African States Urged to Establish Favorable Digital Laws and Policies

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

Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a leading Pan-African Digital Rights and Inclusion organization, pointed out that citizens on the continent are currently using Information Communications Technology (ICTs) on a regular basis, creating a need for rights respecting and inclusive practices.

Representatives from the social enterprise as well as the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) made the appeal at the sidelines of the PIN festival which ended yesterday in Harare, Zimbabwe. The festival celebrated the collective behind-the-scenes efforts toward advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa over the years.

Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director at PIN 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,” Mr. Sesan added.

On her part, Ms. Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director of Association for Progressive Communications (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,” she added.

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

Ms. Nnenna Paul-Ugochukwu, PIN’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) 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.

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.

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