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Apr 20

2022

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DigiTalks with Focus: A New Advocacy in Strengthening Digital Rights

From February 15 to March 18, Paradigm Initiative hosted a series of digital rights advocacy sessions dubbed Digi-Talks with Focus across 9 African countries around the short film ‘Focus’. The film toured Cameroon, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia. 

Each session featured the screening of Focus, a look at the findings of the respective country’s Londa report, an open conversation on the state of digital rights and inclusion, and debates aimed at enhancing digital rights in the host countries. 

Digi-Talks with Focus in Zambia

In collaboration with Common Cause Zambia, we hosted the Zambia edition of the DigiTalks with Focus on 9th March 2022 at Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. 

The meeting drew participants from civil society, media, the private sector and cooperating partners. Notable among the guests was the Human Rights Commission, Law Association of Zambia, NGO Forum, Zambia National Women’s Lobby, Media Institute for Southern Africa- Zambia Chapter, GIZ and Operation Young Vote, among others. 

Paradigm Initiative’s Senior Program Officer, Bulanda Nkhowani, highlighted PIN’s area of work, an overview and outcomes of the Londa 2020 – Zambia country report. This allowed the participants to appreciate the depth of the report and the state of Digital Rights in Zambia.

Following the screening, Common Cause Zambia’s Executive Director, Susan Mwape, led an interactive session focused on Strengthening the Internet and its vast benefits. She noted that FOCUS showed the power of the Internet. It emphasised the need to strengthen the Internet by keeping it open. Zambia’s experiences of Internet blackouts, slowdowns and partial shutdowns had no place in any progressive society.

Digi-Talks with FOCUS in Kenya

The Digi-Talks with Focus event happened in Nairobi, Kenya on 18th March at Four Points by Sheraton in Hurlingham-Nairobi. The event brought together 35 digital rights stakeholders drawn from Nairobi and neighbouring towns. FOCUS was screened for the participants and comments were made thereafter by the participants. Recommendations were made in regards to what needs to be done to better the digital rights space in Kenya.

Digi-Talks with FOCUS in Tanzania

In Tanzania, we co-hosted the session with Zaina Foundation. The conversations started with an introduction to what PIN does, and the tools and platforms that are in place to combat digital rights violations. 

The discussion from the findings of the Tanzania Londa report was also discussed and most of the issues that plagued the digital rights space in the country were around; shrinking of civic space, internet shutdown, hefty punishment to media, enforcement of the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA), suspension of some media and fines, data surveillance, infringement of freedom of expression online, and right to associate and assemble online.

In strengthening the internet in Tanzania, issues of; cost, speed coverage and accessibility, policies and regulations, surveillance and censorship, breach of privacy and security, the proliferation of fake news, and increase of OGBV (cyberbullying) must be addressed. 

Other commitments to strengthen digital rights in Tanzania include; there being a collective involvement and consultation of stakeholders and the government in providing a data protection law. Digital awareness and literacy should be provided for people in rural areas and in public schools as well as digital inclusion for persons with disabilities.

For countries like Ghana, Cameroon, DRC, Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, their discussions were not far fetched. Although based on the country context, there was a collective call for CSOs to engage more with the government, the need for existing and usable data protection laws, as well as making the internet more accessible, affordable and available for all. 

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