Digital Rights: A Universal Concern, Not a “Western Agenda”


Digital rights are not exclusive to the Western world; they are a global issue. Many African leaders mistakenly perceive digital rights as a Westernized concept, causing significant repression and the dismissal of crucial digital rights issues. This misconception needs to be addressed to ensure that digital rights are universally respected and upheld.

Therefore, USAID, in partnership with organizations like the Paradigm Initiative, recently held a discussion on “Countering Digital Threats to Democracy: Forging a Path to Responsible Digital Development.” Dr. Grace Githaiga, CEO of KICTANet, participated in this discussion, emphasizing the need for contextualizing issues and proposing solutions from a regional perspective.

Misconceptions and Repression in Africa

African leaders often label digital rights as a Western agenda, leading to their neglect within the community. However, this is a fallacy. Everyone uses the internet, making digital rights a central issue that transcends geographical boundaries. Human rights, including digital rights, should never be categorized by region; they are universal.

Challenges to Digital Rights in Africa

1. Internet Shutdowns and Censorship

African governments frequently resort to internet shutdowns and content filtering. These actions stifle free speech and prevent the media from performing its essential role of holding those in power accountable.

2. Surveillance and Privacy Breaches

Furthermore, privacy breaches, particularly from government surveillance, are a significant issue. Mass biometric data collection in countries like Kenya and Nigeria poses severe privacy concerns. Although data protection laws exist, they are often not enforced effectively.

3. Arrests and Detentions

People are increasingly arrested and detained for their online activities. Governments are creating new laws that make previously legal actions illegal, further suppressing freedom of expression.

The Role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

1.Empowering CSOs

Civil society organizations are the last standing watchdogs in the fight for digital rights. Therefore, it is crucial to empower these organizations to attract and retain the best talent and ensure they have the resources needed to advocate for digital rights effectively.

2. International Cooperation

Moreover, international cooperation is vital in addressing digital rights issues. Global processes have local impacts, and policies must address regional implementation challenges for effective results.

3. Government Accountability and Citizen Empowerment

It is the responsibility of states to protect human rights, including digital rights. Therefore, governments must be held accountable for violations within their jurisdictions. This is crucial for maintaining transparency and upholding democratic principles.

4. Citizen Empowerment

Furthermore, citizen empowerment, community engagement, and grassroots mobilization are vital for protecting digital rights. Increased citizen awareness and activism have already led to significant progress, such as successfully challenging government actions through legal means.

In conclusion, digital rights are a universal concern that must be addressed globally. Misconceptions about them having a Western agenda only hinder progress. Through international cooperation, effective advocacy, and strong civil society organizations, we can ensure that digital rights are upheld for everyone, everywhere.

Neema Mujesia is the communications officer at KICTANet . She works in the Gender Digital Rights Program and advocates for human rights for all in the technology industry.





Neema Mujesia information

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