarded fellowships through which they received more in-depth training and applied the acquired fact-checking and digital rights advocacy skills as part of placements within 211 Check and SafetyComm teams.

The network that I have created as a result of this fellowship, both locally within the country and internationally, will help me to remain relevant and focused on fact-checking and digital rights.” –  A fellow and Program Manager at Junub Youth Action Network (JYAN).

The fellowship has empowered and equipped me a lot in fact-checking, both theoretically and practically, with hands-on tools. It has shaped and broadened my ability to confidently take on the tasks of fact-checking and research in the mis/disinformation paradigm.” – A fellow and student at the University of Juba.

In addition to the training and fellowships, four radio talk shows on Advance Youth Radio and two virtual meetups were hosted to raise wider awareness about disinformation and hate speech. Among the meetup guest speakers was an analyst from the National Communications Authority who presented on government efforts to establish a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Discussions also explored the challenges related to the Computer Misuse Order 2021, with a representative from the telecom services provider MTN speaking about the company’s efforts to uphold data privacy and overcome fraud.

Moreover, together with Junub Open Space, a local National Nongovernmental Organisation (NNGO) in Juba, DefyHateNow hosted five editions of “Salaam Fi Bet” (Peace at Home), a community-centred discussion on trust circles for information verification. Up to 107 individuals (62% women) from five neighbourhoods in Juba attended the discussions.

DefyHateNow’s ADRF-supported project builds on initiatives spearheaded by UNDP to tackle Covid-19 related misinformation and the Sentinel Project, which addressed hate speech and misinformation at the peak of the civil war in the East African country. As the perpetrators, pathways and effects of false news and information manipulation online evolve, the need for continued education and empowerment remains preeminent. This project demonstrates that collaborative efforts in knowledge and skills building can contribute to equipping people with the tools and resources to keep communities safe.