CIPESA Joins Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) Project

Statement |

The Collaboration on International ICT for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is pleased to be among eight partners that comprise the newly established Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) project.

The CADE project, an ambitious initiative designed to empower civil society organisations (CSOs) to participate more actively in digital policy processes, was officially launched on May 31, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland at an event attended by Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, Permanent Representative of the European Union to the UN in Geneva, Prof. Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director of DiploFoundation, and project partners.

Co-funded by the European Union, the CADE project aims to enhance the active participation of CSOs in global governance and development initiatives. This initiative is crucial in fostering inclusive and participatory democratic processes worldwide.

In her address, Ambassador Knudsen emphasised the EU’s steadfast commitment to the vital role of CSOs in development. The EU’s Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for the thematic programme Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities from 2021 to 2027 highlights the importance of achieving high quality development outcomes through inclusive, democratic engagement.

“It appeals to one of our top priorities: to support and develop civil societies, which is particularly significant in the realm of global internet governance. This is about digital empowerment, and we need civil society’s active involvement. Our approach has always been strongly multistakeholder,” said Ambassador Knudsen.

Prof. Kurbalija further elaborated on the project’s goal to leverage technology for development, underscoring the CADE project’s innovative approach to enhancing CSO capacities. He noted, “This project aims to bring meaningful and substantive inclusion of civil society. Although many forums, such as ICANN, the WSIS Forum, and the IGF Forum, have open doors for participation, the challenge remains in equipping CSOs with the capacity to effectively engage and impact discussions.”

Dr Stephanie Borg Psaila, CADE’s project coordinator from DiploFoundation, introduced the eight partner organisations, which include the European Center for Non-for-profit Law (ECNL), Netherlands; Forus, France; CIPESA, Uganda; Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Kenya; Sarvodaya Fusion, Sri Lanka; Social Media Exchange (SMEX), Lebanon; Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC), Fiji; and Fundación Karisma, Colombia.

The launch event was followed by a technical session held during the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event (27–31 May 2024 in Geneva). This session showcased the CADE project’s initiatives and concluded with a call to action for individual and institutional efforts to promote genuine inclusivity and participation in digital governance.

The CADE project is founded on the principle of strengthening the fabric of civil society. Its objectives are clear and resonant with the needs facing contemporary society as follows:

  • Enhancing CSO contributions: The project reinforces the role of CSOs as pivotal actors in local governance and accountability, as promoters of inclusive and sustainable growth, as providers of social aid and welfare, and as contributors to digital policymaking in the global process.
  • Reinforcing networks: A key goal is to bolster regional and global networks of CSOs and associations of local authorities, enhancing their capacity for cooperation, mutual support, and active participation in multistakeholder digital governance.
  • Education and awareness: The project initiates and backs efforts towards education and awareness-raising, ensuring populations are well-informed and supportive of development efforts. This underscores the importance of an educated civil society in progressing towards sustainable development, particularly in the context of digital advancements.

Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager at CIPESA noted that through the CADE Project, “CIPESA will continue playing its current catalytic role in supporting actors across Africa to become active defenders and promoters of the multistakeholder model of internet governance.”

Job Opportunity: Project Assistant

Call for Applications |

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is seeking a Project Assistant to support implementation of activities under the USAID/Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA).

Job Title: Project Assistant

Location: Kampala, Uganda

Duration: Two (2) years Full time with a possibility of renewal

Reports to: Project Officer

Job Summary:

The Project Assistant will support in the planning, execution, monitoring and reporting of the Civil Society Strengthening Activity at CIPESA. Duties include assisting in research, capacity building/training, outreach and advocacy. The position is based at CIPESA’s offices in Kampala, Uganda, with frequent travel within the country.


Established in 2004, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is a leading centre for research and analysis of information aimed to enable policy makers in the region to understand ICT policy issues, and for various multi-stakeholders to effectively use ICT to improve governance and livelihoods. CIPESA works to defend and expand the digital civic space to enable the protection and promotion of human rights and to enhance innovation and sustainable development. We  focus on disparate actors including government, the private sector, civil society, media, policy makers and multinational institutions.

The Project

The Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA) is a five-year  USAID-funded Activity (now in the Fourth year of implementation) that is implemented by East-West Management Institute (EWMI) in partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). Under the project, CIPESA works to contribute to Component 3, whose goal is to promote a more supporting enabling environment that sustains a vibrant civil society in Uganda; increased in-country resources and capacity of CSOs to navigate government requirements and restrictions; and Ugandan-led initiatives to improve the CSO enabling environment. Activities include providing legal technical assistance, assisting CSOs to navigate and adapt to the restrictive environment and enhancing multi-sectoral CSO collaboration to promote and defend the enabling environment.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Assist in organising trainings in media and information literacy, digital safety, digital rights.
  • Organise stakeholder engagements at national and regional levels.
  • Produce information, education and communication materials for awareness raising and advocacy on the project including through blogs, briefs, commentaries and impact stories.
  • Support research undertakings including data collection and analysis.
  • Conduct field visits and follow up meetings with project beneficiaries.
  • Liaise with CSSA partners on activity progress, deliverables and opportunities for collaboration.
  • Assist with strategic planning, reporting as well as monitoring and evaluation.
  • Perform any additional admin and project related activities as assigned that will enhance CIPESA’s work.

Qualifications and Skills:

  • A bachelor’s degree in law, project planning and management, social sciences, communication, social work and social administration, or related disciplines.
  • Two or more years of experience in programming with a reputable institution, preferably in civil society.
  • Understanding of the digital civic space in Uganda.
  • Excellent verbal, written, and presentation skills.
  • Knowledge of project management principles, practices, techniques and procedures including planning and project implementation.
  • High level of motivation, integrity, and commitment to teamwork.
  • Strong work ethic with an unwavering commitment to quality and professionalism.
  • Proficiency in the use of Microsoft Office Suite and all applications including Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Great team player with capacity to establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, partners and the public.

How to Apply:

Applications including a cover letter outlining how you fit the job requirements and your areas of expertise; a CV; two writing samples (or alternative samples of your work); salary expectations, names and contacts of two referees should be submitted to [email protected].

The deadline for submissions is June 14, 2024, at 18.00 East African Time.

The ADRF Awards USD 134,000 to 10 Initiatives to Advance Tech Accountability in Africa

Announcement |

The grant recipients of the eighth round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) will implement projects focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), hate speech, disinformation, microtargeting, network disruptions, data access, and online violence against women journalists and politicians. The work of the 10 initiatives, who were selected from 130 applications, will span the breadth of the African continent in advancing tech accountability.

“The latest round of the ADRF is supporting catalytic work in response to the urgent need to counter the harms of technology in electoral processes,” said Ashnah Kalemera, the Programmes Manager at the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) – the administrators of the Fund. She added that for many of the initiatives being supported, tech accountability was a new area of work but the various projects’ advocacy, research and storytelling efforts would prove instrumental in pushing for tech justice

Established in 2019 as a rapid response and flexible funding mechanism, the ADRF aims to overcome the limitations of reach, skills, resources, and consistency in engagement faced by new and emerging initiatives working to defend and promote rights and innovation in the face of growing digital authoritarianism and threats to digital democracy in Africa. The sum of USD 134,000 awarded in the latest round, which was administered by CIPESA in partnership with Digital Action, brings to USD 834,000 the total amount awarded by the ADRF since inception to 62 initiatives across the continent.

According to Kalemera, the growth in the number of applicants to the ADRF reflects the demand for seed funding for digital rights work on the continent. Indeed, whereas the call for proposals for the eighth round was limited to tech accountability work, many applicants submitted  strong proposals on pertinent issues such as digital inclusion, media and information literacy, digital safety and security, surveillance, data protection and privacy, access and affordability – underscoring the cruciality of the ADRF. 

Here’s What the Grantees Will be Up To

In the lead-up to local government elections in Tanzania, Jamii Forums will engage content hosts, creators and journalists on obligations to tackle hate speech and disinformation online as a means to safeguard electoral integrity. In parallel, through its Jamii Check initiative, Jamii Forums will raise public awareness about the harms of disinformation and hate speech.

Combating hate speech and disinformation is also the focus of interventions supported in Senegal and South Sudan. Ahead of elections in the world’s youngest nation, DefyHateNow will monitor and track hate speech online in South Sudan, host a stakeholder symposium in commemoration of the International Day for Countering Hate Speech as a platform for engagement on collective action to combat hate speech, and run multi-media campaigns to raise public awareness on the harms of hate speech. Post elections in Senegal, Jonction will analyse the link between disinformation and network disruptions and engage stakeholders on alternatives to disruptions in future elections.

In the Sahel region, events leading up to coups in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have been characterised by restrictions on media and internet freedom, amidst which disinformation and violent extremism thrived. As some of the states in the region, notably Burkina Faso and Mali, move towards an end to military rule and head to the polls, the Thoth Media Research Institute will research disinformation and its role in sustaining authoritarian narratives and eroding human rights. The learnings from the research will form the basis of stakeholder convenings on strategies to combat disinformation in complex political, social, and security landscapes. Similarly, Internet Sans Frontières (ISF) will study the role of political microtargeting in shaping campaign strategies and voter behaviour, and the ultimate impact on the rights to privacy and participation in Mali. 

In South Africa, the Legal and Resources Centre (LRC), will raise awareness about the adequacy and efficacy of social media platforms’ content moderation policies and safeguards as well as online political advertising models in the country’s upcoming elections. The centre will also provide legal services for reparations and litigate for reforms related to online harms.

A study has found that Africa’s access to data from tech platforms, for research and monitoring electoral integrity, was below that in Europe and North America. Increased access to platform data for African researchers, civil society organisations, and Election Management Bodies (EMBs) would enable a deeper understanding of online content and its harms on the continent, and inform mitigation strategies. Accordingly, the ADRF will support Research ICT Africa to coordinate an alliance to advocate for increased data access for research purposes on the continent and to develop guidelines for ethical and responsible access to data to study elections-related content.

The impact of AI on the information ecosystem and democratic processes in Africa is the focus of two grantees’ work. On the one hand, the Eastern Africa Editors Society will assess how editors and journalists in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia have adopted AI and to what extent they adhere to best practice and the principles of the Paris Charter on AI and Journalism. On the other hand, the Outbox Foundation through its Thraets initiative will research the risks of AI-generated disinformation on elections, with a focus on Ghana and Tunisia. The findings will feed into tutorials for journalists and fact checkers on identifying and countering AI-generated disinformation as part of elections coverage, and awareness campaigns on the need for transparency on the capabilities of AI tools and their risks to democracy. 

Meanwhile, a group of young researchers under the stewardship of the Tanda Community-Based Organisation will research how deep fakes and other forms of manipulated media contribute to online gender-based violence against women journalists and politicians in the context of elections in Ghana, Senegal, and Namibia. The study will also compare the effectiveness of the legal and regulatory environment across the three countries in protecting women online, hold consultations and make recommendations for policy makers, platforms  and civil society on how to promote a safe and inclusive digital election environment for women.

Past and present supporters of the ADRF include the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Ford Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the German Society for International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), the Omidyar Network, the Hewlett Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Skoll Foundation and New Venture Fund (NVF).

Advancing Sustainable Cross-border Data Transfer Policies and Practices in Africa

By Paul Kimumwe |

Over the years, several African governments have enacted laws and policies that limit cross-border data flows, citing the need to protect national security, promote the local digital economy, and safeguard users’ privacy. The limitations range from complete bans on cross-border transfers of all data to conditional cross-border transfer of specific data, with authorization sought from relevant government bodies.

The legal provisions prohibiting cross-border data transfers are scattered in different legal frameworks in countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda, whose limitations are contained in their financial services and cybersecurity laws. In Rwanda, for example, Article 3 of Regulation No. 02/2018 of 24/01/2018 on cyber security provides that any bank licensed by the Central Bank must maintain its primary data within the territory of Rwanda. In Uganda, Article 68 of Uganda’s National Payment Systems Act 2020 requires all electronic money issuers to establish and maintain their primary data centre in relation to payment system services in Uganda.

For other countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda, the limitations are contained within their data protection laws. For example, sections 48 and 49 of Kenya’s Data Protection Act 2019 prohibit cross-border transfer of personal data to a country

lacking appropriate data security safeguards. South Africa’s 2013 Protection of Personal Information Act prohibits cross-border data transfers without the data subject’s consent or unless the foreign country is believed to have adequate safeguards. In Nigeria, sections 41-43 of the 2023 Data Protection Act sets conditions under which cross-border data transfers may occur, such as the requirement for the destination country to have data protection safeguards and consent from the data subject, among other conditions.

Critics of these data localization provisions and practices have often argued that the current data localisation policies and practices are not pro-people as they do not mitigate any genuine cybersecurity or online targeting but instead serve to undermine personal data privacy by facilitating government agencies’ unrestricted access to citizens’ personal data, including for purposes of conducting state surveillance.

These practices do not also conform to the key provisions of the 2019 African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, which prohibits countries from adopting laws and other measures that criminalize and encryption practices, including backdoors, key escrows, and data localisation requirements unless such measures are justifiable and compatible with international human rights law.

The legal data localization requirements have been identified as the most restrictive and disruptive barriers to international trade, pushing foreign registered businesses to incur extra and unnecessary costs of establishing multiple infrastructures such as local data centres and in each of their countries of operation as opposed to having one center in their country of choice. In addition, the “limited policy and regulatory reforms to facilitate the interconnection of networks across borders, including national and commercial backbones, or supervisory frameworks for data protection, data storage/processing/handling” were identified as additional weaknesses in achieving Africa’s economic potential.

The success of several initiatives, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) whose mandate is to create “a single continental market with a population of about 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately US$ 3.4 trillion,” hinges on eliminating trade barriers and the harmonization of cross-border transfers through the amendment of restrictive data localisation policies and practices.

In addition, under the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030), countries are called upon to “promote open data policies that can ensure the mandate and sustainability of data exchange platforms or initiatives to enable new local business models, while ensuring data protection and cyber resilience to protect citizens from misuse of data and businesses from cybercrime.”

On the other hand, the AU Data Policy Framework requires countries to create an enabling legal environment that would achieve and maximize the benefits of a data-driven economy by encouraging private and public investments necessary to support data-driven value creation and innovation. The framework offers guidance on policy interventions to optimise cross-border data flows and harmonise data governance frameworks. In terms of cross-border data governance and transfers, Principle 14(6)(a) of the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection prohibits data controllers from transferring “personal data to a non-Member State of the AU unless such a State ensures an adequate level of protection of the privacy, freedoms, and fundamental rights of persons whose data are being or are likely to be processed.”

A critical challenge for the continent is how to translate and localise these initiatives into workable solutions. Most autocratic governments are reluctant to amend their laws to be more open to cross-border data transfers. The reluctance is based on unfounded fears that sending their citizens’ data abroad could increase citizens’ vulnerability to serious security and privacy threats from foreign actors. On the other hand, civil society actors lack the requisite skills and knowledge to proactively engage in strategic advocacy both at national and regional levels. In addition, there is a paucity of evidence-based research on the key issues around data localization, particularly how various countries are implementing their data localisation policies as guided by the AU Data Policy Framework and Digital Transformation Strategy.

Lessons from previous policy advocacy engagements show that national governments are open to progressive policy reforms, as evidenced by the rapid adoption of data protection laws, particularly if they trust that such measures will not injure their national interests.

Key Interventions

Even with this promise and the abundance of international and regional frameworks to guide the adoption and implementation of progressive national data governance frameworks, interventions would require the adoption and implementation of multiple and mutually reinforcing strategies such as (a) building research and advocacy capacity of digital rights and data rights actors; (b) undertaking research and policy analysis; and (c) engaging in national and regional policy processes on data governance regulation, particularly that related to cross-border data flows and harmonisation of data governance frameworks.

Building on the success of her previous work on data governance and engagement with the AU Union Data Policy Framework, under the current project, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is continuing with regional engagements as well as working in our countries – Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda, to build the capacity of country-based research partners as well as generate evidence that addresses fears that informs states’ restrictive regulatory stances, shows benefits of free data flows and policy harmonisation.

1. Capacity Building in Research and Advocacy

Central to CIPESA’s interventions is the need to generate a critical mass of engaged actors that understand the cross-play of national and regional policy frameworks on data regulation and their implication for data policy harmonisation and national policy and practice. Further, these actors will need the skills to research and produce evidence to inform engagements with actors such as policymakers and to conduct effective, collaborative advocacy to inform policymaking.

2. Research and Policy Analysis

CIPESA also supports country-based research partners to produce and communicate research-based commentaries, briefs, policy analyses, and think pieces on data localisation regulation and cross-border data policies and advocate for flexible cross-border data flows and respect for data privacy. These outputs will inform engagements with policymakers at national and regional levels and with multilateral treaty bodies that mandate data protection and monitor privacy and data rights.

3. National and Regional Advocacy and Engagement

The third strand involves strategic deployment of the published commentaries, analyses, and think pieces to attract the attention of state and non-state actors and form the basis of deliberations on how to improve the policy and practice around data governance in the region, notably on cross-border data flows, data harmonisation, and the need to embrace the AU Data Policy Framework. The advocacy will target national actors, such as data regulators, telecom regulators, and policymakers, as well as regional entities, such as the African Union, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and regional regulators’ and telecom operators’ associations such as Compassionate Rural Association for Social Action (CRASA) and East African Communication Organisations (EACO).

By building on pivotal and live continental initiatives such as the AU Data Policy Framework, the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), and working at regional and four-country levels through a multi-sector network of actors, CIPESA hopes to generate evidence that demystifies the unfounded fears used by states to engage in restrictive cross-border data regulatory policies and practices while demonstrating the benefits of free data flows and proposing harmonisation measures.

The article was first published by CIPESA’s partner NIYEL on April 22, 2024.

The Pursuit for Digital Security among Women Journalists in Uganda

By Juliet Nanfuka |

The media sector in Uganda has grown exponentially since its liberalisation in the 1990s, which saw a shift away from state-owned media to the pluralism of print media, radio and television stations and the eventual entry of digital media at the turn of the century. Yet despite this, women journalists appear to have remained on the periphery of the media industry and, in more recent times, are bearing the brunt of a society that continues to make attempts at muting them, particularly through online spaces.  

The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) in Uganda has documented a concerning rise in violations and abuses against female journalists between 2017 and 2022. Although there was a slight decrease in incidents in 2020 and 2021, there was a resurgence thereafter, with reported cases increasing to 17% in 2022 compared to 12% in 2017. These abuses have included  instances of sexual and gender-based harassment of female journalists while at work and in the field, as well as  attacks in online spaces.

Indeed, research shows that the attacks experienced by women journalists in online spaces include sexist comments, age, and body shaming, as well as character assassination. Further, stories related to politics triggered more attacks than other beats as perpetrators accuse journalists of being politically biased. More recent developments have seen these attacks further exacerbated by the increasing use of artificial intelligence and the ease of access to bots.

Yet, women journalists who experience abuse online rarely seek justice and often struggle to have their complaints taken seriously and properly investigated. Thus, according to a study by UNESCO and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), the full extent of online violence against female journalists remains unknown However, there are numerous illustrative cases that indicate that Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence (TFGBV) against women journalists is a growing problem not only in Uganda, but across the continent.

At a workshop hosted in March 2024, by UNESCO and CIPESA to further insights and awareness on the  State of Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists in Africa participants narrated their online experiences on trolling, attacks, threats and concerns about surveillance and limited practical skills or legal recourse in how to navigate incidents. Some participants noted that they had withdrawn from social media spaces, and limited their interactions only to closed platforms such as Whatsapp, while others indicated high levels of self-censorship in the nature of the content they posted.

Additionally, there was a common concern regarding the uncertainties surrounding various aspects of the Internet. This included discussions about the protective measures implemented by platforms, such as the prompt takedown of malicious or harmful content once reported.

Present at the workshop were 40 participants representing a mix of radio and television stations, print media and online content creators based in Kampala. Speakers at the workshop included Jan Ajwang, Projects Manager at Media Focus on Africa, Isabella Akitung, a Human Rights Policy Consultant, Jimmy Haguma, the Head of Electronic Counter Measures at Uganda Police, and Rehema Baguma, an Associate Professor of Information Systems, Makerere University and Sylvia Musalagani, Head of Safety Policy  Africa, Middle East and Turkey at Meta.

Each speaker made distinct contributions to the workshop, including a call for the plight of rural-based journalists in Uganda to be recognised when it comes to TFGBV, the recognition of the impact that online attacks have not only on victims but on the broader community of existing and aspiring women journalists, and the continuing efforts of the Uganda Police in addressing technology-related affronts to women and girls in the country.

Similarly, it was noted that Meta is working on its proactive detection and removal of harmful content in a bid to improve the experiences of more women across its different platforms. However, the growing pervasive use and presence of AI amongst more users remains a concern that more users should be aware of and pursue more proactive measures to better detect its presence in misinformation and disinformation narratives.

Meanwhile, running concurrently with the discussion was a Digital Security Cafe which entailed tailored practical responses to the digital security concerns that the participants had about their phones and laptops.

This practical support served as an extension of CIPESA’s digital resilience work in Africa, which includes the provision of the Digital Security Hub at the annual Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica),  the Road to FIFAfrica annual digital security campaign and an ongoing digital security assessment for human rights defenders in Uganda.

The workshop was hosted in partnership with the Media Challenge Initiative and the Uganda Radio Network. Similar workshops and Digital Security Cafe’s are planned for women journalists, media practitioners, and content producers in Ethiopia and Tanzania as part of efforts aimed at bridging this work between Women’s Day and World Press Freedom Day.