Please note this opportunity is open to journalists based in Nigeria only.
The Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) at Wits Journalism in Johannesburg and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) based in Nigeria (with offices around Africa), invite all journalists based in Nigeria to submit proposals for reporting grants and workshop participation. Successful applicants will be provided with a reporting grant of US$1,000 and will also participate in a Digital Identity Training Workshop in Abuja, Nigeria on 9-12 August 2021 to investigate issues related to digital identification, data privacy, and technology in Nigeria and West Africa. The workshop will also feature participation in PIN’s Digital Rights Academy 2021.
See below for How to apply and Potential issues to be investigated.
The importance of digital identity in West Africa
Travel, trade, and communication are now boundless because of technology, the Internet, and innovation. Yet they are also increasingly dependent on the use of personal data such as national IDs, mobile numbers, income and payment histories, social relationships and transactions, location, biometric information, and other identifying artefacts. They collect revealing bits of data and use them to verify and authenticate our identity and eligibility for services as well as to build trust, and support transactions between people, businesses, and governments.
Being able to prove who you are in this way can help ensure more people are included and empowered through the continent’s many transformations. As African governments and businesses digitize their identification processes, having a digital identity can be increasingly valuable, if not required, for people to obtain healthcare, education, employment, and bank services; make purchases and undertake trade; pay taxes, amass capital, own property, lend money, open businesses; and travel.
Nigeria is no exception. With new policies and directives the government has developed various identity systems that make use of biometric data, yet without data protection legislation. While digital identity has massive implications for economies and societies, very few people understand how they themselves are digitally identified; how their information is used by businesses, governments, and individuals; what rights they have; what risks they are exposed to; and what safeguards are or could be in place. Journalism and on-the-ground investigations are crucial for advancing public knowledge and understanding on digital identity and to shift thinking beyond government and business objectives by illustrating human experiences.
An estimated 500 million African citizens still have no formal online identification, although African states are now pursuing new and distinctive digital identification projects, many with an economic development agenda and others with national security goals. The private sector is also an active participant in digital identity, either as a partner of the state to deliver technology and services in support of national ID systems or in pursuit of their own commercial interests in the open marketplace. Digital profiles on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially WhatsApp can enable users to voluntarily self-assert their own identity outside of the state. While almost all Africans depend on these platforms for communication and increasingly commerce, very few know how those data trails will be used by other groups.
How to apply
Applications must be sent to ACRPapplications@gmail.com by no later than 9 July 2021 and should contain the following (only documents in MS Word or PDF formats will be accepted):
- Applicant CV
- Brief proposal outlining (a) story to be investigated with clear headline and explanation of story relevance and significance, (b) investigation methodology, (c) proposed publication/platform, and (d) itemised budget totalling no more than US$1,000
- List of previously published relevant reporting, if any
Please send any queries to ACRPcontact@gmail.com
APPENDIX: Potential issues to be investigated
The following themes can guide journalists to identify specific topics for investigating issues around digital identity in the Nigerian/West African context:
- Regional, national and community government-issued IDs (e.g. plans/promises, purposes/rationales, best practices and challenges, public reactions and experiences, lessons for and application in African countries)
- Private sector data practices (e.g. industry approaches to data protection, consent, privacy policies, cyber security, data sharing, Know-Your-Customer requirements, technology innovations, compliance with regulation, breaches, penalties and positive incentives)
- Governance, regulations, transparency, and accountability (e.g. privacy and data protection laws, CCTV/surveillance laws, standards, codes of conduct, independent oversight at regional or continent-wide levels, grievance processes, procurement processes, litigation, budgets, public engagement, access and representation, data bill of rights, data trusts)
- Technology innovations and start-up companies (e.g. privacy-by-design approach; “reg tech”; the promise of blockchain; the implications of biometrics, “adtech”; privacy-protecting tools; encryption; identities traded on the dark web; de-identification; open-source code; the benefits and unintended consequences of how technology is used or consumed; ethical uses of technology and data; social credit scoring algorithms; artificial intelligence to sharpen identification; hacking; locally developed solutions; futuristic technologies not yet on the market that digitally identify people)
- Foreign partnerships and investors (e.g. private companies’ data collection, data localization, African perspectives on such collaborations, technology transfers, adoption of systems first piloted outside of Africa, Chinese firms’ AI-based identification systems drawing on CCTV and government ID databases)
- Development and security agendas and human rights (e.g. data for good, inclusion, discrimination-by-design, IDs for migrants and refugees, citizenship/immigration issues, humanitarian crises, links to poverty alleviation and youth empowerment, African perspectives on the freedoms enabled or put at risk by a digital identity)
- Risks and harms (e.g. use of identity information that results in surveillance, exclusion, manipulation, discrimination, oppression, violence, financial loss and reputation issues, distrust and power imbalances)
- Trends and research (e.g. emerging issues and use cases across communities, rise of self-asserted IDs, customer preferences, trust in institutions, breaches and identity theft, fraud, technology failure)
- Privacy and user control (e.g. an African perspective on privacy, privacy as a fundamental right/public good vs. fee-based service, consumer rights, the commercialisation of our identities, treating African data as an African resource, experiences with data ownership, Africa-based data agents/fiduciaries)