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Digital security training for civil societies in Africa RightsCon 2018 session

Over the last few years there have been talks of the importance of digital security and why it is critical to be safe online,especially in African societies where Technology just continues to evolve, but there is little or no talk of safety measures and guidelines.

But what exactly is Digital security?
Digital security is an all-encompassing term which includes the tools you can use to secure your identity, assets and technology in the online and mobile world. In other words it is like putting a padlock on your door or setting up  an alarm system, but now online. Conversations around Digital Security have become a necessary fore ground for relevant stakeholders to engage and deliberate new advances and way  forward, and platforms such as Rightscon are positively enabling and encouraging those discussions.

What is Rightscon?
Rightscon is an internet rights summit organized by Access now , it’s the world’s leading conference on human rights in the digital age, that brings together business leaders, policy makers, general counsels, government representatives, technologists, and human rights defenders from around the world to tackle pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and digital technology..

KICTANet, one of the organizations that is front and center in the fight for digital security, organized a session at Rightscon to discuss the impact of digital safety training on the civil society organizations in Africa. The Session was moderated by Grace Bomu from KICTANet, and the panel speakers were from different organizations from all round Africa who were engaged in training on digital security, amongst them was Adeboye Adegoke( Paradigm Initiative)  Gustaf Björksten Access Now)  Cecilia Maundu( Safe sisters ) Arsene Tungali (Rudi International)

Highlights
From the session  it seemed apparent that it is Important to understand the nuances of communication and digital security within different national, community, and situational context. Looking at digital security training as a continuous process – as opposed to one-time event – that: addresses relevant, on-the-ground threats; links local resources and services for sustained assistance post-training; and equips participant to be proactive even when security crises have yet to emerge.

Digital security is not just about technology capacities, but also about the legal frameworks present within a state that can be used to either threaten civil society agents or allow them to seek justice through the courts if they’ve been attacked.

Effective digital security practices involve meaningful and relevant knowledge translation from those who are well-versed in the field to those who do not have previous knowledge – care, trust, and constant communication between trainers and trainees is key.

Common Challenges with Digital Security Training
Measuring the effectiveness of the training recurred throughout the session. Both the participants and the speakers emphasized on need to carry out evaluations on the massive trainings that have been done in the region. Such evaluations and research activities should seek to determine the best training approaches and their ability to relate to the different contexts to respond to immediate threats. KICTAnet had developed a curriculum based on the experiences and evaluation of the digital security training it had carries out over the last three years. The curriculum looked at basic issues such as personal data management around the daily life of a civic rights defender, a journalist and an ordinary citizen taking part in a political process. Then it highlighted practical steps for behavior change around the use of devices

Technological capacities vs Legal capacities
Most African states that have mass surveillance have always had technological capacity, but they haven’t had the legal capacities.

Building confidentiality amongst ourselves? Partners give hard copies in polarized contents, because they don’t particularly care/think about the implications of this form of communication on security. There is  need for trainers  to understand the terrains, because sometimes digital safety is the threat itself because it introduces people to more immediate threats and prosecution.

Recommendations
Formulation of tools that can measure the effectiveness of DigiSec training without compromising the safety of those trained,  collaborating with techies to come up with assessments and quantity  analysis to measure the level of skills acquired.

Challenging legality of government surveillance, alongside capacity building- using a complementary approach  for example  When we’re not able to stop state attacks against civil society, we turn to legal instruments to take states to court.

Capacity building by pre-evaluation assessment of participants before going through training to see what is already known and what are real needs, and then design curriculum based on capacity needs.

As the internet and technology at large evolves and continues to permeate every aspects of our economic and social life, online safety and protection  must become a necessary complement more so to individuals whose line of work and social interactions are vulnerable to surveillance, hacking or infiltration.In turn more capacity building and training on digital security must translate greatly  to be able to grow the awareness and bridge that gap.

Special Thanks To
Yara Farran
Canada Learns Code
For the additional notes

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