Discussing Digital Rights in an Era of Repression

By | Advocacy

By Sodiq Alabi and Boye Adegoke

As a sort of New Year gift to the online media community, Nigerian security agents arrested Tim and Daniel Elombah, the publisher and editor of, for allegedly publishing a content the police hierarchy considered offensive. That would not be the first time a journalist or publisher would be arrested for publishing content online in Nigeria. In the last few years, several citizens have been illegally detained for online content some powerful individual or institutions found “offensive”. For instance, a popular blogger Abusidiqu was arrested in 2016 by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a law enforcement agency in Nigeria. According to a source, Abusidiqu’s arrest was connected to his posts on EFCC Boss, Ibrahim Magu. According to the spokesperson of the Agency, Abusidiqu was arrested for offences bordering on cyberstalking.

The attack on free speech online is unfortunately not limited to Nigeria, too many other African countries are in the same boat of repression as Nigeria. From Egypt to The Gambia, from Cameroon to Kenya, citizens and journalists alike are not safe from the wrath of those in power when critical content is published online. Last February, Gambian police arrested a university lecturer and kept him in overnight detention for questioning the president’s ability to maintain national security in an interview. In April 2017, a Ugandan university teacher and social media critic of the Ugandan government, Stella Nyanzi was arrested and detained for insulting the President Yoweri Museveni. The list of victims of flagrant abuse of the right to free speech online is simply endless. While the digital space has democratized access to information and information dissemination means, governments and powerful individuals in Africa continue to put unnecessary hurdles in the way of progress.

In Nigeria and Egypt, the national governments have asserted its power to restrict access to websites they consider subversive without judicial oversight. This power that is unknown to the law, at least in Nigeria, was behind the restriction of access to some twenty websites in Nigeria, including the popular news site,, last year. Egypt is the clear leader in this department as it has permanently restricted access to over four hundred websites. Across the continent, we find obnoxious laws or policies that not only impact negatively on citizens’ rights but threaten the health of democracy and exchange of ideas. Tanzania, for example, recently introduced a regulation that would require bloggers to pay $900 every year as some sort of license fee. This regulation, if allowed to be implemented, will effectively shut down the country’s burgeoning online media space. A couple of days ago, Burundi Media Regulator suspended the online commentary column of Iwacu newspaper, for 3 months. According to the Director of the Newspaper, “the column is known to be a platform for criticism over government’s action, the country’s situation by Burundians irrespective of where they live.” Also, the online weekly newspaper Iwacu is said to be one of Burundi’s few remaining independent media outlets since 2015, when the country’s radio stations were shut down on President Pierre Nkurunziza’s orders.

Free speech online is not the only digital right that has been under attack in Africa. Access to internet service has been under severe attack. Cameroon has repeatedly shut down internet services in the Anglophone regions of the country in a futile bid to scuttle protests against the government. In fact, in 2017, the internet was off in parts of Cameroon for almost as many days as it was on. For many people on the continent, activities such as elections, public examinations and protest could mean comprehensive internet blackout. Ethiopia, Togo, Somaliland and Cameroon are just some of the countries that have shut down the internet in the last two years. Social media and messaging platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber are currently blocked in Chad amid political tension. This is not the first time this year. Chad ordered an Internet shutdown in response to national protest action backed by trade unions and civil society organisations using social media. According to a report released by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) last year, Internet Shutdown has cost Sub-Saharan African up to US$237 million since 2015. This is to highlight the economic implications of the trend of digital rights violation in Africa.

The persistent attacks on digital rights and the poor policy framework for rights protection have led to civil society efforts geared towards resisting and ultimately correcting the sad situation. One of such efforts is the Internet Freedom Forum. For the last six years, Nigeria has hosted the pan-African forum, dedicated to conversations on internet freedom on the continent. The Forum is convened by Paradigm Initiative and supported by organisations including Microsoft, Google, Ford Foundation, Premium Times and The Guardian. The Forum brings together experts from various African countries to discuss the state of digital rights and internet freedom on the continent, and evolve effective solutions to problems confronting rights online. For instance, the 2014 edition of the Forum gave birth to a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill that was recently passed by the Nigerian legislature and is currently being studied in other countries for possible replication. The Internet Freedom Forum provides a veritable platform for Internet stakeholders in Africa and those whose work focuses on Africa to discuss and proffer solutions to the challenges. It is a meeting point for government, civil society, journalists, open web advocates and other Internet stakeholders.

The 2018 edition of the forum is scheduled to hold from April 24 to April 26 in Abuja. The Forum could not have come at a better time in 2018 as many African countries including Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Mali are preparing for elections. Election periods constitute a vulnerable period for digital rights as governments leverage the periods to curtail citizens’ rights online. The forum also comes at a time when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is at the centre of conversations globally and most importantly the revelations of the data analytics company’s attempt at shaping previous elections in Kenya and Nigeria. Clearly, delegates will have their hands full discussing better methods of protecting digital rights not only from the antics of government but also from businesses with less-than-ideal data privacy culture. All lovers of human rights must turn their attention to the Forum in Abuja as it is where African experts and advocates would have their say on issues confronting digital rights in Africa and evolving and strengthening Africa-led initiatives towards entrenching digital rights on the continent.


Sodiq Alabi and Boye Adegoke are digital rights advocates with Paradigm Initiative.


From April 24 to 26, Paradigm Initiative will host the Internet Freedom Forum 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria. Join the conversation.

Expert Condemns Abuse of Cybercrimes Law to Harass Citizens

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy


A digital rights expert, Tope Ogundipe has condemned the abuse of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes (Prevention etc) Act to harass journalists and other citizens. She was speaking at the Research Methods Workshop for Internet Policy and Advocacy in Kampala Uganda organized by the Internet Policy Observatory at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania.

Ogundipe, who serves as Director of Programs at the pan-African social enterprise, Paradigm Initiative, led a session on “Cybercrime, Digital Rights and Law Enforcement in Nigeria”.  She traced the origins of Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act 2015 and its current use as the prime tool in the hands of the rich and powerful in Nigeria to facilitate the arrest and harassment of journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens for comments made online.

She noted, “Since the passage of the Cybercrimes Act 2015, there has not been one incident where it has been used to prosecute a real cybercrime case. Instead, it has been used to arrest ordinary citizens for comments made online deemed offensive to the powerful in Nigeria

She also noted, “Journalists, in particular, have been at the receiving end of these arrests using the Cybercrime law because a large number of journalists have been arrested in Nigeria using sections 24 and 38 of the law”.

“Paradigm Initiative, in partnership with Media Rights Agenda and Enough is Enough Nigeria, in response to the use of the Cybercrime legislation in the arrests of citizens have challenged the constitutionality of sections 24 and 38 of the Cybercrimes law in court. The case has been in the courts since 2016. We lost at the court of the first instance and we are now at the Court of Appeal. Strategic litigation could be a long and drawn out process and as such patience and perseverance are required in this endeavour,” Ogundipe submitted.

During the workshop, which held between from February 26 – March 3, over 35 researchers and practitioners from across Africa were gathered at Kabira resort Kampala Uganda for an intense week of study on research methods that underpin Internet policy and advocacy on the continent. The workshop participants were drawn from 16 African countries while the faculty were drawn from within Africa, Europe and the United States.

The Workshop ended with participants asking questions from the session leader, particularly on how best to conduct strategic litigation within their countries.


For more information on this statement, please contact the Communications Officer, Sodiq Alabi on  

Shaping Digital Rights Advocacy in Africa through Policy Intervention

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

By Babatunde Okunoye & Adeboye Adegoke

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217A), is the foundation for international human rights law. Its drafting shortly after the horrors of World War 2 by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds across the world sought to codify for future generations what rights humans all over the world should enjoy. Informed by the atrocities of Nazi Germany which only came to light in the final moments of the war, the UDHR was drafted as a part of a process that ensured that never it repeated itself.

In relation to digital rights advocacy, Article 19 of the UDHR has been fundamental. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. And although we are many decades away from the destruction of the Second World War, in the 21st century we are currently enmeshed in another type of war – the war on Cyberspace. In this Cyberwar, state actors, the private sector, civil society and individuals are caught up in episodes of local and cross-country cyberattacks, cyberespionage, illegal surveillance, arrests of bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens. This is particularly true for Africa where state actors have sought to extend the control they had over traditional media to new media channels in a bid to choke the emergence of dissenting voices.

In light of the new reality that the battle for the defence of human rights has moved to cyberspace, on the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, Paradigm Initiative will work to ensure that the digital rights of people across Africa are protected. From our offices in Lagos, Abuja, Yaoundé and Blantyre, we will host workshops across the continent where local actors are trained on digital rights; we will convene the most important voices on digital rights in Africa at our Internet Freedom Forum and we will challenge the now perennial actions of governments which impinge on digital rights, amongst several activities.

Our work in 2017 has been rewarding. As the year wound to an end, news emerged that the digital rights and freedom bill we have worked on in coalition with partners across civil society, government and the private sector had passed 3rd reading at Nigeria’s House of Representatives and now only requires concurrence at the Senate and Presidential assent to become law. The effect of this positive bill of legislation, if passed into law, will be major for digital rights in Nigeria. This is the type of impact we hope to have in 2018, as we work to defend digital rights across Africa.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill is a positive rights legislation which replicates and builds on the objective that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was intended to serve. More importantly, it provides direct safeguards to new realities brought about by the contested cyberspace of the 21st century. The need for African countries to replicate this process is urgent because several African countries have an abundance of laws or legislation which seeks to repress freedom. The various forms of digital rights violations experienced across several jurisdictions in Africa over the years have been made possible because of existing repressive laws. While we will continue to work with partners across the continent to engage policymakers to push for repeals of some of these existing laws, we will also work with local stakeholders to introduce positive rights legislation across the continent. Although this might be perceived as an attempt to correct the ills of the past, it must also be viewed as a proactive approach to prevent violations in countries with fewer records of Digital Rights violations.

The United Nations took an important step in June 2016 in recognizing Internet Rights as Human Rights in United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” which condemned countries which intentionally disrupt the internet access of its citizens. The resolution stresses that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” particularly with regards to the freedom of expression already protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It is now expected of Digital Rights organizations, Human rights Organizations and Civil Society across the continent to work and engage the local processes in each country to ensure this is reflected in National Laws. Paradigm Initiative is committed to this objective and we hope to train and partner with organizations in various African countries, offering our expertise, resources and time to make this possible, so that going forward, Africa will become a bastion and model for digital rights in the 21st century.


*Babatunde Okunoye is Research Assitant at Paradigm Initiative

**Adeboye Adegoke is the Program Manager (Anglophone West Africa) at Paradigm Initiative.

Une élection sans coupure d’Internet en Afrique Francophone est-elle possible en 2018 ?

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

Par Rigobert Kenmogne

Onze pays d’Afrique francophone préparent diverses élections entre février et décembre 2018.

Le Cameroun, le Gabon, le Congo, le Mali, la Guinée, le Djibouti, le Madagascar, l’Egypte et la Tunisie font partir des pays francophones d’Afrique noire et blanche qui préparent au moins élection en 2018. Comme depuis quelques années déjà, des cas de violations des droits numériques et des libertés sur Internet se font régulièrement constater. A la veille des activités électorales dans de nombreux pays sur le continent, les gouvernements influencent grandement les services de l’Internet en leur faveur soit pour étouffer les manifestions de l’opposition ou alors utilisent Internet pour surveiller les autres candidats ainsi que les citoyens ; ceci se passe souvent avec la complicité des Fournisseurs d’Accès Internet ! Au Cameroun, au Congo, au Gabon, en Tunisie et en Egypte, des cas de violations des droits numériques se font déjà ressentir dans ces périodes pré-électorales. Chaque influence en vers les libertés d’Internet divergent d’un pays à l’autre, mais avec les mêmes objectifs de privation des droits ou de surveillance à des fins politiques et stratégiques.

Le Cameroun prépare environ six élections en 2018. Avant le début des premières élections, le profil des droits numériques n’est pas reluisant. Des actes de restrictions des libertés numériques ont été constatés ; les plus visibles sont des perturbations de l’Internet dans les deux régions anglophones du pays et la lettre circulaire du ministre de la justice en fin d’année 2017 donnant l’ordre aux magistrats d’« engager après leur identification précise par les services de sécurité, des poursuites judiciaires contre toutes personnes qu’elles résident au Cameroun ou à l’étranger, et qui recourent aux réseaux sociaux pour propager les fausses nouvelles.»

Au Congo, le ministre des postes, de télécommunication et de l’information a demandé au Directeur Général de AFRICELL Congo le 30 décembre 2017 par un courrier la suspension totale des fournitures Internet dans le pays ainsi que les SMS. Cette fermeture de l’Internet de trois jours a intervenu après le début des manifestions de l’opposition. Le Congo prépare au mois de décembre 2018 des élections législatives et présidentielles.

Le 27 décembre 2017 au Gabon, le ministre d’Etat en charge de l’Economie numérique a réuni tous les acteurs œuvrant dans ce secteur. Des avis sur la surveillance des réseaux sociaux ont été émis. Selon le secrétaire exécutif de l’Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP), Serge Essongué, « il y a des messages de haine qui sont diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux, notamment sur You Tube. C’est également le cas dans d’autres réseaux sociaux, Facebook. La grande question c’est comment réguler ces messages. Comment faire en sorte que ce principe général qui dit que la liberté de chacun s’arrête là où commence celle des autres soit également appliqué dans les médias sociaux. » Le Gabon prépare des élections législatives après plusieurs renvois pour le mois d’avril 2018.

En Tunisie, les premières élections régionales doivent se tenir pour le mois de février 2018. Avant cette élection, le gouvernement tunisien a tenté de faire adopter un projet de loi sur la carte d’identité biométrique à puce  devant menacer la vie privée tout en mettant en danger la sécurité numérique et le harcèlement. Ce projet de loi a été retardé grâce à une coalition des ONG de défense des droits numériques.

L’Egypte prévoit des élections présidentielles en mars 2018. Mais quelques mois avant ces échéances, le réseau Internet du pays a été de très faible qualité en début janvier 2O18. Les égyptiens n’ont pas tardé d’afficher leurs colères sur les réseaux sociaux et accusent aussi le gouvernement égyptien de vouloir se lancer dans la surveillance des communications.

Les perturbations identifiées ici montrent la volonté manifeste de plusieurs gouvernements de couper l’Internet pendant les activités électorales dans leur intérêt particulier afin de rester aussi longtemps que possible au pouvoir. Les perturbations, les coupures volontaires de l’Internet, les fermetures des réseaux sociaux, les arrestations ou la pression sur les utilisateurs de l’Internet constituent une violation flagrante des droits numériques. Ces activités sont une entorse au droit de l’homme, et un blocage de la prospérité des activités économique et la diffusion de l’information, les acteurs utilisant Internet de nos jours comme principal canal. Face à ces violations, les organisations des droits de l’homme dans divers pays francophones d’Afrique restent encore impuissantes dans des solutions à apporter à cette problématique des droits numériques. Une formation et une structuration des acteurs sur les questions variées des droits numériques ainsi qu’une coalition des organisations en Afrique francophone restent aujourd’hui l’un des défis majeurs pour Paradigm Initiative.


Rigobert Kenmogne est Google Policy Fellow pour l’Afrique francophone chez Paradigm Initiative, une organisation panafricaine de défense des droits et de l’inclusion numérique.




What to look out for in Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Policy Landscape in 2018

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

By Adeboye Adegoke

The year 2018 was heralded by the unfortunate news of the arrest of the UK-based, Nigerian blogger Daniel Elombah by men of the Nigeria Police at the early hours of January 1, 2018, at his residence in Anambra. While Internet users and enthusiasts especially those who are actively engaged on different platforms on the Internet were looking forward to new applications, innovations and other forms of exciting developments as the year approached, the first Internet-related news in Nigeria had to be the arrest of Elombah in a Gestapo-style operation which is suitable, only for armed and hardened criminals. This is not in any way a departure from what was witnessed throughout last year but more than anything, it is a signal that we must brace up for policies that seek to control how people use Internet platforms in 2018 and these will be for different reasons; ranging from the sheer desire by politicians to control the narratives, launder their image as the election approaches as well as legitimate concerns around security usually demonstrated by policies aimed at curbing fake news and hate speeches. It is definitely an interesting year ahead and more than before, the Nigerian citizens would be called upon as the guardian of the space as the government have an increasing vested interest in Internet Policy discourse. Forecasting 2018 suggest to me that many Nigerians will be forced to get involved in the policy process as we did when the infamous “Anti-Social Media Bill” was introduced in the Nigerian Senate in 2015 and the reason is not far-fetched;  I will delve into it  immediately;

The 2019 General Elections: 2018 is the pre-election year. Engagement on social media platforms is about to increase geometrically. In an African focused study titled ‘How Africa Tweets’ conducted in 2015, Nigeria was the second largest country in Africa with geolocated tweets (360) million. Also, According to Data by Internet Stats, Nigeria has 16,000,000 active Facebook users as at June 2017. These stats are to underscore how much we have embraced the use of Social media platforms in Nigeria especially for political debates, discourse, commerce and Social Interactions. While the platform providers will be smiling to the bank, the conversations will get heated, politicians will try to shape the narratives, political parties will attempt at selling their agenda. There will be hate, fake news and policies will be contemplated to curb fake news, hate and insightful comments and this, the government will leverage to its political advantage by targeting dissent and opposing voices. One important focus area for Digital Rights organization in 2018 is to work with other civil society organizations and concerned citizens to fight the monster of fake news as the election approaches. It is also important to pay attention to what the various platforms are doing to address the problems because the policies adopted by these platforms have implications for Digital Rights as well. Facebook, for example, is deleting accounts at the request of the U.S. & Israeli governments on the bogus grounds of “incitement”. In 2018, the government will collaborate more with ISP’s, Telecoms Companies to censor, limit content etc. It will use security agencies to clamp down on bloggers and people who express dissenting views but these will be justified by the need to fight fake news, hate speech and insightful comments. There is no better indicator to this assertion than the Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2017 (HB. 1211) sponsored by a member of the ruling All Progressive Party (APC): One of the lows of lawmaking in Nigeria is that the public doesn’t have access to the content of Bills being considered except you have access to insiders, but the name of this Bill gave it away as a likely dangerous Bill which will be used to gag free speech as the 2019 elections approaches.  Apart from elections, other factors that will shape the Digital Rights and Policy discourse in 2018 are considered below;

NCC Internet Code of Practice: The Nigeria Communications Commissions (NCC) has not done badly with respect to making its draft regulation available for the public and it regularly calls for stakeholder’s input. Where it has erred however is how it sometimes jettison inputs without feedback to those who made the inputs as to why those inputs were not captioned. One wonders if the calls for Stakeholder’s inputs were genuine or it’s just about “fulfilling all righteousness”. The NCC must consider this as an important feedback. The Draft Internet Code of practice, however, appears to be a great initiative and one that promotes the open and free internet. The stated objectives of the code are to: a) Protect the right of Internet users to an Open Internet; b) Provide clear guidelines to Internet Access Service Providers on the use of traffic management practices; c) Outline the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in relation to the protection of consumers’ personal data; d) Outline the obligations of Internet Access Service Providers in the handling of offensive and potentially harmful content, and the protection of minors online; e) Ensure adequate safeguards are put in place by Internet Access Service Providers against unsolicited internet communications; f) Establish best practices for Internet Governance in Nigeria, in line with emerging issues and global trends. The application of the first part of objective “D” is definitely one to look out for as it is prone to manipulations by the powers that be. Whether this will happen or not is a function of how independent the NCC is. Unfortunately the NCC is rarely independent of the government of the day, neither is there proofs that it queries memo from the office of the National Security Adviser but let’s wait and see how these code will fare when and if it becomes operational.

FCC decision to Repeal Net Neutrality: Federal Communication Commission FCC is the United States of America equivalent of the NCC. In a 3-2 close call, it voted to repeal net neutrality in the United States in December 2017. Someone might wonder how that’s relevant to Nigeria. It is relevant because a lot of countries including Nigeria look up to the United States for policy direction. It must be noted that the NCC has been under pressure before now by telecoms and ISP’s to allow them to apply extra charges for OTT services, this, the NCC resisted over the years. With the development in the US, business interest will have a “legitimate” example in their quest to subdue Net Neutrality principles and milk internet users by discriminating against Internet traffic/applications according to how much internet users are able to pay for desired services. The Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat and online streaming services’ lovers would be largely affected if this happens.

The Positives for Internet Users

Two Important draft legislation is on the verge of becoming Law in Nigeria, The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB 430) which among other reasons situate human rights in the midst of technological innovations to help balance out the need for innovation on one hand, the need for rule of law on the other as emerging National security concerns are addressed. Also, Data Protection Bill (HB 02) address the need for Data protection law in Nigeria.  It is hoped that these two legislations which have been passed by the House of Representatives become law by getting the required Senate concurrence and Presidential Assent in 2018. These two draft legislation have the potential to militate against any form of abuse and violations, feared, as we prepare for elections.

Adeboye @adeboyeBGO is a Digital Rights Advocate with Paradigm Initiative.

Technology and the Future of Work: My IGF 2017 Experience

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, ICT Policy

By Babatunde Okunoye

I attended my first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva from the 18th December to the 21st December 2017. The theme of this year’s IGF was ‘Shaping your Digital Future’, and being the multi-stakeholder forum that it is, it was attended by representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society and academia.

The IGF was designed as a meeting place for governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and all other stakeholders to deliberate on the issues shaping the Internet, as equals, and over the years, it has increased in stature as a premier Internet Governance forum.

As a representative of Paradigm Initiative at this year’s IGF, I set out to attend as many digital rights and digital inclusion sessions as possible. However, in this blogpost, I share my perceptions from two sessions I attended on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the future of work. The sessions in question are:  Making artificial intelligence (AI) work for equity and social justice (WS129) and AI: Intelligent Machines, Smart Policies (WS93).

One thing which was immediately clear from the sessions was the clear underrepresentation of Africa at these sessions. When it was time for questions also, most of the questions came from the perspectives of the developed world. This was a shock because I know that African voices are heard quite clearly in forums which focus on Internet freedom and digital rights in Africa. The lack of sufficient African representation in sessions which had a bearing on the future welfare of Africans was not what you would expect from a continent seeking to bridge the digital divide.

The most important pull-out from the 2 sessions on AI I attended was on the impact AI will have on future employment and well-being. It was argued that while AI will not have a great impact on employment levels, its impact will be felt more in the levels of inequality between the developed and developing world. The explanation for this being that the current tasks assigned to AI in the workplace are tasks for which there is a scarcity of human talent, and as such the introduction of AI will not necessarily lead to unemployment. Moreover, AI would lead to the creation of new co-working roles with AI, and AI administration and governance roles. However, the automation of tasks in the developed world will create economic efficiencies which will further worsen the economic disparity between rich and poor nations.

Personally, the argument that AI will initially lead to minimal job losses was scant consolation. An OECD study has estimated that only 11% of adults in the OECD have competencies exceeding AI’s current competencies[1]. That means that at the moment, in theory at least, AI can outperform about 90% of adults in logical tasks within one of the most developed economic blocs of the world with advanced educational systems. I will be interested in knowing what the percentage for Africa is.

Which is where the challenge is: In a world which is increasingly becoming globalized, the successful integration of AI systems into critical sectors of the economy will definitely be copied elsewhere, including Africa as employers seek to cut costs and improve efficiencies. What will this mean for employment and citizens’ welfare in Africa? While the rest of the world have begun having these conversations[2], Africa seems to have adopted a ‘wait and see approach’, will not bode well for the continent.

My take on IGF 2017? While the event website already shows that Africans are already underrepresented relative to the rest of the world, it would seem the few Africans who do attend are encumbered with the weighty matters of the present – internet penetration, digital literacy, digital rights to mention a few, and are distracted from discussions which are shaping the world of the future – which do not appear as urgent for Africa. Future African representation at subsequent IGFs needs to strike that delicate balance between the present and the future, so as not to lose the future to the more foresighted.

[1] Elliot SW. “AI and the Future of Skill Demand”, October 27 2017.

[2] “Prioritizing Human Well-being in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”. The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Paradigm Initiative publie son rapport 2017 sur l’état des droits numériques en Afrique

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

Lagos, December 25, 2017.

Paradigm Initiative a lancé ce 19 décembre 2017 son deuxième rapport annuel sur l’état les droits numériques en Afrique. Ce lancement s’est effectué lors du 12 ème Forum sur la Gouvernance de l’Internet (FGI) tenu à Genève, en Suisse du 18 au 21 décembre 2017.

Le FGI est un rassemblement annuel multipartite des parties prenantes internationales sur la gouvernance de l’Internet dans le monde organisé par les Nations Unies.  Cette plate-forme idéale a permis à Paradigm Initiative de faire le lancement son rapport bilingue sur les questions de droits numériques en Afrique en 2017.

Intitulé « Bon pour les affaires : pourquoi le secteur privé doit travailler avec les citoyens et la société civile pour les droits numériques ? », le rapport 2017 s’appuie sur celui de 2016 sur les droits numériques en Afrique intitulé « Étouffer le tuyau : Comment les gouvernements nuisent à la liberté d’Internet sur un continent qui a besoin d’un plus grand accès » présenté au cours du 11 ème Forum sur la Gouvernance de l’Internet au Mexique.

Le Directeur Exécutif de Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, a noté que “Paradigm Initiative continuera à utiliser notre rapport sur les droits numériques en Afrique pour enregistrer les incidents de violation des droits numériques, les politiques et les lois qui enfreignent les droits numériques, surveiller le marché des télécommunications à travers le continent et faire en sorte que les droits de l’homme en ligne pour les Africains soient respectés. “

Le rapport 2017 en français et en anglais fournit des commentaires sur les violations des droits numériques, les politiques et autres développements connexes sur les libertés numériques en Afrique au moment où “le taux de pénétration de l’Internet en Afrique est de 28,3 %, donc près de 9 sur 10 citoyens des pays africains tel que le Togo, la Tanzanie, la Somalie, la Sierra Leone, le Niger, la Mozambique, le Malawi, le Madagascar, le Liberia, la Guinée Bissau, la Guinée, le Tchad, l’Érythrée, le Congo Brazzaville, la République Démocratique du Congo, les Îles Comores, la République Centrafricaine et le Burundi n’ont pas accès à Internet” précise le rapport.

Le rapport présente également une analyse approfondie de l’état des droits numériques dans ces 21 pays africains de l’espace francophone et anglophone. Il indique entre autres que “dans toute l’Afrique, on a également observé un changement dans la façon dont les citoyens réagissaient aux violations de leurs droits numériques. En plus des recours directs et des appels aux agences internationales, les citoyens africains explorent d’autres options à savoir les recours à des actions juridiques nationales ou régionales pour défendre leurs droits numériques.”  Le rapport présente aussi les pertes économiques énormes des différentes violations des droits numériques en 2017.

Le rapport complet est disponible ici en téléchargement gratuit

Le lancement du rapport en 2017 comprenait un panel composé de Tolu Ogunlesi, Chef du bureau présidentiel pour l’engagement numérique, The Presidency, Nigeria ; de Titi Akinsanmi, Responsable des relations gouvernementales et de la politique publique chez Google; de Juliet Maina, Associée en droit des télécommunications, des médias et de la technologie à TripleOKLaw Kenya; et de ‘Gbenga Sesan, Directeur exécutif de Paradigm Initiative.

“La liberté Internet et les droits numériques sont mieux réalisés dans le cadre d’un modèle multipartite, ce qui inclut le respect de la contribution et des idées du gouvernement. Les détenteurs d’une charge politique ne peuvent pas être ignorés.” a déclaré Tolu Ogunlesi.

Selon Titi Akinsanmi,  “la réglementation ne rattrapera jamais l’innovation : la cause du développement est mieux servie lorsque les politiques gouvernementales et la loi ne restreignent pas la liberté d’expression et d’innovation, mais sont habilement et pensivement conçues pour stimuler le développement.”

Julie Maina, Associée en droit des télécommunications, des médias et de la technologie, a ajouté qu’ “adopter une vision panafricaine de la liberté de l’Internet et des droits numériques nous aide à repérer les tendances et à travailler pour le meilleur résultat pour tous les Africains.”


Si vous souhaitez avoir une copie du rapport en français ou en anglais, veuillez envoyer votre adresse postale à . Pour plus d’informations, contactez Sodiq Alabi (Chargé de communication)  à la même adresse.





Paradigm Initiative Releases 2017 Digital Rights in Africa Report

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

Paradigm Initiative on December 19 2017 launched its second Digital Rights in Africa Report at the 12th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland. The IGF, organized by the United Nations, is a multi-stakeholder annual gathering of international stakeholders on Internet Governance and was a perfect platform to launch the comprehensive report on digital rights issues in Africa

Download the Report (in English)

Download the Report (in French)


The 2017 Digital Rights in Africa Report, titled Good for Business: Why Private Sector must work with Citizens, Civil Society for Digital Rights, builds on the 2016 Digital Rights in Africa Report titled, ‘Chocking the Pipe: How Governments hurts Internet Freedom on a Continent that needs more access’ launched at the 11th Internet Governance Forum in Mexico.

The Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, noted that “Paradigm Initiative will continue to use our Digital Rights in Africa Report to record incidents of digital rights abuses, policies and laws which infringe Digital Rights, and monitor the Telecommunications market across the continent to ensure that the human rights online for Africans are respected”


The report provides commentary on digital rights violations, policies and other related development in Africa. The report also features in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights in some 21 African countries. The report says inter alia, “across Africa, a shift was also seen in how citizens responded to violations of their digital rights. In addition to direct recourse and appeal to international agencies, African citizens are exploring alternative options. Citizens across the continent have taken recourse to in-country or regional legal action to defend their digital rights.”


The 2017 report launch featured a panel which included Tolu Ogunlesi, Head of Presidential Office for Digital Engagement, The Presidency, Nigeria, Titi Akinsanmi, Government Relations and Public Policy lead at Google; Juliet Maina, Associate in Telecommunications, Media and Technology law at TripleOKLaw Kenya; and ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative.

Tolu Ogunlesi said, “Internet Freedom and Digital Rights are best achieved within a multistakeholder model, and this includes respect for the input and ideas of government. Political office holders cannot be ignored in successful Internet Freedom forums”.

Also speaking at the launch, Titi Akinsanmi reflected that “Regulation will never catch up with Innovation. The cause of development is best served when governments policies and law do not restrict freedom of expression and innovation, rather are skillfully and thoughtfully drafted to stimulate development”.

Julie Maina, Associate in Telecommunications, Media and Technology law added, “Taking a Pan-African view of Internet Freedom and Digital Rights helps us to spot trends and work for the best outcome for all Africans”.

For more information, please contact Sodiq Alabi (Communications Officer)

House of Reps Passes Digital Rights Bill

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

Nigeria’s House of Representatives yesterday (December 19) passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB. 490). The piece of legislation that is proposed for “an act to provide for the Protection of Human Rights Online, To Protect Internet Users in Nigeria From Infringement of their Fundamental Freedoms and to Guarantee Application of Human Rights for users of Digital platform and/or Digital Media and for Related Matters.”

Sponsored by Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam, the Bill has passed through several legislative processes since it was first conceived by Paradigm Initiative working with the NetRights Coalition in 2013 and finalised in 2015. First introduced to parliament in April 2016, the bill has now successfully completed its journey through the House of Representatives at the plenary session on December 19, 2017.

According to Adeboye Adegoke, Program Manager of Paradigm Initiative, “Paradigm Initiative is elated by this news because the Netrights Coalition we lead has put in serious effort in seeing the idea to fruition.  We believe strongly in the potential it has to make a great impact in the development and recognition of digital rights in Nigeria. And we hope that after its passage, other African countries, and indeed the world, would follow suit.”

In his remark, the sponsor of the bill, Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam said, “The Bill has come a long way and will proceed to the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives for further approval before the final assent by the President; hopefully with no hitches.”

He continued, “the content of the Bill is laudable and brilliant. It is clear evidence of what can happen when the government involves its citizens in lawmaking and governance, and I am proud to sponsor it.”

Digital rights and freedom are increasingly gaining relevance with increasing advocacy in Nigeria. Several civil society organizations exist to ensure that the rights recognized offline are on-boarded to the digital space as well. This is simultaneously in accordance with the advocacy going on internationally.

Paradigm Initiative leads advocacy for these rights in Africa and has embraced policy and legislative intervention as a way to protect digital rights in Africa. The organisation has for years actively spearheaded projects and partnered with other interested civil society groups in ensuring that digital rights are upheld in Africa. 

Commenting on the passage of the Bill at the House of Representatives, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga Sesan, stated that “I believe this is a notable moment in 2017. And news like this strengthens our faith in the Nigerian legislative system; in believing that laws which are of significant benefit to citizens are also taken seriously by our lawmakers. We look forward with renewed hope to the next stage of this process at the Senate.”

The Journey so far: A timeline of Nigeria’s Internet Rights Bill

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy

By Adeboye Adegoke

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill (HB.490) which is “A Bill for an Act to provide for the Protection of Human Rights Online, To Protect Internet Users in Nigeria From Infringement of their Fundamental Freedoms and to Guarantee Application of Human Rights for users of Digital platform and/or Digital Media and for Related Matters” is a draft piece of legislation currently on the floor of the House of Representatives in Nigeria. It seeks to guarantee human rights within the context of emerging innovative technologies, security concerns, increasing citizens’ participation in governance and engagements in the democratic processes in Nigeria.  It is an amplification of fundamental human rights as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). The Bill is a potpourri of conventional rights with respect to sanitizing the online space with a rights-inclusive legislation and might represent Nigeria’s best attempt at balancing the friction between security and human rights in the digital age.

Paradigm Initiative hosted its 3rd Internet Freedom Forum (IFF) in Abuja, Nigeria, August 22-23, 2014, at 3J’s Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria. The proposed outcome of the forum was clear, which was to kick-start the process of drafting an Internet Civil Rights Framework for Nigeria, which would be shared with National Assembly. Conversations at the forum identified emerging issues around surveillance, terrorism, the proliferation of biometric data collection, online harassment and a host of other issues peculiar to the digital realm and use of technology and observed that draft and existing legislation touching on Internet use in Nigeria has tilted the scale towards security at the expense of human rights. At the end of the forum, participants drafted an Internet Freedom charter for Nigeria and committed to working with Legislator to promote this as a National law to codify the rights of citizens in the use and deployment of Internet technology. At the end of the forum, aside from having a draft Internet Civil Rights Framework for Nigeria, participants formed into the NetRightsNG coalition to promote this objective. The coalition has since grown into a bigger platform addressing Internet Freedom issues across Africa since April 2017.

However, between August 2014 and April 2016, not much was heard about this initiative; meanwhile, a lot of behind the scene work was ongoing to realize this objective. In order to ensure that the draft Bill meets required standard of a legislative draft, Paradigm Initiative engaged the services of a law firm wit a specialty in providing expert legislative drafting, and legislative advocacy services. Also, Paradigm Initiative with support from coalition members held several meetings to review the draft bill and held press conferences to intimate the press on the development. For example, a review meeting held on the 15th April 2015 at Tawona workspaces, Abuja and on April 16, 2015, a press interactive session held at Paradigm Initiative’s Abuja office to brief the press on the content of the draft legislation. Aside those who were physically present at the review meetings, many members of the NetRightsNG coalition contributed remotely throughout the review process. The NetRightsNG members worked with the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria ICT Policy team to edit the draft Bill with significant improvements on the earlier version. Also, along the line, several consultations were held to identify a sponsor for the Bill at the National Assembly.

In November 2015, after reviewing the list of legislators recommended and assessing level of interest and commitment, Paradigm Initiative team met with Chukwuemeka Ujam, honourable member of the Nigeria House of Representatives, representing  representing Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State who is also Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunication and shared the draft Bill with him to sponsor as a private member Bill in the House of representatives. Despite commitment shown by the Honorable, not much happened until March 2016, when at the 4th edition of Paradigm Initiative’s Internet Freedom Forum, he made a commitment to ensure the Bill passes at least two legislative hurdles at the House of representatives before the end of the year and true to his word, the Bill passed through first and second reading respectively in April 20, 2016 and June 22, 2016 and in surpassing that expectation, a public hearing for the Bill was held on December 5, 2016 where inputs from several stakeholders were captured by the House of representatives’ committee on Human Rights. The committee was tasked by the Speaker of the House and the committee of whole to work on the Bill and capture stakeholders input. It must be noted that to mitigate possible antagonism against the Bill, Paradigm Initiative held a stakeholder roundtable on the Bill at Rockview Hotel, Abuja on September 22, 2016 to woo stakeholders on the importance and need for the Bill. The roundtables was attended by a variety of stakeholders including the National Institute of Advanced Legal Study (NIALS), Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre (PLAC), National Human Rights Commission, the proposed custodian of the Bill, The Nigeria Communication’s Commission (NCC), The Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), The Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria (GPBN), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), popular social commentator and blogger Japheth Omojuwa, Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher, premium times, and Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam who is the sponsor of the Bill. A press Interactive session was also held immediately after the roundtable.

Many members of the NetRights coalition and others have actively been working hard to ensure the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill gets passed.  For example, In June 2017, Media Rights Agenda, a member of the coalition hosted an Advocacy Workshop for CSOs on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in an event aimed at drumming support for the Bill and enlisting more civil society in the advocacy for the passage of the Bill and to build a larger constituency of support behind the Bill and the advocacy for its passage to improve the chances of passage and ensure that the content is not compromised. Also, the famous Policy and Legal Advocacy organization which works to promote citizens participation in public policies and engagement with public institutions in Nigeria, PLAC (Policy and Legal Advocacy center) did an analysis of the Bill on its platform and released an infographic to educate the public about the Bill in July 2016. Several advocacy meetings with members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives held to drum support for the Bill as it nears 3rd reading in the parliament.

On October 10, 2017, after a very long wait, the committee on Human Rights laid the report of the Bill before the house for consideration. The hard work put in by the committee to capture inputs from stakeholders at the public hearing and come up with a clean and final copy of the Bill must also be commended. While the final copy of the Bill is yet to be made public, it is believed that most provisions of the Bill will be retained given that all stakeholders who participated at the Public hearing for the Bill supported the passage of Bill into Law. There are feelers that the ongoing conversations around the 2018 National budget in Nigeria and of course needed advocacy push are what stands between the bill and 3rd and final reading at the House of Representatives.


This Digital Rights and Freedom Bill represents a wonderful collaborative effort between the civil society and federal legislators and as mentioned earlier, the Bill is Nigeria’s best attempt at creating the needed balance between security and human rights and in securing Nigeria’s digital economy. The question of how long it will take for the Bill to become Law is not one that may be answered in the affirmative. However, there is a strong belief and hope by promoters of the Bill that it will be passed by the 8th National Assembly and that same will become law within the current political dispensation in Nigeria. To make this happen, ever concerned stakeholders must demonstrate the will and commitments needed to achieve this advocacy objective given that election season is around the corner in Nigeria and that literarily means that the task is just about to get tougher.




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