Internet Freedom

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

The government of Ethiopia’s insatiable appetite for internet shutdowns is atavistic

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

That Ethiopia is a great country cannot be gainsaid. History records that as colonialism was ravaging the rest of Africa, only Ethiopia and Liberia were never colonized. Having been locked out of East Africa by the British and the Germans, the Italians tried their luck in Ethiopia but they were defeated in the famous Battle of Adowa. Ethiopian Airlines is the only remaining Pride of Africa in the skies flying to more destinations abroad than any other African airline. Statistics indicate that the airline makes more profit than all the other African airlines combined. In the world of Athletics, the heroics of Kenenisa Bekele and many other great Ethiopian athletes have been recorded. I have never attended a conference abroad where there were no Ethiopian youth playing a key role in our African delegation. Notably, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.  Ethiopia’s star has been rising.

Despite all this, in blatant disregard of basic human entitlements, the government of the Republic of Ethiopia has never missed an opportunity to violate the rights of its citizens. At the slightest provocation, the government appears to always have as its first option, internet shutdowns, and digital communications restrictions. This has been witnessed including during national examinations and most recently at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 alone, the government shut down the internet in Ethiopia a record eight times drawing condemnation from the global digital rights community. . Internet Shutdowns are never a good option in times of crisis or national emergencies. An internet shutdown means a blackout on access to information and to world affairs. A society that does not have access to information is a society that is walking in a fathomless abyss of darkness. Infact, to the detriment of the government, misinformation and rumours spread more among the citizens when they are unable to access information or to verify the information they have consumed. Disruption of the free flow of information, can amplify any existing tensions in society, as well as serving to conceal any violence and human rights violations perpetrated either by state or non-state actors. 

Article 29 of the Constitution of Ethiopia expressly provides for freedom of conscience and protects the right of thought, opinion and expression and media freedom “without any interference.” By interfering with its citizens’ digital rights through the incessant internet shutdowns, the government of Ethiopia contravenes this provision of its own supreme law. Ethiopia has also ratified the two cardinal human rights instruments- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”) which specifically state that every person has the right to the inviolability of communications made by phone, telecommunications, and electronic devices.

While unconfirmed, many reports have indicated that Ethiopia is one of many Africa’s authoritarian governments that hire international hacking companies to target human rights defenders in the country. This insatiable appetite for human rights violations has attracted condemnation including from Mr. David Kaye, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression who remarked during a visit to Ethiopia that the government’s continued breach of citizen’s digital rights was an affront to international human rights. However, as if directed to deaf ears, the violations continued on a worse scale in 2020.. There is an urgent need to empower human rights defenders and journalists with the skills to advocate and preserve digital rights in Ethiopia.

In an attempt to contain hate speech and mis-information, in March 2020, Ethiopia crafted a new law- the Hate Speech and Disinformation Prevention and Suppression Proclamation, which law attempts to reverse the gains made by Ethiopia in promoting access to information and freedom of conscience. The law poses a threat to freedom of expression and access to information online amongst the citizens. The objectives of the Proclamation are to, among others, “protect freedom of expression while suppressing all forms of hatred and discrimination; promote tolerance, civil discourse, and dialogue, mutual respect and strengthen democratic governance; and to control and suppress the dissemination and proliferation of hate speech, disinformation, and other related false and misleading information.” This wording is vague and open to abuse by the government. 

There is a need to create a robust network of human rights defenders who advocate for uninterrupted internet access to all Ethiopians, help protect privacy rights, create awareness and build capacity in partnership with more established civil society organizations across the globe, to advocate and protect a principal medium of communication that people depend on in the world today- the internet.

The author of this article,  Ekai Nabenyo is Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for (East Africa) 

Call for applications to the 4th Edition of the Paradigm Initiative (PIN) Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship

By | #PINternetFreedom, Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, DRIF, DRIMF, ICTs, Internet Freedom, Press Release

Fellowship period: 1 March 2021 – 30 June 2021

Application Period: 21 October 2020 to 12 November 2020

The application process is now open for the 4th edition of the Paradigm Initiative (PIN) Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship (DRIMF). Through academic and practical learnings, Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion Media Fellowship 2021 seeks to embed media professionals within the digital ecosystem. Media Fellows will connect with PIN teams in Cameroon (Yaoundé), Ghana (Accra), Kenya (Nairobi), Nigeria (Aba, Abuja, Kano and Lagos), Zambia (Lusaka) and Zimbabwe (Bulawayo).

The fellowship seeks to expose media professionals to an underreported field of work at national and regional level, increasing reporting on digital rights and inclusion in Africa. Selected media professionals must be affiliated to media institutions within Africa and available to commence the fellowship from 1 March 2021 to 30 June 2021, to connect and collaborate mostly virtually, and where applicable, be present for in-person activities.

Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship is a 4-month program designed to immerse outstanding early career journalists in the digital ecosystem. Selected media professionals will work with Paradigm Initiative on various projects and contribute to improving public understanding of digital rights and inclusion issues in Africa. Applications are open to journalists working in Africa.

Components of the fellowship

  • Online Digital Rights/Inclusion academic training.
  • Interaction with PIN team members within Africa.
  • 4-month virtual mentorship and collaboration with Paradigm Initiative.
  • Fellowship may include fully-funded local and international travel to participate in and cover relevant events related to Digital Rights and Inclusion.
  • A monthly stipend and a one-time research grant during the fellowship period.
  • Paradigm will pair fellows with in-country mentors for the time of the fellowship who will meet the fellows at least twice during the fellowship.


Fellows will dedicate a minimum of ten hours a week to fellowship-related activities. Each Fellow will be expected to participate in all scheduled activities and to publish, in their affiliated media (Print, TV, Radio, Online), at least 4 features/reports on digital rights and inclusion issues during the fellowship period. Fellows will retain full editorial direction on the stories that they publish in their affiliated media. In addition, each fellow will produce a research paper on a relevant topic with the guidance of the PIN Team of not more than 1500 words which will be published by PIN. Fellows will be expected to continue to provide coverage on digital rights and inclusion issues after their fellowship.


The Fellowship is open to early career journalists with not more than 8 years’ experience in the media sector and affiliated with mainstream print and online newspapers in Africa. Interested candidates must have a relevant undergraduate degree and demonstrate previous coverage of human rights and/or tech issues and interest in advancing digital rights and inclusion.

How to apply

Kindly complete the form here

Data privacy: Why you must care about who has your information

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

That “data is the new oil” is simply to say, information is the new frontier of power and influence globally. One way or the other, we submit personal information – to known sometimes unknown collectors – for different reasons daily. There are the mandatory cases of submission through to the temporal instances. Applying for national or voter identification cards, for passports and even mobile phone SIMs fall in the former category.

Whiles in the latter, logging in to social media is one of the simplest means of submitting your identity and location to global multinational giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn etc. A recent media report disclosed how China – made mobile phones popular across Africa had preinstalled malware that was ‘stealing’ money of its users. But long since mobile phones arrived on the continent, an area of concern has been data security and privacy of users.

Jamii Forum’s Maxence Melo shares perspectives

Years on, there is a growing push for governments to do right by their citizens in the area of data privacy be it internally or externally. A strong activist in the area of data privacy is famed Tanzanian journalist Maxence Melo – a co-founder of the Jamii Forums platform. In an August 2020 interview with members of this year’s Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights Fellows, he stresses that politicians – for their own ends – and the populace – due to lack of knowledge – are at the heart of failure to better protect personal data. “People do not know their rights,” he said whiles adding that for governments, this aloofness on the part of the population serves their interests in the area of surveillance and (mis) use of data for instance for political reasons.

He warns that despite a lull in push for a data protection law in his country, if activists do not police the process well enough, Tanzania will potentially wind up with a good bad law. He avers that social media companies are “too powerful” in the area of data ‘harvesting’ and it is all due to lack of policy.

Asked about the example of a subscriber’s implied acceptance of “terms and conditions” once they buy a SIM, Maxence explains that the very contents of T&Cs need be scrutinized especially vis-à-vis privacy and data protection. He stresses that there is the need for African governments to step in with legislation and regulatory measures to protect consumers.

He argues further that there is the need for stringent laws on who gathers data on people and for what purposes they can keep, process and to who they can transmit same and under what circumstances.

Why you need to be worried about personal data merchants

In the light of transnational security challenges bordering on terrorism, cybercrime and money laundering among others, there is the need for collection of data by relevant authorities. Whiles most activists agree, they stress the need for privacy and data protection alongside. The global digital rights outfit, Internet Society, ISOC; quotes a definition of online privacy as: “the right to determine when, how, and to what extent personal data can be shared with others.”

Its October 2015 policy brief on privacy on the internet states: “Personal data has become a profitable commodity. Every day, users are sharing more personal data online, often unknowingly and the internet of Things will increase this dramatically.” The push for responsible collection of data rests on among others: collection limitation, data quality, consent of subject, purpose specification, security safeguards and openness.

Protections will for example bar a data collector / analyst from selling data collected for one purpose to be repurposed for an unrelated one. That data is collected at say a medical facility but retrofitted as list of political party supporters. ISOC stresses that “Privacy helps reinforce user trust in online services,” and also that “personal data has monetary and strategic value to others,” in the midst of this, robust national laws should look to protect citizens as best as possible.

Africa and the 2018 Cambridge Analytica exposé

In 2018, Africa was hit with one of its biggest cases of data manipulation when it emerged that Kenya’s 2017 presidential campaigns had been tampered with by a company, Cambridge Analytica. It meddled in the Kenya polls and earlier in Nigeria’s elections according to an exposé. It targeted people with campaign advertisements due to illicitly obtained data from social media giant, Facebook. Facebook is also on record to have confirmed that the company had improperly accessed data of about 50 million users in 2016 relative to the polls that brought Trump to power. Undoubtedly, a testament of data misuse at the pinnacle of global tech hub.

The growing penetration of internet use across Africa, the world’s continent, means that more needs to be done by governments – and fast. After a decade in the ‘works’ Nigeria has finally produced a draft data protection bill. Civil society groups like Paradigm Initiative and allies are reviewing it whiles encouraging the populace to take a seat at the table in an area that has affected their lives for long and will continue to in the future.


Some facts about data privacy in Africa – as of 2018

Over 123 million – number of people using Facebook in sub-Saharan Africa

2013 – South Africa drew up first data protection law on the continent

54 African countries – Over half of them have no laws on data protection

17 countries – Have enacted comprehensive data privacy laws, Bloomberg, 2016

10 years – duration for Nigeria to put together draft data protection law

2014 – ‘Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection’ a.k.a Malabo Convention passed by African Union

The writer Abdur Rahman Shaban Alfa is a 2020 Paradigm Initiative digital rights fellow and a former web journalist with Africanews.

Uganda Communications Commission’s New Regulations Encourage Self-Censorship (Open Letter)

By | Advocacy, Internet Freedom

We, the members of the NetRights Coalition, have noted with great concern, the Public Notice issued by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on  September 7, 2020  “advising all persons currently offering or planning to commence the provision of online data communication and broadcasting services including but not limited to blogs, online televisions, online radios, online newspapers, audio over IP (AoIP), Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), Video on Demand (VoD), Digital Audio radios and televisions, internet/web radio and interview/web television, to obtain authorization from UCC before providing such services to the public.This process of registration has the adverse effect of deterring bloggers from blogging, promoting self censorship and stifling media practitioners who work to exercise their mandate of disseminating information. 

The NetRights Coalition is a network of organizations with a shared  vision of promoting digital rights in Africa. Our concern is premised on that any law requiring a blogger to register for the purpose of regulating bloggers is an attack on freedom of expression and inconsistent with the spirit and provisions of Article 29 of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which guarantee the right to freedom of expression; including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.

We regret that the notice is an affront to the freedom of the media and the freedom of expression in Uganda both of which form the foundation of a liberal and civilized society. It is our considered view that if the UCC is concerned about the regulation of communication services in Uganda, there are various ways through which the same can be achieved without jeopardizing the rights and freedoms accorded to the people of Uganda by the country’s supreme law – the Constitution.

While we appreciate and recognise the statutory mandate of the Uganda Communications Commission, which among others, entails licensing, regulating and setting standards for the provision of all communication services in Uganda, we are deeply concerned that the Commission has issued such a notice unilaterally and without proper consultations, public participation and involvement of key stakeholders. According to Principle 17(4) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2019, “a multi-stakeholder model of regulation shall be encouraged to develop shared principles, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes to shape the use and evolution of the internet.” 

We join other stakeholders and the people of the Republic of Uganda in condemning this citizen-unfriendly order and hereby urge you to unconditionally withdraw this order and initiate a stakeholder engagement process. Embracing  a multi-stakeholder approach that allows for input from different stakeholders will ensure a policy that while fulfilling stated objectives, also promotes freedom of expression and privacy of vulnerable groups including women, persons with disabilities (PWDs), etc.

Signed By:

  1. African Academic Network on Internet Policy
  2. Paradigm Initiative
  3. Women of Uganda Network
  4. Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment Sierra Leone 
  5. 5.Rwanda Youth Clubs for Peace Organization.
  6. ASUTIC Senegal
  7. TechHer
  8. Give1 Project Gambia
  9. Centre for Legal Support, The Gambia
  10. African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition

Appel à co-auteurs

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

Un rapport sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique


Paradigm Initiative (PIN) est une entreprise sociale qui construit un système de soutien basé sur les TIC et milite pour les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes mal desservis. À travers ses équipes, partenaires et réseaux à travers le continent africain, PIN surveille l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique et intervient avec des programmes et des actions qui répondent le mieux aux défis. L’écosystème numérique en Afrique est marqué par des violations des droits numériques que PIN a bien identifiées dans ses rapports sur les droits numériques en Afrique et a fait l’objet de délibérations mondiales sur des plateformes régionales et internationales telles que DRIF, le Forum sur la gouvernance de l’internet et RightsCon.

Grâce à la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion, les initiatives de plaidoyer changent le paysage numérique en garantissant que les meilleures pratiques sont adoptées dans les politiques et la législation en Afrique. Des progrès significatifs sont en cours dans certains pays africains pour combler le fossé numérique et méritent d’être reconnus. Dans ce contexte, il est pertinent que le PIN documente les droits numériques et les violations d’inclusion, souligne les jalons et formule des recommandations pour améliorer le paysage numérique en Afrique.

Paradigm Initiative sollicite les services de chercheurs sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique pour être co-auteurs d’un rapport continental annuel sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion. Chaque chercheur retenu fera rapport sur un pays spécifique. Paradigm Initiative versera une allocation de 800 USD au chercheur pour un travail achevé et soumis de manière satisfaisante.

Justification et portée du rapport

PIN cherche à compiler le rapport annuel 2020 qui donne une analyse approfondie de l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique en examinant les violations, les lacunes, en enquêtant sur l’utilisation et l’application des politiques et de la législation, ainsi qu’en formulant des recommandations clés pour faire progresser les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique. Le rapport dégagera également des thèmes clés à débattre lors du prochain DRIF21 et mettra en évidence les domaines d’intervention exceptionnels.


Le rapport comprendra des rapports spécifiques aux pays bien documentés qui sont référencés et soumis par les auteurs des membres de son équipe et de la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion. L’étude des pays adoptera une approche multiforme, combinant des méthodes empiriques et de recherche documentaire pour évaluer à la fois les aspects quantitatifs et qualitatifs des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique.

Contenu attendu

Les rapports nationaux doivent inclure un contexte et un historique; identifier et discuter des domaines d’évaluation thématiques, se référer à tout cadre juridique, politique et institutionnel du pays et faire des recommandations. Les rapports nationaux peuvent inclure, sans s’y limiter, l’un des domaines d’évaluation thématique suivants;

  • Impact de la réglementation COVID-19 sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion.
  • Jouissance de la liberté d’expression en ligne en 2020
  • Protection des données, confidentialité, identifiants numériques et surveillance
  • Coupures d’Internet
  • Lois sur le discours haineux, la désinformation et la diffamation criminelle
  • L’exclusion numérique en Afrique et son impact sur les droits humains
  • Infrastructure numérique et hiérarchisation des TIC.

Expertise et qualification requises

  • Bonne connaissance du pays sur lequel portera le rapport ;
  • Un diplôme pertinent.
  • Expertise, connaissances et expérience des droits numériques et de l’inclusion.
  • Ligne directrice pour les articles
  • Longueur acceptable du rapport de pays : 1500 mots
  • Anglais ou français.
  • Les auteurs doivent s’assurer que tous les statistiques, faits et données sont correctement référencés.
  • Un seul rapport de pays par chercheur sera accepté.

Les candidats intéressés, veuillez soumettre une réponse accompagnée d’une copie de votre CV et d’un échantillon de travail écrit d’ici le 19 septembre 2020 ici. Les délais complets seront communiqués aux candidats retenus. Les réponses seront communiquées le 1er octobre 2020.

Call for Co-Authors

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

A Report on Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa


Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth. Through its teams, partners and networks across the African continent, PIN monitors the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa and intervenes with programs and actions that best respond to the challenges.  The digital ecosystem in Africa is marked by digital rights violations which PIN has aptly captured in its Digital Rights in Africa reports as well as been subject for global deliberations at regional and international platforms such as DRIF, Internet Governance Forum, and RightsCon.

Through the digital rights and inclusion community, advocacy initiatives are changing the digital landscape ensuring best practices are adopted into policy and legislation in Africa. The meaningful strides being taken in some African countries to bridge the digital divide are worth acknowledging.  With this background, it is pertinent that PIN documents digital rights and inclusion violations, highlights milestones and makes recommendations for improving the digital landscape in Africa.

Paradigm Initiative seeks the services of researchers on digital rights and inclusion from within Africa to be co-authors of an annual continental report on digital rights and inclusion. Each successful researcher will report on a specific country. Paradigm Initiative will pay a stipend of USD $800 to the researcher for work satisfactorily completed and submitted.

Rationale and Scope of the report

PIN seeks to compile the 2020 annual report that gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa by examining violations, gaps, investigating the use and application of policy and legislation as well as draw key recommendations for advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The report will also draw key themes for deliberation at the upcoming DRIF21 and highlight outstanding areas for intervention.


The report will comprise of well-researched country specific reports which are referenced and submitted by authors from its team members and digital rights and inclusion community. The study of the countries will take a multifaceted approach, combining empirical and desk-research methods to assess both quantitative and qualitative aspects of digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Expected Content

Country Reports must include a context and background; identify and discuss the thematic assessment areas, refer to any in-country legal, policy and institutional framework and make recommendations. The country reports may include and not limited to any of the following thematic assessment areas;

  • Impact of COVID-19 Regulations on digital rights and inclusion.
  • Enjoyment of Freedom of Expression online in 2020
  • Data Protection, Privacy, Digital IDs and Surveillance
  • Internet Shutdowns
  • Hate Speech, Misinformation and Criminal Defamation Laws
  • Digital exclusion in Africa and its impact on human rights
  • Digital infrastructure and prioritization of ICT.

 Required expertise and qualification

  • Good understanding of the country to be reported on;
  • A relevant degree qualification.
  • Expertise, knowledge, and experience in digital rights and inclusion.

Guideline for Articles

  • Acceptable Length of Country Report: 1500 words
  • English or French.
  • Authors to please ensure that all statistics, facts and data are properly referenced.
  • Only 1 country report per researcher will be accepted.

Interested candidates, kindly submit a response together with a copy of your resume and sample written work by 19 September 2020 here. Full timelines will be communicated to successful candidates. Responses will be communicated on 1 October 2020.

BudgIT, EiE and Paradigm Initiative Host 4th New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

BudgIT, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) will hold the fourth edition of the bi-annual pan-African New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference (NMCG) virtually on October 20 and 21, 2020. The organizers made this known in a press statement issued on Wednesday, August 20th, two months to the conference.

Africa’s civic space is evolving with the application of new technologies and methods to strengthen advocacy and foster active citizenship. The emergence of new media has also impacted on new organisations that are reaching out to citizens to demand accountability from the government with results and these three organizations have effectively used new media to drive social impact, creating societal change across different contexts.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging technology has become the norm and it’s appropriate that a conference focused on new media will be virtual this year. The two-day virtual conference will hold from Tuesday, October 20 – Wednesday, October 21 with the theme New Media & Voice: Hashtags, Action & People. The conference will have 3 breakout sessions focused on freedom of speech, the digital economy, virtual public hearings, #StateOfEmergencyGBV and others.

According to BudgIT’s Director, Oluseun Onigbinde, “Our reality is changing, and the pandemic has led to the emergence of a new culture of engagement in all spheres of life including civic and political matters. There are other salient issues that are spin-offs from the pandemic.

One of these includes the recent gag on freedom of speech and expression by governments across the world, the rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence across Africa have also become a ‘shadow’ pandemic. The conference will provide a platform for analysts, policymakers, and citizens to discuss these issues from various perspectives with the purpose of proffering solutions and strategizing pathways to mitigate some of the challenges posed by the new normal.” he added.

Speaking on the development, Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative (PIN) said, “Although the pandemic has forced a new way of life for everyone, we must not lose sight of critical issues that affect how we engage in the digital age. Clampdowns and violations of citizen’s digital rights heightened during the lockdowns. The only way to preserve the rights and ability of citizens to use digital platforms for either activism or economic survival is to continue to assert the importance of these rights as a precondition to the desired gains of a digital economy for most Africa nations.”

The reports from the 2012 Conference {Tools and Trends}; #NMCG2016 Conference {Rights and Responsibilities} and 2018 Conference {Government, New Media and Civic Space} can be viewed on the website, More information on the 2020 Conference will be available there as well.

BudgIT is a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, to facilitate societal change. A pioneer in the field of social advocacy melded with technology, BudgIT uses an array of tech tools to simplify the budget and matters of public spending for citizens, with the primary aim of raising standards of transparency and accountability in government.

Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE) is a movement of knowledgeable citizens that ensure our leaders serve us. EiE launched the concept of the #OfficeOfTheCitizen as part of its 5th anniversary activities in 2015 to educate Nigerians on their rights and responsibilities. EiE’s #RSVP – Register/Select/Vote/Protect is a key voter education campaign. EiE was an integral part of the #OccupyNigeria movement in 2012 and is very active in the #OpenNASS campaign. 2020 is EiE’s 10th anniversary and it’s driving the #OnePerson campaign to reinforce its belief that one person can make a difference in building a better society.

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. The organisation’s digital inclusion programs include a digital readiness school for young people living in under-served communities (LIFE) and a software engineering school targeting high potential young Nigerians (Dufuna). Both programs have a deliberate focus to ensure equal participation for women and girls.

For more information about this statement, please contact:

Kill Switch: Will Tanzania #KeepItOn during the upcoming election?

By | Digital Rights, Internet Freedom

Dar es Salaam. Digital rights activists in Tanzania are concerned that as the country heads to a general election later this year, on October 28, the government may opt to restrict the use of the internet, especially social media, and thus risk the violation of basic rights of its people like the freedom of expression.  

Social networks, mainly Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram, have become popular discussion forums where Tanzanians, within the country and abroad, make use of them to share their opinions on various issues including how the country is being and holding the government to account.  

It is expected that more than at any other time in the history of Tanzania’s politics, social media will play a significant role in the upcoming elections, something that has made digital rights activists and other stakeholders in the country to be worried that the government may choose to limit that role by taking measures seen taken by other governments across Africa: shutting down the internet. 

Tanzania does not have a legislation that gives the government power to shut down the internet. However, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020 give the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) power to order service providers to block or filter content if the TCRA deems such a content is prohibited, says a human rights lawyer Daniel Marari during an interview recently.  

“The way it works is that the law allows TCRA to delegate censorship powers and powers of content removal to service providers. It can direct service providers, or internet service providers, to filter and block access to certain services/websites or remove certain content. If they don’t comply, they risk being penalised,” says Mr Marari, adding: “[This is] an indirect way of blocking access to online content or services.”

This fact raises concern to many people working on the ground on issues of digital safety and inclusion like Ms Zaituni Njovu, the Executive Director with Zaina Foundation, an organization that advocates for digital security and privacy. In an exclusive interview with us which took place at her office in Dar es Salaam earlier this month, Njovu, 30, thinks the government possibility to shutdown the internet is “very high” given the indicators already seen on the ground. 

“The indicators include the restriction on people’s freedom of expression and violation of a slew of other digital rights freedoms,” says Njovu. “More than once we have heard government officials complaining that social media are being used to spread ‘fake news.’ The government may not shut down the internet altogether as this will also affect them but it can shut the social media down.”  

It is within this context that the campaign #KeepItOnTZ was launched to make sure that the government does not shut the internet down as it can have unspeakable effects on people’s participation in the upcoming election. (Asked for his comment on how founded he thinks these concerns by digital rights activists are, TCRA director general James Kilaba chose not to comment). The following are the excerpts of the interview with Ms Njovu: 

Qn: First of all thanks for granting us this opportunity to speak with you on the digital rights landscape in Tanzania. Maybe, very briefly, and on behalf of our readers, can you explain what Zaina Foundation is and what was it founded for? 

Ans: Zaina Foundation was officially launched in 2017 in Arusha [Northern Tanzania] but moved to Dar es Salaam in 2019. We mainly work with women groups, especially journalists, on how they can ensure their safety while online, and we have so far carried out several projects to that effect. 

We also carry out several campaigns on digital rights because, really, Tanzania faces many challenges in that area. As part of our campaigns, we do translate into Kiswahili several tools and contents which aim at improving a person’s safety on the internet for we figured out that if many tools and content remain in foreign language it makes difficult for people to appreciate their values and uses. So far we have been able to make Signal application to be available in Kiswahili for Android users.  

Qn: You mentioned that when it comes to digital rights and freedoms there are many challenges that face Tanzania. Do you mind expounding on that and tell us what exactly are these challenges? 

Ans: Honestly, Tanzania doesn’t fare well in the area of people’s digital rights and freedoms. People’s freedom of expression and participation online is very low in Tanzania compared with other countries. There are two actors to be blamed for their responsibility in that. First, are the government’s authorities that have been denying people their rights either through rhetorical threats or the enactment of laws and regulations that violate those rights. 

The second actor is the internet service providers, or cellular networks, which restrict people’s online participation by charging exorbitant fees to internet users in the country. The cost of internet bundles in Tanzania is very high. (A technology think tank, Research ICT Africa, however, names Tanzania to have the cheapest internet charges in East Africa, followed by Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda). But even when someone forces themselves to buy those bundles the bundles fail to work as it was advertised. You may be told that a particular bundle lasts one week but expires in less than one hour and you don’t even know how that happened. And you don’t even have any place to ask if that happens.     

There is also another issue. You can afford the cost of internet bundles and it may last as it was advertised but the internet can be very slow to the extent that you are unable to do your work online. All these contribute to limit people’s rights and freedoms while online. These challenges and others discourage people from exercising their rights online and have contributed to the current situation now observed in Tanzania.

Qn: The government, through the TCRA, recently released the Electronic and Postal Communications (SIM Card Registration) Regulations, 2020 which directed, among other things, a person is not allowed to possess more than one SIM card which caused much confusion among mobile phone users. What do you think really happened and what’s your take on that move? 

Ans: Basically the government wants everyone to have one SIM card. This is wrong and unacceptable in so many ways but but important of all is that it violates people’s freedom of communication. Because if I can afford having five SIM cards, why shouldn’t I? 

Qn: What do you think motivated the government to pursue that course? 

Njovu: There is something called surveillance and censorship. Currently, this is a major problem in the country: being surveilled everytime so that you can be censored. Tanzania introduced biometric mandatory SIM card registration the main purpose being to be able to survey its people. Because this is the goal, it becomes easy to accomplish it if everyone uses one SIM card.

The government itself defends the move by saying that it helps curb crime, and it is true that cybercrime is rife and there are cases of being scammed through mobile phones. But this doesn’t refute the fact that surveillance violates our rights and freedoms, both as citizens and human beings. 

Qn:Do you believe the government when it claims that the reason why it surveils and censors its people is because it wants to curb crime? 

Ans: No, I don’t. It is true that one of the advantages [of surveillance] is curbing crime. But you have to know that there is the issue of privacy too. When you surveil someone [in their communications] it becomes a violation of their privacy. I’m supposed to have my own privacy and my communications should be all mine and there should be no one to interfere with them.

Qn: In an environment like this, how do you assess Tanzanians’ awareness of their digital rights and freedoms? 

Ans: Awareness is very low. This is due to the fact that the issue of online security has got very few stakeholders in Tanzania who advocate for it and demand safer and secure digital experience. We at Zaina Foundation partner with actors mainly from Kenya and Uganda because we are very few in Tanzania, almost none. What is needed now is to work in raising the level of awareness in our people and cultivate their interests in these issues. 

Qn: As far as the issue of digital rights and freedoms is concerned, what Tanzania would you like to see in the period of ten years from now? 

Ans: Actually it is not ten years to come, but right now we as an organization want Tanzania whose people are free and safe while using the internet. We want to reach a stage when one is being accused of spreading ‘fake news’ another person should come forward to correct him/her or he/she should be told to correct it and not put him/her behind bars. The government, Internet Services Providers (ISPs) and Civil Societies Organizations (CSOs), and society in general, as important stakeholders in ensuring this, have a unique and significant role to play in turning Tanzania into a safer and freer country to internet users. 

The author of this article, Khalifa Said, is a Paradigm Paradigm Initiative 2020 Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow. He is a freelance investigative journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and he formerly worked at The Citizen and Mwananchi newspapers. 

Le forum FIFAfrica 2020 sera co-organisé par CIPESA & Paradigm Initiative

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

La septième édition du Forum annuel sur la liberté d’Internet en Afrique (FIFAfrica) se tiendra du 28 au 30 septembre 2020. FIFAfrica20 est co-organisé par The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) et Paradigm Initiative (PIN).

Cet événement historique réunit un éventail d’acteurs intervenant dans tous les domaines de la gouvernance de l’Internet et des droits numériques en Afrique et au-delà . Ils réflechiront sur les difficultés liées au développement du secteur, les préoccupations et les opportunités pour mieux protéger la vie privée, la liberté d’expression et garantir la diversité et la libre circulation de l’information en ligne.

Le partenariat CIPESA-Paradigm Initiative sur FIFAfrica20 s’appuie sur l’engagement de longue date des deux organisations à faire progresser les droits numériques en Afrique. Cette collaboration est l’expression de la vision commune d’un continent qui respecte, protège et promeut les droits numériques et s’efforce de garantir que personne ne soit laissée pour compte sur le plan numérique.

Face aux réalités qu’impose la pandémie de la Covid-19, FIFAfrica20 adoptera une approche hybride qui allie les interactions virtuelles et physiques. Au cours de trois jours, l’agenda FIFAfrica20 sera meublé de rencontres en présentielle et en ligne, y compris des événements parallèles dans certains pays avec la diffusion de contenus virtuels pré-enregistrés.

Toutes les interactions respecteront les procédures opérationnelles normalisées (SOP) nationales. Pendant ce temps, la diffusion en continu sur le Web et les réseaux sociaux seront utilisés pour atteindre le public diversifié désireux de participer au Forum.

Ces mesures aideront FIFAfrica à continuer d’être une plate-forme attentive aux défis croissants de la jouissance de la liberté d’Internet dans divers pays africains. Elle demeure attachée à lutter contre les arrestations et l’intimidation des internautes et condamnera toujours les perturbations d’Internet et la prolifération de lois et de réglementations qui sapent le potentiel numérique du continent.
Toutes ces problématiques seront évoquées et débattues par les participants au forum.

En effet, alors que le coronavirus continue de se propager dans le monde, divers gouvernements africains ont imposé des mesures radicales telles que des interdictions de voyager, des couvre-feux, l’interdiction des rassemblements de masse, des quarantaines obligatoires, la fermeture des établissements d’enseignement, des lieux de divertissement et des frontières pour enrayer la pandémie. Certaines de ces mesures ont stimulé l’utilisation des technologies numériques, y compris les services financiers numériques et l’accès à Internet subventionné.

Cependant, malgré le potentiel de la technologie pour aider à contenir la propagation du coronavirus, Internet constitue également une menace importante pour lutter contre la pandémie. Dans de nombreux pays africains, les réseaux sociaux ont été inondés de spéculations et de fausses informations sur la Covid-19. Cette situation a abouti à l’adoption de normes législatives criminalisant la diffusion de fausses informations liées à la Covid-19. Dans certains pays, les réponses technologiques à la pandémie sont entachées de mesures régressives préexistantes telles que la fiscalité numérique et les perturbations d’Internet, qui continuent de compromettre l’accès à des informations cruciales et la jouissance des droits numériques.

Dans le même temps, on craint de plus en plus que les communautés minoritaires et marginalisées telles que les réfugiés et les personnes handicapées soient laissées pour compte dans l’accès aux informations sur la Covid-19. En effet, malgré l’expansion récente de l’utilisation des TIC, l’exclusion numérique persiste en raison d’un accès limité, du prix onéreux des outils TIC requis, et du manque de contenus dans des formats adaptés.

Cette année, FIFAfrica mènera des réflexions sur la manière dont les solutions et les restrictions gouvernementales liées au coronavirus nuisent à la jouissance des droits numériques, y compris le droit à la vie privée et à la protection des données personnelles, le droit d’accès à l’information et la liberté d’expression et d’association.

Les organisateurs de FIFAfrica reconnaissent que la liberté sur Internet a de multiples facettes et, tout comme elle nécessite d’avoir une multiplicité de parties prenantes travaillant conjointement, elle nécessite également une diversité dans les voix, les expériences, les points de vue et les domaines de travail thématiques de ceux qui fréquentent FIFAfrica.

Des efforts sont concentis pour inclure les communautés marginalisées et les groupes à risque présents, dans les panels, les ateliers et les thèmes des sessions. FIFAfrica place également la liberté sur Internet dans l’agenda des principaux acteurs, notamment les décideurs politiques africains, les régulateurs, les défenseurs des droits humains, les universités, les forces de l’ordre, les développeurs d’outils de liberté sur Internet et les médias, ouvrant la voie à un travail plus large sur la promotion des droits numériques sur le continent et la promotion du modèle multipartite de gouvernance de l’Internet.

L’hébergement d’un FIFAfrica hybride dans le cadre d’un partenariat entre CIPESA et PIN permet de rester réactif au paysage technologique en Afrique et d’élargir la conversation sur les droits numériques. FIFAfrica était initialement hébergé à Kampala, en Ouganda en 2014-2016. Depuis lors, sa croissante l’a amené à être hébergé à Johannesburg, en Afrique du Sud, en partenariat avec l’Association for Progressive Communications (APC) en 2017, et à Accra, au Ghana, en partenariat avec la Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) en 2018. En 2019, FIFAfrica était hébergé à Addis-Abeba, en Éthiopie, aux côtés du ministère éthiopien de l’innovation et de la technologie (MINT).

FIFAfrica20: Call For Proposals!

By | Internet Freedom, Press Release

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) are pleased to announce the 2020 edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica20) and to invite session proposals. This landmark event convenes a spectrum of stakeholders from across the internet governance and digital rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online.

In light of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, FIFAfrica20 will adopt a hybrid approach which blends online and physical interactions.

As such, we welcome session proposal applications including but not limited to:

  • In-country physical convenings of no more than 25 people as permitted and guided by Covid-19 in-country regulations.
  • Virtual sessions such as webinars, panel discussions, presentations, lightning talks.
  • Live social media engagements (Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter Chats etc).
  • Pre-recorded materials such as short documentaries and podcasts.
  • Virtual exhibitions e.g. photography, digital stories, illustrative art, etc.

FIFAfrica 2020 will aim to livestream the successful sessions and to engage wider audiences via social media.

Subject to need and scope, limited funding is available to support coordination, technical and logistical aspects of successful session proposals. Cost-sharing and collaborative partnerships are strongly encouraged.

Please note the below important dates related to participation at the Forum:

  • Session proposals will be accepted till August 21, 2020
  • Successful session proposals will be directly notified by August 31, 2020.
  • Registration for participation will open August 31, 2020

Submit Your Session Proposal For #FIFAfrica20

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