Monthly Archives

April 2021

Namibian Activists Convert Online Outrage into Street Action

By | DRIMF, ICTs

The year 2020 has seen a rise in digital activism in Namibia, mainly spearheaded by young people. In October 2020, the body of 21-year-old Shannon Wasserfall was discovered in a shallow grave in the dunes six months after she was reported missing near her hometown, Walvis Bay. On Twitter, anger brewed from social media to the streets and nation-wide protests followed with young people calling for a total shutdown of all activities in Namibia until the Government tackles sexual and gender-based violence. The anti-femicide protestors used #ShutItAllDownNamibia to reach a wider audience. According to Simon Kemp’s 2021 DataReportal, Namibia, with a population of around 2,5 million people, has over 1,30 million internet users with over 800 000 social media users. Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe, a gender activist who was instrumental in the #ShutItAllDownNamibia movement, said the importance of online activism speaks to a broader conversation and the collective power it yields, “you captivate a wider audience and you sensitise them with your ideas for reform further,” said Nthengwe. She started using Twitter to advocate for minority rights, in both a personal and professional capacity, however her level of activity has increased over the years. The #ShutItAllDownNamibia protests saw unprecedented numbers of mainly young people in various towns in Namibia taking to the streets in October 2020. Omar van Reenen started using Twitter as an advocacy tool at university where he studied Political Science and Gender & Sexuality Studies. “I organised the largest civil rights protest in my college town for the Black Lives Matter movement, where we reformed the Municipality of Oswego’s police department in New York, USA to divert more funding into community resources,” added the young activist. Van Reenen co-founded the Namibia Equal Rights Movement, an advocacy group seeking to advocate for LGBT+ rights. Recently, van Reenen led another protest in Windhoek when a same-sex couple’s twins, born through surrogacy in South Africa, were denied entry and citizenship in Namibia. Namibia inherited a Roman-Dutch colonial sodomy law, though the law is not strictly enforced in the country, activists are calling for its removal. In 2016, Ombudsman John Walters was reported by The Namibian newspaper saying that no prosecutions took place in Namibia under the law, however, Walters and activists say the old sodomy law is past its sell-by date. For van Reeden activism (either off or online) has to be intersectional. Van Reeden echoed that movements before him were not as inclusive, thus intersectionality is something he aims to encompass. Intersectional activism aims to bring (in)visible bodies into view, embodying aspects of gender, sexuality, race, and disability. “Movements that are not intersectional bear the risk of continuing the very oppressive system we are challenging,” said van Reeden. Linda Baumann, who has worked with various LGBT+ advocacy groups for years, welcomes such digital advocacy. “Young people have learned that their voices with no restriction come through the social media handles and what they have done is to utilise the space to mobilise each other and radically engage how the state restrictions impact them,” said Baumann. Additionally, Baumann is hopeful with this form of advocacy as it speaks for minority groups who have been sidelined in society. For Baumann, the internet sphere is populated with young people who have the information and understanding of sexuality and gender diversity. Something that according to her is needed in transforming policies in Namibia. For young people such as Van Reenen, contentious political engagements online speaks of a new era.

 

By Emsie Erastus |Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow 2021

Michael-Ipinko Tosin Israel: At The Life Program, I Learnt More than I had Envisioned

By | AbaLIFE, Echoes From Life, L.I.F.E., Techtiary

Before joining the LIFE program, Michael-Ipinko Tosin Israel had always had a passion for computers and supported this passion with online courses from YouTube. But Financially, he did not earn a lot. According to Michael “The problem was not the lack of skills, but my mind was not exposed to certain glaring opportunities. I failed to understand that oftentimes, inconveniences are unrecognized opportunities. Looking back, I doubted myself more than I doubted anyone”.

“At the LIFE program, I learnt more than I had envisioned”. Not just my way around the computer, I was exposed to various entrepreneurial skills and opportunities I never knew existed. After the training, I can say that I am absolutely a better version than my former self”, Said Michael.

“During the training, I was fascinated by so many things. The most notable of them all was that I had never seen anyone so concerned about our future than the facilitators. When I heard the training was free, honestly speaking, I did not expect the value of resources we got”, He said.

Presently Micheal is studying Computer Science at the University of Ibadan and he is a Freelance Full-stack Web Developer, App Developer, and Graphic Designer.

Human Rights online, Violations and Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DRIMF, ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

In Zimbabwe, there are an estimated 4.81 million internet users with 980 thousand social media users as of January 2020. The circulation of fake news regarding the pandemic is a key concern, and this has been met with a strong response from African governments. In Zimbabwe, the president has warned that a penalty of 20 years in jail will be leveled against anyone circulating fake news on social media. The penalty is excessive and criminal defamation laws are discouraged in the protection of freedom of expression. 

The Covid 19 pandemic saw a flood of information being published online. Print media moved online and the period saw a rise in citizen journalism as many people were home with plenty of time. News on politics and corruption were broken online, which gave the news more reach than it had before the pandemic, and this to some extent rattled those in power and state authorities.

Many African countries, Zimbabwe included while grappling with containing the virus in its early days were involved in activities that violated online and digital rights of citizens. The internet has for example been used to share information  through contact tracing, surveillance, collecting information and contact details of people via mobile telephone networks.

Nigeria for example attempted data surveillance with mobile applications, and announced flight details of people whom they had difficult tracking. In Kenya, nude photographs of COVID-19 patients were posted and shared on social media. 

In South Africa, cell phone operators agreed to release customers data to the government of South Africa and also set new regulations criminalising disinformation on the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Zimbabwe some of the fake news circulating on social media includes statements such as, “drinking alcohol will kill the coronavirus’ , it’s ok to share facemasks’, ‘Africans cannot get Covid 19’ and also that exercise will protect people from COVID-19.

Other false information which circulated on social media include statements like, COVID-19 thrives  in winter, and people saying taking a hot bath will prevent them from contracting Covid 19 all which are mythical and therefore untrue. Another myth which was circulating on social media is that ‘mosquito bites spread corona virus’ and that during seasons when mosquitoes are not there the disease doesn’t spread that much. Pamela from Mbare, one of the old suburbs in Zimbabwe said, “blacks rarely die due to coronavirus’. It’s just a disease that infects them, just like a common cold and then it disappears. 

Organisations such as Zimfactcheck are playing a watchdog role by fact-checking news and information on the public sphere so that the general public can receive verified news, information and related facts in the wake of the rise in misinformation.

Also within the pandemic period many countries witnessed a collection of sensitive data for example in Zimbabwe, the government was able to access people’s mobile telephone numbers and share updates and related information on the corona virus pandemic.   

In Zimbabwe, people’s right to access information online was further restricted by the digital divide. In rural areas for example  very few people have smartphones and know how to use the internet to access information. 

In urban areas, the constant power cuts limits the time that people can access internet services as electricity power cuts affect internet connectivity. 

The activities of most governments during the pandemic violated citizen’s right to privacy, and their right to freedom of expression and access to information as well as the right to dignity of persons. 

Respecting and fulfilling human rights is primarily the responsibility of state authorities and those who feel violated should seek remedy through their local legislation, courts and international responsibility.

Governments should ensure continuity and expansion of community based services so that people will have options close to them in terms of remedies.

As has been highlighted they are many violations with data privacy in many countries and these have been enabled by laws and policies governing online media. In Ghana for example emergency laws were used to collect data from telecoms for contact tracing purposes. 

 

By Patience Shawariran | PINs 2021 Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow

E – GOVERNANCE IN GHANA BY LUKMAN MAHAMI ADAMS.

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DRIMF, Internet Freedom

The American Library Association defines digital literacy as the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information. A person is considered a digital literate when he / she can efficiently use digital devices such as laptops, phones, tablets in the exchange of information. As a result of the advent of internet and social media, digital literacy has shifted from the use of technological devices in the sharing of information to the use of internet and social media in the sharing of information. The internet and social media are inextricably connected. One cannot share information on social media without having access to the internet. The internet has had a significant influence on many industries such as education, governance, marketing just to mention a few. The prefix ‘e’ signifies electronic which is synonymous to online has been widely used to represent the internet in diverse industries. Typical examples include e-commerce, e-learning. e-governance, and e-voting. 

The purpose of this article is to examine how governments and institutions in Ghana have leveraged the internet and social media to bring their services closer to the citizens. This analysis will contribute to bridging the information gap that exits between traditional / legacy and new media users in Ghana. This is necessary to be examined because of the widespread appreciation of internet and social media in Ghana. According to Datareportal (2020), internet penetration stood in Ghana at 48% in January 2020 with a total number of 14.76 million internet users in Ghana. The common social media platforms in Ghana include WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat among others. Issaka (2015) indicated that Facebook was the most visited site in Ghana. He further indicated that Facebook was the most visited social media platform ahead of local news sites and even the search engine giant, Google. In a recent survey conducted by NapoleonCat, there were 8,197, 000 Facebook users in Ghana as at February, 2021.  This eight million plus Facebook users accounts for 26% of the entire population.

Electronic governance / e – governance can simply be defined as the virtual or online form of decision making or making decisions on the internet. The key characteristics of governance are transparency and accountability. Government institutions must not only use traditional media such as television, radio and print to keep the citizens informed on happenings in their respective institutions but should go beyond traditional media to include new media that is internet and social media to mitigate the information gap between the offline and online audiences. 

Institutions have physical offices in which they conduct operations, so there is the need to create online offices as well to ensure equity in executing mandates such as accountability and transparency. We are in a globalized world hence the use of advanced technology and new media, when leveraged, would attain maximum human capital, specifically time and money. It is expected of every institution to have global visibility especially when it is mandated to serve the interest of an information consuming public. Social media platforms provide opportunities for not just individuals but organizations and institutions as well. Notable state institutions have seen the need of online inclusion and have included it in their operations. The institutions that engage in active e-governance include the Office of the President of Ghana, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Health, Parliament of Ghana, Ghana Health Service Ministries, few Departments and Agencies and some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in Ghana. 

The Parliament of Ghana is an active user on the internet and social media.  Parliament of Ghana has a verified account on Facebook with a following in excess 9 million. The platform engages the public by providing verbal and nonverbal content of the activities of Parliament.  https://m.facebook.com/Parliament.of.Ghana/ The platform also broadcasts live parliamentary proceedings to keep the online community abreast with information on bills, debates, voting among others. The just ended presentation of the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy was transmitted live on Parliament’s Facebook platform. Ministerial vetting as well as the President’s State of Nations Address (SONA) have all been made available through Facebook. This provides the listeners who had no access to traditional media an opportunity to be part of the information society. Social media can be accessed at all places and all times and thus admired for its mobility. The weakness associated with the online inclusion by parliament is that, its inclusion is limited to Facebook users leaving out the users of Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. This can be attributed to the fact that Facebook has the highest number of users compared to other platforms. This should not be the justification, as the choice of social media platform is subjective. Parliament should ensure to accommodate all social media users on other platforms to ensure uniformity in the information society.

Unlike the Parliament of Ghana, the Office of the President includes both Twitter and Facebook users. The Presidency has verified accounts on Twitter and Facebook which actively engages the citizens on a daily basis. It also provides both verbal and nonverbal content for its followers. The President of Ghana has been very informative to the public as he regularly updates Ghanaians on the COVID-19 situation in Ghana through Facebook live. The Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service have also leveraged on social media to provide information on COVID – 19.

In conclusion, state institutions need to take a clue from the likes of Parliament of Ghana, Ministry of Information and the Office of the President and include the online community in their activities. A state policy directing all state institutions to include new media in their operations will be a step in the right direction as the disregard for internet visibility by some institutions should not continue as it creates a sense of backwardness in the information society.

 

By Lukman Mahami Adams|PINs Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow.

 

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