Monthly Archives

May 2018

How Nigeria and the Developing World Can Help Reduce the Connectivity Gap

By | ICTs

By Babatunde Okunoye

According to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, the world will achieve 50% internet use by the world population at the end of 2018 – just over 7 months away. If the world maintains current internet user growth rates, we will not approach 100% global internet adoption for another two decades.

Achieving 50% internet use by the end of 2018 represents big progress, yet much needs to be done to ensure that in our world of about 7.4 billion people, the roughly 4 billion still unconnected access the enormous developmental potential of the internet.

The Broadband Commission’s in its 2025 plans for connecting the unconnected global population to the internet, has set ambitious targets which include:

  1. By 2025, all countries should have a funded National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access and Service (UAS) Definition
  2. By 2025, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries at less than 2% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
  3. By 2025, Broadband-Internet user penetration should reach: a) 75% worldwide b) 65% in developing countries c) 35% in the least Developed Countries
  4. By 2025, 60% of youth and adults should have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills
  5. By 2025, 40% of the world’s population should be using digital financial services
  6. By 2025, overcome unconnectedness of Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) by 50%, by sector
  7. By 2025, gender equality should be achieved across all targets

As target “3” clearly reveals, there is an admission that the developing world is crucial in the attainments of broadband access plans. Countries in the developing world such as India (1.29 billion), Indonesia (262.7 million) in Asia and Nigeria (198 million) and Ethiopia (108 million) in Africa account for a very significant proportion of their continent’s population and thus hold the key to bridging the digital divide.

Interestingly, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, all of these four pivotal nations have Internet penetration less than 30%. It is easy to see how focused policy efforts in the efficient use of Universal Service Provision Funds, free urban Wi-Fi zones, removal of multiple taxation schemes such as “Right of Way” payments, the use of innovative new technologies like TV white spaces in these strategic nations can make a significant impact on global digital access statistics.

In Nigeria in particular, the National Broadband plan is scheduled to be revised this year. With many parts of the country (particularly rural areas) still lacking access to the Internet, all options must be on the table to bridge the digital divide in Africa’s most populous nation. While the current broadband plan mentioned the possibility of exploring innovative technologies like TV white spaces, in implementing this strategy was neglected. Yet the poor Internet coverage in inaccessible rural areas in Nigeria is the precise reason why such innovative technologies must be an integral part of the revised broadband plan.

 

Babatunde Okunoye works as Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative.

‘Gbenga Sesan Bemoans Attacks on Internet Freedom in Africa

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

A digital rights expert and the executive director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr ‘Gbenga Sesan has bemoaned the spate of attacks on internet freedom in Africa. Sesan was speaking at RightsCon, an international conference on digital rights recently in Toronto, Canada.

Sesan, while speaking on efforts by Paradigm Initiative and its partners to protect digital rights and freedom on the continent, said “At Paradigm Initiative, we do this annual report focused on the state of digital rights in Africa. In 2017, we looked at twenty-one African countries and one of the trends we have seen is that things are getting worse. In terms of clamp down on the media, in terms of clamp down on citizens, in terms of using excuses like national security to shut down the internet, things continue to go downhill in many countries across Africa.”

“In Nigeria, there is a new proposal on hate speech bill, and the definition of hate speech is very interesting actually, an insult is considered hate speech. So we have a situation where citizens would not be able to express themselves freely online. Next month, we will release our report on Nigeria and I can tell you right now that things are not looking great for Nigeria in terms of respect for internet freedom.”

Paradigm Initiative recently conducted an online pool on freedom of expression online in Nigeria, and it was discovered that 40% of respondents feel unsafe expressing themselves online.

Sesan also used the opportunity to talk about Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly. He said the bill would ensure that digital rights are taken seriously in Nigeria and that those who violate these rights are held accountable under the law.

“We are excited about the passage of the bill by the national assembly. We hope the national assembly would expedite actions on transmitting the bill to the presidency for the presidential assent. Our hope is that the bill is signed into law before activities for the next elections in 2019 take centre stage.

Paradigm Initiative held three sessions at the international conference and all were focused on entrenching understanding of issues affecting digital rights and freedom in Africa. Other members of Paradigm Initiative at the conference were the Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs, and Boye Adegoke, the Digital Rights  Program Manager for Anglophone Africa.

For more information on this, please send a mail to media@paradigmhq.org.

Why Automation or Artificial Intelligence Might SoonTake Your Job

By | Uncategorized

By Babatunde Okunoye

With a population of over 1.2 billion people, more than half of global population growth will happen in Africa (1.3 billion out of 2.2 billion projected for the world by 2050).  Sub-Saharan Africa is also home to 13% of the world’s working-age population; a number that is set to increase to more than 17% by 2030, the world’s second-largest after Asia.

With more than 60% of its population under the age of 25, Sub-Saharan Africa is already the world’s youngest region today – and, by 2030, will be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s total under-25 population. Over this period, the region is projected to expand the size of its workforce by more than the rest of the world combined, as its young population, the best-educated and globally connected the continent has ever had, enters the world of work.

The Challenge and Opportunity of Automation and Artificial Intelligence

There’s, however, a silent threat (or opportunity) in the corner, challenging the future jobs and economic security of some of the millions of Africa’s teeming working population: the emergence of Automation and Artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to simulated intelligence in machines that have been programmed to mimic human action and rational thought, while automation is the use of control systems for the control of various equipment and processes. All over the world, scientific teams have made considerable progress with Artificial Intelligence, so that tasks which can be reduced to series of steps and can be taught to computers through algorithms are now being done with more efficiency and speed than humans can possibly match.

Think of a basic task such as identifying and sorting parcels in the warehouses of logistics companies. In the past, this task might have required a team of humans to accomplish over a considerable period of time given the size of warehouses. Today, however, in innovative firms, this task is now accomplished with intelligent drones with more efficiency than humans. Although this is just one example, the idea is the same: if there are tasks we understand intrinsically enough to teach machines, eventually machines will replace humans in these tasks. A few of these tasks will still require some human supervision – hence human workers will soon learn to have machine colleagues, but even this development will reduce the number of human workers on the payroll.

Although it has been put forward that the job losses occasioned by automation and AI will be offset by gains in productivity in other sectors, this does not change the fact that many people will lose jobs, and will need to find new jobs through reskilling or employment change.

Much as in more economically advanced world regions, concerns have recently been raised regarding the potential impact of automation on jobs on the continent. It has been estimated that, 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.

The Timid Government Response

The World Economic Forum’s analysis in its May 2017 “The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa” report finds that Sub-Saharan Africa’s region’s capacity to adapt to the requirements of future jobs—measured by assessing the quality and extent of its education and staff training systems, post-basic education attainment and breadth of skills, leave little space for complacency.

And some countries are more vulnerable than others.

For instance, on average, 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.

On average, Africa only currently only captures 55% of its full human capital potential, compared to a global average of 65%, ranging from 67 to 63% in Mauritius, Ghana, and South Africa to only 49 to 44% in Mali, Nigeria and Chad.

Consequently, it is reported that large numbers of African employers are citing inadequately skilled workforces as a major constraint to business expansion.  This situation can, however, be remedied by the better synergy between employers and education providers.

Governments across Africa are however not responding well to the challenge thrown by AI and automation, given the threat to jobs of thousands in sectors such as manufacturing and services. Africa budgets for education (e.g. Nigeria budgeted only 7.04% of its 2018 budget for education) are not keeping up with the rest of the world. UNESCO’s recommendation is for the allocation of 15-20% of national budgets to education, according to its “Education for All: Achievement and challenges” document. Even in the OECD, with much higher educational standards, emerging technologies are already a challenge, with only 10% of adults in these economies are deemed as competent as AI, according to an OECD sponsored study. For Africa, increasing the budget on education to UNESCO standards improves the quality of teachers, curriculum, and teaching tools, and might prepare the continent for the evolving world of work.

 

Sources:

  1. “The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. World Economic Forum Executive Briefing, May 2017.
  2. Abdi Latif Dahir, “The future of work in Africa is uncertain despite technology’s promise or perhaps because of it”, Quartz Africa, January 26, 2018.
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Elliot SW. “AI and the Future of Skill Demand”, October 27, 2017. http://www.oecd.org/going-digital/ai-intelligent-machines-smart-policies/conference-agenda/ai-intelligent-machines-smart-policies-elliott.pdf

Paradigm Initiative Holds Digital Rights Workshop in Cameroon

By | DigitalJobs

Paradigm Initiative, in partnership with Internews, will organize two capacity building workshops for civil society organizations working on human rights and digital rights in the anglophone and francophone regions of Cameroon. The workshop will hold from May 2 to 5, 2018

The main objectives of these workshops for the first phase are to raise the awareness of participating organizations about Internet rights and Internet policy issues; provide participants with advocacy skills to engage key stakeholders in all sectors; to mobilize their commitment to promote and defend digital rights in Cameroon.

These workshops are organized by Paradigm Initiative in partnership with Internews, an international NGO based in the United States. This training also benefits from the support of Afroleadership and the Center for Youth Education and Economic Development (CYEED), local partners of the event.

Following on from those organized in other African countries, this training is in line with Paradigm Initiative’s commitment to building the capacity of African organizations on digital rights issues to enable them to effectively advocate for freedom of expression and other human rights challenges on the continent.

According to the African Union’s Declaration on the Rights and Freedoms of the Internet, and the Declaration on Internet Governance, most African countries lack significant mechanisms to encourage inclusive citizen and stakeholder participation in the process of implementing Internet policies and digital rights.

These training workshops are organized to deepen the knowledge of participants from the North West, West and Central regions of Cameroon. A total of about 30 participants will be equipped on digital rights topics with participatory strategies to engage stakeholders at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth. Our programs include digital inclusion programs – such as the Life Skills. ICT. Financial Readiness. Entrepreneurship (LIFE) training program and Techtiary program – and a digital rights program. Through our offices in Nigeria (Aba, Abuja, Ajegunle, Kano, Yaba) and Yaounde Cameroon, we work to connect under-served youth with improved livelihoods through our digital inclusion and digital rights programs.. Paradigm Initiative works with experts across Eastern, Western, Southern and Central Africa. Paradigm Initiative has been working for nearly 10 years on digital rights in Africa with the support of local, national and international partners.

Internews is a non-profit, international organization, established in 1982, with offices in California, Washington DC, and London, as well as regional centers in Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Latin America and North America. For nearly 40 years, Internews has worked in more than 100 countries with local partners to build hundreds of sustainable organizations, build the capacity of thousands of media professionals, human rights activists and information entrepreneurs as well as improving lives and building sustainable development.

 

Paradigm Initiative at RightsCon

By | DigitalJobs

Paradigm Initiative is participating at RightsCon 2018 in Toronto, Canada. RightsCon holds from May 16 to May 18, 2018. Attending are Digital Rights Program Manager (Anglophone Africa), Boye Adegoke, the  Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe, and the Executive Director of Paradigm ‘Gbenga Sesan,

Shared below are the three sessions we are organizing to help further conversation and cooperation on digital rights issues.

A- Session 47: Africa’s Digital Rights Secretariat: Net Rights Africa Coalition and its prospects

Date: May 17

Time: 16:00 – 17:00

Venue: Room 201A

Speakers: Sanja Kelly (Freedom House), Sheetal Kumar (Global Partners Digital), Julie Owono (Internet Sans Frontieres), Gbenga Sesan, Michael Moss (MLDI) and  Henry Maina (Article 19)

Moderator: Tope Ogundipe

Synopsis: The Net Rights Africa Coalition, originally a solution to solving a problem of digital rights in Nigeria by coming up with the globally-acclaimed Digital Rights and Freedom Bill for Nigeria, has now scaled Africa to replicate its successes across regions. In doing more of what it has done in the past, the Coalition seeks to recognize the prominent challenges of digital rights across African regions and work with a cluster of experts to resolve them. The Coalition is also currently being used as a feeder for the annual Digital Rights status in Africa report.

This session seeks to rally major experts on digital rights issues in Africa and have them discuss how to make this Coalition a bigger reality and success.

 

B- Session 45: Electoral Choices and Artificial Intelligence: The Need for Transnational Collaboration in Africa

Date: Thursday, May 17

Time: 17:15 – 18:15

Venue: Room 204C

Moderator: Adeboye Adegoke 

Speakers: Grace Githaiga (KICKTANet), Grace Bomu (KICKTANet), Henry Maina (Article 19), Titi Akinsanmi (Google).

Moderator. Adeboye Adegoke (Paradigm Initiative)

Synopsis: This session will focus on the intersection of civic participation, algorithms/artificial intelligence, and human rights. Patterning has become a key identifier of results especially as it has to do with machine learning. With the huge exchange of data in Africa and with no means of measuring for accountability, these patterns are said to open to several manipulations and even selection of predetermined choices of citizens especially during the performance of the most civic obligation of all – voting. Several pieces of evidence point to these facts in the past with respect to the US elections, the UK Brexit process and more recently in Kenya. More emphasis will be placed on Africa as a virgin ground and how this ground can be protected from the likely perversion of technologies to the detriment of the people.

 

C- Session 46: Litigating Internet Shutdowns in Africa: Identifying Blurred Lines and Roadmaps:

Date: Friday, May 18

Time: 09:00 – 10:15

Venue: Room 205C

Speakers: Titi Akinsanmi (Google),  Padraig Hughes (Media Legal Defence Initiative), Peter Micek (Access Now) and Gbenga Sesan (Paradigm Initiative)

Moderator: Boye Adegoke (Paradigm Initiative)

Synopsis: This panel discussion will address the proliferation of instances where states have blocked or partially restricted access to the internet, and civil society strategies to challenge internet shutdowns using litigation before domestic and regional courts.

**
Besides these sessions, our team members would also be participating in other sessions. You can follow @ParadigmHQ on twitter for a regular update on our activities at RightsCon.

Press Freedom in a Democratic Society: The Gambia Supreme Court Decision

By | Uncategorized

By Adeboro Odunlami

About three months ago, precisely on the 14th of February 2018, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, pointedly delivered a judgment in favour of press freedom in the Gambia.

The case before the ECOWAS court had been triggered by the story of four Gambian journalists, Fatou Camara, Fataou Jaw Manneh, Alhagie Jobe, and Lamin Fatty, who had been arrested, detained and intimidated for their work as journalists in the Gambia; a ‘democratic’ country. They had so much feared further persecution “including the fear of physical and mental harm”  that they fled their country into exile.

The case (Suit No: ECW/CCJ/APP/ 36/15) was then filed in the name of the Federation of African Journalist (FAJ) and the four aforementioned journalists, against the  Republic of the Gambia and the ECOWAS court was called upon to determine the appropriateness of such laws upon which the Gambian government rely to repress press freedom, namely the Information and Communications Act and some provisions in the Gambia Criminal Code, and for the ECOWAS court to order The Gambia to repeal those laws and enact more favourable laws.

These laws did not only repress press freedom, the right to information and expression, right to liberty and security and the freedom from torture and inhuman treatment, it also imposed ridiculous penalties. For instance, one of the journalists had been slammed with the penalty of paying 250,000 GMD (approx. $5299.42USD) for criticizing the government and the president. Even more ridiculous was that the penalty was to be payable within 2 hours and if not, she’d have to spend 4 years in prison.

In giving its judgment, the ECOWAS court declared that the Gambian government had violated the rights of the Defendant and directed her to immediately repeal and/or amend the relevant laws in line with its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the ECOWAS revised treaty and other international instruments. This laudable judgement has been described as a landmark one which restored hope to press freedom in the Gambia, providing justice and respect for the rights of the Gambian people, especially the journalist.

However, on the 9th of May 2018, the Supreme Court of Gambia declared that although criminal defamation and false publication are unconstitutional, sedition is only partially unconstitutional. That is, that Sedition still validly exists as an offence only when said speech is made against the President. Why this was declared by the Supreme Court of a nation that subscribes to democracy is beyond comprehension.

In addition to this declaration being overtly against the order made by the ECOWAS court in FAJ v. The Gambia, it also negates other components of the principle of democracy. Democracy shows no favouritism for a single elected representative without any democratically sound reason. Democracy favours the good of the people over the interests of the government; whether as a whole or for an individual politician. The rule of law, a component of democracy, requires that the law is to govern above all persons and no one is to be above the law. The question therefore is: If it isn’t constitutional for sedition to exist as a crime against the government, why then should it be constitutional for it to exist against the President?

Above all of these, a major reason why this ruling by the Supreme Court of Gambia is anti-democratic is that by going against the express Order of a superior court, it is has placed itself in opposition to the democratic mechanism of checks and balances.

By virtue of Article 5(3) of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, each Member State undertakes to honour its obligations under the treaty. Article 15(4) more directly states that the judgments of the ECOWAS court are binding on the Member States.

The Gambia (which includes the judiciary) cannot claim that it has absolute powers to make decisions as it deems fit over the Gambia people as it has ceded some of those powers to the ECOWAS court and must comply when such ceded powers are exercised. The ECOWAS Court addressing this issue in Musa Saidykhan vs. The Republic of The Gambia said:

“ECOWAS is a supra national authority created by the Member States wherein they expressly ceded some of their sovereign powers to ECOWAS to act in their common interest. Therefore, in respect of those areas where the Member States have ceded part of their sovereign powers to ECOWAS, the rules made by ECOWAS supersede rules made by individual Member States if they are inconsistent …Therefore, it is untenable for a Member State of ECOWAS to claim that a matter is essentially within its domestic jurisdiction when it had expressly or by necessary implication granted ECOWAS powers to act solely or concurrently with national jurisdiction in respect of that matter”

The Republic of Gambia is therefore called upon to do the right thing; to entirely comply with the order by the ECOWAS court by ruling Sedition as fully unconstitutional – both regarding the government and the President.

Adeboro Odunlami works with Paradigm Initiative as Digital Rights Program Assistant. 

Paradigm Initiative Demands End to Press Attacks

By | Press Release

As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2018, Paradigm Initiative has called for an immediate end to the spate of attacks on the media in Africa.
The celebration of the 2018 World Press Day comes at a time of increased press attacks across Africa, an unfortunate reality that is partly behind shrinking civic spaces in the continent.
Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, noted, “One of the key developments noted in our Digital Rights in Africa Report 2017 was the increased wave of attacks on the Press in Africa. Whereas in 2016 most of the arrests for comments made online were of ordinary citizens, in 2017 the focus of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online shifted to journalists. Journalists should not be targeted for doing their legitimate jobs”.
“The years 2017 and 2018 have witnessed a record number of journalist arrests in Nigeria. Media houses were also broken into as overzealous security officers did the bidding of their paymasters. Journalists and the media played a crucial role in the establishment of democracy in Nigeria, so we cannot sit back and watch their right trampled upon,” Ogundipe added.
Speaking further on the topic, Boye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Program Manager for Digital Rights said, “The Cybercrimes Act of 2015 has emerged as the principal tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in persecuting Nigerian citizens and Journalists for comments made online. We have initiated lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrime Act, which has been the legal basis for much of the abuse of press freedom we have seen in Nigeria”
“As we celebrate World Press Day 2018 on May 3, 2018, let’s all join hands together to ensure that Press Freedom is respected in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world,” Adeboye continued.

For more information about this press release, please contact Sodiq Alabi, Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer at sodiq.alabi@paradigmhq.org

Expert Urges Citizens to Defend Digital Rights

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

A digital rights expert, Tope Ogundipe has urged citizens of various African countries to use their power in the defense of digital rights and other human rights on the continent. Ogundipe, who serves as the Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative, was speaking recently at a digital rights workshop organized by Paradigm Initiative and held in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ogundipe, who facilitated several sessions at the workshop, said “Citizens cannot afford not to get involved in the advocacy in defense of digital rights. Digital rights are as important as other human rights, as the digital space has become a most important center for economic activities, access to emergency services and platform for exercising freedom of speech and free press”

“Citizens’ rights to express themselves online and offline, gather and disseminate information and ideas are important to the fate of democracy in Africa. Not only that, absence of data privacy and protection,  illegal and blanket surveillance, internet shutdowns, and other rights violation all impact negatively on democracy and the economic development of a country. It is the centrality of digital rights that makes them the business of all citizens,” Ogundipe said.

Many African countries have recorded several cases of digital rights violations in the last few years. These include the 2017 internet shutdown in Cameroon, arrest, and persecution of bloggers and journalists in countries including Nigeria, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The absence of data privacy and protection law in the majority of the countries also make them an easy target of data breach and abuse.

The digital rights workshop is an initiative of Internews and Paradigm Initiative and received support from Cameroon-based Afro Leadership and Centre for Youth Education and Economic Development. The two inaugural workshops were held over a 4-day period between May 2 and May 6, 2018, and welcomed sixty participants from different regions of Cameroon. Resource persons at the workshop include Rigobert Kenmogne, Google Policy Fellow with Paradigm Initiative, Sodiq Alabi, the Communications Officer of Paradigm Initiative, Charlie Ngouno, the Founder of Afro Leadership, and ‘Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative.

For more information on this, please send a mail to media@paradigmhq.org.

IFF2018: Experts Assess State of Internet Freedom in Africa

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

For three days, digital rights experts and stakeholders assessed the state of internet freedom in Africa. This was the recently concluded 6th Internet Freedom Forum organized by Paradigm Initiative at NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, between April 24 and 26, 2018.

The experts, who came from countries across Africa and the world, gathered in Abuja to help shape the future of policy on the Internet in Africa.

According to Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs at Paradigm Initiative, “The Internet is rapidly changing every aspect of life in Africa – including education, work, business, entertainment, governance, and health, amongst others. Its growing importance has made it a contention ground for interests in government, the private sector, and civil society. The Forum, therefore, serves as a platform to actively and proactively engage with policies that affect freedom and rights online.”

Speaking at the event, Titi Akinsanmi, Head Public Policy, and Government Relations at Google stated, “The Internet has become an indispensable tool for development in all sectors of life. All hands must be on deck to enable more access to the Internet, and to eliminate abuses such as privacy violations”.

Also speaking at the event, Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Manager West Africa for Facebook, remarked, “As Nigeria approaches the 2019 elections, the Internet is a useful vehicle for civic education for citizens on the best practices for political participation. Facebook will work with stakeholders in Nigeria to ensure that our platform is not abused to impact negatively on the elections.”

Nnenna Wakama, Senior Manager, Africa, for the World Wide Web Foundation, highlighted the challenge of the rising cost of Internet data across the continent saying, “The conversation on Internet freedom must begin at looking at the prohibitive cost of data bundles which prevents millions of people from accessing the Internet in Africa”.

On the side session on Nigeria’s Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), Mr. Damen Ilevbaoje, Program Manager at Budgit Nigeria, stated, transparent and effective use of the Universal Service Provision Fund is a priority if Internet access is to reach underserved areas in Nigeria’s rural areas”

Speaking at the International event, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, noted, “The Internet is, without doubt, one of the most important technological innovations of the 20th century, and has radically transformed every aspect of our modern society. IFF 2018 is a continuation of the conversation we must continue to have with all stakeholders as we seek to build a healthy and free Internet space for Africa, and the world”.

‘Gbenga Sesan said further, “in continuation of this important conversation and to cater for an expanded audience, from 2019 the Internet Freedom Forum will now be known as the “Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum.”

Paradigm Initiative also announced the creation of a Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship, which is designed to give “media professionals, who are important stakeholders in this conversation, an opportunity to interact with professionals working on digital rights and inclusion across the continent”.

The Internet Freedom Forum welcomed over two hundred delegates from some thirty countries in Africa and beyond and received support from organizations including Microsoft, Ford Foundation, The Guardian, Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Premium Times and Civicus.

Experts Call for Replication of Digital Rights Bill in other African Countries

By | Advocacy, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Digital rights experts have called for the replication of Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill by other African countries. The bill which was recently passed by the National Assembly was praised by experts as a step in the good direction in strengthening digital rights on the continent.

The experts made this call at the 6th Internet Freedom Forum, an international conference organized by Paradigm Initiative, which is currently taking place at NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.

Speaking at the event, Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 East Africa, said, “It would be great if the Nigerian president could immediately sign the bill into law. This would be seen as a challenge to other African countries. It would be great for Nigeria to set a good example in this area.”

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager, “The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill was drafted by a coalition of civil society, private sector and government to protect the digital rights of Nigerians in the emerging digital age. The bill is great for the protecting citizens’ rights and also great for the economy as it would energize the tech industry.”

John Edokpolo, Microsoft Nigeria Head of Legal Affairs, called on the government to enact good laws in encouraging innovation and development in the tech industry. “If you want foreign direct investment in the technology industry, you need to have a good data privacy law, among other things. It helps when businesses can help government see the economic benefits of having positive legislation around digital rights. The job should not be left to the civil society alone.”

The Forum also provided an opportunity to discuss the adversarial relationship between government and media in the digital age. Speaking at the session dedicated to the theme, Henry Maina, Regional Director of Article 19 Eastern Africa, said: “Nigeria remains one of the many African countries which still retain criminal libel laws, an unfortunate reality that simply erodes freedom.”

Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Digital Media, said, “an effective media ensures a free society and serves as a check on government. The media should, therefore, avoid engaging in only broadcasting what different actors are saying but go beyond the press statements to finding out the truth. The media must do more to combat fake news and ensure truthfulness in their reports. While I would not campaign for government regulation of media space, I would argue for the media to be more accountable and self-regulate.”

Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of Premium Times, said the media was already accountable and it was the government that needed to improve transparency and its proactiveness in releasing information.

The Internet Freedom Forum also had a session dedicated to discussing the impact of intentional internet disruptions on the economy. This session, coordinated by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University Kenya, analyzed the economic impact of internet shutdown on the economies of the countries that have experienced. Speakers at the session bemoaned the ease with which African countries now resort to internet shutdown without any consideration for its impact on their peoples and economy.

The Forum, which runs between April 24 to April 26, brings together experts from across some forty countries in Africa and beyond.  speakers at the event together also included ‘Gbenga Sesan, Tolu Adeleru-Balogun of Naija Info, Ana Brandusescu of Web Foundation, and Titi Akinsanmi of Google.

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