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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.

 

Voici comment les gouvernements répliquent les pratiques de violations des droits numériques et d’arrêts d’Internet en Afrique francophone.

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICT Policy

Le contexte des droits numériques s’améliore progressivement, visiblement dans certains pays d’Afrique francophone. Si certains pays comme le Gabon, le Congo ou la République centrafricaine (RCA) en Afrique centrale ne sont pas régulièrement sous les feux de la rampe, d’autres comme le Cameroun, le Tchad et la République démocratique du Congo (RDC) sont fréquemment dans l’actualité liée soit au numérique violations des droits en général ou à la privation des libertés de leurs citoyens sur Internet. Ces derniers mois, cependant, ces pays ont montré de légères améliorations dans le classement des pays où les violations des droits numériques sont courantes dans la région. Mais, en observant les diverses violations des droits numériques ces dernières années, des cas de coupures d’Internet, d’arrestations de journalistes ou d’activistes en ligne ont inspiré d’autres pays de la région à adopter de nouvelles approches pour violer les droits humains en ligne. En particulier la RDC, le Tchad, le Togo, le Bénin entre autres.

Depuis 2017, le Cameroun est classé par les organisations de défense des droits numériques comme le pays avec la plus longue coupure d’Internet en Afrique. Les coupures d’Internet au Cameroun en 2017 ont incité plusieurs gouvernements qui n’avaient pas encore subi de violations des droits numériques dans un contexte de crise politique grave à adopter des mesures similaires. En effet en 2017, quelques mois après l’éclatement de la crise anglophone (deux régions anglophones du pays) en 2016 qui a conduit à des mouvements séparatistes et identitaires, le gouvernement du Cameroun a ordonné la fermeture d’internet dans ces deux régions du pays; le Nord-Ouest et le Sud-Ouest. Cette action gouvernementale avait violé les droits numériques de plusieurs Camerounais vivant dans ces deux régions, en isolant les communications et Internet avec les Camerounais vivant en dehors de ces régions et ceux des étrangers. Ces actions de privation des droits Internet ont conduit à plusieurs conséquences socio-économiques. Depuis, les actions des ONG, organisations de défense des droits numériques, ont été de plaider et de présenter les conséquences socio-économiques et sociopolitiques des coupures d’Internet tant pour le gouvernement que pour les populations comme arguments contre les coupures. Cependant, cela n’a pas découragé les autres pays de la région. Ils ont été inspirés et savent qu’ils peuvent faire taire la dissidence, les protestations des citoyens ou d’autres formes de soulèvement en perturbant Internet.

En 2018 en RDC, le gouvernement a adopté des mesures de privation d’internet similaires à celles du Cameroun en 2017 pour étouffer les manifestations et les revendications des opposants au régime de l’ancien président Kabila au lendemain des élections législatives présidentielles, nationales et provinciales en République démocratique du Congo (RDC). En 2019, lorsque Fayulu a contesté l’élection du président Tshisekedi, Internet a été coupé pendant 20 jours dans le pays. Comme ce qui s’est passé au Cameroun, la décision de fermer Internet a été prise par les ministères en charge des secteurs des TIC. Les opérateurs de téléphonie se sont conformés aux directives gouvernementales de privation d’Internet afin d’éviter dans certains cas le retrait de leurs licences ou d’autres mesures qui pourraient avoir un impact négatif sur leur activité.

À la veille de l’élection présidentielle de 2018 au Cameroun, il y avait des rumeurs de coupure d’Internet. Les actions des organisations de défense des droits de l’homme à travers le plaidoyer avaient poussé le gouvernement à exclure la possibilité de coupures d’Internet pendant les élections. L’annonce d’une coupure Internet s’inscrivait dans le même contexte que celui de 2018 en RDC. Malgré les assurances du gouvernement, des interruptions Internet ont été enregistrées sur certaines plateformes telles que Facebook le jour des élections. Le Cameroun a frôlé la deuxième coupure d’Internet au vu des tensions en cette période pré-électorale.

Au Tchad, depuis 2016, le gouvernement a régulièrement perturbé et ordonné la fermeture des plateformes de médias sociaux et des services SMS. Une privation de libertés sur Internet, notamment Facebook et Twitter, qui reste d’actualité dans le pays. L’objectif de l’action du gouvernement est d’étouffer la voix des Tchadiens sur les plateformes web. Cette technique a inspiré la RDC en 2018 et d’autres pays du continent à restreindre des revendications politiques similaires, comme au Cameroun en 2017. Le Tchad a continué à subir des perturbations des plateformes de médias sociaux jusqu’en 2020, malgré l’annonce par le président de la restauration de la connexion internet et les plateformes de médias sociaux au début de 2020 dans un communiqué de presse.
Le 9 Mars, 2020 République démocratique du Congo,Premier ministre Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba et le ministre des Postes,Télécommunications,nouvelles informations et technologies communication, Augustin Kibasa Maliba signé décret no 20/005 sur « certifications appareils mobiles». Le décret mentionne que tout utilisateur d’un téléphone mobile devra s’acquitter, via son opérateur téléphonique, d’une taxe de 1 USD pour les appareils mobiles 2G ou de 7 USD pour les appareils mobiles 3G, 4G ou plus, pour leur certification par l’Agence de régulation des télécommunications par l’inscription dans le registre central de la base de données IMEI ».

En octobre 2020 au Cameroun, une décision conjointe du ministère des Postes et Télécommunications et du ministère des Finances annonçait le paiement de taxes sur les téléphones et tablettes Android à hauteur de 33% d’une manière similaire à celle de la RDC. La décision sur les impôts au Cameroun a été suspendue par une note de la présidence après de vives disputes sur cette fiscalité. Aussi, dans le contexte de la crise du coronavirus, le gouvernement camerounais a annoncé le paiement d’une taxe de 19,25% sur toutes les publicités au Cameroun sur la plateforme Facebook et autres plateformes internet depuis le 1er octobre 2020. Cette décision dans le contexte de la crise a été interprétée au Cameroun comme une autre violation des droits numériques, car il n’a été soumis à aucun processus d’engagement des parties prenantes. Le Cameroun a été inspiré par l’introduction de ces taxes en raison de stratégies similaires du Bénin en 2019 sur les services over-the-top (OTT). Cependant,sa décision de payer des taxes sur les OTT au Bénin a été retirée sous la pression des organisations internationales et locales.

Entre 2017 et 2020, plusieurs pays africains francophones se sont inspirés les uns des autres dans les pratiques de violations numériques et de privation de libertés sur internet. Lorsque les violations orchestrées par les gouvernements ne sont pas signalées, ou dans le contexte où les membres des sociétés civiles locales manquent de coordination et de stratégie de plaidoyer, les droits numériques sont régulièrement violés ou Internet est coupé comme d’autres. Chaque violation par les des droits numériques des gouvernements ou des opérateurs de téléphonie doit donc être mieux examinée afin de limiter les chances de réplication dans d’autres pays du continent africain en général et dans les pays d’Afrique francophone en particulier.

 

Par Rigobert Kenmogne | Responsable de Programme | Afrique Francophone

Demystifying Digital Exclusion

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DRIF, DRIMF

IGI Global defines digital exclusion as the lack of access to, and use of, ICT resources or just the lack of technology resources and access thereof.

Put simply, digital exclusion is the inability of individuals and groups to access and use information and communication technologies, or the incapability to use the internet to do things that benefit individuals or organizations. This inability to access information can be termed as a disability.

Information Communication Technologies have contributed a lot to change our everyday life. From letters to e-mails, market shopping to on-line shopping, classroom learning to e-learning, etc. Yet, a significant proportion of the population is still digitally excluded.

These populations, excluded digitally, are considered socially disadvantaged and are therefore locked out of self-service channels. This matters as those who are excluded digitally are also far more likely to be disadvantaged according to many other social and economic measures. The digital divide exacerbates inequality.

Impacts

Effects of the digital divide are immensely felt in the following areas: Education, job opportunities, communication, politics, consumer satisfaction, health Information, community Involvement, government, and emergency information

Causes of digital exclusion

Although access or lack of it is believed to be the major cause of the exclusion, there are other contributory factors.

Choose.co.uk reports that the four main factors contributing to digital exclusions include; Access: both physical and financial, Motivation: including understanding or appreciation of the benefits, Skills: including whether people have any available means of learning ICT skills and Confidence: including fears of fraud and online security.

Impacts

The effects of the digital divide are felt in various areas of life. These include education, job opportunities, communication, politics, consumer satisfaction, health Information, community involvement, government, and emergency information.

As Stanley Chege, GCIO at Jubilee Insurance observes, ‘digital gaps’ or differences in the ability to access data and digital technologies are widening both between and within countries.

“Internet usage ranges from as high as 87 percent of the population in high-income nations to as low as 17 percent in low-income nations. While nearly four-fifths of countries have implemented regulations on e-commerce and data protection, government responses continue to be outpaced by the speed of digitalization,” he avers adding, “Public officials need to narrow this regulatory gap, not least due to technology’s growing influence on human interaction, health, and belief systems.”

With Covid-19 came the surge in internet usage as organizations shifted to work remotely and learning had to be conducted online. But as the United Nations University reports in a blog, the transition to work, learn, and socialize online has not been easy.

“Our current experience with COVID-19 shows that the transition to these extraordinary circumstances is far from smooth. More specifically, people without access to ICTs are even more disadvantaged than before. In many cases, the lifeline provided by technologies is only available to those who can access them,” says the blog.

The exclusion, therefore, means that when so much is expected to be happening online, an equal much is not happening due to the inability to go online.

Solution

Having known the many factors contributing to the digital divide, what can be the solution to it?

Eddie Kabiru, the Principal Officer at Bond Insurance Agency notes that there cannot be a one size fit solution for the divide. He, however, opines that policies directed towards inclusion in the digital space would go a long way to overcome many of the barriers preventing the said inclusion.

“The provision of technical support to assist people with getting online is vital. Stakeholders should collect quality digital data and establish a robust baseline for a minimum digital living standard,” he averred. Adding, “Victims of digital exclusion should be co-producers of these strategies.”

Kabiru runs a digital insurance agency and has first-hand experience working with those digitally excluded.

Digital Divide Council recommends the below five ways to help curb digital exclusion.

1. Increasing internet affordability. This will ensure that those who cannot afford the cost of the internet and those locked out due to the cost of owning or accessing internet gadgets are included.

2. Empowering users. “To see the full potential of the internet and its impact on the world, we must take advantage of its capabilities. Most of the people who use the internet have a limited understanding of some of its use cases. For instance, Google helps people find information that they would not have access to. An issue that broadens the digital divide is ‘participation inequality’ where users lack the skills to use it,” reads the Top Five Digital Divide Solutions in part.

3. Internet infrastructure development like providing a public safety net to offer internet access to facilities like libraries, health, and welfare service, and improving the relevance of online content will help curb digital exclusion.

 

By Molly Wasonga, Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow 2021.

Open Letter Calling For President Edgar Lungu to Defer Signing of the Zambia Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Bill 2021

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICTs, Internet Freedom

Dear President Edgar Lungu,

Following the passing of the third reading of the Zambia Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Bill 2021 on the floor of Parliament on 9th March 2021. Paradigm Initiative calls on you to defer the signing of the Zambia Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Bill of 2021 as it has the potential to severely infringe upon fundamental human rights of citizens, such as the right to access information, the right to freedom of expression, right to privacy, and the right to associate and assemble online.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans. Our digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa, with offices in Abuja, Nigeria (covering the Anglophone West Africa region); Yaoundé, Cameroon (Central Africa); Arusha, Tanzania (East Africa) and Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa). Our digital rights advocacy efforts include media campaigns, coalition building, capacity building, research, report writing, hosting the annual bi-lingual pan-African Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum, and promotion of Digital Rights and Freedom legislation.

While we note the progressive provisions and the need for a law that protects citizens against cybercrime and fosters cybersecurity, we also wish to remind the Zambian government of its constitutional, regional and international obligations to protect the civil liberties of Zambians.

Specifically, we wish to remind the government of its constitutional obligations to safeguard;

  • Freedom of Expression and Access to information under Article 20 which provides for the sharing and receiving of information without interference, whether public or private
  • Freedom of Assembly and Association under Article 21 which provides for freedom of assembly and association without hindrance
  • Privacy under Article 17 guarantees the protection of privacy of home and property and no  person shall be subjected to the search of their person, property, or the entry by others on their premises unless by the subject’s consent

We wish to also remind the government of its international obligations to safeguard and promote;

  • Freedom of Expression under Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The   UN   Human   Rights   Committee states that “any restrictions on the operation of websites, blogs, or any other internet-based electronic or other such information dissemination systems” must comply with Article 19”.
  • Privacy under Article 17 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected  to  arbitrary  or  unlawful  interference  with  his  privacy,  family,  home  or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.”

Further, Zambia’s regional obligations to the following regional instruments on freedom of expression and access to information; African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Windhoek Declaration, African Platform on Access to Information, and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression.

The Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Bill of 2021 in its current form is anti-freedom of expression, anti-freedom of assembly, anti-freedom of association, and anti-privacy and presents several problematic clauses that infringe on digital rights and may provide avenues for abuse and in the long run will be detrimental to the work of human rights defenders, civil society, bloggers, journalist and ordinary citizens who provide the necessary checks and balances.

For instance;

  • Section 54 prohibits the publication of false information, criminalizing “false” news or “false” content will stifle independent media, especially those with critical voices, create a climate of censorship and undermined public debate thereby weakening democracy, and limit legitimate information sharing by those who use the internet for civic work and to expand democracy. Moreover, a similar provision in the Penal Code was declared unconstitutional by the High Court in 2014.
  • Sections 9 and 11 provide excessive powers to cyber inspectors who are mandated to monitor, inspect, search and seize with a warrant, however, there are no limits as to the nature, scope, or duration of warrants.
  • Sections  6, 7, 8, 13, and 14 of the bill create two new bodies to address cybersecurity and cybercrimes, give the ‘Authority’ power to appoint “cyber inspectors, the ‘Director-General’ of the ‘Authority’ to appoint ‘cybersecurity technical experts, as well as provide vast powers for the ‘Authority’ and ‘Minister’ who are put in charge of the new bodies that have the power to control virtually all internet activity in Zambia without appropriate safeguards to oversee such actions.  
  • Section 7 of the bill establishes the National Cybersecurity Advisory and Coordinating Council constituted of part-time experts in cybersecurity and cybercrime. The provision however does not state the qualifications nor the criteria for selecting these part-time experts. This gives way for the Council to be made up of partial people who may use it as a tool for surveillance.
  • Section 29 grants law enforcement officers to verbally request service providers to intercept communications of citizens without a warrant if they have a reasonable belief that there is the possibility of cybercrime. This gives room for interception of the private communications of citizens on very vague grounds that have no relation to cybersecurity.
  • Section 65 seeks to criminalise hate speech with broad provisions that state that any statement directed at a particular group that is interpreted as hostile may amount to hate speech and interpretation of this is left to law enforcement officers.

Overall the bill grants excess powers to law enforcement officers and provides inadequate judicial oversight for surveillance activities, and this threatens the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and other digital rights.

Furthermore, we note that Cabinet approved ratification of the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection 2014 (Malabo Convention), therefore we urge the government to consider deferring the bill until such a time when the Malabo Convention is fully ratified in Zambia as a commitment to the protocols set out in the Convention to protect critical ICT infrastructure, personal data and to encourage the free flow of information and contribute to a developed and credible digital space in Africa. In addition, to consider aligning the bill to global best practice standards including but not limited to the provisions of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrimes of 2001.

While we commend the efforts made to foster stakeholder consultation, we, however, wish to register our displeasure at the ‘last-minute’ manner in which stakeholders were engaged and informed of internal legislative review meetings and the rushed manner in which the bill was read on the floor of Parliament through a motion to suspend Standing Order 100 of the National Assembly of Zambia’s Standing Orders 2016. These measures did not give the public and Members of Parliament ample time to propose objections or amendments to the pieces of legislation.

In closing, we strongly urge you-  President Lungu, to withhold signing the Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Bill of 2021 until after the August 2021 general elections to allow for more consultations with stakeholders and subsequent amendment of the worrisome clauses.

For more information about contact: media[at]paradigmhq[.]org

 

Owosekun Olatubosun: Knowing ICT has connected me to a lot of opportunities.

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

Before the LIFE Program, Olatubosun was afraid of being a failure in life, he saw many limitations to his success, one of which was gaining admission to study the course of his choice in the university. This thought weighs him down a lot he said. Olatubosun wants to be a Business Manager, this desire was stirred in him while managing his mum’s poultry farm, this keeps him engaged while waiting to gain admission.

Getting to know about the LIFE program from his neighbor in 2018 was a blessing in disguise because he had always wanted to get knowledge in ICT. “The training opportunity brought a paradigm shift to my life and it brings joy to me whenever I remember the experience. I was inspired during the program that I can be successful. I have gained so much courage to take some bold steps in my life..”


The most amazing thing about the program is knowing that there are people who volunteer to uplift Nigerian youths without looking at their background, tribe, or money. Also seeing under 25’s owning successful businesses was amazing, he said.

Through the LIFE program, Olatubosun got an internship opportunity with Gina Consulting, a UK-based firm. He worked to manage the Dress For Success project – a project that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life.
In 2019, Olatubosun gained admission to study Business Management at the University of Nigeria, Enugu. He is also taking fashion design training.

“Knowing ICT has been helpful; academically, I can do online research in getting resources for my assignment and my research work. Business-wise, ICT has helped me connect to the world of fashion which I plan to embark on; I now know more information about fashion as a business. I also plan on starting an online agricultural store to stimulate the sale of agro produce in Nigeria.

Call for Applications: Research Assistants

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, ICTs

Paradigm Initiative and Olumide Babalola LP are looking for three (3) Research Assistants to support a 3-month project that will undertake a critical evaluation of issues surrounding the establishment, independence, impartiality, and efficiency of Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) in the last two decades of their existence in Africa.

Project Description

The first data protection legislation in Africa was enacted by Cape Verde in 2001 and as of July 2020, about thirty-three (33) other African countries had either passed laws or issued regulations on the subject. This number represents over 60% of the 55 countries on the continent and such progression was meant to, expectedly, boost regulatory activities and more visible enforcement of data protection rights by the gatekeepers. There exists no comprehensive report on the nature, modus operandi, and efficiency of DPAs in Africa. The knowledge gap in this area is palpable and whether by commission or omission, African DPAs’ activities and role-playing have remained in the background. The research project aims to focus on African DPAs’ situation report since the pioneering Cape Verdean Act in 2001 and the proposed case study research method will involve the assertive collection of statistics and verifiable data on the role-playing of the DPAs with a juxtaposition of their legislative and/or socio-political limitations over the years.

Qualifications

To support this research project, we are calling for applications from qualified enthusiasts to support research in Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone African countries. Researchers must be residents in the African region they wish to support research activities for and be fluent in the relevant official language(s). While research skills are absolutely essential, we are eager to work with team members who are organized, follow through on all tasks, and can coordinate work with remote teams.

Application and additional details

Qualified and interested applicants should fill out this form before March 25, 2021. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for interviews and that the expected start date is the first week of April 2021. The role is part-time, may require up to approximately sixty (60) 2-hour days over the project period, and will be compensated at a rate of up to the equivalent of $15 per hour.

THE ADVANCING WOMEN’S RIGHTS ONLINE WORKSHOP

By | Digital Rights, ICTs

In a digital age, sexual and gender-based violence transcends our traditional understanding of it to more unconventional methods. Recognizing what these methods of violence are will help society curb it and give women and girls better access and opportunity. United Nations Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm to women.

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is already a problem of pandemic proportion; research shows that one in three women will experience some form of violence in her lifetime and online violence stands to increase that number.
Online violence against women as defined by the Associative Press for Progressive Communications (APC) are acts of gender-based violence committed, abetted, or aggravated in part or fully by the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) such as mobile phones, the internet, social media platforms, and email.

Many do not recognize this menacing form of violence and its staggering effects and It is for this reason that on the 24th of February 2021 Paradigm Initiative in collaboration with TechHer, powered by the Web foundation organized a closed-door policy maker workshop to bring the issues forward and address the ways forward.

Paradigm Initiative and TechHer targeted Government ministries, government agencies, and civil society organizations making a difference in the spaces affecting women. We hoped to bring to their attention through our “ADVANCING WOMEN’S RIGHTS ONLINE WORKSHOP”

The workshop had a 3 part agenda; To break down and contextualize online violence and its effects, a look into the legal framework surrounding online violence as it is in Nigeria, and a peak into solutions using technology using UNSUB as a case study.

Soibomari Seddon, a first responder to Sexual gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and former programs officer at Stand to end rape brilliantly led the session on “Online Violence Against Women: A Break Down”.

There were many gems from this engaging session such as how most types of violence that can be perpetrated offline can be done just as well online. She highlighted that the first step to addressing online violence against women is to recognize that it is a legitimate and harmful manifestation of gender-based violence. Online violence presents itself in many forms including sexual harassment online, slut-shaming, cyberstalking, trolling, targeted hate speech, identity theft, doing, and threats of corrective rape.

Online violence she noted is often downplayed, ignored, and underreported. In a country like Nigeria with a broken down analog system of justice, the police hardly take offline violence seriously, so reporting online violence will most likely be an exercise in futility.
Soibomari narrated Nigerian Twitter’s recent trends of people spamming the pages of women speaking up against oppression with football commentary.

“Men threaten women with corrective rape for opening differently on gender issues. A popular Kannywood actress is often trolled and at the mercy of violent mobs such that she had to produce a teary apology video for simply showing her back. A young woman breaks up with her abusive boyfriend and in days private information that could endanger her is published online.
A young mother attends a concert and has to lock her account to be free of trolls whereas there are sympathy and understanding for a father who abandoned his wife at a hospital with a stillbirth, we all grieve differently. A group of women who strategized and mobilized the country’s most successful nationwide protests is always the subject of endless scrutiny and criticism but a proven male saboteur is still being given the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes online violence can present in more subtle ways like attacking women for shared views with men but the men often get zero vitriol. Women are always trying to get accounts that have stolen their identities suspended. Some women have already been marked as vocal and no matter what they say, are often at the receiving end of trolling.”

Many women in these cases have had to delete social media entirely, taking away their access to information and communication. For many women these situations have real-life consequences, causing them to fear for their lives and ultimately affect their jobs, interactions, and communication with society.
With most of these cases going unreported, the actions go mostly without consequences as Soibomari called, that as a community we cease perpetrators to thrive and make a statement of zero tolerance.
After laying the brutal foundation and giving context, Judith Takon then went ahead to present the policy brief she authored for Paradigm Initiative titled
“ONLINE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC”.

The outbreak of COVID19 came with global economic downturns, restrictions in movement, and government-imposed lockdowns which had profound effects on the safety of women and girls globally especially in developing countries like Nigeria. United Nations Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm to women.

Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. This violence increased alarmingly during COVID-19 with its impending lockdown and restrictions. Women and girls who were previously shielded from abuse by existing structures of school and work were now trapped with their abusers at home for hours and days on end. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is reported to have significantly increased since the lockdown began on 30 March 2020 in the three most affected areas (Lagos State, Federal Capital Territory [FCT] and Ogun State) ”

Compelled to stay at home due to the pandemic, more people have turned to technology as a substitute for physical interactions. The internet is the decisive technology of the information age and despite the vast inequality in access and usage due to economic, social, and cultural impediments, it continues to transform billions of lives daily.
The vast inequality in access and usage of digital technology is shown to be ascribable to economic, social, and especially cultural obstacles.

The policy brief cited the legislative landscape of Online violence, some of which are:
The 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria
Criminal Code/Penal Code
Cybercrime Act 2015
Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 (Vapp Act)
Convention On Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw)

The Policy Brief went ahead to cite recommendations to make the online space more accommodating for women.

RECOMMENDATIONS
ENACTING APPROPRIATE LEGISLATION ON ONLINE VIOLENCE
GRASSROOT REORIENTATION/SENSITIZATION ON THE DANGERS OF ONLINE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Internet Intermediaries playing their part in mitigating the risks of online violence against women. According to a report by the Broadband Commission Working Group, tech companies need to explicitly recognize cyber violence against women and girls as unlawful behavior and demonstrate increased and expedited cooperation in providing relief to victims/survivors within the capacities that companies have.
It has been established that digital inclusion and access is a right, not a privilege and that the digital world contains several benefits to women.

Read the rest on the policy brief here:https://bit.ly/3shLuVU

Finally, Khadijah Awwal, the project lead of UNSUB, an app available on AppStore told the attentive audience how she and her team created an app that connects first responders and allows people to report sexual offenses, report them anonymously and report them on behalf of someone else. They connect victims to hospitals, mental care, and law enforcement.

Khadijah showed us that with commitment and innovation we could make a world of difference.
After Which many of those in attendance contributed beautifully to the way forward. One of which was Dorothy Njamanze of the Dorothy Njamanze foundation saying that advocacy goes beyond the English language and should be translated and interpreted through grassroots mobilization for a wider reach.

Having been widely attended by about 43 different organizations in government and CSOs, Paradigm Initiative is proud to have initiated a conversation among them that will shape the future to come as we set out to host another workshop on the 19th of March, 2021.

Written By,

Khadijah El-Usman

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