The Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a pan-African digital rights and inclusion organization, has emphasized the increasing rate of digitization in African countries, aided by continued investments in local digital infrastructure, the development of cutting-edge technologies and enhanced user access, saying there is a great need to establish rights-respecting and inclusive practices in the digital world. Considering this, the group has urged African governments, including Nigeria, to expand digital rights and inclusion across Africa by formulating favorable laws and policies.
This appeal was made by the social enterprise representatives and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) at the just concluded PIN festival in Harare, Zimbabwe, which was held to celebrate the collective behind-the-scenes efforts toward advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa over the years. The festival’s Executive Director at PIN, Gbenga Sesan, said several African governments have made significant progress towards improving privacy online, data protection and providing affordable Internet access. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done to bridge the digital gap.
Stressing the organization’s responsibilities in ICT.
Sesan reiterates that the Paradigm Initiative has been in existence for 15 years now and has made gradual progress towards achieving digital transformation, a clear indication of the opportunities that exist towards protecting digital rights for all. Also, in her remark, Mrs. Anriette Esterhuysen, the Executive Director of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), stressed the need for developing policies geared towards empowering individuals and strengthening their living capability through ICT. She attests that access to ICTs will enable individuals, communities, and institutions to be poised in a better position to act and resolve personal issues.
According to her, the Paradigm Initiative, since its launch in 2007, through digital opportunities and the protection of online rights, has had a positive influence on the lives of more than 5000 under-served African youths with improved livelihoods. Esterhuysen asserts that for over eight years, the organization has made a significant impact in advancing Internet freedom, proposing policy solutions and monitoring legal and policy frameworks around ICTs on the continent to ensure civil rights. This huge contribution has been bolstered by the organization’s expertise in ICT capacity building, research, and reports.
Several African countries have enacted protection laws.
Non-profit organizations and educational institutions have also benefited from the social enterprise contribution by receiving training on the usage of ICTs for digital security and online and social media advocacy through its annual digital rights reports, which have been converted into short films to attract a younger audience. PIN’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Mrs. Nnenna Paul-Ugochukwu, said the organization has played an important role in spearheading the 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.
Furthermore, Mrs. Thobekile Matimbe, PIN’s Partnerships and Engagements Manager, also stressed the need for the establishment of favorable policies, noting that the Zimbabwe government had enacted data protection laws, which is a step in the right direction. Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe now have comprehensive data protection laws. Countries like Tanzania and Ethiopia, among others, still do not have a single and comprehensive legal law regulating privacy and data protection.
Data protection is covered by the union in the region.
The data security laws have helped several African countries align with global data protection and privacy best practices. It represents a significant transformation in Africa’s regulatory landscape. Data protection in Africa is covered by the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data (2014), which has been ratified by all 55 members of the African Union. Hopefully, in the near future, we may witness more African countries enacting privacy laws to ensure better protection of personal and sensitive data.