Paradigm Initiative (PIN) welcomes the recently released MTN Group Limited Transparency Report. This is a milestone as MTN Group Limited has broken new ground by being the first African technology company to release a transparency report. MTN is a critical digital operator with over 250 million customers across 21 emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East. It looks at MTN’s operating environment, presents the MTN digital human rights policy, and provides a strategy and sustainability framework. Notably, the transparency report embraces a digital human rights approach for the conduct of business.
According to Thobekile Matimbe, Paradigm Initiative’s Community Manager, PIN recently joined in a civil society open letter to the new MTN Chief Executive Officer, Ralph Mupita congratulating him on his new appointment and calling for transparency of the leading internet service provider in line with the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (the African Declaration). The release of the report has been long-awaited and comes against the backdrop of an African continent where there is a need for an enabling environment for the enjoyment of internet freedoms. MTN is a big part of that process. “As a leading internet service provider in Africa, MTN has embraced human rights guidelines for conducting business. This is critical and hopefully, other internet service providers in Africa can follow this precedent,” she said.
Over the years, MTN has been in the spotlight for failing to exhibit transparency and adherence to international standards that promote access to information and freedom of expression online. In 2019, PIN joined the civil society in calling for MTN to denounce an internet shutdown in Soudan. In view of the released transparency report, it is incumbent on civil society to continue to monitor adherence to the human rights policy presented by MTN. This is necessary for enhancing accountability and improving engagements.
MTN’s release of this transparency report has clearly set a standard that will be relied upon as a basic minimum to measure compliance across the African continent. We urge that going forward, MTN should continue to provide regular transparency reports, disclose its policies for responding to government’s data requests, orders to shut down services or degrade networks, to disclose its policies on privacy, and regularly engage civil society, including in difficult situations when government requests may be unlawful. We call on all other internet service providers operating in Africa to provide regular transparency reports in keeping with upholding digital rights.