As individuals increasingly exercise their rights online, threats to digital civic space have been on the rise across Africa. In the past three years, at least fifteen countries have introduced or enacted legislation restricting civic freedoms online. Tactics include digital surveillance, limited or cutoff internet access, disinformation, and hate speech. To effectively overcome these challenges requires a combination of tech, legal, and civic space advocacy expertise.
To build civil society’s capacity to push back against rising digital authoritarianism, ICNL and its partner— Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)— helped create the Africa Digital Rights Hub. The Hub brings together civil society organizations (CSOs), lawyers, human rights defenders, and tech experts from across the continent. Together, they work to champion digital civic space and counter threats to digital rights.
ICNL and CIPESA began collaborating on the intersection of digital tech and civic space in 2020. Together, we enhanced the tech and legal capacity of leading CSOs from over a dozen African countries. We also facilitated research on digital legal frameworks and fostered regional networking to encourage knowledge sharing among partners and their networks.
This multi-year initiative culminated in the Africa Digital Rights Hub launch in September 2023. In the Hub’s outcome statement, members committed to collaborate to promote enabling legal frameworks for digital rights, push back against restrictions, and enhance civil society’s ability to exercise their rights online. ICNL will continue to support the Hub and its members to shape digital civic space in Africa.