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.

Google Launches Wifi Project to Ramp up Broadband Access in Kampala

By Ashnah Kalemera |
Two years since launching a project to provide high quality broadband through shared fibre infrastructure in Uganda, Google has now officially launched the WiFi based Project Link in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
The internet giant has set up WiFi radios and supporting infrastructure at 120 locations within the city to provide citizens and small media businesses (SMEs) with high speed, affordable and reliable internet services “on the go” and at home.
The initiative aims to help local providers access high-capacity networks at a lower cost due to the opportunity to share infrastructure rather than construct their own. In partnership with the Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) and property services companies among others, Project Link WiFi services are available at shopping malls, sports grounds, apartment complexes and office blocks.
“Google built the network and access points. We operate and monitor it,” said Ela Beres, a Google official. The ISPs and MNOs participating in the project are responsible for the quality of service, determining pricing and providing support to end users.
As at June 2015, Uganda had 36 licensed public service providers for voice and data services. Internet penetration stood at 37% and telephone penetration at 64%. In 2014, the country was ranked 15 out of 51 countries surveyed in the global internet affordability index. The index measures the affordability of internet access in each country as influenced by the extent of infrastructure deployment, adoption rates and existing policy and legislative frameworks.
According to Suzan Kitariko, Google Uganda Country Manager, since its launch in November 2013, Project Link has seen the laying of 800 kms of broadband fibre in Kampala and the surrounding areas of Entebbe and Mukono. This has enabled 13 local ISPs and mobile network operators to provide high quality broadband to an estimated two million people.
“Google Infrastructure has allowed us to focus on our core competences and cut on capital expenditure, thus reducing costs to benefit the consumer,” said Roger Sekaziga of Roke Telkom, one of the project’s partners. Roke Telkom has deployed unlimited Wifi spots at select restaurants and bars at speeds of up to 1mbs for UGX 18,000 (US$ 5) per month or UGX 1,000 (US$ 0.30) per day.
Speaking at the launch which was held at the Protea Hotel on December 3, Uganda’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) John Nasasira said improved access to reliable and affordable broadband connectivity had the potential to positively impact Uganda’s health, education, agriculture and business sectors. He added that it would also contribute to government-citizen engagement. Nasasira called for more public-private partnerships in telecommunications infrastructure development to “boost uptake and narrow the digital divide in the country.”
Meanwhile, leveraging on Project Link, panoramic views of tourist and leisure sites in Kampala are now available via Street View. Work is underway to extend coverage to national parks. Project Link is also supporting the regulator, Uganda Telecommunications Commission and KCCA to draft guidelines for infrastructure sharing for all licensed operators.
Over the coming months, Project Link is expected to expand WiFi access to 300 other locations across the country. Since launching its first metro-fibre network in Kampala in 2013, Project Link has expanded to Ghana in West Africa, where it expects to build 1,000 kms of metro fibre.

Using ICT to Promote the Right to Information: Perceptions of Ugandan Citizens and Public Officials

By Juliet Nanfuka |
Towards the end of 2014, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) conducted research into how public officials and citizens perceived the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to advance the right to information in Uganda.
The studies revealed that there is a keen interest by citizens and public officials to leverage digital tools for increased transparency, civic awareness and participation in democratic processes. However, a larger proportion of citizens was using ICT relative to the public officials to improve access to information.
One study involved the administration of a questionnaire to 62 public officers from more than 30 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). A second study targeting citizens involved the administration of a separate questionnaire amongst 235 respondents drawn from 10 districts, mainly university students, journalists, and staff of civil society organisations.
Uganda enacted the Access to Information Act (ATIA) in 2005, becoming one of the first African countries to have such a law. The Act, however, remained unimplemented until 2011 when the enabling regulations were enacted.
Although the Access to Information Act has been in existence for the last nine years, only 18% of the public officials and 10% of citizens rated themselves as extremely knowledgeable about the law. While all public officials had some level of knowledge of the law, 9% of citizens indicated no knowledge at all of the law.
Whereas citizens indicated histories of having made information requests, only 39% of public officials indicated that they had ever received an information request made formally using the 2005 ATIA. Notably, 87% of the information requests were made informally without mention of the ATIA or completing the required request forms.
The research reveals that although ICT tools such as emails and telephone calls are being used to request for information, requested information remains in silos as it is given directly to the requester with no guarantee that it will be disseminated further.
Challenges noted by public officials for the low levels of information release included limited ICT skills, the Official Secrets Act (1964) which hampers release of information to the public, and limited resources to adequately implement the Act on a more regular basis.
Meanwhile, following the launch of the Ask Your Government ( initiative in August 2014, the research aimed to gauge respondents’ knowledge and use of the portal. The portal was launched by government in partnership with civil society to enable Ugandan citizens to make public information requests from MDAs.
In the research, 75% of public officials strongly agreed that the use of ICT would make it easier and simpler to respond to information requests. This was supported by 79% of the citizen respondents who believed that the use of ICT to make information requests was likely to enable public bodies become more responsive than use of manual, non-ICT means. This would alleviate the “long process” and “cumbersome bureaucracy” which citizens pointed out as key reasons for not using the law to request for information.
For journalists who participated in the research, the 21 days which the law gives public officials to respond to information requests was cited as a key challenge given the tight deadlines in media work.
See: Advancing the Right to Information Amongst Ugandan Journalists
However, both citizens and officials indicated some skepticism about the effective use of ICT to adequately support the right to information. Public officials pointed out technical challenges such as low bandwidth, outdated equipment and limited skills within the MDAs.
One official noted, “Although employed by government, many officials have no access to ICT and some lack knowledge of how to use the tools.” Safety and security concerns were raised with regard to citizens’ personal information.
Key report Findings:

  • 33% of the interviewed citizens had ever made an information request using the ATIA law. However, only 28% of these requests received positive outcomes.
  • SMS was ranked the ICT tool that citizens were most proficient in using, at 58%, followed by social media at 44%. However, respondents used Facebook more frequently than SMS.
  • Public officials ranked their proficiency highest in using SMS (63%) and email (60%), and they used email most frequently, followed by SMS. Social media use ranked low amongst public officials.

The research recommends that civil society should engage more proactively in advocacy for the right to information amongst citizens. Meanwhile, public officials should encourage citizens to make information requests. It also recommends that public officials adopt a combination of both ICT and non-ICT based channels to ensure that information requests by citizens are attended to promptly as a means of ensuring citizens’ motivation to increase their demand for information.
Public officials recognised that improvements can be made to better put more information in the public domain. They recommended the provision of more authority to information and communication officers to disclose information; increased use by MDAs of interactive websites and social media as these are channels that their audiences are using; and a repeal of the Official Secrets Act (1964).
See the full research reports below:
Ugandan Public Officials’ Perceptions of using ICT to Advance Right to Information
Citizen’s Perceptions of Using ICT to Make Right to Information Requests in Uganda

Internet Governance in Uganda

By Juliet Nanfuka |
The Uganda Internet Governance Forum (UIGF) has since 2006 been a platform for deliberation on internet governance concerns in the country. Debates at the annual forum have progressed from prioritising access and infrastructure to global trends in the internet governance agenda such as the need for increased advocacy of online freedoms, protection of vulnerable users – including children and women, intermediary liability, and net neutrality.
In 2006, when the UIGF was initiated, the government was embarking on the roll-out of the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government Infrastructure Project (NBI/EGI) to connect all major towns, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the national optic cable grid. At the time, the Uganda Communications Commission reported just 175,568 active mobile internet users in the country.
As more Ugandan users came online, vulnerability to cyber crime and fraud were recognised,, which led to the government to enact the cyber security laws (Electronic Transactions Act, 2011, e-signatures Act 2011 and Computer Misuse Act, 2011) and the establishment of the Uganda Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in 2012.
By December 2014, the number of internet users in the country had grown to 8.5 million. Meanwhile, the NBI/EGI connected 27 ministries and departments, and 22 district headquarters through 1,400Kms of fibre optic cable. The infrastructure supports the integrated financial management system, video conferencing and secure messaging and collaboration platforms, among others.
To further address emerging internet governance issues, the government last December published the  draft Data Protection and Privacy Bill 2014 and solicited stakeholder comments through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U).
Also in 2014, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)’s global cyber security index listed Uganda as second in Africa after Mauritius in adopting and driving polices that support cyber security.
The 8th national Internet Governance Forum hosted in Kampala in December 2014 drew participants from civil society, academia, private sector and government. The event also served as the launch of the Global Information Society (GIS) Watch 2014 Uganda report.
Issues discussed were internet affordability and increased access, the management of the .ug country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), cyber security management, the transition stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the status of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) transition to  IPv6 in Uganda.
During the panel on “Cyber security versus data protection and privacy”, Jimmy Haguma, Acting Commissioner/Electronic Counter Measures of the Uganda Police Force (UPF), said the police have to protect the interests of national security as well as of users online from fraudulent activity.

According to the Uganda Police Annual Crime and Road Safety Report of 2013, a total of 45 cyber crime cases were reported and investigated, in which about 18.1 billion Uganda Shillings (UGX) equivalent to USD 579,000 –  was lost through hacking victims’ mails, among other means. Between August and November 2014, mobile money fraud resulted in losses of UGX 207 million (USD 80,000) while, ATM fraud led to losses totaling over UGX 1.2 billion (USD 460,000)’.

Participants responded that while security is a legitimate concern, it should not be used to curtail human rights.  They highlighted contradictory clauses in the cyber laws and other legislation that infringe upon privacy, as well as citizens right to freedom of expression online, particularly by groups such as the media and human rights activists.
Specific emphasis was placed on the issue of violence against women online and a call was made to adopt and implement gender-friendly ICT laws. Participants noted that women have fallen victim to misuse of the very laws that are meant to protect them, as was witnessed in the case of local artist Desire Luzinda whose nude images were shared online and as a result was faced with potential charges under the Anti-Pornography Act of 2014.
Intermediary liability and net neutrality were also fronted as significant issues to address given their impact on local content, free speech, and online economic opportunities.
Meanwhile, participants were urged by panelists to contribute to local and global internet governance discussions, so as to maintain multi-stakeholderism on the matter and to promote the African stake in the debates.
As the UIGF continues to mature into a platform for deliberating on internet development in the country, areas that need more attention include: development of relevant local online content, child online protection, increased stakeholder engagement in the development of progressive laws and policies as well as their speedy enactment.
UIGF 2014 was hosted by Internet Society (ISOC) Uganda in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) under the theme ‘Strengthening Uganda’s Critical Internet Resources’. As part of its work in research, advocacy, and awareness raising on how internet governance impacts on development and governance, CIPESA is currently implementing the OpenNet Africa project, which monitors and promotes internet freedoms primarily in East Africa.

Documenting the Impact of Aid Cuts on the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP)

By Lillian Nalwoga
Between March and July 2014, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with the Northern Uganda Media Centre (NUMEC) launched a project to document service delivery failures as a result of donor aid cuts to the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) in Northern Uganda.

Ojok Churchill, a guard at Koro Abili health center II also plays the administrative role of recording patient details at the facility.

Focusing on the districts of Gulu, Nwoya and Amuru, service delivery failures under the education, health and infrastructure sectors were documented through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Shoddy works, lack of coordination among project implementers, incomplete projects and inadequate funds are some of the challenges affecting the success of the PRDP.
Launched in 2007 in consultation with development partners, the PRDP was set up to consolidate the state authority, rebuild and empower communities, revitalise the economy and promote peace building and reconciliation in post-conflict Northern Uganda. The plan covers 55 districts and 9 municipalities. Although implementation begun in 2009, the PRDP has been dogged by corruption scandals and inadequate information on progress. The second phase of the PRDP which began in July 2012 and is due to end in June 2015, has faced similar challenges culminating in the suspension of support from key donors as a result of misappropriation of funds by officials under the Office of the Prime Minister.
In the education sector, the CIPESA-NUMEC documentation found that one school – Awoonyim Primary School in Patiko Sub County Gulu district – is reported to have received funding for the construction of a teacher’s housing unit, two classroom blocks and supply of sixty desks in the PRDP of 2009/2010. However, during field visits it emerged that the classrooms were poorly constructed while the housing unit construction was abandoned midway by the contractor without any explanation to the school administration. In another case, a vehicle meant to assist the District Education Officer in monitoring school activities was never procured despite a budget allocation of 80 million Uganda Shillings (UGX) under the 2010/2011 financial year under the PRDP.
Under the health sector, Koro Abili Health Centre II and Purongo Health Centre II in Gulu and Nwoya districts were reported to have also been affected. Although an outpatient unit had successfully been built at the Koro Abili Health Centre II, it was under staffed and the center porter was acting as the administrator on behalf of the Assistant Nursing Officer. Meanwhile, the construction of a maternity ward worth UGX 80 million at Purongo Health Centre II had been abandoned midway by the contractor despite having been fully paid.
The Kaladima Guru- Guru is one  of a  few main roads in the area. The broken culvert has rendered the road impassible  for vehicles.
The Kaladima Guru- Guru is one of a few main roads in the area. The broken culvert has rendered the road impassible for vehicles.

On the transport infrastructure front, the construction of the 70 kilometre (km) road linking Guru-Guru to Pabbo, a main entry in Lamogi Sub County in Amuru district, had been abandoned by the contractor. The road is impassible during the rainy season thus cutting off the communities from each other. The contractor had also not paid off locals who were employed during the construction. Atkinson Ojara, the Sub-County Chairman of Lamogi, attributed the road construction challenges to poor communication between sub-county officials.
The overall objective of the CIPESA and NUMEC partnership is to make Public Sector Information (PSI) more accessible and reusable by stakeholders such as citizens, civil society and the media in Northern Uganda. This involves repackaging information availing it online, in print and over radio,generating evidence on the impact of information access and use on transparency and accountability.
Other activities have included building ICT skills and knowledge for citizens and journalists to access and gainfully use open data and PSI to contribute to better service delivery; increasing interactions between citizens and leaders; and promoting greater access to PSI for citizens in Northern Uganda.
Watch the 15 minute documentary capturing the service delivery challenges under PRDP here.  A picture story is also available here.
This work is supported by the Swedish Programme on ICTs in Developing Countries (SPIDER) and is part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project.