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Le Bénin à l’épreuve de la démocratie, les leçons de la répression numérique  

By | ICT Policy, Internet Freedom

Auteur: Emmanuel Vitus

Dimanche 28 avril 2019, les Béninois étaient convoqués aux urnes pour désigner leurs parlementaires. Le scrutin s’est déroulé dans un climat de tension, car le 05 mars 2019, la Commission Électorale Nationale Autonome (CENA) avait invalidé les dossiers de candidature de tous les partis politiques de l’opposition sauf le Bloc Républicain et le l’Union Progressiste, deux regroupements politiques proches du président Patrice Talon.

Pour la première fois depuis 1990, le Bénin a organisé une élection sans l’opposition. Et pourtant le pays est considéré comme le champion de l’alternance politique et de la démocratie en Afrique de l’Ouest. Les manifestations des partis politiques de l’opposition pour un report des législatives du 28 avril n’ont pas fait fléchir les autorités béninoises. Il est reproché aux partis politiques de l’opposition de n’avoir pas répondu aux exigences du nouveau code électoral.

À ce climat de tension, s’est ajouté dans la journée du 28 avril 2019, la coupure de l’Internet. En effet à partir de 1h du matin, les internautes avaient du mal à se connecter aux réseaux sociaux Facebook et Twitter notamment. L’internet mobile sera complètement coupé par la suite et ne sera rétabli que le lendemain.

Pour l’heure, les autorités béninoises n’ont donné aucune explication à cette situation, mais dans la presse locale béninoise, on évoque, des mesures préventives « pour éviter des appels à la violence le jour du scrutin législatif. »

L’opérateur de téléphonie mobile, MTN Bénin, reconnaît de son côté la coupure de l’Internet dans la journée du 28 avril tout en déclinant sa responsabilité.

« Effectivement, nous avons opt connu des soucis concernant la connexion Internet dans la journée d’hier. (…) Toutefois, le souci était indépendant de notre volonté », peut-on lire sur le compte Twitter du fournisseur d’accès Internet.

Un test pour la démocratie béninoise

Avec plus d’une dizaine de fournisseurs d’accès Internet, le Bénin fait partie des bons élèves en matière de démocratisation de l’internet. En 2017, l’Alliance pour l’Internet abordable (A4AI) a classé le Bénin parmi les 10 pays du continent africain à avoir un accès facile à l’Internet.

Selon A4AI, cette hausse est due non pas à la mise en place d’une réforme majeure unique, mais au simple fait, par exemple, que le régulateur donne plus d’informations sur les règlements et décisions, sur la transparence des tarifs.

Et pourtant depuis 2018, les autorités béninoises prennent des décisions qui restreignent la liberté d’expression sur Internet. Le 25 juillet 2018, le gouvernement a pris un décret portant introduction d’une contribution sur la consommation des services de communications électroniques fournis par les réseaux ouverts au public.

Concrètement, il s’agit d’une taxe de 5 FCFA par mégaoctet pour l’accès aux services over-the-top (OTT). Les services OTT (ou services de contournement en français), sont l’ensemble des services qui permettent de transporter des flux audio, vidéo ou des données Internet sur les réseaux Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype et autres, sans l’intervention d’un opérateur de téléphonie traditionnel.

« Le coût change pour les réseaux sociaux et pour des usages ludiques. Vous téléchargez de la musique, un film, vous faites des transferts d’images qui critiquent le gouvernement (…) vous payez le prix qui est légèrement plus fort », avait soutenu Romuald Wadagni, ministre de l’Économie, des Finances et des Programmes de dénationalisation du Bénin.

Face à la colère des internautes, le gouvernement est revenu sur sa décision le 22 septembre 2019. Il explique ce rétropédalage par plusieurs raisons notamment, « les perturbations techniques (…) la rupture de l’économie globale du secteur, au détriment des consommateurs, en particulier les plus modestes et l’entrave à “la démocratisation de l’Internet”.

Naissance du Web-activisme

La coupure d’internet le 28 avril 2019, a cristallisé la colère des internautes, des organisations de la société civile et de la communauté internationale.

Ramanou Biaou, le président du chapitre béninois de Internet Society (ISOC Bénin) dans un entretien accordé à la chaîne étatique allemande Deutsche Welle, déplore les effets néfastes de cette coupure d’internet sur les activités économiques au Bénin.

“À travers les réseaux sociaux, il y a des entreprises qui mettent sur le marché des services, des produits, des solutions. Commencer à restreindre ces réseaux sociaux, cela a forcément un impact qui va au-delà de l’aspect économique. C’est d’une façon ou d’une autre une restriction de la liberté d’expression qui a été prise contre les Béninois ce 28 avril », dénonce-t-il.

Même son de cloche chez Amnesty International. Pour l’organisation internationale de défense des droits de l’homme la décision de couper l’accès à Internet et aux réseaux sociaux le jour du scrutin est une violation directe du droit à la liberté d’expression.

‘Dans la pratique, cela réduit au silence les défenseurs des droits humains, les journalistes et les blogueurs qui observent ces élections parlementaires contestées, sans candidats de l’opposition’, déplore François Patuel, chercheur sur l’Afrique de l’Ouest à Amnesty International.

En 2018, la tentative de taxation de la connection aux réseaux sociaux avait contribué à la naissance d’influents web activistes. Sur Twitter, l’hastag #TaxePasMesMO avait été repris dans des milliers de tweets contraignant les autorités béninoises à revoir leur copie. Depuis dimanche, les activistes se font entendre à nouveau, cette fois avec des hastags comme #BeninShutDown, #BeninBlackout et #KeepIton en référence à la coalition de de lutte contre les coupures d’Internet à travers le monde.

Quid d’une répression numérique en Afrique Francophone ?

Si au Bénin c’est la première fois que les internautes subissent la coupure d’Internet, en Afrique francophone, la pratique devient courante. Le Tchad fait partie des pays africains qui pratiquent une censure drastique de l’Internet. Depuis un an, les Tchadiens n’ont plus normalement accès aux réseaux sociaux Facebook, Twitter et aux messageries WhatsApp et Viber.

« Cette censure est d’autant plus insupportable que les gens ne savent pas pourquoi ils n’ont plus la possibilité d’utiliser normalement les réseaux sociaux », s’indigne Julie Owono, directrice exécutive d’Internet sans frontières.

Au Cameroun, les autorités ont coupé Internet au Nord-ouest et au sud-ouest du pays en avril et octobre 2017. Ces deux régions qui réclament leur autonomie sont le théâtre de violents combats  entre les séparatistes et l’armée régulière camerounaise. Le 15 janvier, une ONG camerounaise Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l’Afrique Centrale (Redhac) avait porté plainte contre l’État camerounais devant le Conseil constitutionnel pour le rétablissement d’Internet dans les deux régions précitées. Une plainte similaire a été portée contre les opérateurs de téléphonie mobile en RD Congo.

Début septembre, l’internet a été intentionnellement perturbé par les autorités togolaises à chaque manifestation de l’opposition politique. Les experts de Netblocks, une ONG basée à Londres estime que chaque journée sans Internet au Togo fait perdre 243 507 dollars au pays.

Parmi les mauvais élèves de la classe, figure également l’Algérie. Plusieurs cas de coupure d’internet ont été enregistrés dans le pays, mais à chaque fois, l’opérateur proche du gouvernement, Algérie Telecom, dément une coupure volontaire.

Sur le continent, d’autres pays comme le Sénégal et le Burkina Faso sont à féliciter en matière de démocratisation de l’Internet. En 2014 lors du soulèvement des Burkinabés pour exiger et obtenir le départ de l’ancien président Blaise Compaoré, aucune coupure d’Internet n’a été signalée malgré la situation politique tendue. Même tendance au Sénégal où lors de la dernière élection présidentielle tous les signaux laissaient prétendre une probable coupure.

L’espoir est permis

Les coupures sont désormais utilisées par les gouvernements comme des moyens de musellement des peuples souvent au prétexte de protéger l’ordre public et de contrôler les excès  sur les réseaux sociaux.

Au vu des tendances actuelles en Afrique Francophone, l’avenir du réseau internet reste incertain.

La situation au Cameroun, en Algérie, au Togo, en RDC et au Tchad permet d’établir un lien étroit entre les soulèvements populaires et le taux de connexion de ces pays. Ainsi, depuis le Printemps arabe, il est tentant de faire un lien direct entre la capacité d’un peuple à renverser un dictateur et le nombre de personnes connectées à Internet.

Photo Credit: RFI

Tous les régimes totalitaires ont compris donc l’importance de maîtriser le web. Bâillonner le web devient ainsi le rêve de toute dictature. Mais un rêve impossible.  Au Togo, au Benin comme partout ailleurs, les internautes déjouent la censure en passant par des proxys ou en utilisant des connexions bas débit. Des activistes proposent, eux, des passerelles fax et VPN. Des blogs expliquent également comment contourner le blocage.

Avec les élections locales, législatives et présidentielles à venir dans plusieurs pays en Afrique francophone, il est important pour les gouvernements d’ouvrir des débats multipartites sur la gestion et la gouvernance de l’Internet, car ces perturbations volontaires violent explicitement les droits humains protégés notamment par une résolution adoptée à l’unanimité le 1ᵉʳ juillet 2016 par le Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies.

Emmanuel Vitus est Chercheur et Google Policy Fellow chez Paradigm Initiative.

Paradigm Initiative Condemns the Arrest and Deportation of Wakabi by Tanzanian Authorities

By | Press Release, Uncategorized

Paradigm Initiative condemns the arrest, detention and subsequent deportation of the executive director of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Dr Wairagala Wakabi by Tanzanian authorities.

Dr Wakabi was arrested, detained and detained upon arrival in Tanzania yesterday, April 25. According to a statement released by CIPESA, Dr Wakabi was in Tanzania to participate in the annual commemoration of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Day on the invitation of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC). Dr Wakabi is a renowned human rights advocate and researcher and we believe that his unacceptable treatment in Tanzania is a further indication of Tanzania’s increasingly hostile attitude to the human rights community.

This is not the first time that Tanzania has mistreated human rights advocates. In November 2018, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal and sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumowere were arrested, detained and deported from the country with the false claim that the duo were in Tanzania without proper visas. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) had previously expressed concern over the arrest of other 11 human rights activists in Tanzania. Tanzanian police have accused of raiding a legal consultation meeting, convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (Chesa), in Dar es Salaam. 

The continued assault on activists and advocates is unacceptable and we call on the African Union and other regional bodies to prevail on the Tanzanian government to respect the fundamental human rights of its citizens and guests. Paradigm Initiative asks the government to immediately address its shameful treatment of Dr Wakabi. It is in the government’s own best interest to acknowledge human rights defenders as viable stakeholders in democratic spaces and that civic spaces are a natural extension of the community that must be nurtured not crushed.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum to Host Delegates from 38 Countries in Lagos

By | Digital Rights, Press Release

The seventh edition of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) will host delegates from 38 countries to deliberate on issues confronting the digital space in Africa. This is according to a press statement by Paradigm Initiative, the organiser of the conference of the 3-day conference. The Forum took off today in Lagos and will run until Thursday, April 25.

According to the statement, DRIF19 will welcome delegates from civil society, academia, media, technical community, government- including security agencies, judiciary, and legislature, and the private sector, from 32 countries in Africa, and 6 countries outside the continent. The Forum will also be live-streamed to a global online audience here, while those interested in monitoring conversations at the Forum can follow its hashtag, #DRIF19.

According to Tope Ogundipe, Paradigm Initiative’s Director of Programs, “formerly known as the Internet Freedom Forum, DRIF has become well known for its track record of tangible actionable outcomes and has gained a reputation as an important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged. The broad categories of participants expected are state actors, civil society organizations, academia, human rights activists, technology entrepreneurs, gender activists, as well as policy enthusiasts and actors within the global internet governance space.”

DRIF features engaging conversations which draw on globally relevant issues, as well as Africa-specific challenges and opportunities. Panellists and participants are drawn based on a multi-stakeholder model, allowing stakeholders who have hitherto operated in silos to talk to one other about common challenges.

“For the first time, the Forum this year will focus considerably on digital inclusion conversations as the basis for digital rights, on a continent where internet penetration is lowest and the opportunities which ICTs provide remain elusive to many. This year’s edition will also feature more side sessions, allow for bilingual communication and participation as it has done since 2017, and encourage post-event collaborations to further strengthen the discourse of Internet Freedom in Africa,” Ogundipe added.

Speakers expected at the conference include Albert Antwi Boasiako, Ghana’s National Cybersecurity Advisor, Segun Mausi, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Africa Division, Hawa Ba, Head of the Senegal Country Office, Open Society for West Africa, and Lanre Osibona, Special Advisor on ICT to the President of Nigeria. Others are Dr Ernest Ndukwe, former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Robert Muthuri of Strathmore University, and Onica Makwakwa, A4AI Africa Regional Coordinator

The Forum is expected to refocus attention on issues confronting the digital space on a continent where human rights online are routinely violated.

Paradigm Initiative Praises the Media for Improved Digital Rights Coverage

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

Media coverage of issues confronting digital rights and online freedom has significantly improved over the last year as more media platforms and practitioners dedicate more attention to developments in the digital space. This is according to Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African digital rights and inclusion social enterprise.

Paradigm Initiative made this known in a press statement announcing the commencement of application for the second edition of its Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship.

Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer Sodiq Alabi said, “The media has become a major partner in the efforts to ensure that human rights online are protected in Africa. As media practitioners are usually victims of digital rights violations including censorship, harassment and illegal surveillance, it makes perfect sense that they are now focusing their attention on increasing awareness around digital rights and holding governments and businesses accountable. ”

Paradigm Initiative further emphasised the need for improved synergy between digital rights advocates and the media to ensure human rights online are well protected by the law, and violations do not go unreported.

“The Media Fellowship is part of our effort to ensure this synergy is groomed and nurtured. The Fellowship is, therefore, a 4-month program designed to immerse outstanding, early career, journalists in digital rights and digital inclusion advocacy – and intervention efforts – in Africa. This way, we help improve the quality of reporting on digital rights and inclusion by improving the expertise of reporters who cover the beat,” Alabi said.

Meanwhile, the 7th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum is scheduled to hold in Lagos. Convened by Paradigm Initiative, the Forum will host some 300 delegates from across Africa and the world. The delegates will, between April 23 and 25, assess the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa with the aim of finding solutions to identified challenges.

**

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

Paradigm Initiative Organises Free Programming Training for Undergraduate

By | Coding, Techtiary

Paradigm Initiative has unveiled a tuition-free program to empower undergraduates with Python programming skills. The first edition of the training took off last Saturday with 36 trainees from three higher institutions in Lagos, namely the University of Lagos, Yaba College of Technology and Lagos State University.

Paradigm Initiative, the pan-African social enterprise working on digital rights and digital inclusion, is organising the training in conjunction with the Python Nigeria group who are providing faculty members for the training.

According to Olayinka Taiwo, the Techtiary Program Officer, “We are pleased to welcome 36 students to the first edition of this important training program. 12 students will be trained on Python for Data Science while 24 undergraduates will be trained on Python for Web. The training is under our Techtiary program which is dedicated to helping undergraduates acquire technical expertise before they graduate.”

“By learning Python, beneficiaries can position themselves for various opportunities in the ever-expanding information communication technology space. Python has been lauded as one of the most lucrative programming languages to learn and its applications are wide-ranging. With the faculty support from the good people of Python Nigeria, we are excited to be introducing this language to more young Nigerians,” Olayinka added.

 

Paradigm Initiative Asks Rwanda to Respect Privacy Rights  

By | Press Release

The government of Rwanda has recently proposed a country-wide DNA database, a project that will involve collecting samples from all 12 million citizens in an effort to address crime. This has prompted concerns from human rights campaigners who believe the database could be misused by the government and violate international human rights laws. While the country poses a data protection policy, it is still very vague and not comprehensive enough to tackle the challenges that come with having such a database.

The government of Rwanda should realize that “genome is the property of an individual and not the state’s” hence policies they put forth to govern this move should grant citizens consent on what data they choose to share under very strict circumstances. DNA sample contains very personal information hence the risk of data abuse is potentially high as well as vulnerability to hacking.

Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern Africa, Rebecca Ryakitimbo said, “It is debatable whether the benefits to society of having a national DNA database outweighs an individual’s right to privacy. There is a need to answer critical questions such as ”Who owns the genetic information and who controls what happens to it and how it is used? Who is responsible for the genetic information”.The potential for the information in the DNA database to be misused by the Government, security services, police forces or criminals is quite high if these questions are not attended to.”

Drawing experiences from countries like the UK which has a National DNA Database (NDNAD)  that holds the DNA profiles and samples from a select number of UK individuals. The implications of this database to innocent citizens who were on the database brought about privacy and other human rights concerns. It was in the light of this that in 2012, the UK Protection of Freedoms Bill came to effect to redress the balance between the State’s duty to protect the public and an individual’s right to privacy. This brought about the taking down of 1,766,000 DNA profiles taken from innocent adults and children, along with 1,672,000 fingerprint records. In addition to this,  7,753,000 DNA samples including 480,000 from children that contained sensitive personal biological data were destroyed.

Paradigm Initiative further said “Rwandan legislators, courts and law enforcement to ensure that the benefits of the database don’t come at the cost of privacy rights. It also essential to recognize that people do have an interest in controlling who can see their private information. The Government of Rwanda should foresee the risks that accompany the presence of such an extensive database containing very private and personal data of millions of its citizens in the age where digital security is of great concern. With the use of DNA data for policing, there will be risks on the burden of proof required for the forensic acceptability of DNA data.”

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

Groups Sue Gbenga Olorunpomi and Lauretta Onochie Over “Hate Speech”

By | Press Release, Uncategorized

Two Civil Society organizations, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Paradigm Initiative have instituted a case asking the court to declare comments made by some political aides in Nigeria as Hate speeches.

Relying on documentary evidences gathered from online comments made by the two affected aides, Gbenga Olorunpomi, Aide to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Lauretta Onochie, Aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, the organizations through their lawyer are asking the court to determine if the statements violates sections of Nigeria’s Cybercrime(Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 .

However, due to the elusiveness of the Defendants and their addresses, the Court favoured that the court processes should be advertised in national dailies. This was subsequently done on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in two leading National Dailies with national spread

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager at Paradigm Initiative, “the two organizations filed the case as a measure to curb the spread of hate speeches in Nigeria, a trend which is mostly associated with the political class. While their principals may not be less guilty of similar accusations, Governors and Presidents are however protected from prosecution by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. It is, however, significant that those political actors with links to power are being challenged for comments made at several times. The usual trend in Nigeria was for the political class to use their position to persecute citizens, journalists, activists and opposition whom they deem too critical of power under the guise of fighting hate speech or fake news.”

“If hate speech is to be curbed in Nigeria, then the prosecution must start from the political class who has always gotten away with inciting statements some of whom have led to crisis and deaths of many in the past.” Says Adeboye

The case is expected to come up for hearing at the Federal High Court Abuja today, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Mr President, It’s time to sign the Digital Rights Bill

By | Uncategorized

By Sodiq Alabi

 When the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB490) was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 4, many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. The digital rights advocacy community across the globe was ecstatic, and understandably so. The Bill is the first law dedicated to protecting digital rights and online freedom anywhere in Africa. If signed, the Bill will catapult Nigeria to the comity of nations leading the charge for the protection of digital rights and online freedom. Key amongst its provisions are the provisions on data privacy, free speech, press freedom, lawful interception and surveillance. 

The Bill has had a long journey to getting to the President’s table. First proposed and extensively discussed within the civil society and rights advocacy community during the 2014 Internet Freedom Forum hosted by Paradigm Initiative, it was not until 2016 before the Bill was tabled before the House of Representatives thanks to an exemplary civil society-legislature collaboration. Sponsored by Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam, the Bill spent almost two years in the House before it was passed in December 2017.

When the Senate concurred with its sister-chamber in March 2018, supporters of the Bill assumed the Bill’s legislative journey had ended. Unfortunately, the Bill remained with the National Assembly for another eight months without its transmission to the president. Apparently, the National Assembly’s legal unit had flagged a problem in one of its clauses, therefore leading to another round of the legislative process. The affected clause was corrected and the revised Bill was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly in November and December 2018. Two months later, on February 4, 2018, the Bill was sent to the president for his assent as required by the constitution.

The constitution also requires the president to assent or decline assent to a bill within thirty days of receiving the bill from the legislature. We are now roughly two weeks from the end of this countdown. While the nation is engulfed in organising federal and state elections, it is crucial that important government business like the signing of a crucial piece of legislation does not suffer as a result. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari and his staffers to find the time, in between preparations for the elections, to study the Bill and have it signed before the deadline. This would be a commendable demonstration of the robustness of our presidential system and its ability to keep the country running even in the face of a crucial election for its leader.

As Paradigm Initiative, the group that leads the advocacy for the passage of the Bill said in a statement, President Buhari has a history of signing forward-looking Bills including the #NotTooYoungToRun and the Disability Bill. The Digital Rights Bill falls into this category of Bills as it provides clear legal backing for online freedom and digital rights in an era when the digital space has become central to life. Paradigm Initiative’s Adeboye Adegoke is therefore right when he said, “If signed, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will add to what appears to be a forward-looking disposition of the administration to policymaking. What President Muhammadu Buhari does with the Bill will go a long way to define the administration’s disposition towards technology and its viability in improving the economic base of Nigeria.”

The last few years have seen tens of millions of people connected to the internet in the country. These people conduct business, have a social life, learn and teach via this important tool. They even campaign for political candidates and are campaigning to via the internet. However, despite the deployment of the internet across the country, Nigeria, unfortunately, lacks a comprehensive legal framework that protects human rights online, a situation that makes Nigerians online vulnerable to rights abuse. It is therefore easy to agree with Web Foundation when they declared that, “Nigerians cannot wait any longer for digital rights, freedoms and opportunities. The President’s Assent is urgently needed to secure fundamental rights, to support a stronger digital economy, and to build a more secure internet.”

Digital rights are human rights and by signing the Digital Rights Bill into law, President Muhammadu Buhari would give much-needed protection to these crucial rights. It is time to make history, Mr President.

Sodiq Alabi leads communications at Paradigm Initiative.

Leveraging the Gains of Multi-stakeholder Process to Cybersecurity Policy

By | Uncategorized

By Boye Adegoke

Cybersecurity is a big and important subject all over the world. In Nigeria, the work became cut out as Nigeria grappled with the scourge of Cybercriminals popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo at the turn of the Millennium. While the innovations that gave the world the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Huawei and other forms of innovative technology were being celebrated all over the world, Nigeria was grappling with managing its image as it appears many young people in Nigeria have sadly embraced the negative side of technology and are becoming renowned worldwide as cybercriminals. The damage done is yet to be fully salvaged. According to a 2018 Nigeria Cybersecurity Outlook released by Deloitte, “Social engineering attacks conducted via emails, SMS and calls still the number one threat being faced in Nigeria as at today. Also, it is not enough to just know more about   trends or attacks, it is about putting the right measures in place so as to be better prepared to defend against them”

Nigeria has since taken many steps to address the scourge by aligning with other efforts globally such as establishing the Computer Emergency Response Teams known as NG Certs. In February 2015, the Government adopted the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy prepared by the Inter-Ministerial Committee coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser. A few months later, Nigeria passed the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015 which entered into force on 15th May 2015. The purpose of the Act is also to promote cybersecurity and cybercrime prevention, and it provides for obligations to the private sector. Many stakeholders especially from civil society have criticized this law and are seeking judicial intervention to dislodge some parts of the law which are deemed non-right respecting. Also, there is an ongoing process to repeal and re-enact this law by the Legislative Arm of the Nigerian Government. The ongoing process is also being criticized as non-transparent because many stakeholders feel left out. The need for effective cross-stakeholder collaboration is widely recognized, as required in cybersecurity policy formulation process, with numerous international instruments reinforcing the message.

What’s clear about Nigeria’s approach is that it has been largely driven by concerns around security issues as well as implications for National security and business. Meanwhile, Cybersecurity has relevance to individual users as much as it does for Nations and businesses. This is why greater stakeholder involvement in cybersecurity policy development process is very important. Civil society concerns have usually been around how human rights concerns are often jettisoned or deemed inconsequential in cybersecurity policy development. Internet security threats are complex, and they affect multiple stakeholders, therefore, they require coordinated efforts to be adequately addressed. Constitutionally guaranteed rights must be respected in the cyberspace i.e. the rights that apply offline must also apply online. From an individual perspective, cybersecurity isn’t limited to freedom from cyberattacks but includes the right to privacy, right to freedom expression and protection of personal data; communication etc. this hardly makes it into the country’s cybersecurity agenda. This disregard for human rights may not be unconnected with the gaps that exist in the composition or the stakeholder mapping that currently exists.

The Important role that all stakeholders have to play in ensuring that the governance of cyberspace remains open, inclusive, and sufficiently flexible to adapt itself to changing risks and challenges must be emphasized. Users are increasingly distrustful of the internet, and that poses a challenge to its future. “Users’ trust is at the core Internet-driven business landscape. Immediate steps to enhance users trust must be taken. Governments must ensure that users trust is not broken online by ensuring there’s a transparent and multi-stakeholder approach to the development of cybersecurity policies and strategies. A truly multistakeholder approach to National Cybersecurity Strategy Development is poised to address this gap drawing on real-life examples of good practices in other climes. Governments, including military and intelligence sectors, could benefit from increasing their awareness of the multistakeholder nature of the Internet and the vital importance of cooperation with other stakeholders to address security threats.

In conclusion, we must move away from paying lip-service to the idea of a multistakeholder approach to cybersecurity policy development process. There must be a genuine effort to make the process inclusive to capture different stakeholder group who are affected and can bring invaluable insight to the process.  The more robust the inputs and the process is, the better the outputs. It must be noted however that the multi-Stakeholder approach is not a kill switch that addresses all the problems in a swipe; it is, however, a fundamental approach that is able to give all stakeholders a sense of belonging and gives an opportunity to capture nuances, local context into the process; The approach is widely accepted as the optimal way to make policy decisions for a globally distributed network. The United Nations Internet Governance Forum embraces multistakeholder approach model and the model has also been adopted by a growing number of international organizations. The model will help to create a veritable platform for a multi-stakeholder conversation, knowledge sharing and learning in Nigeria around cybersecurity policy development and implementation.

 

Adeboye Adegoke (@adeboyeBGO) is Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa.

Paradigm Initiative Releases 2018 Annual Report, Demonstrates Impact

By | Digital Rights, Echoes From Life, Press Release

The social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative has released its 2018 annual report. The report provides insight into the work of the organisation, especially in how it lives up to its mission of improving the “livelihoods of underserved youths”.

Featured in the annual report is Joy Ukpong, an alumna of the group’s free digital inclusion program. At the time of joining the program, 27-year old Joy Ukpong’s income was N10,000 a month as a  struggling hairdresser in Ajegunle, Lagos. She was desperate for a break, and Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Inclusion program gave her the break which she wisely seized, learning relevant digital and life skills.

Few weeks after the conclusion of the 10-week training, Ukpong got a job as an administrative assistant at a law firm. Her income immediately jumped to N25,000. Thanks to her new skills, Ukpong has a more stable income and work structure that allows her to develop herself.

Her story, according to Paradigm Initiative’s Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi, “is another proof that our investment in digital inclusion programs in underserved communities is indeed improving the livelihood of the beneficiaries.”

The Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan also said, “As a result of the year’s investment in under-served Nigerian youth, we were able to train 869 students through the 10-week LIFE program, LIFE@School Club and the quarterly workshops. 150 students got internships, picked up jobs, earned enough to return to school, joined apprenticeship programs and/or started micro businesses. During the year, the average income among our students grew from N4,805.15 to N23,083.25!”

Highlighting the group’s work in digital rights, Sesan said “In 2018, our Digital Rights work covered Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. We hosted 13 training programs, reviewed 36 policy documents, produced 12 research-based reports, acted on 20 digital rights violations, and led 4 litigation processes.”

The Director of Programs, Tope Ogundipe said the passage of the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria is an important milestone for the group in 2018. The Bill, which was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on February 5 2019, has been a major project of the group since 2014 when it began advocacy for the passage of a law dedicated to the protection of online rights and freedoms.

Paradigm Initiative, which was founded in Nigeria in 2007, is physically present in five African countries, from where it executes programs across the continent.  The group said its new Strategic Management Plan (2019-2023) would even see it do more over the next few years.

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