Delegates from various African Countries, participating at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum, have expressed their displeasures about the attitudes of their governments to internet freedom and cybersecurity.
Delegates from Togo, Chad and Cameroon bemoaned the ease with which their governments shut down the internet and specific internet services. In Chad, a delegate reported that social media platforms have been unavailable for over thirteen months, making life unnecessarily harder for people in the country.
Emmanuella Darkwah, Programmes Officer, International Cooperation, National Cybersecurity Center, Ministry of Communications, Ghana, said the country was working on a law to make internet shutdown impossible in the country. She urged African leaders to replicate good practices across the countries instead of giving stiff sanctions on internet freedom.
The keynote Panel which was moderated by Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, explored the centrality of human rights to modern society and the need to dedicate resources and attention to the protection of human rights.
Hawa Ba, the Head of Senegal Office of Open Society Initiative for West Africa, highlighted the crucial role the internet has played in public education and mobilisation in Senegal and said it was important to ensure the internet remained an open and safe platform.
Mausi Segun, Head of Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said all internet users have a duty to fight for the protection of digital rights and to make sure their government enables internet access for more citizens.
Data protection conversation also took centre stage on Day 1 as delegates and speakers alike assessed the state of data protection and privacy laws on the continent. Ephraim Kenyanito of Article 19 and Morisola Alaba of Media Rights Agenda, while speaking on the new 5G technology, said there was an urgent need to have data privacy legislation as technology made its way to the continent, saying the technical capabilities of 5G could allow for greater surveillance capacities for repressive governments.
The Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum, a two day event holding in Lagos is an initiative of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African digital rights and inclusion social enterprise. #DRIF19 is the seventh edition of the Forum which is convened annually to provide an “important platform where conversations on digital policy in Africa are shaped, and policy directions forged.” The Forum is supported by Google, Ford Foundation, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung. Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative and featuring Hawa Ba, the Head of Senegal Office of Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Segun Mausi, Head of Africa division at Human Rights Watch, and aEmmanuella Darkwah who was representing Ghana’s National Security Advisor.