At the beginning of 2017, Paradigm Initiative’s expansion plan took us back to the drawing board. From the search for team members – with the right mix of relevant expertise, local knowledge and context appreciation – to teaming up with new partners and expanding our existing coalition, we were able to extend our digital rights work into the rest of Anglophone West Africa, East/Southern Africa and Francophone Africa. We also deepened our digital inclusion reach within Nigeria, with the introduction of resident programs in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the country.
In addition to the hearty work put in by our team across offices in Aba, Abuja, Blantyre, Kano, Lagos (HQ and Ajegunle) and Yaounde, 2017 could not have happened without the huge support of our volunteers, partners and advisory board members – Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Jummai Umar-Ajijola, Dr. Aida Opoku-Mensah, Nick Jekogian and Dr. Seyi Adebayo-Olubi – who continue to advise, inspire and challenge us to do more.
It was a year that came with opportunities for our digital inclusion program as we expanded our LIFE training program beyond the Aba, Ajegunle and Kano centres and took the program into 5 secondary schools in Abia, Lagos and Kano state. The LIFE@School program graduates can now join their colleagues who benefit from the 10-week digital readiness program to start entrepreneurial activities or get internships/jobs early based on new skills acquired. Our Techtiary program also added 5 tertiary institutions while the 2017 Techtiary Forum was attended by students from 27 tertiary institutions from five of Nigeria’s six zones.
In 2017, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and while we know that a lot of work must now go towards completing the legislative process and implementing the landmark positive rights legislation, we wish to thank the sponsor, Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam, for his dedication and sacrifice. To end the year, our bi-lingual (English and French) Digital Rights in Africa report, featuring 21 countries across Central, East, North, Southern and West Africa, was launched on December 19 at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum in Geneva. Our annual Internet Freedom Forum, which held in April 2017, was attended by stakeholders from 33 countries!
On behalf of the entire team at Paradigm Initiative, I thank all our partners for the continued support. While our focus is on impact and not numbers, we are glad to see that more under-served youth are getting connected to improved livelihoods through our digital inclusion and digital rights programs. As we embark on the 2018 journey, we look forward to your support. Together, we will have a most productive 2018. Daalu. E seun. Nagode.