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.

Move Fast and Fix Policy: African Digital Rights Advocacy in an Era of Rapid Policy Change

By CIPESA Staff Writer |

Across Africa, the fast-evolving technology landscape has created pressure to adopt appropriate legislation to keep up with the pace of technological development. However, these efforts are being shackled by numerous challenges, including silo approaches to policy development, limited citizens’ inclusion in policy formulation, failure to harmonise stakeholder positions, ad hoc advocacy efforts by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and the failure to leverage the influence of private sector actors.

At the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2022 (FIFAfrica22), digital rights activists and policymakers examined how existing processes and mechanisms that provide input into digital policies can be improved. In a panel session organised by the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), participants explored experiences and practical tips for policy engagement that upholds democratic values.

A key concern was that, on the one hand, Africa’s digital rights landscape has for years remained unregulated, leading to resistance to efforts to regulate it, and yet the absence of laws creates room for violation of rights online and abuse by state and non-state actors. On the other hand, where laws have been enacted, implementation and enforcement have been weaponised to target critics and dissent, as reflected in the continued infringement of rights online. This creates the need for proactive multi-stakeholder efforts in pushing back against regressive developments.

“While we should be [engaged] at the beginning of the process, we are ignored and when we enact a law, CSOs come to challenge it, yet if they involve us early enough, we would all be in agreement,” said Neema Lugangira, Member of Parliament from Tanzania and Chair of the African Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance (APNIG).

She noted that with a negative attitude towards each other, many parliamentarians question the motives of CSOs in pushing certain agendas and called for a change in approach. “I want to champion issues in which I have been involved. How do we make your agenda my agenda? You can scream whatever you want but you cannot get legislative change without working with Parliament,” said Lugangira. 

Indeed, Boye Adegoke from Paradigm Initiative reiterated that one of the pitfalls of policy advocacy was to adopt the angel/devil relationship approach. He added that many CSOs lack  adequate knowledge and skills to engage in policy processes. In turn, he called for more proactive efforts in tracking parliamentary debates and business related to digital policy and undertaking research to inform policy advocacy. 

Building alliances, including with the local business and the tech community, was also cited as critical to strategic support for policy influence. “When they [business and tech community] speak, they tend to be listened to and governments tend to respect their views,” said Nashilongo Gervasius, a Namibian technology policy researcher and founder of NamTshuwe Media.

Equally emphasised was the need to leverage the power and influence of private sector players  at international level, where the quality of policy negotiations by some African governments remains wanting,  as noted by Ayaan Khalif, the Co-Founder of Digital Shelter, a digital rights group in Somalia. Citing the example of the 15% tax agreement between OECD countries and multinational companies, Ayaan stated that African countries and CSOs must bring the continent’s big market potential to the “negotiating table” in order to tap into the multinationals’ revenue.

Away from negotiations, the need to increase inclusive participation in public policy processes was also stressed. As Khalif stated, “Holistic stakeholder involvement should clearly define those being involved, ensure that they are actually given the opportunity to make meaningful input and outline the issues being addressed”.

Ultimately, context remains paramount given that most countries on the continent are at different levels of democracy and what is possible in one may not be tenable in another. What is important is to understand the policy making ecosystem and respond appropriately. “Policy advocacy is about incremental wins. If you are not invited to the table you can bring your own chair to the table, or you can set up your own table and bring people to it,” concluded Adegoke.

Comprehensive Approach Needed to Tackle Online Disinformation in Africa and Europe, say Experts

News Update |

“There is no silver bullet to tackle online disinformation” was the conclusion of the Town Hall debate Jointly tackling disinformation while protecting human rights, organised by the African Union — European Union (AU-EU) Digital for Development (D4D) Hub at the Internet Governance Forum 2022.

The session, which took place on 2 December 2022 in a hybrid format, brought together over 60 organisations for an open exchange of ideas, experiences, and lessons on how to address disinformation through a multi-stakeholder and human-centric approach. In particular, the debate focused on how Africa-Europe partnerships can help tackle the issue, in light of the AU-EU D4D Hub’s mandate to foster digital cooperation between both continents.

The panellists explained how fact-checking has grown dramatically in recent years, becoming one of the most common measures to tackle disinformation. Nevertheless, more than effective fact-checking is needed, they warned. Africa-Europe cooperation should adopt a comprehensive approach integrating multiple complementary measures, such as building digital literacy for all (including the most vulnerable), holding those who profit from disinformation accountable, and the involvement of all stakeholders in devising solutions.

Bringing all actors to the table

Simone Toussi, Project Officer for Francophone Africa at the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) highlighted how “disinformation is a multi-faceted phenomenon that directly threatens democracy and human rights and affects all stakeholders in society”.

“Disinformation manifests in many ways, and can be perpetrated by a diversity of actors,” she added.

As such, she argued that countering fake narratives needs both online and offline efforts undertaken in a coordinated manner by governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, media, academia, and private sector. “Multi-stakeholder collaboration is crucial to bring together different views and understanding of the roles that each actor plays,” she said.

Toussi presented research findings proving that measures to tackle disinformation can be ineffective or inadequate when they only consider the point of view of a single stakeholder. For example, fact-checking is sometimes challenged by lack of access to information. Media and civil society participation can help ensure that governments treat information as a public good.

Engaging with the private sector… how?

The debate also touched on the essential role that technology companies play in keeping disinformation from spreading. Ongoing efforts by private sector include partnering with civil society and fact-checkers — including through multi-stakeholder collaborations as proposed by Toussi.

Nevertheless, for Odanga Madung, journalist and Mozilla Foundation fellow, such measures are not enough. He argued that one of the major contributing factors to disinformation is that fake or misleading information is algorithmically amplified by big companies.

“Big companies and social media platforms profit from the spread of disinformation. It is part of their business model, which is a very serious problem,” he said.

For Madung, tackling disinformation requires strong regulations to protect users and their rights, addressing big technology companies’ dominance, encouraging competition, fostering new ideas on different business models, and decentralising the Internet.

Planting the seeds of change

Charlotte Carnehl, Operations Director at Lie Detectors, proposed further investments in training teachers and fostering exchanges between journalists and school-age kids: “Countering the corrosive effect of disinformation and polarisation on democracy requires empowering school kids and their teachers to tell facts from fake online.”

She argued that enabling journalists to visit schools to explain how professional journalism works is a win-win situation. It can help journalists to learn about how the younger generation accesses and consumes information, while teachers and children can gain practical skills in identifying fake or misleading information online.

“Everybody needs the skills to assess and critically think about information,” Carnehl said. “Kids are actually a high-risk group for disinformation because they are targeted on channels that can’t be monitored, and they are largely navigating them by themselves without their teachers or even their parents present.”

When questioned on the short-term impact of such measures by a member of the audience, Carnehl acknowledged that it’s a long-term investment, “like planting the seeds of a tree”. However, she argued that there are also some immediate positive effects for children.

Finally, Carnehl called for special attention to be paid to marginalised groups, such as rural populations. Civil society organisations could help ensure that everyone can access reliable information, she said.

This article was first published by the Digital for Development Hub on Dec 13, 2022

Training webinar on Internet Universality Indicators convened for African Countries

By Juliet Nanfuka |

On 26 October, the Collaboration on 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 Internet For All Programme (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 ROAM-X assessment is critical.

UNESCO and CIPESA jointly reaffirmed the need for increased mobilisation 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 at the December 2022 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), in  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which include sessions on the ROAM-X indicators, a Day-0 pre-event and a Dynamic Coalition session.

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