Growing the Conversation on Online Rights and Internet Measurement in Africa

By Juliet Nanfuka |
Rising awareness of the role the internet can play in promoting democratic governance, economic prosperity, civic participation and social inclusion is increasingly driving discussions around Africa. A growing number of stakeholders is getting involved in discussions to address gaps in the realisation of the potential of the internet in progressing socio- economic development and justice.
Platforms such as the Internet Governance Forum gave birth to regional and national dialogues on the issues affecting internet governance and internet rights on the continent. Discussions on the technical management of the internet have been held by bodies like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC).
Similarly, the Africa Internet Summit (AIS) currently taking place in Nairobi, Kenya has seen yet another convening of stakeholders to explore the current landscape of internet access and use in Africa. The annual multi-stakeholder conference allows key players in Africa’s internet industry to interact with the global Internet community.
This year’s summit is held at a time when Africa’s growing internet use is threatened by increasing affronts to the free flow of information online, including shut downs of the internet, social media and services such as mobile money. Up to 25% of Africa’s households have access to the internet, according to the International Telecommunications Union, and the average telephone penetration on the continent stands at 81%. But rising incidents of shutdowns, along with other curtails to free expression and privacy online, are getting more actors in Africa
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will be sharing research insights and experiences on the relationship between internet infrastructure, privacy, surveillance and censorship in Africa.
To-date, there remains little data in this area which is fundamental to support advocacy for improved policy development for online rights in Africa. Currently, the true extent of interference in communications remains largely unknown and subject to speculation where there is limited evidence of interference at an internet infrastructure level.
During the AIS, CIPESA Executive Director Dr. Wairagala Wakabi presented on Tampering with the Open Internet: Experiences From Africa during which he shared insights from the 2016 report on the State of Internet Freedom Africa which forms the latest in the #InternetFreedomAfrica series of reports that CIPESA have released since 2014. Additional insights were shared during a panel discussion on Internet measurements and Internet freedom alongside Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) and Small Media (UK) during which the digital resilience of civil society was also  discussed.
The discussions built on presentations made by Research ICT Africa and AFRINIC during workshops they hosted at the Summit.

See this Storify: Measuring the Internet (or continue to Storify below)

Meanwhile, CIPESA and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) will host the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 27–29, 2017 where there will be continuation of similar discussions including the cross paths of internet use, access, policy and online rights in the continent.
Share your thoughts and opinions online using #InternetFreedomAfrica

The African Internet Summit (#AISKenya) taking place in Nairobi has raised various arguments for the measurement of internet infrastructure in Africa. The current internet landscape features various forms of online interruption, some of which go unnoticed due to the absence of measurement.

Safeguarding Civil Society: Assessing Internet Freedom and the Digital Resilience of Civil Society in East Africa

By Small Media |
Over the past decade, East Africa has seen a tremendous boom in connectivity and online participation that is beginning to transform the way that citizens across the region communicate, express themselves, and establish communities. In a similar manner, the growth of internet access in the region is beginning to empower civil society organisations (CSOs) to engage with the public, share information, and advocate for citizens’ rights in sometimes challenging and closed political environments. Although the internet offers opportunities to advocates, it also offers the possibility for regional state and non-state actors to interfere with their work, surveil them, and censor their voices.
In this report Small Media, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), DefendDefenders, and Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law have sought to map out the state of internet freedom in East Africa, and assess the extent to which ongoing challenges have impacted negatively upon the work of civil society actors in the region. Although we were not able to map out the state of internet freedom across the entire region, we were able to focus our efforts on some of the lesser-studied digital landscapes – Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
To measure the state of internet controls in the region, we have taken the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms (ADIRF) as our key point of reference. This declaration – drafted and signed by a large array of African civil society organisations in collaboration with global internet freedom organisations – establishes a set of rigorous principles by which governments and other stakeholders must abide in order to guarantee the online rights and freedoms of citizens across Africa.
Over the course of this research, we have found that there is an urgent need for East African civil society to be given support to improve their digital resilience in the face of growing threats of surveillance and censorship across the region. In all of the countries surveyed in this report, CSOs failed to demonstrate a baseline of digital security knowledge, or else failed to implement practices effectively.
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At the same time, we found that governments across the region require support to bring their policies into compliance with the principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms – a set of principles developed by African internet freedom stakeholders to guarantee a free and open internet in Africa.
Small Media, CIPESA, Defend Defenders and CIPIT hope that this research can help to support the security of civil society actors, empower activists to support the principles of the African Declaration, and press their governments to adopt it.
Read the full report here.