Monthly Archives

January 2018

Digital Rights in Liberia: The Time to Seal the Victory Is Now

By | Uncategorized

By Adeboro Odunlami and Adeboye Adegoke

Liberia, one of Africa’s most positively uneventful countries with regard to breach of Digital Rights recently elected a new president to succeed the incumbent president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The country has a population of 4,613,820 people, according to a 2017 census. It has an Internet penetration rate of 7.32% but has successfully avoided the infamous limelight of Digital Rights violation which many of its fellow African nations so lavishly bask under.

Not only has the country avoided governmental oppression of human rights online, but has also taken active steps in creating a legal structure to advance these rights. For instance, in July 2017, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tabled a Bill to decriminalise press offences in order to remove bottlenecks to the practice of journalism and free speech. This was a huge and monumental moment in the history of Digital Rights in Africa, as it exhibited a genuine quest for modern democracy and with the first peaceful transition in Liberia since 1944 (with the exception of the 1971 transition as a result of the death of President Willaim Tubman), Liberia has made a huge statement of its desires to uphold Democratic ideals.

Liberia is legitimately a shining example and a beacon of light for other African countries to emulate and it is believed that her dedication to the development of Digital Rights and Freedoms will yield great and tangible returns in the overall development of the country. This is largely because the country has adopted the right attitude to foster an environment conducive to innovation, citizen feedback and mutual respect.

It is in this spirit of commendation and praise that Paradigm Initiative calls for further actions to be taken by the newly sworn-in president, Mr. George Weah as he sets the ball rolling.

We call on the new President and the members of the Liberian legislature to see to the passage of the Bill presented by the immediate past President Sirleaf aimed at ensuring a structured continuity and recognition of the freedom of expression.

Secondly, we would like to draw the attention of the President to the Digital Rights and Freedom  Bill currently undergoing the legislative process of becoming a law in her sister nation, Nigeria. The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is also a monumental piece in what would be the history of Digital Rights in Africa and the new government is enjoined to initiate this same Bill (or one with a similar spirit) in Liberia.

Thirdly, the new government is implored to review existing laws and policies which may potentially harm digital rights either because the provisions are too vague or are outrightly oppressive. Finally, we implore the President to work towards improving the internet penetration rate to ensure more Liberians are able to make use of digital tools.

Once again, we commend the government and the people of Liberia for her efforts towards enthroning and sustaining democratic ideals that allow rights to thrive.   


*Adeboro Odunlami is Program Assistant, Digital Rights (Anglophone West Africa), at Paradigm Initiative.

**Adeboye Adegoke is the Program Manager, Digital Rights (Anglophone West Africa), at Paradigm Initiative.


Shaping Digital Rights Advocacy in Africa through Policy Intervention

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

By Babatunde Okunoye & Adeboye Adegoke

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217A), is the foundation for international human rights law. Its drafting shortly after the horrors of World War 2 by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds across the world sought to codify for future generations what rights humans all over the world should enjoy. Informed by the atrocities of Nazi Germany which only came to light in the final moments of the war, the UDHR was drafted as a part of a process that ensured that never it repeated itself.

In relation to digital rights advocacy, Article 19 of the UDHR has been fundamental. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. And although we are many decades away from the destruction of the Second World War, in the 21st century we are currently enmeshed in another type of war – the war on Cyberspace. In this Cyberwar, state actors, the private sector, civil society and individuals are caught up in episodes of local and cross-country cyberattacks, cyberespionage, illegal surveillance, arrests of bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens. This is particularly true for Africa where state actors have sought to extend the control they had over traditional media to new media channels in a bid to choke the emergence of dissenting voices.

In light of the new reality that the battle for the defence of human rights has moved to cyberspace, on the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, Paradigm Initiative will work to ensure that the digital rights of people across Africa are protected. From our offices in Lagos, Abuja, Yaoundé and Blantyre, we will host workshops across the continent where local actors are trained on digital rights; we will convene the most important voices on digital rights in Africa at our Internet Freedom Forum and we will challenge the now perennial actions of governments which impinge on digital rights, amongst several activities.

Our work in 2017 has been rewarding. As the year wound to an end, news emerged that the digital rights and freedom bill we have worked on in coalition with partners across civil society, government and the private sector had passed 3rd reading at Nigeria’s House of Representatives and now only requires concurrence at the Senate and Presidential assent to become law. The effect of this positive bill of legislation, if passed into law, will be major for digital rights in Nigeria. This is the type of impact we hope to have in 2018, as we work to defend digital rights across Africa.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is a positive rights legislation which replicates and builds on the objective that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was intended to serve. More importantly, it provides direct safeguards to new realities brought about by the contested cyberspace of the 21st century. The need for African countries to replicate this process is urgent because several African countries have an abundance of laws or legislation which seeks to repress freedom. The various forms of digital rights violations experienced across several jurisdictions in Africa over the years have been made possible because of existing repressive laws. While we will continue to work with partners across the continent to engage policymakers to push for repeals of some of these existing laws, we will also work with local stakeholders to introduce positive rights legislation across the continent. Although this might be perceived as an attempt to correct the ills of the past, it must also be viewed as a proactive approach to prevent violations in countries with fewer records of Digital Rights violations.

The United Nations took an important step in June 2016 in recognizing Internet Rights as Human Rights in United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” which condemned countries which intentionally disrupt the internet access of its citizens. The resolution stresses that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” particularly with regards to the freedom of expression already protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It is now expected of Digital Rights organizations, Human rights Organizations and Civil Society across the continent to work and engage the local processes in each country to ensure this is reflected in National Laws. Paradigm Initiative is committed to this objective and we hope to train and partner with organizations in various African countries, offering our expertise, resources and time to make this possible, so that going forward, Africa will become a bastion and model for digital rights in the 21st century.


*Babatunde Okunoye is Research Assitant at Paradigm Initiative

**Adeboye Adegoke is the Program Manager (Anglophone West Africa) at Paradigm Initiative.

Une élection sans coupure d’Internet en Afrique Francophone est-elle possible en 2018 ?

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

Par Rigobert Kenmogne

Onze pays d’Afrique francophone préparent diverses élections entre février et décembre 2018.

Le Cameroun, le Gabon, le Congo, le Mali, la Guinée, le Djibouti, le Madagascar, l’Egypte et la Tunisie font partir des pays francophones d’Afrique noire et blanche qui préparent au moins élection en 2018. Comme depuis quelques années déjà, des cas de violations des droits numériques et des libertés sur Internet se font régulièrement constater. A la veille des activités électorales dans de nombreux pays sur le continent, les gouvernements influencent grandement les services de l’Internet en leur faveur soit pour étouffer les manifestions de l’opposition ou alors utilisent Internet pour surveiller les autres candidats ainsi que les citoyens ; ceci se passe souvent avec la complicité des Fournisseurs d’Accès Internet ! Au Cameroun, au Congo, au Gabon, en Tunisie et en Egypte, des cas de violations des droits numériques se font déjà ressentir dans ces périodes pré-électorales. Chaque influence en vers les libertés d’Internet divergent d’un pays à l’autre, mais avec les mêmes objectifs de privation des droits ou de surveillance à des fins politiques et stratégiques.

Le Cameroun prépare environ six élections en 2018. Avant le début des premières élections, le profil des droits numériques n’est pas reluisant. Des actes de restrictions des libertés numériques ont été constatés ; les plus visibles sont des perturbations de l’Internet dans les deux régions anglophones du pays et la lettre circulaire du ministre de la justice en fin d’année 2017 donnant l’ordre aux magistrats d’« engager après leur identification précise par les services de sécurité, des poursuites judiciaires contre toutes personnes qu’elles résident au Cameroun ou à l’étranger, et qui recourent aux réseaux sociaux pour propager les fausses nouvelles.»

Au Congo, le ministre des postes, de télécommunication et de l’information a demandé au Directeur Général de AFRICELL Congo le 30 décembre 2017 par un courrier la suspension totale des fournitures Internet dans le pays ainsi que les SMS. Cette fermeture de l’Internet de trois jours a intervenu après le début des manifestions de l’opposition. Le Congo prépare au mois de décembre 2018 des élections législatives et présidentielles.

Le 27 décembre 2017 au Gabon, le ministre d’Etat en charge de l’Economie numérique a réuni tous les acteurs œuvrant dans ce secteur. Des avis sur la surveillance des réseaux sociaux ont été émis. Selon le secrétaire exécutif de l’Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP), Serge Essongué, « il y a des messages de haine qui sont diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux, notamment sur You Tube. C’est également le cas dans d’autres réseaux sociaux, Facebook. La grande question c’est comment réguler ces messages. Comment faire en sorte que ce principe général qui dit que la liberté de chacun s’arrête là où commence celle des autres soit également appliqué dans les médias sociaux. » Le Gabon prépare des élections législatives après plusieurs renvois pour le mois d’avril 2018.

En Tunisie, les premières élections régionales doivent se tenir pour le mois de février 2018. Avant cette élection, le gouvernement tunisien a tenté de faire adopter un projet de loi sur la carte d’identité biométrique à puce  devant menacer la vie privée tout en mettant en danger la sécurité numérique et le harcèlement. Ce projet de loi a été retardé grâce à une coalition des ONG de défense des droits numériques.

L’Egypte prévoit des élections présidentielles en mars 2018. Mais quelques mois avant ces échéances, le réseau Internet du pays a été de très faible qualité en début janvier 2O18. Les égyptiens n’ont pas tardé d’afficher leurs colères sur les réseaux sociaux et accusent aussi le gouvernement égyptien de vouloir se lancer dans la surveillance des communications.

Les perturbations identifiées ici montrent la volonté manifeste de plusieurs gouvernements de couper l’Internet pendant les activités électorales dans leur intérêt particulier afin de rester aussi longtemps que possible au pouvoir. Les perturbations, les coupures volontaires de l’Internet, les fermetures des réseaux sociaux, les arrestations ou la pression sur les utilisateurs de l’Internet constituent une violation flagrante des droits numériques. Ces activités sont une entorse au droit de l’homme, et un blocage de la prospérité des activités économique et la diffusion de l’information, les acteurs utilisant Internet de nos jours comme principal canal. Face à ces violations, les organisations des droits de l’homme dans divers pays francophones d’Afrique restent encore impuissantes dans des solutions à apporter à cette problématique des droits numériques. Une formation et une structuration des acteurs sur les questions variées des droits numériques ainsi qu’une coalition des organisations en Afrique francophone restent aujourd’hui l’un des défis majeurs pour Paradigm Initiative.


Rigobert Kenmogne est Google Policy Fellow pour l’Afrique francophone chez Paradigm Initiative, une organisation panafricaine de défense des droits et de l’inclusion numérique.




What to look out for in Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Policy Landscape in 2018

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

By Adeboye Adegoke

The year 2018 was heralded by the unfortunate news of the arrest of the UK-based, Nigerian blogger Daniel Elombah by men of the Nigeria Police at the early hours of January 1, 2018, at his residence in Anambra. While Internet users and enthusiasts especially those who are actively engaged on different platforms on the Internet were looking forward to new applications, innovations and other forms of exciting developments as the year approached, the first Internet-related news in Nigeria had to be the arrest of Elombah in a Gestapo-style operation which is suitable, only for armed and hardened criminals. This is not in any way a departure from what was witnessed throughout last year but more than anything, it is a signal that we must brace up for policies that seek to control how people use Internet platforms in 2018 and these will be for different reasons; ranging from the sheer desire by politicians to control the narratives, launder their image as the election approaches as well as legitimate concerns around security usually demonstrated by policies aimed at curbing fake news and hate speeches. It is definitely an interesting year ahead and more than before, the Nigerian citizens would be called upon as the guardian of the space as the government have an increasing vested interest in Internet Policy discourse. Forecasting 2018 suggest to me that many Nigerians will be forced to get involved in the policy process as we did when the infamous “Anti-Social Media Bill” was introduced in the Nigerian Senate in 2015 and the reason is not far-fetched;  I will delve into it  immediately;

The 2019 General Elections: 2018 is the pre-election year. Engagement on social media platforms is about to increase geometrically. In an African focused study titled ‘How Africa Tweets’ conducted in 2015, Nigeria was the second largest country in Africa with geolocated tweets (360) million. Also, According to Data by Internet Stats, Nigeria has 16,000,000 active Facebook users as at June 2017. These stats are to underscore how much we have embraced the use of Social media platforms in Nigeria especially for political debates, discourse, commerce and Social Interactions. While the platform providers will be smiling to the bank, the conversations will get heated, politicians will try to shape the narratives, political parties will attempt at selling their agenda. There will be hate, fake news and policies will be contemplated to curb fake news, hate and insightful comments and this, the government will leverage to its political advantage by targeting dissent and opposing voices. One important focus area for Digital Rights organization in 2018 is to work with other civil society organizations and concerned citizens to fight the monster of fake news as the election approaches. It is also important to pay attention to what the various platforms are doing to address the problems because the policies adopted by these platforms have implications for Digital Rights as well. Facebook, for example, is deleting accounts at the request of the U.S. & Israeli governments on the bogus grounds of “incitement”. In 2018, the government will collaborate more with ISP’s, Telecoms Companies to censor, limit content etc. It will use security agencies to clamp down on bloggers and people who express dissenting views but these will be justified by the need to fight fake news, hate speech and insightful comments. There is no better indicator to this assertion than the Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2017 (HB. 1211) sponsored by a member of the ruling All Progressive Party (APC): One of the lows of lawmaking in Nigeria is that the public doesn’t have access to the content of Bills being considered except you have access to insiders, but the name of this Bill gave it away as a likely dangerous Bill which will be used to gag free speech as the 2019 elections approaches.  Apart from elections, other factors that will shape the Digital Rights and Policy discourse in 2018 are considered below;

NCC Internet Code of Practice: The Nigeria Communications Commissions (NCC) has not done badly with respect to making its draft regulation available for the public and it regularly calls for stakeholder’s input. Where it has erred however is how it sometimes jettison inputs without feedback to those who made the inputs as to why those inputs were not captioned. One wonders if the calls for Stakeholder’s inputs were genuine or it’s just about “fulfilling all righteousness”. The NCC must consider this as an important feedback. The Draft Internet Code of practice, however, appears to be a great initiative and one that promotes the open and free internet. The stated objectives of the code are to: a) Protect the right of Internet users to an Open Internet; b) Provide clear guidelines to Internet Access Service Providers on the use of traffic management practices; c) Outline the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in relation to the protection of consumers’ personal data; d) Outline the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in the handling of offensive and potentially harmful content, and the protection of minors online; e) Ensure adequate safeguards are put in place by Internet Access Service Providers against unsolicited internet communications; f) Establish best practices for Internet Governance in Nigeria, in line with emerging issues and global trends. The application of the first part of objective “D” is definitely one to look out for as it is prone to manipulations by the powers that be. Whether this will happen or not is a function of how independent the NCC is. Unfortunately the NCC is rarely independent of the government of the day, neither is there proofs that it queries memo from the office of the National Security Adviser but let’s wait and see how these code will fare when and if it becomes operational.

FCC decision to Repeal Net Neutrality: Federal Communication Commission FCC is the United States of America equivalent of the NCC. In a 3-2 close call, it voted to repeal net neutrality in the United States in December 2017. Someone might wonder how that’s relevant to Nigeria. It is relevant because a lot of countries including Nigeria look up to the United States for policy direction. It must be noted that the NCC has been under pressure before now by telecoms and ISP’s to allow them to apply extra charges for OTT services, this, the NCC resisted over the years. With the development in the US, business interest will have a “legitimate” example in their quest to subdue Net Neutrality principles and milk internet users by discriminating against Internet traffic/applications according to how much internet users are able to pay for desired services. The Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat and online streaming services’ lovers would be largely affected if this happens.

The Positives for Internet Users

Two Important draft legislation is on the verge of becoming Law in Nigeria, The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB 430) which among other reasons situate human rights in the midst of technological innovations to help balance out the need for innovation on one hand, the need for rule of law on the other as emerging National security concerns are addressed. Also, Data Protection Bill (HB 02) address the need for Data protection law in Nigeria.  It is hoped that these two legislations which have been passed by the House of Representatives become law by getting the required Senate concurrence and Presidential Assent in 2018. These two draft legislation have the potential to militate against any form of abuse and violations, feared, as we prepare for elections.

Adeboye @adeboyeBGO is a Digital Rights Advocate with Paradigm Initiative.

A thank-you note from Paradigm Initiative

By | Newsletter

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.

‘Gbenga Sesan

Executive Director

Technology and the Future of Work: My IGF 2017 Experience

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

By Babatunde Okunoye

I attended my first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva from the 18th December to the 21st December 2017. The theme of this year’s IGF was ‘Shaping your Digital Future’, and being the multi-stakeholder forum that it is, it was attended by representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society and academia.

The IGF was designed as a meeting place for governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and all other stakeholders to deliberate on the issues shaping the Internet, as equals, and over the years, it has increased in stature as a premier Internet Governance forum.

As a representative of Paradigm Initiative at this year’s IGF, I set out to attend as many digital rights and digital inclusion sessions as possible. However, in this blogpost, I share my perceptions from two sessions I attended on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the future of work. The sessions in question are:  Making artificial intelligence (AI) work for equity and social justice (WS129) and AI: Intelligent Machines, Smart Policies (WS93).

One thing which was immediately clear from the sessions was the clear underrepresentation of Africa at these sessions. When it was time for questions also, most of the questions came from the perspectives of the developed world. This was a shock because I know that African voices are heard quite clearly in forums which focus on Internet freedom and digital rights in Africa. The lack of sufficient African representation in sessions which had a bearing on the future welfare of Africans was not what you would expect from a continent seeking to bridge the digital divide.

The most important pull-out from the 2 sessions on AI I attended was on the impact AI will have on future employment and well-being. It was argued that while AI will not have a great impact on employment levels, its impact will be felt more in the levels of inequality between the developed and developing world. The explanation for this being that the current tasks assigned to AI in the workplace are tasks for which there is a scarcity of human talent, and as such the introduction of AI will not necessarily lead to unemployment. Moreover, AI would lead to the creation of new co-working roles with AI, and AI administration and governance roles. However, the automation of tasks in the developed world will create economic efficiencies which will further worsen the economic disparity between rich and poor nations.

Personally, the argument that AI will initially lead to minimal job losses was scant consolation. An OECD study has estimated that only 11% of adults in the OECD have competencies exceeding AI’s current competencies[1]. That means that at the moment, in theory at least, AI can outperform about 90% of adults in logical tasks within one of the most developed economic blocs of the world with advanced educational systems. I will be interested in knowing what the percentage for Africa is.

Which is where the challenge is: In a world which is increasingly becoming globalized, the successful integration of AI systems into critical sectors of the economy will definitely be copied elsewhere, including Africa as employers seek to cut costs and improve efficiencies. What will this mean for employment and citizens’ welfare in Africa? While the rest of the world have begun having these conversations[2], Africa seems to have adopted a ‘wait and see approach’, will not bode well for the continent.

My take on IGF 2017? While the event website already shows that Africans are already underrepresented relative to the rest of the world, it would seem the few Africans who do attend are encumbered with the weighty matters of the present – internet penetration, digital literacy, digital rights to mention a few, and are distracted from discussions which are shaping the world of the future – which do not appear as urgent for Africa. Future African representation at subsequent IGFs needs to strike that delicate balance between the present and the future, so as not to lose the future to the more foresighted.

[1] Elliot SW. “AI and the Future of Skill Demand”, October 27 2017.

[2] “Prioritizing Human Well-being in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”. The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.