Digital freedoms in french-speaking African countries

Digital freedoms in French-speaking African countries

(Originally published in AFD)

As digital penetration increases in countries across the African continent, its citizens face growing risks and challenges. Indeed, beyond facilitated access to knowledge such as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to leisure-related tools such as Youtube, and to sociability such as social networks, digital technology offers an unprecedented space for democratic expression.

However, these online civic spaces are under threat. Several governments have enacted vaguely-defined laws, allowing for random arrests.

Several countries have implemented repressive practices restricting freedom of expression and access to information. This is what is known as “digital authoritarianism”, which is on the rise in many countries.

This report takes stock of digital freedoms in 26 French-speaking African countries, and proposes concrete actions to improve citizen participation and democracy.

Les libertés numériques dans les pays francophones d’Afrique

Les libertés numériques dans les pays francophones d’Afrique

(Publié initialement dans AFD)

Alors que la pénétration du numérique s’accroît dans les pays du continent africain, ses citoyens font face à des risques et défis croissants. En effet, au-delà de l’accès facilité à la connaissance comme l’encyclopédie en ligne Wikipedia, à des outils associés aux loisirs comme Youtube et de sociabilité comme les réseaux sociaux, le numérique offre un espace d’expression démocratique inédit.

Toutefois, ces espaces civiques en ligne sont en danger. Plusieurs gouvernements ont promulgué des lois définies de manière vague permettant ainsi des arrestations aléatoires.

Plusieurs pays ont mis en oeuvre des pratiques répressives restreignant la liberté d’expression et l’accès à l’information. C’est ce que l’on appelle l’« autoritarisme numérique » qui est en plein essor dans de nombreux pays.

Ce rapport dresse un état des lieux de ces libertés numériques dans 26 pays francophones en Afrique et propose des actions concrètes pour améliorer la participation citoyenne et la démocratie.

Internet Freedom: Fighting Back Against Digital Authoritarianism

A surveillance system in Ecuador

(Originally published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs)

One of the great challenges of cyberspace is defending freedom and human rights on the internet, all of which are in steady decline. In a decade, we have moved from a free and open internet to one dominated by closed platforms that are more centralized and easier to control. The internet has become a space where digital giants defend shareholder interests, authoritarian governments squash human rights, and private companies spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.

Cyberspace has become unstable, and the challenges faced by technologists and policymakers are more nuanced and complex. Authoritarian regimes have learned to use sophisticated techniques to establish their control in cyberspace, and democratic governments, technology firms, and other actors in cyberspace must push back.

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La défense des libertés et des droits humains sur Internet

Manifestation pour la défense des libertés sur Internet

(Publié à l’origine dans Mediapart)

La défense des libertés et des droits humains sur Internet fait partie des grands défis du cyberespace et décline chaque année. En une décennie, nous sommes passés d’un Internet ouvert et libre à un Internet de plateformes où les géants du numérique défendent les intérêts des actionnaires, les gouvernements autoritaires piétinent les droits humains et des entreprises privées espionnent des politiciens, des activistes et des journalistes.

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The Importance Of Balanced Partnerships To Defend Human Rights And Democracies In Cyberspace

Human Rights And Democracies In Cyberspace

(Originally published in the Counterpart International Blog)

In its early days, the Internet was often described as a Utopian technology in service of promoting and protecting of human rights. It represented a world of freedom that would liberate all knowledge, empower people, and weaken the state by making it more transparent and accountable, leading to the realization of democratization and human rights. Today, digital technologies are omnipresent in our lives. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, drones, self-operating vehicles, and robots can take on tasks ranging from driving support, household help, and companionship of sorts, to policing and warfare.

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