Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) 2017 Report

  1. Introduction
  2. Supporters
  3. Evolution of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa
  4. Pre-event meetings and workshops
  5. Commemorating the “International Day for Universal Access to Information” (IDUAI)
  6. Lightning Talks
  7. Digital Security Clinic
  8. Forum Themes
  9. Rights, inclusion and exclusion
  10. Media
  11. Emerging and Current Trends
  12. ICT and Civic Participation
  13. Research And Analysis
  14. Movement Building
  15. Focus on Somalia: security and innovation in a conflict state
  16. FIFAfrica17 Recommendations
The fourth edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) was held on September 27–29, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This marked the first time that FIFAfrica was hosted outside Kampala, Uganda, where it has been held since inception in 2014. The 2017 edition of FIFAfrica was co-hosted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Association for Progressive Communication (APC). FIFAfrica 2017 was the first ever event of its kind in southern Africa, thereby enabling a particular focus on internet freedom concerns in the sub-region while maintaining a pan-African profile. With a dedicated focus of bringing together a larger network of actors that advocate for internet freedom in the region and beyond, a richer and broader mix of actors, state and non-state, the Forum contributed towards creating a larger network of actors that advocate for internet freedom particularly in Africa.

The landmark event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online. This assembly of mostly Africa based human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, private sector players, bloggers, developers, the arts community, law enforcers, telecom regulators,global information intermediaries and general internet users converge to discuss matters pertaining to internet freedom.

The Forum’s growing audience (from 80 participants representing six countries in 2014 to over 250 from 35 countries in 2017), the diversity of participants, and discussions, reflect increased awareness among Africa's growing internet users and stakeholder community of the need for broader and more impactful work on advancing digital rights advocacy and drawing up common strategies to promote internet freedom.

@cipesaug digital policies are being discussed in an increasing number of forums which are often closed to civil society

Key highlights of the Forum are the launch of the annual State of Internet Freedom in Africa research report and the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) that is marked every September 28. For the second year, the Forum featured a digital security clinic and for the first time there was an exhibition showcasing the work and products of various players in the internet freedom arena including the hosts APC and CIPESA, Access Now, Defend Defenders, Right To Know (RTK)campaign, Media Monitoring Africa, and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Africa.
CIPESA and APC are grateful to the supporters of FIFAFrica17. We value the long standing relationships and commitment towards advancing access to the internet. We also appreciate the efforts of our collaborators in this area including in the development of the State of Internet Freedom in Africa report and our pre-event capacity building workshop series. supporters of FIFAFrica17 To find out how you can support future editions of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica), host a pre-event workshop or exhibit at the Forum please email [email protected]
Year 2014 2015 2016 2017
No. of participants 80 200 240 250
Countries represented 6 19 24 35
Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, Zimbabwe Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, Zimbabwe Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Hungary, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Switzerland, Sweden, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom (UK) United States of America (USA), Zambia and Zimbabwe.
No. of event days 1 2 3 4
No. of panel sessions 4 13 13 21
Topics Covered National and regional legal and regulatory environments for privacy, human rights, media and cybercrime. Violence against women online, Cybercrime, Net Neutrality, media freedom, access to information, digital safety, freedom of expression online, creative expression, the economics of the internet, etc. Transparency and Accountability of Intermediaries, Internet Shutdowns, Human Rights in Connectivity, Using Tech to Defend the Defenders, Creative Social Tech and Commentary, Clickbait Journalism, African Frameworks on Internet Freedom, Using Data to Track Rights, Online Violence Against Women, Researching Internet Rights, Cost of Shutdowns, Cybersecurity Strategies, Catalysts for Collaboration in Strategic Digital Rights Litigation; Business of Big Data; Universal Free Access to Information Online; Equality in the Age of Discrimination Online; the Future of Human Rights, the Internet and Civil Society; Keep Up with #KeepItOn; News Content and Responses to Fake News in Africa; Challenges and Opportunities for Media in SGD Advocacy; Elections and Technology; Research Capacity in Internet Measurements, Cyber Policy and Digital Rights; Measuring Internet Universality; Women’s Safety Online; Universal Periodic Review Mechanisms; Innovation and Security in Conflict Territories; the Impact of Internet Shutdowns; Gender Sensitivity in ICT Policy; Risk Assessments for Civil Society Organisations; Privacy and Freedom of Expression Online
  • Commemoration of 10 years of Access to Information Law in Uganda
  • Award of the most responsive public body.
  • Commemoration of Universal Access to Information and #IPDCTalksSA competition award ceremony
  • Digital security tools localisation sprint
  • Digital security clinics
  • Human rights review mechanisms - African and UN Periodic Reviews training workshop
  • Strategic digital rights litigation training workshop
  • 6XLightening talks including on sex and sexuality online in Africa, digital citizenship and security consciousness among youth in Africa, privacy and security of journalists in DR Congo, among others.
  • 2X report launches:
  • State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2017
  • New Framework For Calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Shutdowns in Africa
The Forum was preceded by two days of meetings and workshops. These included the
  • Ford Foundation Africa Grantees’ meeting which convened partner organisations from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeriato deliberate on ongoing projects in digital rights. The ICT4Democracy in East Africa network which comprises seven organisations based in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda implementing various ICT-based projects to enhance civic participation and human rights monitoring also convened partners for a
  • Workshop on Strategic Digital Rights Litigation hosted in partnership with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLD). This workshop aimed to build capacity on the use of litigation as an effective tool in removing restrictions on the free flow of information online in countries with repressive internet regimes. The workshop encouraged internet activists to collaborate across disciplinary silos to more effectively push back against legal frameworks that are not conducive to a free and open internet.
Source tweet: Strategic #digitalrights litigation workshop hosted by @BKCharvard @mediadefence @InterwebzNani at #FIFAfrica17 #InternetFreedomAfrica
  • Workshop on human rights review mechanisms hosted by APC, CIPESA and Small Media. The workshop took participants through African and United Nations (UN) Periodic Reviews processes. Through plenary and group discussions, participants explored how to use the mechanisms as pressure points for policy change. APC’s Using the Universal Periodic Review for Human Rights Online served as a key reference point for the workshop.
Small Media called for more UPR recommendations on internet freedom -
  • A two day localisation sprinthosted in partnership with the Localization Lab. The sprint was aimed at advancing the adoption of internet freedom tools in East and Southern Africa through translation of technologies and creation of key resources to support the education, training, and adaptation of digital security and circumvention tools in the region. Highlights from the sprint include:
  • Zimbabwe - two Ndebele and three Shona translators worked on the Signal app, and completed the Shona language glossary.
  • Uganda - six translators worked on the Luganda language glossary and Peerio.
  • Nigeria - participants identified a gap in the availability of tools in the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo languages.
  • South Africa - similar to the Nigerian experience, unmet needs in language and tech were identified for the country’s up to 14 local languages. The Internet Society Chapter South Africa committed to develop a small glossary for the 14 languages, hosted and maintained on their website.
pre meeting FiFAfrica17 The Localization Lab is a global community of volunteer translators who support the translation and localization of Internet freedom tools: technologies that address security, privacy and anonymity online to ensure that people around the world have safe avenues for accessing information on the Internet. Many of the tools translated by the Localization Lab help to protect the lives and physical security of individuals who do not have open access to information on the Internet.
On 28 September 2017, the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) was commemorated for a second year. As part of the global recognition,the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa hosted an IDUAI track at the Forum. Under the theme of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) on “Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information”, the track featured panel discussions on the role of the media in advocating and advancing access to information for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It was noted that only 22 countries in Africa have access to information laws, many of which continue to struggle with implementation - which in turn affects media’s work. Luckson Chipare, Chairperson of the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA), pointed out that for access to information to be realised, there must be efforts at a national level to adhere to international standards.

Indeed, accessing public information enables the media to better inform citizens on various social, economic and political issues - all of which can contribute to the attainment of the global development agenda. In this regard,the UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Professor Hubert Gijzen, stressed the need for the media to more actively prioritise gender disparities in access to information to help empower women in social, economic and political contexts - as well as in access to the internet.

The media’s role in advocating and advancing access to information was also recognised alongside its dependency on its capacity to freely disseminate news and information.

As part of the IDUAI celebrations, UNESCO organised the, #IPDCTalksSA competition which was aimed at promoting discussion around the importance of access to information, independent and pluralistic media and freedom of expression among university students in Southern Africa. The competition was won by Zambian journalism student Lolavye Simukoko. The competition also served to create awareness on the need to engage youth in efforts towards realising the SDGs.

Recognising The African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression,

Another highlight of the IDUAI track at the Forum was the recognition of Advocate Pansy Tlakula for her contributions to access to information in South Africa. At the time of the Forum, Tlakula was the African Union Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa. She reiterated the need for the recognition and realisation of access to information in more African countries. Furthermore, Tlakula said there was need for more countries to support the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) resolution on the right to freedom of information and expression on the internet in Africa. She noted that, “The struggle continues for openness, democracy and the right to know.” Advancing freedom of expression and access to information towards deepening democracy in Africa Sekoetlane Phamodi
The Forum also provides a platform for individuals and organisations to share their work and ideas related to internet freedom to a wider audience. Following an open call, six topics were selected to share during the lightning sessions.
  • In her lightening talk,Koliwe Majama addressed the need to include more discussions on the paradoxical nature of socio-cultural issues like the representation and dissemination of content on sex and sexuality online at national, regional and international levels. She noted, “Free expression goes beyond free speech but also includes sexual connotations and identity,” adding that "we can't continue to talk about preserving our 'Africanness' when dissecting sexuality online."

  • Felicia Anthonio of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) spoke about the ways through which different stakeholders can advance freedom of expression in Africa alongside access to the internet.
  • William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa shared programs they are working on aimed at Developing digital citizenship and security consciousness amongst young people in South Africa. Add images of magazines

  • Congolese journalist and activist Narcisse Mbunzama spoke on Improving privacy and security of journalists, and activists in DR Congo, calling forgreater awareness and security practices not only in the country but across the sector in the continent. Solutions for security for journo & human rights workers in the DRC. Mbunzama Shares on Ipeace App developed in Sweden provides citizens a tool to report in realtime HR abuses in DR Congo
Thomas Sithole of the PlumTree Development Trust in Zimbabwe presented on grassroots communities, youth and internet freedom during which he spoke of the need to include more youth in internet policy process. There's a need for documentation of youth-led citizen initiatives in digital spaces to amplify their voices - @Thomysithole @ #FIFAfrica17 -
At the practical level, the Forum works to support skills development among civil society organisations, journalists, human rights activists and other at-risk groups such as women and the LGBTI community in digital security practices for safe and secure access to and use of digital communication technologies.

Accordingly, a digital security clinic, run in partnership with Access Now’s Digital Security Help Line and DefendDefenders, provided support and demos of various digital security tools in English and French. As part of the clinic, a workshop was hosted on risk assessment for CSOs. This workshop presented a unique opportunity for participants from civil society to share the existing and potential threats targeting their communities. At the end of it, participants learnt how to apply risk assessment frameworks to mitigate those threats.

The clinic received numerous queries from participants on circumvention techniques, encryption, anti-virus and operating system updates. There was also interest in understanding improved organisational digital security assessment and resilience.
Sessions at the Forum were built around themes which engage with the 13 principles of the African declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.

1. Rights, inclusion and exclusion
Access to the internet is as much an issue of inclusion as it is of exclusion. It is upon this premise that rights and equality are advocated. FIFArica17 explored the various ways in which the internet has served as an instrument of both inclusion and exclusion such as through limited and/or denied access to information, high data costs, lack of infrastructure, limited diversity in content, and the propagation of violence both online and offline based on gender and sexual identity,among others.

Ultimately, it was noted that the internet enables access to information - a key pillar of social inclusion and equality, service delivery, state transparency and accountability and development. However, as the value and need for easily accessible online information has grown, so has the need for states to control and regulate it.

An APC report on Perspectives on universal free access to online information in South Africa: Free public Wi-Fi and zero-rated content points out that increased public access to the internet strengthens inclusion in the digital society. However, the reality remains that despite efforts through the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, there has been little engagement on universal access leading to what Research ICT Africa describes as a connectivity paradox (report).

Indeed, a session on inequality in an age of discrimination online stressed that the absence of policy remains an enabler of discrimination and prejudice. Further, it was noted that the rights of marginalised communities remain trumped upon with little legal recourse in many African countries. The session called for policy changes which acknowledge the presence and rights for minority communities both online and offline.

“We need to re-imagine what internet means to us in order to leverage the space because it's not a uniform space” Fungai Machirori

Discussions on the future of human rights, the internet and civil society also emphasised that access to the Internet is about information that is topical and relevant in local contexts. The limited availability of content that is originated by women and the youth reflects the existing low internet access and the gender information skew that persists online. However, the emerging tech sector in Africa was pointed out as a potential ally in bridging this gap.

Attacks on women online are increasingly being normalised to such an extent that the way in which women experience online violence are vastly different to how men experience the same. It was pointed out that this is most visible during electioneering periods where even in political commentaries being shared online, women participating in such discussions or vying for political posts are often debased because of their gender. Although there is a growing pushback against online violence against women, including from young feminists, more remains to be done particularly at a policy level.

Further, the session on women’s safety online called for the need to work on changing the narrative, including the social norms that perpetuate patriarchy online and offline. There also remains a little information easily available for young women and girls about the consequences of sharing personal information online. Thus, the shared responsibility of users and platforms was raised, with participants noting that internet users should also practice better security measures online while platforms should endeavor to ensure the safety of users.

"When African women go online to look for information about issues in their context, there is little there." #FIFAfrica17 #feministinternet -

Similar sentiments were shared on a session on advancing a gender sensitive approach to ICT Policy and decision making. The session also stressed that in the absence of gender disaggregated data, service delivery, policy formulation, and the development of tech platforms, remain flawed.
2. Media
The role played by the media in advocating for a free internet, access to informationand the respect of human rights was preeminent in most discussions atthe Forum. Still, this role is also one that has resulted in media house shutdowns, censorship, arrests and intimidation of journalists given that most African countries guarantee principles of media freedom on paper but not in practice.

The absence of progressive media rights laws was noted as an enabler of the abuse of the sector particularly by state actors, while digital media has led to the emergence of mass communication phenomena such as fake news and shrewd misinformationwas a key concern among participants at the Forum with a series of questions emerging including, “Who determines what fake news is?”, ”Is fake news deemed so because someone doesn't agree with it?” and “Is legislation the solution to addressing fake news?Practising journalists noted alternative publishing spaces and the opportunity for anonymous engagement among citizens on social media had also enabled the fake news practice to grow. Whereas it was noted that social media has allowed both journalists and activists to connect and amplify each other’s voices, the validity of content pushed by media houses and journalists alike was questioned particularly with regard to advocacy journalism and propaganda.

Without #internet access journalists cannot publish online, investigate, or talk securely -

Discussions called for more ethical practices including rigorous fact-checking by professional journalists and citizen journalists who, through social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook, independently share information.

“Social media has been romantised and mainstream media remains a medium of the elite.” Zimbabwean journalist Delta Ndou

It was also pointed out that the media is often also a victim of digital rights abuse - in addition to longstanding offline abuse. Media houses have been shut down, had content censored while some journalists have had to flee or live in fear of persecution due to the nature of the content they have published. One of the key recommendations was that more media,including community and mainstream media in Africa, need to be more digitally savvy and equipped with digital security skills.

Journalists under duress: Internet shutdowns in Africa are stifling press freedom

3. Emerging and Current Trends
Data Privacy
The ever-evolving trends in technology affect the entire spectrum of internet users. Some of these trends are obvious, such as the current popularity of Facebook and Whatsapp as key information sharing tools, while others arenot as obvious - such as the policies meant to address digital technology use and regulation, such as data privacy laws and access to information laws.

Popular terms like big data, Fintech, Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, smart cities are lingua that were not as common place a mere decade ago and yet they are now in everyday speak including at FIFAfrica17. Participants raised key concernssuch as the consumerisation of big data and the absence of ethics as the mass collection, distribution, use and storage of data continues to be a source of concern – particularly in the absence of data protection laws in many African states. The concern on data protection is not unique to Africa, in fact, in October 2017, the European Union released key themes of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to help organisations understand the new legal framework in the EU, many of which are applicable in our African contexts.

Nonetheless, participants noted that users of the internet continue to feed the digital data basket with information despite limited understanding of how this information is stored or how it can be used - leaving user data open to abuse or exploitation.

The use - and for some the misuse - of private data by both companies and states is intertwined – particularly when it comes to the transparency on how data is used and released upon third party requests such as from states. There has been a growing trend of African governments requesting for user information and content removal from the internet and telecom companies.

Representing Google, Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda acknowledged that the company indeed deals with vast amounts of data and recognises the concerns that users have. To this end, Google, like other intermediaries, publishes periodic transparency reports so users are aware of the various data requests received. Further, he pointed out the Google Dashboard enables users to take stock of how much and what kind of data they have shared using Google.

With regards to the questionable ethics of some data collectors including those in Africa’s emerging start-ups community, Rebecca Enonochong of AfriTech called on innovators not to perceive“data as a commodity” but as information that can be used to create better services and products. Nonetheless, panellists on a session specifically discussing big data agreed that it is important to encourage stronger policy aimed at data protection including through engaging with governments and for intermediaries to have more easily understood terms of service.
Verengai Mabika of the Internet Society pointed out that the future of the internet will include more interlinks between the human experience and technology and called for more awareness of this inter-relationship onward. A key theme that emerged was that digital security must be by design, and service and device providers must also play a role in protecting data entrusted to them by users - particularly as the manner in which technology and humans interact evolves. Further, as the amount of data gathered by states and intermediaries alike grows, there is increasing pressure on governments to enact data protection laws and for more internet intermediaries to release transparency reports.

Internet Shutdowns
Internet shutdowns have dominated headlines over the course of 2016 and 2017 – particularly due to their repeated occurrences and baseless justifications. Countries such as Cameroon,Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Republic of Congo, Uganda, Burundi, CAR, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Togo and Ethiopia all have endured some form of interruption to digital communications over the past two years.

In response to increased shutdowns globally, Access Now initiated the #KeepItOn campaign to pushback against the increasingly common trend. In so doing, the awareness and movement against shutdowns is growing. However, governments have yet to take heed of the repeated calls to refrain from blocking access to the internet or social media despite affronts to human rights and citizens’ livelihoods. Echoing these calls in her key note address at the Forum, Rebecca Enonchong recounted “Internet Refugee Camps” which Cameroonians resorted to during an internet shutdown in parts of the country which lasted 93 days. Sheurged governments to desist from using shutdowns as a solution to social protest and election commentary.

Participants concluded that internet shutdowns do not restore order nor do they protect rights as is the reasoning often reported by states. It was also noted that shutting down the internet or passing laws stifling dissent doesnot stop peoplefrom organising. Further, discussions revealed the need to educate government officials on what amounts to hate speech as current definitions are mostly unclear and have been used as a basis to interrupt online communications.

Report Launch:Calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Disruptions in Sub-Saharan Africa
Attempts to establish theeconomic cost of network disruptions have hitherto mostly comprised of studies that are not focused onthe Sub-Saharan context. Given the rate at which disruptions are occurring in the region, it was imperative to develop a framework to measure the effect of disruptions in Africa.FIFAfrica17 served as the launchpad for a report on Calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Disruptions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Based on the framework, internet shutdowns in 10 African countries have cost the region up to US$ 237 million since 2015.

NB: Additional issues that emerged as current trends included the growing prevalence of fake news, the use of technology in elections, changing habits on online violence against women and growing interest in internet measurement. These are covered in more detail in other sections of this report.
Increasingly, more digital tools have been used leading up to and during election periods. Technology has been welcomed as the solution to botched elections, and an enabler of accountability and transparency of electoral processes. However, suspicions have been maintained, particularly due to the procurement of the technologies, the protection of citizens’ data (where biometric data is collected), and deeply seated perceptions of surveillance through technology.

Indeed, during a discussion hosted by Dr. IginioGagliardone, author on his published book titled, "The Politics of Technology in Africa", participants reflected on how politics and technology shape each other and are increasingly becoming a dominant force in processes of contestation, state and nation building.

With regards to elections, participants noted that there should be a shift away from the use of technology as an event-based mechanism and called for the use of technology more regularly in civic processes and government-citizen interactions.It was also noted that social media has enabled civic participation in various ways – including as a key tool of influencing public opinion and discourse online and offline. According to Grace Mutungu of the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), technology played a large role in the 2017 Kenyan election through the dissemination of information, both in terms of the content itself as well as how it spread including through platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. She also noted that the government attempted to regulate online information, including through legislation, surveillance, and direct online engagement with critics.
“Much of the fake news, however, was spread through private groups on WhatsApp, which kept it hidden from the open web and also in many cases rendered stories more powerful as they were spread through trusted networks.” See more on whether fake news played a role in the Kenya elections

Meanwhile, the use of bots on Facebook and Twitter to skew online narrative also emerged as a point of discussion. Bots were present in online narrative in the lead up to elections including during the Uganda 2016 elections. Increasingly a global trend, during the 2017 German elections, Facebook released a public statement after thousands of fake Facebook accounts had to be deactivated, while an investigation into the 2017 US election also revealed that fake Facebook accounts purchased thousands of ads designed to amplify divisive political messages. Facebook has since taken steps to address the use of its platform for electioneering including through monitoring which accounts are promoting the election messages and the relationship such accounts have with other paid advertisements posted on the platform.

Some questions that emerged on ICT and civic participation – particularly through the lens of elections included the below:
  1. Can the credibility of elections be measured?
  2. Can fake news be resolved with better algorithms?
  3. Can fake news sway elections?
  4. How do we enable monitoring of elections technologies?
  5. Should citizens know where servers with elections or governance related data are located?
The documentation of internet use and access at a technical level is integral in building the case for internet freedom and digital rights globally. The subtle ways in which information controls are employed sometimes go unnoticed, which necessitates building the capacity to quickly identify, document and advocate around them.

"Bridging policy and technical research on internet measurements in Africa" . Catch @alison_gillwald @ #FIFafrica17

Internet measurements are often thought to be a strictly technical subject. Indeed, there very few references in literature where internet measurements have been used to inform advocacy or policy influence.This points to the need for more collaboration between the technical/network aspects of the internet and internet policy researchers to address the gaps in research capacity and to strengthen the case for digital rights and cyber policy.

Internet measurements give insight about different aspects of the internet, about its performance, its robustness and can help to understand how resilient networks are (or not). For e.g. a country with only one incumbent ISP bears multiple risks, it may act as a single point of failure (cable breaks, network outage, etc.) or having only one entry and one exit point in a country can make it easy for mass scale surveillance. So basically, Internet measurement research must not solely look at one aspect of the Internet (technical or otherwise) but different techniques should be used to have a 360 degree understanding of the “state of the Internet”. AmreeshPhokeer, African Network Information Center (AFRINIC)
The necessity for multi-disciplinary research was stressed during a panel which explored building research capacity in internet measurements, cyber policy and digital ,which called for multi-sector and interdisciplinary collaborations – particularly as the detection and documentation of digital rightsabuse remains pivotal for policy development and change.
Since its inception in 2014, FIFAfrica has served to create a common ground for discussing shared challenges and opportunities for advancing internet freedom across Africa. This is often reflected in the recommendations which emerge during the various sessions. The session oncatalysing collaboration in strategic digital rights litigationemphasised movement building for more structured cooperation between different players such as tech developers, activists and lawyers to reach more effective legal processes and outcomes in advancing digital rights. In similarity to the call for more multi-disciplinary research on digital rights, there was a push for the merging of multi-disciplinary interests in digital rights litigation.

This movement is pertinent due to the impact that ambiguous or outdated laws have on digital rights in various African countries. For instance in Tanzania various laws have been used to arrest and prosecute social media users. In Burundi, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruled that sections of Burundi’s Press Law of 2013 violated democratic principles and should be repealed. For the digital rights movement to be strengthened, it was noted that cases pertaining to digital rights should be fought both within and outside the courtroom –and matched with additional support such as cohesive offline and online campaigns and through the use of traditional media and communication strategies as key avenues to strengthen awareness of a cause.

#FIFAfrica17 @mediadefence has filed lawsuits in 4 countries challenging internet shutdowns including in Cameroon

Legislative developments which affect internet freedoms should not be viewed in isolation from the wider internet ecosystem. Ultimately for successful digital rights litigation, a core strategy should be followed that enables all stakeholders to make their unique contribution that can advance a case or cause.


Further to the development of cohesive strategic litigation mechanisms, is the need to understand how the various regional and international human rights review mechanisms such as those by the African Commission and the United Nationscan be leveraged to advance human rights online. In addition to the pre-Forum training mentioned earlier, a specific session explored How to increase Universal Periodic Review (UPR)submissions on internet freedom in Africa.

See: Using the Universal Periodic Review for Human Rights Online

The amplification of human rights concerns through these processes continues to be improved upon as the network of conversant contributors grows. Despite this, more players from the global south and from a diversity of backgrounds are still required tocontributeto such processes.

Away from the review mechanisms, other avenues for building the momentum on advancing human rights online include UNESCO’sindicators for measuring internet universality which are based on rights, openness, access and multistakeholder participation. A consultation session organised by UNESCO and APC was held to receive participant’s feedback on proposed internet universality indicators.

Meanwhile, the global campaign advocating for pushback against internet shutdowns, #KeepItOn,highlighted the efficacyof a collective drive to advance digital rights. In this session, reference was also made to the use of litigation as a tool to challenge Internet shutdowns. The need to seek judicial remedy for shutdowns, the measurement of disruptions and technical mitigation tools were also discussed.

Most legislators around the world don't understand how Internet works & ask for the impossible - @AndrewPuddephat @GlobalPartnersD #FIFAfrica17
A session ledby University of Oxford and University of Johannesburg professor Dr. Nicole Stemlau gave insights on the role of media and new technologies in Somalia’s expanding ICT sector, fuelled by youth, despite the ongoing conflict. The discussion looked at the interplay between media and ICT as part of the political economy of the conflict and the ways in which innovative solutions to problems have emerged. The contribution of the diaspora in forging connections in the ICT sector is also playing a part in expanding the sector. Indeed shortly after the Forum the first Telecom Law was passed in the country. It was noted that various developments such as the new Communications Act and Media law are taking place in the country from the policy and industry perspective – which shouldnot go unnoticed.

#Somali President today signs Telecom Law decree, the first bill that went through both houses of the parliament

Abdalla Mohamud from Hurmuud speaking on the ICT private sector and the use of mobile money in #Somalia #FIFAFRICA17 @_FatmaAhmed
@_FatmaAhmed Great discussion of the application of customary law to technology-driven disputes #FIFAfrica17

Can Somalia draw examples from Myanmar when discussing security and innovation #FIFAFRICA17

@AbdihakimAinte from @iRiseHub dialing via Skype to discuss youth and ICT development in #somalia #FIFAFRICA17 #securemedia

Fatma Ahmed ‏ @_FatmaAhmed
More Discussing the influential and significant role of the ICT sector played during the drought relief in #Somalia #FIFAFRICA17

Branded cattle with owner numbers

See also State of Internet Freedom in Somalia 2016
Ultimately, digital rights deserve an equal measure of support as offline rights as the two are principally interlinked. Tools such as the UPR mechanisms, digital rights litigation, advocacy, campaigns that run both online and offline are just some of the ways through which online rights can be advanced. However, to achieve this, there remains a need for better and more coordination among CSOs and indeed other stakeholders on problematic areas in the digital rights arena. Key take aways made over the course of FIFAfrica17 include the below:
    • As the amount of personal data gathered by states, tech giants, and other digital services providers grows, there is a pressing need for African governments to enact and actively implement data protection laws. Further, there should be more collaborative efforts to address gaps in cybersecurity to safeguard data privacy, combat fraud and cybercrime. Indeed, with increased human interaction with technology such as through the Internet of Things (IoT), service and device providers must play a greater role in protecting data entrusted to them by users. This call echoes insights from the State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2017 report which focusses on Intermediaries’ Role in Advancing Internet Freedom – Challenges And Prospects.
    • The abuse of power by state agencies particularly with regard to the free flow of information online was a repeated theme throughout the discussions. There have beennumerous instances of internet shutdowns with little or no response from regional bodies to this abuse of citizens’ fundamental rights. Participants called for more advocacy and pushback against shutdowns including through demonstrating the economic impact of shutdowns. According to the Framework for calculating the economic cost of internet disruptions in Sub-Saharan Africa reportthat was launched at FIFAfrica, shutdowns have had long lasting negative effects on national economies.
    • It was recommended that the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights should be updated to include recognition of access to information and respect for digital rights.
    • The media in many African countries operate in precarious environments including in turbulent political climates, and are faced with various restrictions. Further, many countries have similarly retrogressive provisions in their laws, leading to similar experiences for media in different countries. Examples include ambiguous laws that require registration of journalists, such as in Uganda, and in Kenya, where the National Security Service Act 2014 and the Media Council Act 2013 variously limit press freedom and freedom of expression. Meanwhile, journalists have been arrested in the various countries for their work including in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. In some instances, on top of arrest of journalists, media houses have been closed as witnessed in Zambia. Further, limited access to information such as in Tanzania undermines the role of the media as the fourth estate. While citizens demand that media practitioners meet the public’s expectations including in the relay of accurate and factual information amidst the spate of fake news and misinformation online, mainstream media remains policed and subject to self-censorship in many instances. More efforts therefore should go into building the digital security skills and practices of journalists and media houses so as to protect their work, sources and information.
    • The current gender digital divide in Africa needs to be addressed, including through generating gender-disaggregated statistics such as on ICT use and access, and the challenges women face in online participation.Similarly, there is a need to generate more relevant digital content which reflects the circumstances and realities of African women including through the media and academia and to undertake policy efforts that strongly address the gender digital divide in Africa.
    • In order to advance diversity and inclusivity including in culture and sexuality online, ICT policy changes which acknowledge and promote the rights of marginalised and minority communities both online and offlineshould be made. This should be coupled with education campaigns for rights holders and duty bearers to understand what comprises hate speech, false information, incitement, and violence against minorities and women online.

    • The independence of the media is strongly linked to the realisation of access to information and access to the internet. Lack of access to the information, or to the internet, affects the free press and the role of the media as society’s watchdog. Accordingly, press freedom, access to information and access to the internet should be strongly upheld by African governments.