Category Archives: CIPESA

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is a centre for research and analysis of information aimed at enabling policy makers to understand ICT policy issues and helping various multi-stakeholders use technologies to improve livelihoods.

Cyber Stewards Network partners at the 2016 Internet Governance Forum

Cyber Stewards Network partners ran workshops and participated in programming at the 2016 Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico, held from December 6-9. In addition, several Cyber Stewards Network partners launched the 2016 Global Information Society Watch publication, a report to which they had contributed. Paradigm Initiative Nigeria also launched a report at the IGF, titled “Digital Rights in Africa,” reviewing governments’ restrictions on Internet freedom on the continent in the past year.

Cyber Stewards network Partner Asociación por les Derechos Civiles (ADC) hosted a two part workshop. The first session, about Data Protection Systems in Latin America, involved participants sharing concerns regarding the practice of collecting personal data from citizens, which has been carried out by both governments and the private sector. In addition, the regulatory frameworks of the Region and international standards for the protection of personal data were examined. The second session focused on biometrics and surveillance technologies, held in tandem with Privacy International. ADC shared their work on biometrics technologies used at the state level in Argentina, and discussion followed on the different uses of the technology, whether in migration management or by security agencies. Other organizations invited, including Derechos Digitales, shared their strategies for research and advocacy, and identify potential collaboration opportunities.

Donny BU of ICT Watch also co-organized the Indonesia Open Forum in tandem with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The session investigated the effect of social media on democracy in Indonesia, and the ways it can be harnessed as a tool for strengthening civil engagement. Participants discussed ways to improve access for underrepresented groups such as youth and women. Read more information on the workshop.

Representatives from the Centre for Internet and Society and CIPESA were also in attendance at the IGF.

Cyber Stewards Network 2013 Year in Review

Introduction

Since 2012, the Citizen Lab with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has been working on building bridges between researchers and activists in the global North and South to form a space of peers for collaboration and organization at local, regional, and international levels. This space emerged as the Cyber Stewards Network, and since then, members from the global South have been involved in key cybersecurity and Internet governance debates, policy discussions, litigation and advocacy campaigns. The following is a review of major outcomes in advocacy, litigation and public policy in 2013.

Research and Advocacy

Advocacy is broadly defined and in this context, Stewards who engage in advocacy are deeply rooted in evidence-based research as a foundation from which any good advocacy campaigns are developed.

Stewards speak out against Snowden revelations

Following the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) spying revelations, the Cyber Stewards Network partners were involved in awareness-raising activities on issues of cyber surveillance and privacy.

Partners in the Cyber Stewards Network joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the NSA program and its implications on domestic safeguards for data protection across the world. Alberto Cerda, International Program Director of Chilean NGO Derechos Digitales, wrote in an op-ed that the “violation of fundamental rights has a global character. What good is it for me to be protected in Chile if it’s actually the US government that’s violating my rights?” Derechos Digitales has cautioned users to be mindful of what content they upload on any network.

Ramiro Alvarez Ugarte, Director of Access to Information for Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, has also suggested that the PRISM revelations should force netizens in countries outside of the US—such as his native Argentina—to look at the powers that domestic intelligence agencies wield, especially where governmental oversight of these organizations is lacking.

CIPESA criticized the Ugandan government for its plans to use surveillance technology to monitor the social media accounts of citizens. On May 30, Ugandan Security Minister Muruli Musaka announced that the government would establish a “Social Media Monitoring Center”as a matter of national security. To assuage the public’s fears, a government spokesperson later clarified that the surveillance centre would only target cyber criminals. Civil society remains skeptical given the government’s track record of shutting down media or removing online content under the pretext of terrorism or other security grounds.

7iber challenges online censorship in the Middle East

In early 2013, 7iber started a blog series titled Wireless, where they continue to publish regular blog and multimedia content on media, censorship, and cyber security issues in the Middle East. This ongoing series includes short updates, articles, creative infographics, and videos that deal with relevant issues from the region.

Besides the busy research work, the group received significant media attention when in June, their website was blocked in Jordan along with over 250 other news sites. Subsequently, in July, 7iber was recognized as one of the top ten Arabic Blogs of 2013 [Arabic]. In December, the group worked closely with Global Voices to coordinate the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting, which took place in Amman.

Training, Education, and Capacity-building worldwide

In 2013, the Tibet Action Institute (TAI) participated in several panel discussions to discuss cybersecurity and targeted threats as part of their “Safe Travels Online” campaign. In June 2013, TAI hosted an event in Dharamsala, India. This “Safe Travels Online: Tech Meet” with Cyber Steward and TAI Field Coordinator Lobsang Gyatso Sither and other TAI staff explaining security concepts and the use of security tools to members of the Tibetan community. Citizen Lab Research Manager Masashi Crete-Nishihata gave a presentation on the Lab’s Targeted Threats research and what they have learned about online threats targeting the Tibetan community. Lhadon Thetong, the director of the Tibet Action Institute, then gave a talk on the importance of digital security, activism and action in the Tibetan community in the context of the movement and struggle for independence. A second “Safe Travels Online: Tech Meet” was held in Toronto and was hosted by Students for a Free Tibet Canada. The meeting revolved around online targeted threats against activists, the Tibetan diaspora community, and their supporters.

As part of the “Safe Travels Online” campaign, TAI has developed a video series hosted on their website. The series stars Tibetan comedian Sonam Wangdue and shows him promoting security best practices for users of digital technology.

In Pakistan, Bytes for All continued their “Access Is My Right” advocacy campaign, which calls on Pakistani citizens to raise awareness about  Internet censorship, privacy, and freedom of expression in the country. B4A describes the campaign as “a call for [a] larger human rights movement in the country and [for] citizens to fight the ongoing censorship as it will further take its toll on already compromised civil liberties in the country.” In the past year alone, the campaign produced posters criticizing the blocking of mobile phone services to prevent sectarian terrorist attacks, highlighting research by the Citizen Lab with the assistance of B4A on the presence of Netsweeper in Pakistan, and supporting privacy rights in Pakistan after research showed the presence of surveillance software FinFisher in the country.

In Colombia, Colnodo held a public cybersecurity workshop in in September 2013. The workshop brought together participants from women’s organizations, civil society organizations, government bodies, and the private sector in order to raise awareness and capacity building for women leaders and defenders of human rights regarding online security issues.

In India, the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) launched its CIS Cybersecurity video series, a video documentary project featuring interviews with cybersecurity stakeholders from various sectors on hotly debated aspects of cybersecurity. The project aims to encourage wider public discussion around cybersecurity issues. Interviewees include: members of European Parliament, Mariejte Schaake and Amelia Andersdotter; Chief Security Officer for ICANN, Jeff Moss; Director of the Tibet Action Institute, Lhadon Tethong; Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Afilias Limited and member of the ICANN Board of Directors, Ram Mohan; Principal Technologist and a Senior Policy Analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Soghoian; former Policy Advisor to the Netherlands government, Jochem de Groot; and Global Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Eva Galperin. CIS’s Cybersecurity series has informed the producton of a full-length documentary called DesiSec: Cybersecurity and Civil Society in India.CIS released a trailer for DesiSec in November 2013 and held a special screening for the documentary in December 2013.

Research and Litigation

Several members of the Cyber Stewards Network have adopted public interest litigation (PIL) as part of their research strategy. Regardless of whether a given lawsuit proves successful, civil society organization may use PIL to bring issues like violations of human rights and free speech to the forefront of national attention. Moreover, PIL can serve to educate a country’s judiciary on issues about which they may not understand.

Bytes for All lawsuits

B4A currently has several cases before the Pakistani courts and one before the UK courts in conjunction with Privacy International.

In January 2013, B4A submitted a petition to the Lahore High Court claiming that the rights of Pakistanis have been violated through the government’s censoring of various popular sites on the Internet. The censorship of YouTube as a consequence of the site hosting the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video was highlighted in this case. This petition was initiated in collaboration with the Media Legal Defense Initiative, a non-governmental organisation which supports the rights of journalists and independent media. The Youtube case has received 19 hearings over the past year and a half. Most recently, B4A met with the Federal minister and other stakeholders, and the National Assembly passed a  resolution on unbanning the popular video-streaming site, however the site remains blocked. B4A remains committed to their long-standing anti-censorship/no-filtering stance and will oppose any options promoting censorship as a solution as they continue their advocacy work on this case.

Along with the so-called “YouTube case,” B4A filed a petition with the Lahore High Court on the possible use of the FinFisher product suite in Pakistan. The first hearing took place on May 13, 2013 and resulted in a court decision ordering the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to investigate the use of FinFisher software in the country. The court order further stipulated that the PTA must make a statement to the court by June 24, 2013. In October 2013, B4A submitted a contempt charge against the government for not reporting to the court with regards to the petition. B4A’s case is based on evidence revealed by the Citizen Lab on the presence of FinFisher software in 36 countries across the globe, including Pakistan.

B4A is also actively collaborating with Privacy International to sue the UK government over its Tempora surveillance program, which would allow GCHQ to wiretap networks passing through the UK. B4A and PI are arguing that the program violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ privacy safeguards as well as the limits of lawful surveillance outlined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The suit, which was filed with the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, asks that the program be made illegal and that GCHQ destroys all unlawfully obtained material.

For these and other efforts, B4A and its Director, Shahzad Ahmed, have received international recognition. In March 2013, B4A received an Avon Communications Award “for organizing campaigns for the betterment of women” through their Take Back the Tech campaign. One year later, Shahzad Ahmed won the Doughty Street Advocacy Award as part of the Index on Censorship’s 2014 Freedom of Expression Awards. The award recognized Ahmed as “one of the leading voices in the fight against online censorship in Pakistan.”

PIN vs. the Nigerian government

PIN initiated its own legal action against the Nigerian government. In April 2013, Premium Times, a Nigerian English-language newspaper, reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded a USD 40 million contract to Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that markets itself as an “international defense electronics company.” PIN responded by filing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, demanding that the Nigerian government provide details of the process through which the contract was awarded and any information that could shed further light on the substance of the contract itself. After the government failed to respond to the FoI request, PIN applied for an order of mandamus from the Federal High Court in Abuja, which in turn asked the National Assembly to amend Nigeria’s 2011 Freedom of Information Act to henceforth bar unjustified requests for information. PIN’s lawyers filed an appeal against the Federal High Court’s ruling, but on November 26, 2013, Premium Times reported that Elbit Systems officials had begun installing its surveillance system in Nigeria.

Data Privacy and Retention in Argentina

Members of the Cyber Stewards Network are active in efforts to raise awareness on the use of surveillance technologies such as the Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS) in Argentina. SIBIOS is a centralized biometric identification system created in 2011 as part of an upgrade to Argentina’s National Registry of Persons (RENAPER). It is designed to be used by several government agencies, including the Federal Police, the Argentine National Gendarmerie, the National Coast Guard, and the Airport Security Police, and connect them into one database. Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte of Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) in Argentina has warned that SIBIOS lacks accountability and independent oversight, and has been actively investigating the extent and scope of the system’s capabilities.

During Argentina’s 2013 presidential election, the country’s electoral registration took photo’s of Argentine’s citizens from RENAPER without obtaining permission. In October 2013, ADC  formally requested the Contentious Administrative Proceedings Tribunal to remove these photos from the electoral database. The vulnerability of this database was revealed in late October 2013 when a teenager discovered a way break into the database which hosts the photos of voters and circulated the information on his blog [Spanish] to highlight the government’s lax security measures around personal data. (A translation can be found here.) This issue was brought to the attention of United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a report published in December 2013 and co-authored with Privacy International discussing surveillance and poor privacy protection in Argentina.

Research and Public Policy

One of the key goals of the CSN is to conduct evidence-based research with the goal of influencing local, regional and global policy debates. Over the past year, Stewards have engaged in direct meetings with high-level officials, participated in key decision-making conferences and engaged governments and the general public.

FinFisher in Mexico

In Mexico, Cyber Steward Renata Avila has joined the chorus of voices calling for government accountability regarding the its purchase of surveillance software. In March, the Citizen Lab published “You Only Click Twice: FinFisher’s Global Proliferation,” which found FinFisher command and control servers on two Mexican Internet service providers, including UniNet, one of the largest ISPs in the country. Following the release of “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying,” two Mexico-based human rights groups, Propuesta Civica and ContingenteMx, filed a verification procedure with Mexico’s privacy authority (IFAI) regarding FinFisher’s presence in the country. The IFAI subsequently opened a preliminary inquiry asking ISPs whether they were hosting FinFisher servers, while Federal Deputy Juan Pablo Adame proposed a resolution before the Mexican Senate and Congress encouraging the IFAI to investigate the deployment of FinFisher. In July, documents leaked by YoSoyRed implicated the Mexican Federal Government in purchasing FinFisher software from a security contractor for up to USD 15.5 million. One month later, the Mexican Senate and Congress passed a joint resolution in which they demanded full investigation into the contracts for the purchase of surveillance and hacking systems capable of monitoring mobile phones, electronic communications, chats, and geolocation data. Congress also called for laws to regulate and restrict purchases of surveillance equipment, extensively quoting the Citizen Lab report in their request. The commercial entities named have not yet responded. IFAI also informed Congress that they would continue the investigation.

Regional and Global Internet Governance Discussions

In 2013, the Cyber Stewards were heavily involved in both worldwide and regional discussions on Internet governance. Cyber Steward and ICT Watch Director Donny B.U was one of the main organisers of the 2013 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Indonesia in late October. Donny spoke to Detik about Internet governance in Indonesia. ICT Watch used the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia as an opportunity to facilitate involvement among Indonesian CSOs and call for government attention toward Internet governance issues. As part of the organizing process, Donny also established the Indonesian CSOs Network For Internet Governance (ID-CONFIG) as a forum for civil society organizations to exchange information and coordinate strategies to explore and address Internet governance-related issues in Indonesia. This forum united civil society organizations to participate in the IGF in a more cohesive way, and as a result, they were able to significantly influence the agenda and the degree to which the Indonesian government resisted pressure to comply with international norms on freedom of expression.

The CSN used the opportunity of the 2013 IGF to engage in a kind of “just-in-time” research project, by monitoring information controls in and around the IGF itself.  The exercise was undertaken by Citizen Lab researchers attending the IGF and remotely in Toronto and elsewhere, as well as local Indonesian CSN and Privacy International partner . We published a framework post, that set out the terms of the research, and then subsequently, Professor Sinta Dewi Rosadi (Faculty of Law, Padjadjaran University, Bandung, Indonesia), published our report and its initial findings during the IGF itself.

Almost every network member participated in the IGF. Immediately following the event, a coalition of civil society organizations and individuals (including other Cyber Stewards Network members Renata Avila and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) delivered astatement to the co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP aims to promote transparency and adopt new technologies to strengthen governance.The statement, which was informed by discussions at the IGF in Indonesia, calls for greater transparency among all governments, especially the OGPparticipating countries, regarding the use of surveillance technology and the export and import of such technology.

CSN members also played a key role in organizing or participating in regional Internet governance discussions. Walid Al-Saqaf participated in several high-level meetings, including the Second Arab Internet Governance Forum (AIGF) in Algiers, where he moderated a session on freedom of expression on the Internet in the Arab world. It was the highest level pan-Arab meeting that critically discussed violations against cyber activists in the region. He also co-founded ISOC-Yemen, the first ISOC chapter in Yemen, in order to advance Internet accessibility and awareness in the country.

PIN and CIPESA co-hosted a series of online internet freedom discussions during November and December 2013. Over four weeks, the discussions focused on a variety of online safety and Internet governance issues particular to Africa, including the African Convention on Cybersecurity and surveillance between countries on the African continent. Following the discussions, CIPESA published a report analyzing participants’ responses and making a number of recommendations.

Finally, B4A and ICT Watch participated in the “Asia Regional Consultation on ‘Freedom of Expression for Civil Liberties’” held in Bangkok, Thailand from November 21-23, 2013. The event focused on three issues relevant to free expression cyberspace in Asia: access to the Internet, online surveillance, and political-electoral communication. The event featured

It was attended by 137 participants from 26 countries, including Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

For more information on any of these events, campaigns and cases, visit the Cyber Stewards site as well as individual Stewards’ websites, which are listed here.

CIPESA releases report on Internet Freedoms in East Africa

Cyber Stewards Network (CSN) partner Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) released a report outlining the policies and practices surrounding Internet freedom in East Africa. Titled “The State of Internet Freedoms in East Africa,” the release of the report has drawn key individuals from the continent’s ICT industry to Kampala, Uganda for a forum. The day’s programme can be found here.

The report investigated the use of information and communication technology in the region, as well as government control over politically sensitive content. The report covered Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. CIPESA identified issues such as inadequate online safety skills, as well as the absence of data protection and privacy laws in all six of the countries investigated. In instances where the right to information and freedom of the press are enshrined in constitutional law, they are often negated by other laws or obstacles to implanting legislation that would see them upheld.

Launch Of The Internet Freedoms In East Africa 2014 Report

Today, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) launches The State of Internet  Freedoms in East Africa research report which is an Investigation into the policies and practices defining internet freedom in East Africa.

Thought leaders in the East African ICT industry  have gathered in Kampala, Uganda for the launch of this pivotal report.

The report  presents the findings of an exploratory study on the state of internet freedoms in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.  The research  reviewed  policy  developments  and  actions  related  to  internet freedoms over the period 2010 to April 2014.

As the day progresses, emerging themes will be explored by the attendees who will share their early thoughts on the findings as well as explore issues related to internet freedom in East Africa.

The report can be found here.

See the day’s programme here.

New Laws In Uganda Restrict Citizens’ Rights

By Juliet Nanfuka

Recently introduced laws and regulations in Uganda have caused a stir both within the country and internationally for restricting citizens’ rights to freedom of expression on the internet and offline.

The most contentious of these are the Anti-Pornography Act 2014, the Public Order Management Act 2013, the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, the 2014 Press and Journalist regulations and the Non Government Organisation (NGO) Amendment bill. They are criticised for creating unwarranted restrictions to liberties granted by the country’s 1995 constitution.

As a result, the space in which civil society, the media and citizens can enjoy constitutionally granted rights to freedom of expression, opinion, assembly, and information is steadily shrinking.

In an April 2014 brief, CIPESA takes a look at how the recently enacted laws and proposed amendments impact on citizens’ rights, including internet rights, as well as on the work of human rights defenders. Read the full brief here.

Exploring The State of Internet Freedom in Africa

What is the price of security? Should it be your online freedom? 

By Juliet Nanfuka

Where do human rights and online rights meet? Is there a clash between online freedom and human rights? Is there room for self-regulation? These are some of the questions that a recently concluded online discussions report on Internet freedom in Africa explores.

Participants from Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria used online platforms to discuss these issues over a four week period at the end of 2013.

A key theme that came out of the report is the recognition of the increased numbers of internet users across the continent and parallel to this, increased measures taken by governments on surveillance of citizens. This, in turn, has brought to the fore many questions about freedom of expression and privacy.

Many countries are faced with contradictory policies when it comes to freedom of expression especially when it is placed alongside national security and stability. As a result, freedom of expression is threatened by restrictive legal measures that infringe on the access and sharing of information. In addition to these are the legal permissions granted to governments with regards to accessing information about users. Requests from African governments, although few, appear to be politically motivated according to the Google Transparency Reports.

In light of this, a participant asked a key question that also raises concerns about censorship, “How much can you restrict if those with no restriction can interact with and pass on information to the restricted using alternative methods of communication?” This led to the recognition of the conflict that exists between online freedom of expression and the state. Such was seen in the 2011 politically motivated ‘Walk to Work’ protests in Uganda in which the national communications regulatory authority, the Uganda Communications Commission, instructed ISPs to block access to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for 24 hours. More on this can be found here Internet Freedom in Africa Under Threat.

The report, prepared by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) can be downloaded here.

Civil Society’s Proposals On The African Cybersecurity Convention

In December 2013, the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) led online discussions on the proposed African Union Convention on Cyber Security (AUCC). The convention establishes a framework for cyber security in Africa “through organisation of electronic transactions, protection of personal data, promotion of cyber security, e-governance and combating cybercrime.”

Civil society and academia have raised concerns about some of the articles in the convention, which had earlier been expected to be signed in January 2014. Latest reports indicate that, at the earliest, the law could be signed in June this year.

The report on the discussions will be used by KICTANet and partners such as CIPESA to create awareness and lobby African governments to pass legislation and instruments that fully support the privacy of individuals and the fully enjoyment of their freedom of expression online.

The stated background to the convention is that the African Union is seeking ways to intensify the fight against cybercrime across the continent“in light of the increase in cybercrime, and the lack of mastery of security risks by African countries.”

Furthermore, the AU states that a major challenge for African countries is the lack of adequate technological security to prevent and effectively control technological and informational risks. As such, it adds, “African States are in dire need of innovative criminal policy strategies that embody States, societal and technical responses to create a credible legal climate for cyber security”.

The intentions may be legitimate but, as noted by the online discussions, some of the articles in the current version of the convention could be used to negate individuals’ privacy and their right to express themselves through online mediums.

Take, for example, Article III – 34. It states that AU member states have to “take necessary legislative or regulatory measures to set up as a penal offense the fact of creating, downloading, disseminating or circulating in whatsoever form, written matters, messages, photographs, drawings or any other presentation of ideas or theories of racist or xenophobic nature using an a computer system.”

How does this clause balance with the fundamental right to freedom of expression? Experts argue that this clause is problematic as it requires a measure of truth, which is hard to actually legislate or determine owing to the relativity of truth. They add that this sort of law would likely be unenforceable.

The discussion noted that although African countries needed legal framework on cybercrime, the current proposals need numerous amendments. The discussions also noted a need for the African Union Commission to engage with civil society to draw up progressive and enforceable laws. However, civil society had the added task of creating awareness and capacity among citizens on cyber security and the need to uphold freedoms of expression online.

These discussions were conducted on multiple lists of KICTANet and the Internet Society (ISOC) Kenya and on the I-Network and ISOC Uganda ists moderated  by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), from 25 – 29, November 2013. They were also shared through numerous pan-Africa and global lists on ICT policy and online freedom.

Download the full discussions report here.

Online Discussions on Promoting Internet Freedoms in Africa

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) to co-host discussion on online safety matters in Africa, during November and December 2013.

Background

Africa’s internet usage continues to grow steadily, with an estimated 16% of the population on the continent using the internet. The increased availability of affordable marine fiber optic bandwidth, a rise in private sector investments, the popularity of social media and innovative applications, and increased use of the mobile phone to access the internet, are all enabling more people in Africa to get online. In turn, there are numerous purposes to which users in Africa are putting the internet‐from mobile banking, to connecting with fellow citizens and with leaders, tracking corruption and poor service delivery, innovating for social good, and just about everything else.

The increasing usage of the internet, however, has in some countries attracted the attention of authorities, who are eager to provide caveats on the openness of the internet and the range of freedoms which citizens and citizens’ organisations enjoy online. The popularity of social media, the Wikileaks diplomatic cables saga and the Arab Spring uprisings have led many governments including those in Africa to recognise the power of online media. In a number of African countries, there are increasing legal and extra-legal curbs on internet rights, in what portends tougher times ahead for cyber security.

PIN and CIPESA to Lead on Internet Freedom Discussions

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) will co-host an online internet freedom forum during November and December 2013. The purpose of this forum will be to discuss key online safety matters in Africa. The forum aims to attract discussions from key ICT experts both within Africa and outside Africa.

The outcomes of the discussions will feed into a report that will be presented at the first African Internet Freedom Forum to be held in 2014. Furthermore, it will inform the work of CIPESA, PIN and their partners that are working in the area of online freedoms.

Format of the discussions

Discussions will be hosted on selected online platforms in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and a mailing list comprising Africa Internet Governance experts. Identified platforms are:APC Africa IG Mailing List; KICTANet (Kenya) mailing list; Information Network (Uganda) mailing list; Naija IT Professionals mailing list; West African IGF mailing list; and FOI Coalition (Nigeria) mailing list.

The lists will be moderated by a representative from both CIPESA and PIN. Each week, a new topic with guiding questions will be introduced on the listserves and a summary provided at the end of each week. A draft report will be made available at the end of the fourth week.  This too shall be posted back on the mailing lists to capture feedback from participants as well as seek clarification on any issues that might not have been captured well. A final report shall then be made that will feed into the face to face meeting as well as be shared on the targeted platforms and onpartners’ websites. 

Discussion Outline

Week 1: November 11-15             Status of Internet Freedom in African Countries: Focus shall be on seeking participants’ views on issues of Freedom of Expression both online and offline; Internet Intermediary Liability; censorship and surveillance incidents; regulations, laws and policies governing freedom of expression online and perspectives on the African Convention on CyberSecurity.

Questions to explore:

  1. What are the major issues surrounding online freedom of expression in Africa?
  2. What convergences and tensions exist between freedom of expression and privacy?
  3. What are the implications of approaching the balance between freedom of expression and privacy from a freedom of expression–centric point of view?
  4. What actions can governments, civil society, media and the private sector take to balance privacy with freedom of expression online?
  5. What is the best way to empower users to stay safe online while protecting their freedom of expression?

Week 2: November 18-22 Global Surveillance Revelations and Impact on Africa: Focus will be given to global surveillance incidents like the NSA/Edward Snowden drawing lessons for Africa stakeholders i.e. governments, activists, CSOs and private sector; how to balance privacy while maintainingsecurity for citizens.

Questions to explore

  1. What can African governments learn from the NSA surveillance and Snowden revelations?
  2. What are the current technology trends and which cybersecuritythreats raise the greatest concern?
  3. How are evolving Internet services and technologies, such as mobile and cloud computing services, affecting these security threats?
  4. Is there any country data, across the continent, on how surveillance has really helped to curb – or prevent – acts of terrorism?
  5. Are African countries spying on each other? Are there countries that have shown a tendency to breach the rights of other sovereign nations on the continent?

Week 3: November 25-29             Best Practices on Internet Policy in Africa: Discussants will be called to share best practices on internet policies in Africa.

Questions to explore:

  1. What policies are working in your country and what needs to be streamlined or strengthened?
  2. Are there African countries that offer a model, or close enough to Best Practice scenarios that can be highlighted for other countries to learn from, or emulate
  3. What are the signs to look out for in our various countries’ ICT policies, to be sure that the country plans to improve Internet Freedom?
  4. What worked well for countries that have shown steady progress in the annual Freedom House ratings?
  5. What can other countries learn from those that have, or are developing, crowdsourced (and citizen-led) Internet Freedom Charters?

Week 4: December 2-6        Recommendations for Africa:Participants shall be called upon to suggest ways to improve internet security, data and privacy protection in Africa.

Questions to explore

  1. What elements need to be put in place to ensure all Internet users (including citizens, companies, government, etc) continue to have confidence in the Internet?
  2. How can African civil society organisations engage ICT policy processes to ensure that rights are not traded for security?
  3. Considering the ongoing discussions around the African Convention on Cybersecurity, what recommendations should be made to improve the text?
  4. How do activists and rights’ advocates protect themselves in scenarios where government clampdown could affect their work?
  5. Should African academia incorporate this new reality into classroom discussions? If they should, is there a model to learn from?

Join the conversation

For more information about the online discussions forum, please write to CIPESA viaprogrammes@cipesa.org or Paradigm Initiative for Nigeria via info@pinigeria.org

Download the full information here.