Africa urged to establish favourable digital laws, policies

Digital publishing

Despite progress towards improving privacy online, much more needs to be done to bridge the existing digital divide.

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Governments across Africa have been urged to expand digital rights and inclusion on the continent by formulating favourable laws and policies.

Speaking during a Paradigm Initiative (PIN) Festival held in Harare, Zimbabwe, representatives from the social enterprise as well as the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) made the appeal that citizens on the continent are currently using Information Communications Technology (ICTs) on a regular basis, creating a need for rights on how they use ICT.

Executive Director at PIN, Gbenga Sesan, said as much as many governments in Africa have made considerable progress towards improving privacy online, data protection and providing affordable internet to increase access, much more needs to be done to bridge the existing digital divide.

“Paradigm Initiative has been in existence for 15 years now and over the years, we have seen gradual progress towards digital transformation, a clear indication of opportunities that exist towards safeguarding digital rights for all,” Said Mr Sesan.

The festival celebrated the collective behind-the-scenes efforts toward advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa over the years.

However, Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director of APC emphasized the need for developing policies geared towards empowering individuals and strengthening their livelihood capacities through ICTs.

“Having worked together with Paradigm Initiative over the years, I can attest to the benefits that accrue when individuals and organizations are empowered. Access to ICTs leaves individuals, communities and institutions in a better position to act, and try to solve their own problems,” said Ms Estherhuysen

Since its inception in 2007, Paradigm Initiative has impacted more than 5,000 lives under-served African youth with improved livelihoods through digital opportunities and the protection of their online rights.

However, for more than eight years, the organization has played an instrumental role in advancing Internet Freedom, proposing policy solutions and monitoring legal and policy frameworks around ICTs on the continent to ensure citizen rights.

This contribution has been strengthened by the organization’s competencies in ICT capacity building, research and reports.

The social enterprise has also trained non-profit organizations and educational institutions on usage of ICTs for digital security, online and social media advocacy through its annual digital rights reports which have been converted into short films to speak more to the younger audience.

However, PIN’s Chief Operating officer, Nnenna Paul-Ugochukwu, said the organization has played an important role in spearheading development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa and “will continue to do so through its presence in Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Kenya,”

Being a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rhts in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans. The organization has worked in communities across Nigeria since 2007, and across Africa from 2017, building experience, community trust and an organizational culture that positions it as a leading social enterprise in ICT for Development and Digital Rights on the continent.

In her address at the same event, Ms. Thobekile Matimbe, PIN’s Partnerships and Engagements Manager echoed the need for the establishment of sound policies, noting that the Zimbabwe government had enacted data protection laws which is a step in the right direction. She urged the Zimbabwe government to ensure internet access during the upcoming general election.