Monthly Archives

January 2020

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.




Vacancy: Chief Operations Officer

By | DigitalJobs

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for underserved African youth. Our programs include digital inclusion programs – such as the Life Skills. ICT. Financial Readiness. Entrepreneurship (LIFE) training program and the Dufuna program – and a digital rights program. PIN’s operational headquarters is in Lagos, Nigeria, and maintains digital inclusion offices across Nigeria (Aba, Ajegunle, Kano) and digital rights offices in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia.

The Chief Operations Officer will oversee administration across offices and lead PIN’s operations on the continent including strategy development, research, writing, media representation, program alignments, co-fundraising (with the Executive Director) and advocacy. The ideal candidate will have a lot of experience in the social sector and a strong understanding of local or grassroots organizations and movements in African countries. She (or he) will demonstrate expertise in digital rights and inclusion programs and processes.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Administration
  • Identify new funding opportunities in the countries in which we work and work with managers and team members, as may be required to make sure that every income-earning opportunity that comes our way is utilized maximally
  • Preparation of grant proposals and initiating fundraising activities to ensure the availability of resources for all programs
  • Overseeing the delivery of administrative functions by the Human Resources Manager, Finance Manager and Communications Manager
  • Attending meetings and representing the organization at functions that align with PIN’s core values and mission
  • Building and maintaining high-quality relationships and communications with partners, donors, funders, and other partners
  • Actively promoting the organization’s programs, projects, and services
  1. Program Management
  • C0-designing, co-development, supervision, and evaluation of programs at Paradigm Initiative
  • Leading staff and assure the highest quality program outputs
  • Conducting periodic technical reviews of programs, providing feedback to ensure projects are following or advancing best practices, achieving expected targets, meeting beneficiary and donor expectations, and achieving the objectives set in the strategic management plan
  • Providing thought leadership thereby expanding Paradigm Initiative’s technical reputation, while following and engaging in relevant technical dialogue within the industry
  • Compiling and maintain reports on the monthly, quarterly and annual program activities
  • Analyzing trends in programs, identifying issues, developing and recommending solutions to the Executive Director
  • Supporting the cultivation and strengthening of institutional relationships with donors, partner organizations and other collaborators in the international development arena
  • Building and maintaining high-quality relationships and communications with partners and other stakeholders

Qualifications, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Advanced degree in Business Administration in the Social Sector, Public Administration, International Affairs, Political Science, or related areas
  • 10-15 years’ experience within social sector organizations, with at least 5 of those in a senior managerial role
  • Experience working with, or a strong understanding of, local or grassroots organizations and movements in African countries
  • Work experience in Central, East, Southern or West Africa
  • Significant demonstration of project leadership and management experience
  • Proven ability to think analytically and plan strategically, including setting objectives and identifying and capitalizing on opportunities for PIN’s work
  • Poise, flexibility, discretion, and mature judgment to handle and respond appropriately and professionally in stressful circumstances
  • Well organized, self-motivated, and able to conceptualize and implement programs and work as part of a team
  • Creative thinking and an ability to develop new lines of work, whether in new countries or particular thematic issues
  • Excellent leader (leads by example) and skills developer, particularly with remote staff
  • Outstanding research, analysis, communication and writing skills
  • Fluency in English is required, working knowledge of French is a major advantage
  • A sense of humor, passion for people and ability to not take yourself too seriously

Salaries and Benefits

N 7,856,894.73 p/a (gross) plus other benefits such as health insurance, pension contributions, communications allowance, sabbatical leave, paid leave, maternity/paternity leave, dependent relative allowance and 13th month salary.

How To Apply

Please submit a cover letter, resume, and the contact information for three references to Please use “Chief Operations Officer” and your name as the subject of your eMail (for example, “Chief Operations Officer_Chabota Siliko”). Only complete applications will be reviewed and due to the usual volume of applications, we may only be able to contact shortlisted candidates.

Deadline: 22nd February, 2020 (Applications are reviewed as they roll in, kindly apply before the deadline).

Note: There is a possibility of immediate resumption for role.

Liberia: Paradigm Initiative calls on authorities to respect the rights of Henry Pedro Costa

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

Abuja, January 10, 2020 – Paradigm Initiative (PIN) has been monitoring the news about the alleged planned arrest and extradition request made by the Liberian Government to the government of Sierra Leone, on Henry Pedro Costa, a known critic of President George Weah of Liberia.According to AFP, Costa, a United States resident returned to Liberia last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6, 2020.

Local media said he was stopped from boarding a plane in Liberia on Friday for allegedly possessing forged travel documents. A claim Costa denied. Costa is a fierce critic of President Weah and often uses his popular radio show regularly streamed on his Facebook page for his criticism.We denounce these undemocratic tactics to silence dissent in Liberia and call on the government of Liberia to respect its law and its international commitment to respect the rights of all citizens.

In February 2019, the government of Sierra Leone repeals its penal code citing conflicts with article 15 of the Constitution of Liberia, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression in Liberia.

Boye Adegoke, Digital Rights Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative says: “We commend the position taken by the Government of Sierra Leone in asserting itself as a sovereign nation with a duty to recognize the rights and freedom of Mr. Pedro Costa and for refusing to be used as an instrument to eliminate critical voices who are exercising their rights to freedom of expression by voicing out their opinion on the state of governance in Liberia.

We take away the positives from the statement attributed to Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communication, Mr. Mohamed R. Swaray that ’the government of Sierra Leone is committed to protecting the rights of Mr. Costa and while there is some cooperation with Liberia regarding the request from immigration authorities, it has no intentions of straying from its democratic principles.

We call on the government of Liberia and other African governments to continue to uphold important democratic principles and respect the rights of their citizens to use digital platforms such as social media platforms to express their opinions on governance and other legitimate debates,” Boye concluded.

Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship 2020

By | Digital Rights

The application process is now open for the third edition of the Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship.

The Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion Media Fellowship 2020 seeks to embed media professionals within the daily work of Paradigm Initiative in the fields of digital rights and digital inclusion in Africa. Starting from April 2020, Media Fellows will work out of our offices in Nigeria (Lagos, Aba, Abuja and Kano), and will get a chance to work with our teams in Yaoundé (Cameroon), Lusaka (Zambia), Democratic Republic of Congo, and Accra (Ghana).  Applications are open to Journalists working in Africa.

The fellowship seeks to expose media professionals to an underreported field of work in national/regional development and hopes to increase reporting on digital rights and inclusion in Africa. Selected media professionals must be available to travel to Nigeria for two weeks (2) in April and May 2020 and also available for  four (4) months virtual collaboration (April 2020 to August 2020).

Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship is a 5-month program designed to immerse outstanding mid-career journalists in digital rights and digital inclusion advocacy – and intervention efforts – in Africa. Selected journalists will work with Paradigm Initiative on various projects and contribute to improving public understanding of digital rights and inclusion issues in Africa.

Components of the fellowship

  • Fully-funded trip to attend the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) in Abuja, Nigeria, in April 2020.
  • Digital Rights/Inclusion training at the Paradigm Initiative headquarters in Lagos (Nigeria), in addition to communication with team members from other offices in Africa.
  • Fully-funded 2-week residency program to visit Paradigm Initiative offices in Nigeria (Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Aba).
  • 4-month virtual training and collaboration with Paradigm Initiative and partners.
  • Fellowship may also include fully-funded local and international travels to participate in and cover relevant events related to Digital Rights and Inclusion.
  • Interaction with leading stakeholders in digital rights advocacy.
  • Paradigm Initiative will provide fellows with a monthly stipend, and a one-time research grant, during the fellowship period.


  • Fellows will be expected to participate in all scheduled activities.
  • Fellows will be expected to publish, in their affiliated media (Print, TV, Radio, Online), at least 15 reports on digital rights and inclusion issues during the fellowship period. Fellows will retain full editorial direction on the stories.
  • Fellows will be expected to continue to provide coverage to digital rights and inclusion issues after their fellowship.


  • The Fellowship is open to journalists affiliated with mainstream print and online newspapers in Africa.
  • Interested candidates must demonstrate previous coverage of human rights and/or tech issues and interest in advocacy journalism.
  • Interested candidates must not have spent more than ten years in journalism. We are most interested in outstanding, early career journalists.

How to apply

Fill the application FORM before 15th February 2020.  

For More Information:

 Visit the official website of the Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship 2020 or contact


Bourse ‘Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020’ pour les journalistes Africains (Entièrement financé)

La bourse ‘Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020’  vise à impliquer les professionnels de médias dans le travail quotidien de Paradigm Initiative dans les domaines des droits numériques et de l’inclusion numérique en Afrique.

A partir d’avril 2020, les boursiers sélectionnés travailleront dans nos bureaux au Nigeria (Lagos Aba, Abuja et Kano), au Cameroun (Yaoundé),  en Zambie (Lusaka), en République Démocratique du Congo ou encore au Ghana (Accra). Les candidatures sont ouvertes aux journalistes travaillant pour des médias en Afrique.

 Cette bourse vise à exposer les professionnels des médias aux domaines des droits numériques et de l’inclusion numérique qui sont généralement sous-estimés dans le développement des pays africains. L’objectif est de faire augmenter le nombre de reportages ou de publications journalistiques  sur ces domaines en Afrique.

Les professionnels des médias sélectionnés doivent être disponibles pour  un voyage de deux (2) semaines au Nigeria et une collaboration virtuelle entre avril 2020 et août 2020.

La bourse ‘Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020’ est un programme de 5 mois conçu pour l’immersion des journalistes en milieu de carrière aux efforts de plaidoyer – et d’intervention – en faveur des droits numériques et de l’inclusion numérique en Afrique. 

Les journalistes sélectionnés travailleront avec Paradigm Initiative sur divers projets et contribueront à améliorer la compréhension du public sur les questions de droits numériques et d’inclusion en Afrique.

Les composantes de la bourse

  • Voyage entièrement financé pour assister au Forum sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion (DRIF) d’Afrique à Abuja, au Nigeria, en avril 2020.
  • Formation sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion au siège de Paradigm Initiative à Lagos (Nigeria) avec des membres de l’équipe d’autres bureaux en Afrique.
  • Programme de résidence de 2 semaines entièrement financé pour visiter les bureaux de Paradigm Initiative au Nigeria (Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Aba).
  • Formation virtuelle de 4 mois et collaboration avec Paradigm Initiative et ses partenaires.
  • La bourse peut également inclure des voyages locaux et internationaux entièrement financés pour participer à des événements pertinents liés aux droits numériques et à l’inclusion et les couvrir.
  • Interaction avec les principales parties prenantes dans la défense des droits numériques.
  • Paradigm Initiative fournira aux boursiers une allocation mensuelle et une subvention de recherche unique pendant la durée de la bourse.

 Les Attentes

  •  Il est attendu des boursiers une participation obligatoire à toutes les activités prévues
  • Les boursiers devront publier, dans leurs médias affiliés (presse écrite, télévision, radio, Internet) au moins 15 éléments (Articles de fonds, Reportages etc,)  sur les droits numériques et les questions d’inclusion pendant la durée de la bourse. Les boursiers conserveront la direction éditoriale complète de ces reportages.
  • Les boursiers devront continuer à couvrir les questions de droits numériques et d’inclusion après leur stage.


  • La bourse est ouverte aux journalistes affiliés aux principaux journaux imprimés et en ligne en Afrique
  • Les candidats intéressés doivent démontrer qu’ils ont déjà couvert des questions de droits de la personne et/ou de technologie et qu’ils s’intéressent au journalisme de plaidoyer.
  • Les candidats intéressés doivent avoir moins de dix ans d’expérience dans le journalisme. Nous sommes surtout intéressés par des journalistes en début de carrière

Comment postuler ?

Soumettez votre candidature dès maintenant pour la bourse Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020 avant le 15 février 2020 á travers ce FORMULAIRE 

Pour plus d’informations :

Visitez la page Web officielle de la bourse Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion 2020 ou contactez  


A protestor holds up a sign exhorting opposition against dictatorship in Togo (West - Africa) in 2017

Les Deepfakes, la nouvelle menace digitale pour les élections en Afrique en 2020

By | Digital Rights

L’année 2020 sera une année électorale pour plusieurs pays en Afrique. Au moins 21 pays – dont l’Ethiopie, le Togo, le Soudan, le Mali, le Gabon, l’Egypte, le Tchad et le Cameroun – organiseront des élections présidentielles ou législatives dans le courant de l’année.

 Au cours des cinq (5) dernières années, les violations des droits numériques telles que les coupures de l’Internet, les arrestations de blogueurs et de journalistes ont souvent coïncidé avec les élections en Afrique. 

En Afrique, les élections sont généralement des événements à enjeux élevés où les droits numériques sont régulièrement marginalisés pour atteindre des objectifs politiques. 

De par le passé, les huit (08) pays mentionnés ci-dessus ont déjà connu des cas de coupures de  l’Internet pendant les événements politiques. A l’approche de la période électorale de 2020, les défenseurs des droits numériques sont donc en alerte face à la possibilité de perturbations de l’Internet et d’autres violations des droits numériques.

Cependant, le développement rapide de l’intelligence artificielle (IA) et des techniques de désinformation à l’échelle mondiale soulève la possibilité d’une nouvelle menace pour la stabilité des pays africains en périodes électorales: les Deepfakes.  

 Les Deepfakes sont, en effet, des vidéos qui paraissent  hyper-réelles mais qui sont en effet truquées à l’aide d’outils d’Intelligence Artificielle. Elles montrent généralement des individus ou personnalités connues à qui l’on prête des faits ou dits dans le but de désinformer l’opinion. Les Deepfakes ont déjà atteint une certaine notoriété aux États-Unis.

En juin 2019 par exemple, une vidéo truquée avait été diffusée montrant le PDG de Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, déclarant que «  celui qui contrôle les données contrôle l’avenir ». La vidéo avait été publiée à la veille des audiences du Congrès américain sur l’intelligence artificielle auxquelles il devait assister. 

 De même, des chercheurs de l’Université de Washington USA avaient diffusé une vidéo truquée du président Obama dans laquelle ils lui ont  attribuent des propos que ce dernier n’avait jamais tenus. 

Une autre vidéo tronquée de Nancy Pelosi, la présidente de la Chambre des représentants des États-Unis, a été diffusée montrant  celle-ci dans un état d’ivresse et marmonnant des propos qui n’avaient pas de sens. 

Bien qu’il n’y ait aucune preuve que cette vidéo particulière ait été générée par l’IA, son effet a pu être mesuré par le fait qu’elle a été partagée sur Twitter par le président américain Donald Trump. 

En Afrique également, lors de son traditionnel discours présidentiel du nouvel an de 2019 au Gabon, le président Ali Bongo aurait détourné les yeux pendant la diffusion de la vidéo.  Ce geste a suscité des soupçons au sein de la population gabonaise. Certains pensent, en effet, que la vidéo du Président n’était pas réelle. 

L’incertitude créée par ce scénario dans le contexte de la maladie du président a conduit à une tentative de coup d’État avortée et à des coupures  de l’Internet dans ce pays d’Afrique centrale. Il n’y avait pas de preuve évidente que cette vidéo était une contrefaçon, mais l’existence même de la technologie dans le contexte politique fragile qui existait au Gabon à l’époque a créé une incertitude. 

L’Afrique, tout comme d’autres régions du monde, a déjà démontré sa vulnérabilité aux campagnes de désinformation par le scandale de Cambridge Analytica qui a affecté le Kenya et le Nigeria. Compte tenu du faible niveau  d’alphabétisation sur le continent, il n’est pas exagéré d’imaginer comment une campagne de désinformation bien coordonnée par l’AI pourrait alimenter les troubles sociaux autour des élections. 

 Imaginez une vidéo truquée montrant un dirigeant faisant des commentaires incendiaires à l’égard d’un autre groupe ethnique ou religieux, ou des  responsables de commissions électorales lisant de faux résultats électoraux qui deviennent ensuite virale. Cette vidéo fera d’énorme dégâts même si elle est démentie à la seconde qui suit sa publication. 

L’Afrique a une longue et illustre histoire de violence et de carnage autour des élections.  Des scénarios comme ceux présenté plus haut peuvent très bien être des facteurs de risques élevés. Comme nous l’avons déjà clairement indiqué, la présence même de la technologie Deepfake sème le doute sur l’originalité des vidéo même réelles.  Une situation qui engendre encore plus d’incertitude et d’instabilité.

L’année 2020 représente une nouvelle occasion pour les défenseurs des droits numériques d’être vigilants dans la défense des droits numériques. Mais pas seulement les droits numériques tels que nous les connaissons traditionnellement. Alors que le domaine numérique s’étend pour engendrer d’autres avancées technologiques comme l’intelligence artificielle, les défenseurs des droits numériques doivent suivre ces avancées et être conscients des conséquences sociopolitiques des nouvelles technologies. 

Ils ne peuvent pas se permettre de ne pas le faire, car l’enjeu est énorme, notamment la sécurité et la stabilité des pays dans lesquelles ils vivent.

L’auteur du texte: Babatunde Okunoye est Chercheur en Gouvernance de l’Internet à Paradigm Initiative.




Abdou Razak (C) of Togo demonstrates with others against President Faure Gnassingbé

Elections in Africa: AI generated deepfakes could be the greatest digital threat in 2020

By | Digital Rights

By: Babatunde Okunoye 

The year 2020 will be a year of many elections in Africa. At least 21 nations – including Ethiopia, Togo, Sudan, Mali, Gabon, Egypt, Chad and Cameroon will conduct Presidential or Parliamentary elections in the course of the year.

In the past 5 years, digital rights violations such as Internet disruptions and arrests of bloggers and Journalists have often coincided with elections in Africa. In the cut-throat political brinkmanship Africa has been known for, elections are high stakes events where digital rights are routinely relegated to achieve political ends. The eight nations mentioned above in particular have a history of Internet disruptions during political events. As we approach the 2020 election cycle therefore, digital rights advocates are on alert to the possibility of Internet disruptions and other digital rights violations.

Nevertheless, the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and disinformation techniques globally raises the possibility of a new threat to stability during the 2020 election cycle in Africa. This new threat comes in the shape of Artificial Intelligence generated deepfakes. Deepfakes are AI-generated hyper-real but fake videos purporting to show particular individuals saying or doing whatever the generator of the video intends to display. Deepfakes have already attained notoriety in the United States. For instance, a deepfake video featuring the likeness of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating “whoever controls the data, controls the future” surfaced on the Internet on the eve of United States Congressional hearings on Artificial Intelligence he was scheduled to attend last year.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Washington, USA had circulated online a deepfake video of President Obama in which they made him say whatever they wanted. Also, a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives appeared online, giving the appearance of her being drunk and slurring her words. Although there was no evidence that this particular video was AI-generated, its effect could be gauged by the fact that it was shared on Twitter by Donald Trump, the United States President.

In Africa also, during his traditional new year presidential address of 2019 in Gabon, President Ali Bongo was reported to look off during the video broadcast, which triggered suspicions in some quarters that this video broadcast was an AI-generated deepfake of the President. The uncertainty created by this scenario within the context of the President’s illness led to an aborted coup attempt and Internet disruption in the central African country. There was no clear-cut evidence that this particular video was a deepfake, but the very existence of the technology within the fragile political context existent in Gabon at the time created uncertainty.

Africa, much like other regions of the world, has already demonstrated its vulnerability to misinformation campaigns through the Cambridge Analytica scandal which had footprints in Kenya and Nigeria. Given the high levels of illiteracy on the continent, it is not far-fetched to imagine how a well-coordinated AI deepfake campaign could stoke social unrest around elections, particularly in highly contested contexts like Gabon. Imagine a deepfake video showing a prominent leader making inflammatory comments towards another ethnic or religious group, or of election commissioners reading fake election results which then go viral and are widely accepted as original before being debunked. Africa has a long and illustrious history of violence and carnage around elections, and scenarios such as these can well be tinder for the fire. As already clearly stated, the very presence of AI deepfake technology sows doubt on the originality of even real video broadcasts, a situation which further spawns uncertainty and instability.

The year 2020 represents another opportunity for digital rights advocates to be on the watch in defence of digital rights. But not just digital rights as we’ve traditionally known them. As the digital realm expands to spawn more technological advances like Artificial Intelligence, advocates need to keep up with these advances and be aware of the human rights and socio-political consequences of new technologies. They cannot afford not to, for much is at stake, not least the safety and stability of the nations they call home.

Babatunde is Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative. Email: