Namibian Activists Convert Online Outrage into Street Action


The year 2020 has seen a rise in digital activism in Namibia, mainly spearheaded by young people. In October 2020, the body of 21-year-old Shannon Wasserfall was discovered in a shallow grave in the dunes six months after she was reported missing near her hometown, Walvis Bay. On Twitter, anger brewed from social media to the streets and nation-wide protests followed with young people calling for a total shutdown of all activities in Namibia until the Government tackles sexual and gender-based violence. The anti-femicide protestors used #ShutItAllDownNamibia to reach a wider audience. According to Simon Kemp’s 2021 DataReportal, Namibia, with a population of around 2,5 million people, has over 1,30 million internet users with over 800 000 social media users. Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe, a gender activist who was instrumental in the #ShutItAllDownNamibia movement, said the importance of online activism speaks to a broader conversation and the collective power it yields, “you captivate a wider audience and you sensitise them with your ideas for reform further,” said Nthengwe. She started using Twitter to advocate for minority rights, in both a personal and professional capacity, however her level of activity has increased over the years. The #ShutItAllDownNamibia protests saw unprecedented numbers of mainly young people in various towns in Namibia taking to the streets in October 2020. Omar van Reenen started using Twitter as an advocacy tool at university where he studied Political Science and Gender & Sexuality Studies. “I organised the largest civil rights protest in my college town for the Black Lives Matter movement, where we reformed the Municipality of Oswego’s police department in New York, USA to divert more funding into community resources,” added the young activist. Van Reenen co-founded the Namibia Equal Rights Movement, an advocacy group seeking to advocate for LGBT+ rights. Recently, van Reenen led another protest in Windhoek when a same-sex couple’s twins, born through surrogacy in South Africa, were denied entry and citizenship in Namibia. Namibia inherited a Roman-Dutch colonial sodomy law, though the law is not strictly enforced in the country, activists are calling for its removal. In 2016, Ombudsman John Walters was reported by The Namibian newspaper saying that no prosecutions took place in Namibia under the law, however, Walters and activists say the old sodomy law is past its sell-by date. For van Reeden activism (either off or online) has to be intersectional. Van Reeden echoed that movements before him were not as inclusive, thus intersectionality is something he aims to encompass. Intersectional activism aims to bring (in)visible bodies into view, embodying aspects of gender, sexuality, race, and disability. “Movements that are not intersectional bear the risk of continuing the very oppressive system we are challenging,” said van Reeden. Linda Baumann, who has worked with various LGBT+ advocacy groups for years, welcomes such digital advocacy. “Young people have learned that their voices with no restriction come through the social media handles and what they have done is to utilise the space to mobilise each other and radically engage how the state restrictions impact them,” said Baumann. Additionally, Baumann is hopeful with this form of advocacy as it speaks for minority groups who have been sidelined in society. For Baumann, the internet sphere is populated with young people who have the information and understanding of sexuality and gender diversity. Something that according to her is needed in transforming policies in Namibia. For young people such as Van Reenen, contentious political engagements online speaks of a new era.


By Emsie Erastus |Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow 2021

Human Rights online, Violations and Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Par | Plaidoyer, Droits numériques, DRIMF, Politique de TIC, Liberté d'Internet

In Zimbabwe, there are an estimated 4.81 million internet users with 980 thousand social media users as of January 2020. The circulation of fake news regarding the pandemic is a key concern, and this has been met with a strong response from African governments. In Zimbabwe, the president has warned that a penalty of 20 years in jail will be leveled against anyone circulating fake news on social media. The penalty is excessive and criminal defamation laws are discouraged in the protection of freedom of expression. 

The Covid 19 pandemic saw a flood of information being published online. Print media moved online and the period saw a rise in citizen journalism as many people were home with plenty of time. News on politics and corruption were broken online, which gave the news more reach than it had before the pandemic, and this to some extent rattled those in power and state authorities.

Many African countries, Zimbabwe included while grappling with containing the virus in its early days were involved in activities that violated online and digital rights of citizens. The internet has for example been used to share information  through contact tracing, surveillance, collecting information and contact details of people via mobile telephone networks.

Nigeria for example attempted data surveillance with mobile applications, and announced flight details of people whom they had difficult tracking. In Kenya, nude photographs of COVID-19 patients were posted and shared on social media. 

In South Africa, cell phone operators agreed to release customers data to the government of South Africa and also set new regulations criminalising disinformation on the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Zimbabwe some of the fake news circulating on social media includes statements such as, “drinking alcohol will kill the coronavirus’ , it’s ok to share facemasks’, ‘Africans cannot get Covid 19’ and also that exercise will protect people from COVID-19.

Other false information which circulated on social media include statements like, COVID-19 thrives  in winter, and people saying taking a hot bath will prevent them from contracting Covid 19 all which are mythical and therefore untrue. Another myth which was circulating on social media is that ‘mosquito bites spread corona virus’ and that during seasons when mosquitoes are not there the disease doesn’t spread that much. Pamela from Mbare, one of the old suburbs in Zimbabwe said, “blacks rarely die due to coronavirus’. It’s just a disease that infects them, just like a common cold and then it disappears. 

Organisations such as Zimfactcheck are playing a watchdog role by fact-checking news and information on the public sphere so that the general public can receive verified news, information and related facts in the wake of the rise in misinformation.

Also within the pandemic period many countries witnessed a collection of sensitive data for example in Zimbabwe, the government was able to access people’s mobile telephone numbers and share updates and related information on the corona virus pandemic.   

In Zimbabwe, people’s right to access information online was further restricted by the digital divide. In rural areas for example  very few people have smartphones and know how to use the internet to access information. 

In urban areas, the constant power cuts limits the time that people can access internet services as electricity power cuts affect internet connectivity. 

The activities of most governments during the pandemic violated citizen’s right to privacy, and their right to freedom of expression and access to information as well as the right to dignity of persons. 

Respecting and fulfilling human rights is primarily the responsibility of state authorities and those who feel violated should seek remedy through their local legislation, courts and international responsibility.

Governments should ensure continuity and expansion of community based services so that people will have options close to them in terms of remedies.

As has been highlighted they are many violations with data privacy in many countries and these have been enabled by laws and policies governing online media. In Ghana for example emergency laws were used to collect data from telecoms for contact tracing purposes. 


By Patience Shawariran | PINs 2021 Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow


Par | Plaidoyer, Droits numériques, DRIMF, Liberté d'Internet

The American Library Association defines digital literacy as the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information. A person is considered a digital literate when he / she can efficiently use digital devices such as laptops, phones, tablets in the exchange of information. As a result of the advent of internet and social media, digital literacy has shifted from the use of technological devices in the sharing of information to the use of internet and social media in the sharing of information. The internet and social media are inextricably connected. One cannot share information on social media without having access to the internet. The internet has had a significant influence on many industries such as education, governance, marketing just to mention a few. The prefix ‘e’ signifies electronic which is synonymous to online has been widely used to represent the internet in diverse industries. Typical examples include e-commerce, e-learning. e-governance, and e-voting. 

The purpose of this article is to examine how governments and institutions in Ghana have leveraged the internet and social media to bring their services closer to the citizens. This analysis will contribute to bridging the information gap that exits between traditional / legacy and new media users in Ghana. This is necessary to be examined because of the widespread appreciation of internet and social media in Ghana. According to Datareportal (2020), internet penetration stood in Ghana at 48% in January 2020 with a total number of 14.76 million internet users in Ghana. The common social media platforms in Ghana include WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat among others. Issaka (2015) indicated that Facebook was the most visited site in Ghana. He further indicated that Facebook was the most visited social media platform ahead of local news sites and even the search engine giant, Google. In a recent survey conducted by NapoleonCat, there were 8,197, 000 Facebook users in Ghana as at February, 2021.  This eight million plus Facebook users accounts for 26% of the entire population.

Electronic governance / e – governance can simply be defined as the virtual or online form of decision making or making decisions on the internet. The key characteristics of governance are transparency and accountability. Government institutions must not only use traditional media such as television, radio and print to keep the citizens informed on happenings in their respective institutions but should go beyond traditional media to include new media that is internet and social media to mitigate the information gap between the offline and online audiences. 

Institutions have physical offices in which they conduct operations, so there is the need to create online offices as well to ensure equity in executing mandates such as accountability and transparency. We are in a globalized world hence the use of advanced technology and new media, when leveraged, would attain maximum human capital, specifically time and money. It is expected of every institution to have global visibility especially when it is mandated to serve the interest of an information consuming public. Social media platforms provide opportunities for not just individuals but organizations and institutions as well. Notable state institutions have seen the need of online inclusion and have included it in their operations. The institutions that engage in active e-governance include the Office of the President of Ghana, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Health, Parliament of Ghana, Ghana Health Service Ministries, few Departments and Agencies and some Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in Ghana. 

The Parliament of Ghana is an active user on the internet and social media.  Parliament of Ghana has a verified account on Facebook with a following in excess 9 million. The platform engages the public by providing verbal and nonverbal content of the activities of Parliament. The platform also broadcasts live parliamentary proceedings to keep the online community abreast with information on bills, debates, voting among others. The just ended presentation of the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy was transmitted live on Parliament’s Facebook platform. Ministerial vetting as well as the President’s State of Nations Address (SONA) have all been made available through Facebook. This provides the listeners who had no access to traditional media an opportunity to be part of the information society. Social media can be accessed at all places and all times and thus admired for its mobility. The weakness associated with the online inclusion by parliament is that, its inclusion is limited to Facebook users leaving out the users of Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. This can be attributed to the fact that Facebook has the highest number of users compared to other platforms. This should not be the justification, as the choice of social media platform is subjective. Parliament should ensure to accommodate all social media users on other platforms to ensure uniformity in the information society.

Unlike the Parliament of Ghana, the Office of the President includes both Twitter and Facebook users. The Presidency has verified accounts on Twitter and Facebook which actively engages the citizens on a daily basis. It also provides both verbal and nonverbal content for its followers. The President of Ghana has been very informative to the public as he regularly updates Ghanaians on the COVID-19 situation in Ghana through Facebook live. The Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service have also leveraged on social media to provide information on COVID – 19.

In conclusion, state institutions need to take a clue from the likes of Parliament of Ghana, Ministry of Information and the Office of the President and include the online community in their activities. A state policy directing all state institutions to include new media in their operations will be a step in the right direction as the disregard for internet visibility by some institutions should not continue as it creates a sense of backwardness in the information society.


By Lukman Mahami Adams|PINs Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow.


Demystifying Digital Exclusion

Par | Plaidoyer, Droits numériques, DRIF, DRIMF

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

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

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

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


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

Causes of digital exclusion

Although access or lack of it is believed to be the major cause of the exclusion, there are other contributory factors. reports that the four main factors contributing to digital exclusions include; Access: both physical and financial, Motivation: including understanding or appreciation of the benefits, Skills: including whether people have any available means of learning ICT skills and Confidence: including fears of fraud and online security.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Par | #PINternetFreedom, Plaidoyer, Droits numériques, DigitalJobs, DRIF, DRIMF, TIC, Liberté d'Internet, Communiqué de presse

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.

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