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#KeepItOn: PIN urges Togo government not to shut down Internet

By | Internet Freedom

Paradigm Initiative on February 19, joined 27 other online freedom and human rights organizations in a letter calling for authorities in Togo to maintain the stability and openness of the internet and social media platforms. The call came in response to concerns that the government intends to shut down or disrupt the internet during the presidential elections scheduled for February 22.

The coalition letter, addressed to Cina Lawson, Togo’s minister of posts, digital economy, and technological innovations, urges the government to “undertake the necessary measures to ensure that the internet service providers and relevant actors ensure an open, accessible, and secure internet throughout Togo during this electioneering period”.

Previous presidential votes have seen charges of fraud and post-electoral violence. More than 400 people were killed in fighting following the 2005 vote.  The United Nations says 40,000 Togolese sought refuge in Ghana and Benin.

in 2017, the government shut down the internet in the name of national security. However, many believe it was an action done to disrupt the possibility of citizens to mobilize.

Read full letter here in English and French.

Paradigm Initiative Selects Inaugural Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) Fellow

By | Press Release

Accra – Ghana,  February 18, 2020 – a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA, has been selected  as the pioneer Fellow for the newly introduced Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) at Paradigm Initiative. 

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Folasewa Olatunde, and we’re also excited about the quality of applications the fellowship, though just starting, attracted,” said ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative. 

There are both enormous challenges and opportunities for realizing the ambitious task of creating an inclusive, healthy, safe and open Internet in the coming decade for all Africans and we hope this fellowship will offer a space for big thinking, evaluation of digital rights and digital inclusion programs, and future-proofing of ecosystem activities,” Mr. Sesan added.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) is Paradigm Initiative’s project to host innovative learning around digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, the learning lab serves as a space for both practice and reflection, aimed to involve and connect different stakeholders and create dialogue amongst researchers, social innovators, policymakers and actors, the private sector, as well as civil society. 

Learning activities will take place at the lab in order to evolve new thinking on digital rights and inclusion strategy for Africa. There are a variety of activities that will take place, including but not limited to, focused future-facing research; presentations; ecosystem meetings and discussions focused on digital rights and/or inclusion hosted within the ecosystem; and general communication about the lab’s activities.

Meanwhile, the Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship, another Paradigm Initiative project, has attracted 116 applications from 19 countries.  This is according to a statement released by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise working on digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

The pioneer Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab fellow, Folasewa Olatunde, is a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, studying Communication Rhetoric and Digital Media. She is a communication and digital media practitioner, researcher and instructor. She is interested in researching the intersections of the internet, social media and mobile phones – and other digital technologies –  in (not) empowering the global south.

Her current research focuses on evaluating informal and formal basic digital skills interventions in Nigeria and how their functions can be improved. Fola’ believes that more social science research should be policy-driven. She is passionate about how Nigerians across different age groups can (continue to) learn to use digital technologies to improve their socio-economic conditions.

 Paradigm Initiative Urges Ethiopian Government to Rethink Hate Speech Law

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Arusha, Tanzania, February 17, 2020 — On 13th February the parliament of Ethiopia passed the much-contested proclamation on fake news and hate speech regulation with nearly 300 votes from the lawmakers in support.The country started speaking publicly about developing such a law in 2018 and announced passage of the proclamation by the government in November 2019.

The history of Ethiopia has always had the government keeping a upper hand on the citizens through oppressive laws and internet censorship.Waves of protests have been on the rise since 2015 with violence and human rights violations highly observed at such times including killing of protestors and regular internet shutdowns.

Content has been a landscape that the country has tried to control by taking down websites and maintaining monopoly of  the telecom sector .Despite the progress made since Prime Minister Abiy took over, the information space is still highly regulated, with last year alone reporting more than 3 shutdowns.

With rising tensions and communal violence since 2018 the government has since claimed that such were fuelled by online speech.Following the attempted coup in Oromo state last year and the killing of about 86 people the Prime Minister was quoted saying, “For the sake of national security, internet and social media could be blocked any time necessary.” The state has since gone on to have more shutdowns hence silencing dissent by making online avenues inaccessible for people to exercise their rights.As Ethiopia approaches elections in August this year, a free and fair election demands the ability to exercise free speech and opinion by all Ethiopians, this bill comes in time to take away that right.

Law makers claim that hate speech and fake news are much to blame for the rising ethnic tensions in the country hence its important that they legislate this ahead of the elections.The law is vaguely done and leaves room for biased interpretations this includes definitions such as hate speech which means “speech that promotes hatred, discrimination or attacks against a person or an identifiable group, based on ethnicity, religion, race, gender or disability.”This leaves room for the law to be used as a weapon to incriminate free speech in the upcoming elections as it’s not clear or objective enough.

The new legislation also stops dissemination of information cited as fake, hateful among other things without clearly identifying the process of determining whether speech is inciting, hateful and/or fake.The danger is the implications this will have on free speech as well as a free press as the law also targets  media such as social media as avenues of hate speech and fake news dissemination.This makes the already shaky ground of digital rights in the country even more unstable not guaranteeing transparency and free elections.The laws criminalize this offence with fines as high as 3000$  and jail time of up to 5 years for violations of the proclamation which are not realistic.

Paradigm Initiative urges the government of Ethiopia to reconsider this regulation and come to the realization that hate speech cannot be combated by regulating speech but rather it will only fuel rights violations and lead to greater damages.

It is essential that the government of Ethiopia reaffirms its commitment to human rights by keeping speech free and building legal frameworks to promote democracy and good governance hence steering the nation to stability rather than legislate restrictions.

We commend efforts made so far by the government such as the unblocking of several websites that had been blocked during a period of instability in the nation, however, methods employed then didn’t work and similar methods of censorship won’t make progress.It’s imperative that the online space be proved to  be safe spaces respected by the government as an avenue for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.



Mozambique: Challenges of Ensuring Privacy without Harming Essential Freedoms

By | Digital Rights, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

In July 2019, Mozambique made amendments to the Penal Code (No. 35/2014, of 31 December) to protect Privacy. The new law criminalises all types of invasion of privacy using mobile phones and computers i.e. capturing, altering and publishing images, audios and videos without consent from the subjects recorded or photographed.

One could spend up to one (1) year in jail or face a fine, for breaking this law, particularly for invading the privacy of intimacy of family or sexual life. An offender could face an equal penalty for secretly observing or listening to persons in a private place or for disclosing details of the serious illness of another person.

This legislation comes after a young man filmed the scene of a car accident where victims lay strewn on the ground while others cried out for help. The author of the video ‘amusingly’ filmed this horrific scene, which angered a lot of Mozambicans.

Some activists have welcomed the new law as a timely and relevant measure to protect victims against the invasion of privacy especially on social networks and through electronic media. Also, activists are calling for sensitization on the new law so that people are aware of their parameters when it comes to sharing private information into the public domain, particularly which is not of public interest or with intent to slander or blackmail the victims.

On the contrary, other activists are wary of the legislation’s far-reaching consequences on Internet freedom, press freedom and freedom of expression in the country, which already has a press law, right to information law and an electronic transactions Act which penalises slander. While these laws already assure citizens the right to honour, good name, reputation and defence of image, the changes to the penal code highlight an attempt to stifle access to information and prevent further scrutiny of public figures, especially that the law was approved in a haste.

Mozambique has enjoyed a relatively good record with regard to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, however, the above report paints a picture of what most countries will continue to battle with, in the process of balancing privacy laws with free speech and press.

The increased uptake of digital technologies empowers everyone to capture, create and disseminate information, with or without the subject’s consent. Ordinary citizens on the other hand, have to battle striking a balance between what they put in the public domain through their daily activities and using  mobile phones while maintaining their privacy and managing how their information is used and shared.

What we should be more worried about, however, is giving greater power to governments to target journalists and push back on ‘unwanted content’, using privacy laws. In addition, we should worry about increasing their power to shield misconduct and corruption. A functional democracy allows for enhanced transparency and accountability of political figures, and individuals’ participation in the political process.

While others would argue that, more privacy leads to less openness, individuals have the right to creativity and self-expression, and information is a key driver of innovation and economic growth. 

Perhaps more work remains in sensitizing users on ethics and etiquettes that govern the use of social media and digital technologies, at the same time ensuring that privacy laws do not infringe on people’s right to information and speech, alongside, protecting the press from government intrusion, content regulation, and censorship.

It is however important for the freedom of expression community to be wary of the emergence of privacy-themed legislations that may become a tool to restrict freedom of expression. Such policies must have clear definitions of terms and must not punish expression under the guise of protecting privacy

As a new country added to Paradigm Initiative’s scope of work, we will continue to monitor how this development unfolds, as well as the state of press freedom and freedom of expression in Mozambique.

The author of this article, Bulanda Nkhowani, is Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for Southern Africa. 

Data Breach by LIRS: Why NITDA must wield the big stick

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

In December 2019, the personal data of numerous taxpayers in Lagos State was leaked on the payment portal of the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), violating not only their right to privacy under the Constitution but also the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019 issued by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) – the regulator. 

It should be noted that we had expressed reservations over the ability and suitability of NITDA   to play the role of a data protection agency in Nigeria. One would have thought the agency would work to prove doubters wrong by ensuring that violations against its regulations are duly punished.

We are mindful that the Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI) has filed suit No. FHC/L/CS/56/2020 against both LIRS and NITDA on the data breach seeking orders mandating NITDA to fine LIRS as provided under the NDPR to the tune of 2% of their annual gross revenue. We are monitoring this process and we will work with the litigant to ensure it is seen to a reasonable conclusion

In addition to the specified fine, the NDPR provides for compensation for victims of a data breach, but the Lagos State government has said nothing about this,  in spite (or despite?) of their admission of guilt. 

We hereby call upon NITDA to stop paying lip service to data protection In Nigeria and to fulfill its role as a regulator on one hand and Lagos State government to compensate victims of the data breach as admitted. NITDA must give an update on all data breaches reported to it since the inception of the NDPR. 

Finally, Nigeria should enact a data protection law duly passed by the National Assembly and signed by the president. The law should set up an independent Data Protection Authority with core mandate for data protection in Nigeria.


Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN)

Préparer l’Afrique pour la nouvelle décennie de l’AI

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICT Policy

Lentement mais sûrement, les pays d’Afrique ont commencé à se préparer à la quatrième révolution industrielle où les progrès de l’intelligence artificielle, de l’automatisation, de l’internet des objets (IoT), du cloud computing, de la robotique, de l’impression 3D, des nanotechnologies et des technologies sans fil avancées vont radicalement changer notre façon de vivre, de travailler et de gouverner nos sociétés.

L’intelligence artificielle a fait une percée significative en Afrique notamment  avec des start-ups et d’autres institutions axées sur l’intelligence artificielle qui commencent à avoir un impact sur l’économie, la vie sociale et la gouvernance. Les gouvernements de certains  pays comme le Ghana, le Nigeria, le Kenya, la Tunisie et l’Afrique du Sud ont soutenu le développement de l’IA par un soutien financier à la recherche et par la promotion de l’enseignement des STIM (science, technologie, ingénierie et mathématiques). Cela a permis à ces pays de réaliser les progrès les plus significatifs en matière d’intelligence artificielle en Afrique.

Néanmoins, seuls quelques pays comme le Kenya et la Tunisie disposent de stratégies nationales d’intelligence artificielle qui peuvent contribuer à l’intégration de l’intelligence artificielle au sein du gouvernement et des services publics.

Cependant, pour que l’IA – une technologie fondamentale de la quatrième révolution industrielle – ait un impact optimal en Afrique, des changements structurels radicaux doivent avoir lieu dans les différents contextes nationaux du continent. J’en explorerai les trois aspects ci-dessous.

Infrastructure de données

Les applications d’intelligence artificielle qui résolvent des problèmes pratiques acquièrent leur “intelligence” en apprenant à partir de très grands ensembles de données. Par exemple, les modèles d’IA construits pour la reconnaissance faciale ont été alimentés par de très grands ensembles de données comprenant des milliers de visages humains afin d’être formés sur ce qui constitue un visage humain.

De ce fait, les sociétés et les organisations disposant d’écosystèmes de capture, de stockage et de traitement des données très développés sont mieux placées pour bénéficier de manière optimale des progrès de l’IA.

Cela place l’Afrique dans une position désavantageuse car, comme la plupart des pays du Sud, l’Afrique est pauvre en données. En Afrique ,et plus particulièrement en Afrique subsaharienne, la collecte de données publiques, les enquêtes auprès des ménages et des entreprises, la collecte de données par le biais de systèmes administratifs tels que les registres de naissance, les pensions, les dossiers fiscaux, la santé et le recensement sont peu fréquentes et manquent souvent de granularité pour être exploitées avec précision.

Et lorsque certaines données existent, elles ne sont souvent numérisées pour être exploitées immédiatement par des applications d’IA. Par conséquent, dans le secteur public où les applications d’IA auraient pu être appliquées pour booster le développement sur le continent, l’infrastructure de données est malheureusement inexistante ou gravement inadéquate.

Pour montrer ce qui est possible dans un écosystème de données bien développé, les services de Santé du Royaume-Uni ont collaboré avec Google pour faire mettre en place un dispositif basé sur l’IA et qui permet la détection rapide de cancers. Ce dispositif permet d’avoir des données sur les patients au sein du système.

Il n’est donc pas surprenant que certaines des applications d’IA les plus prometteuses en Afrique soient presque entièrement pilotées par le secteur privé. Les organisations du secteur privé en Afrique disposent généralement de données qui sont collectées à des fins économiques, avec une fréquence élevée et avec un niveau de granularité plus élevé.

Il s’agit notamment de données provenant de téléphones portables, de transactions électroniques, de médias sociaux, d’applications de santé et de remise en forme, ainsi que des données provenant des satellites. Ces données ont permis de développer des applications d’IA telles que les chatbots et les assistants virtuels.

Pour que l’Afrique puisse exploiter pleinement le potentiel de son économie émergente en matière d’IA, la prochaine décennie doit être axée sur le développement des écosystèmes de données publiques, et éventuellement sur leur intégration au secteur privé de manière à stimuler le développement et à protéger les droits de l’homme.

Emploi et mutations économiques

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Les experts ne sont pas unanimes sur les effets de l’IA et de l’automatisation sur l’avenir du travail au niveau mondial. Il existe une école de pensée qui affirme que les gains de productivité résultant des progrès de l’IA dans tous les secteurs économiques compenseront les pertes d’emploi initiales causées par l’IA et l’automatisation.

D’autres éminents leaders d’opinion décrivent des perspectives plus sombres pour l’avenir de l’emploi et du travail. Cependant, ils s’accordent tous sur l’effet considérable que les progrès de l’intelligence artificielle et de l’automatisation auront sur l’avenir de l’emploi en Afrique, par rapport à d’autres régions du monde.

L’Afrique subsaharienne est déjà la région la plus jeune du monde, avec plus de 60 % de sa population âgée de moins de 25 ans. D’ici 2030, le continent abritera plus d’un quart de la population mondiale des moins de 25 ans. Cette explosion démographique augmentera la taille de la main-d’œuvre dans la région plus que dans le reste du monde. Néanmoins, les données du Forum économique mondial révèlent que les pays africains sont très vulnérables aux délocalisations  d’emplois provoquées par l’IA et l’automatisation. Les statistiques ci-dessous illustrent cette vulnérabilité :

  • L’Afrique subsaharienne affiche une part d’emplois hautement qualifiés de seulement 6 %, ce qui contraste avec la moyenne mondiale de 24 %. L’Afrique du Sud, l’île Maurice et le Botswana sont en tête pour la disponibilité locale d’emplois hautement qualifiés, tandis que d’autres, comme l’Éthiopie et le Nigeria, maintiennent une forte proportion de travailleurs dans des emplois moins qualifiés – qui sont plus susceptibles d’être automatisés.
  • D’un point de vue technologique, 41% de toutes les activités professionnelles en Afrique du Sud sont susceptibles d’être automatisées, tout comme 44% en Éthiopie, 46% au Nigeria, 48% à Maurice, 52% au Kenya et 53% en Angola.

Compte tenu de la vulnérabilité de l’Afrique aux déplacements massifs d’emplois qui pourraient être provoqués par l’IA et l’automatisation, des mesures urgentes doivent être prises pour mettre en œuvre une révision ascendante des programmes scolaires dans toute l’Afrique.

Plus que jamais, la participation et la contribution de l’industrie sont nécessaires pour remodeler l’apprentissage et l’instruction dans les établissements d’enseignement afin de préparer une main-d’œuvre à l’évolution rapide du travail du XXIe siècle.

Ce qui a été observé jusqu’à présent ressemble davantage à une approche du haut vers le bas largement dirigée par le secteur privé, avec la création de centres de recherche sur l’IA à travers l’Afrique par les géants mondiaux de la technologie.

Google a ouvert son laboratoire d’IA à Accra en avril 2019, et l’Institut africain des sciences mathématiques a été créé à Kigali au Rwanda en 2016 pour fournir une main-d’œuvre de haut niveau en IA et en machine Learning  pour l’Afrique. Une approche ascendante plus délibérée exigera des gouvernements qu’ils élaborent des politiques qui répondent à la nature changeante de l’emploi sur le continent, en fixant un programme pour les décennies à venir.

La mise en œuvre de cette politique pourrait impliquer des mesures tactiques telles que l’investissement accru dans l’enseignement des STIM dès le niveau primaire ou secondaire. Néanmoins, toute action doit découler d’une politique délibérée qui guide les efforts du gouvernement, plutôt que de réponses gouvernementales non coordonnées et impulsives au problème.

Droits de l’homme et responsabilité

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Partout dans le monde, l’évolution de l’AI n’ pas tenu compte des considérations relatives aux droits de l’homme. Ce n’est que tardivement que les entreprises à l’avant-garde du développement de l’AI ont sérieusement réfléchi aux droits de l’homme et à la responsabilité dans la mise en œuvre des systèmes d’IA, souvent en réponse à la pression de la société civile.

Tant par leur conception que par leur fonction, les systèmes d’IA peuvent nuire aux droits de l’homme. Je parlerai ici de deux domaines dans le contexte africain où les systèmes d’IA peuvent nuire le plus aux droits de l’homme.

Les violations de la confidentialité des données sont parmi les plus importantes façons dont les systèmes d’IA peuvent être utilisés pour porter atteinte aux droits de l’homme.

En Afrique, où seuls 23 pays environ disposent de lois sur la protection des données, et encore moins d’institution de protection des données, il est facile de voir le potentiel d’abus de la confidentialité des données pour les applications d’IA qui utilisent les données personnelles des citoyens, notamment les informations financières et de santé.

Le déploiement de la technologie de reconnaissance faciale dans les grandes villes du continent constitue un autre débouché pour les violations des droits de l’homme.

En réponse à un rapport du Wall Street Journal qui affirmait que les techniciens de Huawei avaient aidé les responsables des services de renseignement en Ouganda à espionner leurs opposants politiques, la police ougandaise a confirmé que la société technologique Huawei déploie un système de surveillance massif qui utilise la reconnaissance faciale et d’autres logiciels d’intelligence artificielle pour lutter contre la criminalité dans le pays.

Les opposants Ougandais  craignent que cette capacité puisse être utilisée pour identifier et cibler les manifestants et les leaders de l’opposition avant les élections de 2021. De même, en avril 2018, la société chinoise CloudWalk a signé un accord avec le gouvernement du Zimbabwe pour aider à construire un système de reconnaissance faciale de masse.

Le système de reconnaissance faciale d’IA utilisé dans la capitale ougandaise fait partie de l’initiative “Safe City” de Huawei. Cette technologie est déjà répliquée ou le sera bientôt au Kenya, au Botswana, à l’île Maurice et en Zambie. Si le déploiement de telles technologies peut être utile pour réduire la criminalité, elles pourraient également devenir des instruments d’oppression aux mains de régimes répressifs.

À l’échelle mondiale, on observe également une adoption croissante des applications de l’IA pour le recrutement de ressources humaines, l’évaluation des crédits et même l’administration de la justice pénale. Ces rôles décisionnels critiques, qui étaient autrefois l’apanage des humains, ont des conséquences énormes pour les personnes concernées par les décisions.

La plus grande préoccupation liée au déploiement de ces systèmes est le biais inhérent aux algorithmes qui sous-tendent l’IA.  Ces algorithmes sont généralement formés avec des données qui excluent les membres d’une population. Cela conduit à des décisions et des résultats qui exacerbent encore la marginalisation.

Un exemple très connu est celui des rapports de 2019 qui suggéraient que la carte Apple, une carte de crédit créée par Apple et développée par Goldman Sachs, était apparemment biaisée contre les femmes en leur donnant des limites de crédit moins favorables que celles des hommes. Une autre préoccupation est l’opacité qui entoure ces systèmes d’IA.

Citant des secrets commerciaux ou la confidentialité des brevets, les propriétaires de ces systèmes d’IA sont réticents à partager le code source qui alimente ces algorithmes. Avant que ces systèmes ou leurs variantes ne soient largement adoptés en Afrique, des politiques de protection des droits de l’homme doivent être mises en place pour protéger les personnes vulnérables et marginalisées.

Pour bénéficier de l’AI, l’Afrique doit consolider les acquis des 2e et 3e révolutions industrielles

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Davantage de pays africains doivent se joindre à des pays comme le Kenya et la Tunisie pour mettre en place des politiques nationales sur l’IA afin de coordonner les efforts nationaux en faveur du développement de l’intelligence artificielle.

Il faudra également consolider le paysage politique autour de l’infrastructure des données, des compétences numériques et de la protection des droits de l’homme. Cela permettra à l’Afrique de bénéficier des avancées de la 4e révolution industrielle qui, il faut le reconnaître n’est qu’une continuité des 2e et 3e révolutions industrielles.

Les pays qui ont le plus bénéficié des 4e révolutions  jusqu’à présent sont ceux qui ont continuellement investi et amélioré les infrastructures de base qui sous-tendent les 2e et 3e révolution (une électricité stable, des transports de masse efficaces, un accès au haut débit, etc.)

À l’heure actuelle, l’approvisionnement en électricité et l’accès à Internet en Afrique sont inexistants pour de larges segments de la population, ou insuffisamment fournis lorsqu’ils existent. Sans accès aux infrastructures de base, comme l’électricité et le haut débit, le développement des 4e Révolution Industrielle en Afrique sera entravé.

Cependant, avec des investissements continus dans ces secteurs ainsi que les nouvelles technologies comme l’IA, l’Afrique pourrait tout aussi bien prendre un virage et entamer un nouveau chapitre de développement qu’elle n’a –jusqu’ici- jamais connu.

L’auteur de l’article, Babatunde Okunoye est chercheur chez Paradigm Initiative.



Kenya’s Huduma Namba: What’s Next?

By | Digital Rights, ICT Policy

On the 30th of January 2020 a three-judge panel of Kenya’s High Court gave out their verdict on the validity of the implementation of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), also known as Huduma Namba. Since the inception, Huduma Namba roll out last year concerns were raised by various actors on its effect on human rights.

Despite cry outs from the masses, Huduma Namba was rolled out and citizens were sensitized to enroll out of fear of losing out on access to key services. Passports were not the only thing that residents would miss out on if they lacked the special ID, access to services such as banks and education would be a no-go as well.

While the uproar stalled the rollout for a while, a coalition of stakeholders from the Nubian Forum, Kenya National Human Rights Commission and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, filed a case against the implementation of NIMS. This pressured the parliament to draft the Huduma Namba bill which faced a lot of criticism with the majority claiming it to be inadequate, ambiguous and “too late to the party”.This stretches from the components it poses all the way to the fact that it has been rushed at the same time as the Data protection and privacy policy was still underway proving once again that for most countries “the law does lag behind technology”.

On the court ruling on the 30th of January the court has halted the implementation of Huduma Namba in a 500-page judgment highlighting the following:

  • The legal framework on data privacy is “inadequate and totally wanting” hence it can only be a result of a rushed process that did not fully take into account how data will be protected.
  • The collection of DNA and GPS were declared unconstitutional and hence the court ordered that they be struck out of the NIIMS data to be collected
  • NIIMS is not inclusive of a lot of groups who already face discrimination to gain IDs or citizenship, this applies to communities such as the Somali and Nubian in Kenya.

In line with those observations, the court did give a green light to NIIMS stating that if it meets recommended actions by the court it can resume. According to the court, the threshold for public participation in huduma Namba registration was met and the public had enough time to present views against the petitioner’s argument that the 7 days given for public participation were not sufficient.

The court also stated that collection of data is only intrusive if it’s collected without the consent of the said individuals hence NIMS is not intrusive. However, the court has urged that Huduma Namba can only proceed if a number of requirements are met including the following:

  • Enactment of a comprehensive legal framework in line with the constitution that adheres to data privacy and protection is developed.
  • Mechanisms are in place to ensure NIIMS does not exclude any section of the Kenyan Population.

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The court is set to release the official judgment documents during the course of the coming week for public viewing on each component/recommendation they made. Bernard an officer at the Kenyan Human Rights Commission stated that “It’s not the verdict we expected but it’s good progress” the key concern now is to see how the government will go about implementing the court’s orders in a manner that does not infringe on Kenyans rights. To a lot of other African Countries implementing Digital IDs, the Huduma Namba case has set a precedent on the importance of governments to put data protection and privacy at the core of the- implementation of digital ID systems. In line with this, it has highlighted the need for this process to have sufficient time to ensure frameworks developed meet public participation standards, is inclusive, rational and clearly thought through.

While there are still concerns on how this will work out, it’s important for legislators and government entities to look at NIIMS case as an important signal on how fast digital ID is taking up space but it shouldn’t be an excuse to carry out surveillance, deny rights and most of all deny services to the public. Paradigm Initiative commends the work done by the Nubian Forum, The Kenya Human Rights Commission and partners in pushing the judiciary to take its role in ensuring justice is served.

We also urge the Kenyan Government which passed the Data Protection and Privacy Bill last year November to hasten the establishment of the data protection commission to ensure that the machine starts rolling out soonest. The future is promising if African courts and governments can uphold rights hence we call upon governments to ensure that processes, policies, and laws adhere to human rights, affirms to protecting them and ensuring inclusivity.

The author of this articles,  Rebecca Ryakitimbo is Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for East Africa


4th Industrial Revolution: Readying Africa for the emerging AI decade

By | Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy

Slowly but steadily, countries across Africa have begun preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), where advances in Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Robotics, 3D Printing, Nanotechnology and Advanced Wireless Technologies will radically alter the way we live, work and govern our societies. Artificial Intelligence has in particular made significant inroads in Africa, with AI enabled start-ups and other AI-focused institutions beginning to make an impact on the economy, social life and governance.

Governments in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia and South Africa which have made some of the most significant progress in Artificial Intelligence in Africa have been supportive of these initiatives through monetary support for AI research and development and the promotion of STEM education. Nevertheless only a few like Kenya and Tunisia have AI national strategies which can inform AI’s integration within government and public services. However for AI – a cornerstone technology of the 4IR, to make optimum impact in Africa, sweeping structural changes have to take place in the various country contexts on the continent. I explore 3 major areas below.   

Data infrastructure

Image result for Data CenterArtificial Intelligence applications which solve practical problems acquire their ‘’Intelligence’’ by learning from very large datasets. For example AI models built for facial recognition will have been fed with very large datasets consisting of thousands of human faces in order to be trained on what constitutes a human face. By this token, societies and organizations with highly developed data capture, storage and processing ecosystems are better placed to optimally benefit from advances in AI.

This puts Africa at a strategic disadvantage because Africa, like much of the Global South, is data poor. In Africa and much of the Global South, public data collection for national accounts, household and firm surveys, data collection through administrative systems such as birth records, pensions, tax records, health and census are performed infrequently, and often lack the granularity necessary to make meaningful inferences about small, sub-populations of interest. And where some data exist, they are often not in digitized, machine readable formats which can be immediately harnessed for AI applications.

Therefore, in the public sector where AI applications might have been applied for the greatest public good on the continent, the data infrastructure is sadly non-existent or severely inadequate. In a show of what’s possible in a well developed data ecosystem, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom (UK) has collaborated with Google to bring the benefits of AI to public health in the UK through schemes such as rapid detection of cancers. This rapid diagnosis is powered by training AI models with large datasets of patient data within the NHS system. 

It is not a surprise therefore that some of the most promising AI applications in Africa are almost entirely private sector driven. Private sector organizations in Africa typically have data that is collected cost-effectively, with high frequency, and at fine levels of granularity. These include data from mobile phones, electronic transactions, social media, health and fitness apps and satellites which have driven the continents advances in AI applications such as chatbots and AI virtual assistants. However for Africa to fully tap into the potential of its emerging AI economy, the next decade must be focused on developing her public data ecosystems, and possibly effectively integrating them with the private sector in ways that stimulate development and protects human rights.  

Employment and Economic shifts

Image result for employment africa technology

Experts are not unanimous on the effects of AI and automation on the future of work globally. There is a school of thought which states that the aggregate productivity gains across all economic sectors brought about by advances in AI will even out any initial job losses occasioned by AI and automation. Other prominent thought leaders describe a more sombre outlook for the future of jobs and labour. However one thing they all agree on is the outsized effect advances in AI and automation will have on the future of jobs in Africa, compared to other parts of the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa is already the world’s youngest region today with more than 60% of its population under the age of 25. By 2030, the continent will be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s total under-25 population, growing the size of its workforce by more than the rest of the world. Nevertheless, World Economic Forum data reveals that African countries are very vulnerable to job displacements occasioned by AI and automation. The statistics below illustrates the vulnerability:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa exhibits a high-skilled employment share of just 6%, a contrast to the global average of 24% as South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana lead the way in the local availability of high-skilled jobs while others, such as Ethiopia and Nigeria, maintain large proportions of workers in lower-skilled jobs – which are more susceptible to automation. 
  • From a technological standpoint, 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation, as are 44% in Ethiopia, 46% in Nigeria, 48% in Mauritius, 52% in Kenya and 53% in Angola. 

In light of Africa’s vulnerability to extensive job displacement possibly occasioned by AI and automation, urgent steps need to be taken to implement a bottom-up revision of curricula in schools across Africa. More than ever before, industry participation and input is needed in re-shaping learning and instruction in educational institutions to make ready a workforce for the rapidly changing workplaces of the 21st century. What has been observed so far seems more like a top-bottom approach largely led by the private sector, with the establishment of AI research centres across Africa by the global technology giants. Google opened its AI lab in Accra in April 2019, and the Africa Institute for Mathematical Sciences was established in Kigali Rwanda in 2016 to provide high level manpower in AI and machine learning for Africa.

A more deliberate bottom-up approach will require governments to fashion out policies which respond to the changing nature of employment on the continent, setting the agenda for decades ahead. Implementing this policy might involve tactical steps like investing more in STEM education right from primary, secondary or tertiary education levels. Nevertheless any action needs to flow from deliberate policy which guides government efforts, rather than uncoordinated, knee-jerk government responses to the problem.   

Human Rights and Accountability

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All over the world, developments in AI have outpaced human rights considerations in the design and implementation of these systems. Only belatedly have corporations at the forefront of AI development given serious thought to human rights and accountability in the implementation of AI systems, often in response to pressure from civil society. Both by design and function, AI systems have the potential to hurt human rights, and I explore two areas in the African context where AI systems can do the greatest hurt to human rights.

Data privacy abuses are among the most important ways AI systems can be used to hurt human rights. AI systems need to be trained on massive amounts of data in order to function effectively, and in Africa where only about 23 countries have data protection laws, and even fewer (9) have data protection authorities, it is easy to see the potential for data privacy abuses for AI applications which interface with personal identifiable data of citizens, not least financial and health information.    

Another outlet for human rights violations comes in the shape of the roll-out of facial recognition technology across major cities on the continent. In response to a report by the Wall Street Journal which asserted that Huawei technicians had helped intelligence officials in Uganda to spy on their political opponents, Ugandan police confirmed that the technology company Huawei is rolling out a massive surveillance system that uses facial recognition and other artificial intelligence software to fight crime in the country. Opposition figures within the country are concerned this capability could be used to identify and target demonstrators and opposition figures ahead of the 2021 polls. Similarly, in April 2018, Chinese AI firm CloudWalk signed a deal with the government of Zimbabwe to help build a mass facial recognition system. The AI facial recognition system in use in the Ugandan capital is part of Huawei’s ‘’Safe City initiative’’. This technology is already replicated or will soon be replicated in Kenya, Botswana, Mauritius and Zambia. While the deployment of technologies such as these can be useful in curbing crime, they could also become instruments of oppression in the hands of repressive regimes.

Globally, there is also a growing adoption of AI applications for recruitment of human resources, credit scoring and even in criminal justice administration. These critical decision-making roles which were once the exclusive preserve of humans have huge consequences for those affected by their decisions.The greatest concern with the deployment of these systems is the bias inherent in the algorithms underlying the AI, which are usually trained with data which excludes members of a population. This leads to decisions and outcomes which further exacerbates marginalization.

A high profile example were reports in 2019 which suggested that Apple card, a credit card created by Apple and developed by Goldman Sachs, was seemingly biased against women by giving them less favourable credit limits compared to men. Another concern is the opacity surrounding these AI systems. Citing trade secrets or confidentiality of patents, owners of these AI systems are reluctant to share the source code powering these algorithms. Before these systems or their variants become widely adopted in Africa, policies which protect human rights must be in place to protect the vulnerable and marginalized.

To benefit from AI, Africa must shore up the gains of the 2IR and 3IR        

More African countries need to join countries like Kenya and Tunisia in having AI national strategies which drives coordinated national efforts towards AI development. Furthermore, in addition to solidifying the policy landscape around data infrastructure, digital skills and human rights protection, in order for Africa to benefit optimally from advances in AI which is a keystone technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), there must be a recognition that the 4IR is only a continuum of the 2IR and 3IR.

The countries which have benefited the most so far from the 4IR are those which have continuously invested and improved on the foundational infrastructructure underpinning the 2IR and 3IR – stable electricity, efficient mass transportation (e.g. efficient rail systems) and reliable and fast broadband access, amongst others. As of today, electricity supply and Internet access in Africa is non-existent for large segments of the population, or provided inadequately where existent. Without access to basic, foundational infrastructure like excellent power and broadband, Africa’s 4IR development will be stymied. However, with continuous investments in these sectors as well as new technologies of the 4IR such as AI, Africa might as well turn a corner, and begin a new chapter of development the continent has never seen.  

The author, Babatunde Okunoye is a research officer at Paradigm Initiative.



Digital Surveillance: Should Rwandans be worried?

By | Uncategorized

By:  Leonce Muvunyi & Louis Gitinywa for Paradigm Initiative 

Collection, handling and sharing of data public information continue to dividing opinions as government embark on tapping into ICT solutions to ensuring safety.

Starting from May this year, the government of Rwanda has embarked on putting up the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras all around the main roads of the city of Kigali.

According to the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) and Rwanda National Police which are in charge of implementing this policy claim that use of CCTVs will significantly boost security by establishing a robust mechanism of deterring, preventing and detecting crime.

The Inspector General of Police Dan Munyuza indicates that the enforcement of cameras networks across the country, which is anchored into the special presidential directives,  is in line with ensuring the general public security.

“They are well advanced to the extent they don’t only capture the traffic speed, there those which monitor the violations of road traffic regulations, and there those that could run number plate recognition of vehicles, and we can see them from the commanding post here at the police headquarters,” said IGP Munyuza, during a recent interaction session with the media.

Online sources define a closed-circuit television (CCTV) as video surveillance type of cameras network system that enables surveillance by transmitting its signals only to the screens that are directly connected to it.

Apart from the CCTV Networks in Kigali City, the government has started enforcing the “traffic radars” on the highways connecting capital city Kigali with neighbouring countries since earlier in May this year, which will be over hundreds of traffic radars devices installed.

These include Kigali- Kagitumba as you connect to Kagitumba border with Uganda, Kigali- Rusumo on your way to Tanzania, Kigali-Nyamata-Nemba connecting with Burundi, Kigali-Muhanga-Huye- Rusizi going in the south-west border with Democratic Republic of Congo and Kigali-Musanze as you connect with DR Congo in the north-west.

In addition, the government has adopted a new policy along with a number of measures; the use of technology that would significantly improve road safety and security of its users. Government officials emphasize that all these measures add up on the Law Governing Information and Communication Technologies of 2018, which provides for prevention and punishment against cybercrime offences.

“We are going to roll out the installation of the radar countrywide with much emphasis made on the accidents spots. Some of them will be static whereas others will be mobile and placed on a certain area for a different purpose.”  Munyuza revealed that a survey that had been carried out on the roads had indicated several places, and it had suggested where all these cameras would be installed.

According to the head of Rwanda’s national Police IGP Munyuza, which is now under the docket of the newly reintroduced Ministry of Internal Security, CCTV data is collected through a dedicated private network which cannot be accessible over the Internet. The storage of this data is regulated by internal standard operating procedures of the Rwanda national police and the use of relevant tools to secure the IT environment.

However, there are some concerns about the process of collection, handling and sharing of personal data and risks of illegal surveillance through the use of CCTVs which continues to divide the public opinion.

In this context of the introduction of digital surveillance’s cutting-edge technological capacity, coupled with the massive development of the digital economy in both public and private sector requires the need to have a comprehensive data protection legal framework in place, to protect and promote the right to privacy.

Data collection in the wake of data scandals such as Cambridge Analytica and the 2018 Google data breach have culminated to public scepticism in ways of data in which data is collected and processed.

A great responsibility is placed on the state to protecting the privacy of citizens by implementing more comprehensive guidelines preventing government and corporations from overstepping their boundaries by articulating the rights and freedoms of people in digital spaces, meaning data subjects can request information about why and how their data is processed.

This is considering that today Rwanda is striving for the digital era with the proliferation use of biometrics and digitized public services. Furthermore, as the digital economy and cashless transactions are becoming increasingly common in the country. While these systems promote certain benefits, there is however insufficient focus on the potential consequences of the technology such as the collection and use of personal data for commercial purposes, and how this practice leads to algorithmic manipulation of human behaviour on the decision we make and the services we receive.

In the meantime, this recent development links up with the global debate about the ability of Silicon Valley’s GAFA to freely collect consumers personal data in developing countries without any regulations has raised questions and public concerns about the lack of a clear comprehensive legislation and a regulatory framework on personal data privacy and data protection in the country.

Although,  article 23 of the constitution of Rwanda of 2003 (revised in 2015), reaffirms the respect for privacy. Besides the constitution, other relevant laws like the penal code, the 2010 law relating to electronic transactions and the 2001 law governing telecommunications recognize and provides for some guidelines regarding the protection of privacy and personal data.

However, the right to privacy enshrined in the Rwandan constitution has yet to be operationalized, the existing ICT laws and regulations only recognize so far the user consent and opt-in mechanisms.

Moving through the Region, Kenya is so far the only country that has recently enacted a comprehensive data protection law. the Kenyan Act determines the need for any subject company to create a privacy policy that outlines why and how data is collected, its handling and sharing of personal information or data; among the groundbreaking statutes written into the law is the provision for a data protection commissioner; a mechanism that enables citizens and data subjects to ascertain whether their personal information is being processed in accordance with the applicable data protection legislation.

With regard to Analyticaprotection of privacy and personal data information, it is important to note that according to the recent figures published in 2019 by Rwanda Investigation Bureau it has been revealed that there were at least 113 cases of cybercrime particularly targeting personal data related to financial transactions. A figure that has doubled compared to the previous year of 2018.

Furthermore, based on the recent 2018 Africa Cybersecurity Report by Serianu Limited, the cost of theft of personal data in Africa was estimated at $3.5 Billion, a rise from 2016.

Experts indicate that the use of technology in public life should be centred around transparency and the rule of law. In particular, privacy and security as the pillars of trustworthy services that enhance the overall well-being of citizens.

The development and the implementation of smart cities and the safety and security policies must be done responsibly, with full understanding and mitigation of their impact on the citizens right to privacy and other constitutional rights.

While the rights to privacy and personal data are not absolute, they must be rigorously safeguarded, the right to privacy may only be limited through a law which regulates infringement. Although some databases can be used for legitimates purposes. However, there are many risks associated with collecting and storing the very information that constitutes an individual’s identity.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal shows us how damaging technologies can have a corrosive effect on privacy, the misappropriation of personal information can deny individuals their identity especially when data is collected without proper control or oversight. In many countries around the world, national privacy laws are increasingly being revised to strengthen the protection of personal data privacy and impose penalties for data breaches.

As Rwanda today is striving for the digital era with digitized public services with an open online portal like “Irembo”, cashless transactions, digitized citizens’ identity cards and passports.  Thus as the scale and the scope of digital economy development accelerates the demand for data is increasing.  Furthermore, in the context of the current vacuum of a comprehensive data framework, there is a heightened risk of data misuse.

Therefore it is imperative for the government to respond to public concerns around privacy with a robust legal framework for data protection that will enforce accountability towards the citizens over the use of their personal information by bodies or corporations that collect them.

The Authors:

Louis Gitinywa is Rwandan Lawyer. Before  joining the private practice in 2018,  he served as public Prosecutor at the Rwanda National Prosecution Authority for 6 years. He has been involved in many cases related to prosecution of economic crimes, and other criminal cases before domestic courts in Rwanda.

Muvunyi Leonce is Rwandan Journalist based in Kigali, he works at Nation Media Group as an Editorialist for Rwanda Today Newspaper and as a correspondent for the AFP covering the Great lakes region.

Call for Registration: Digital rights workshop in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria

By | Digital Rights

Paradigm Initiative in partnership with Policy Alert @PolicyAlert  is pleased to host a digital rights workshop in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria

The workshop will be focused on understanding and navigating the policy and regulatory landscape related to digital rights and its intersection with other subjects such as security, media, digital identity, business, as well as learning advocacy and engagement strategies for those who work or are interested in promoting and defending human rights online in Africa.

Discussions at the workshop will explore topical issues around privacy and surveillance, digital identity, multistakeholder approach to digital policy, Internet shutdowns, content takedowns, freedom of expression online, digital security amongst others.

The workshop is scheduled to hold at a time when the government is rolling out legislations such as the hate speech bill and the social media bill. The workshop is aimed at empowering participants with the understanding of digital policies and how they affect human rights. Participants will also learn about various actors with the policy landscape.


The workshop will be open to only a limited number of participants who live and work in the South South and South East regions of Nigeria. The States under consideration are Abia, Akwa Ibom Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo and Rivers. Selection will be based on  best-fit considerations with a focus on the likelihood that the workshop will be useful to your ongoing work.


Limited funding is available to support transport and accommodation, and you may indicate whether or not you need sponsorship on your application form. However, we strongly encourage that you do not apply for support if you can sponsor yourself to the workshop as this may improve your chances of selection if you qualify. Again, travel support is very limited and will be very competitive.

How to Apply

If you would like to secure one of the workshop slots, please Apply Here.




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