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Overview of African online safety legislation

August 13, 2013  »  Education & ICT Policy2 Comments

Cyber crime and more specifically, the protection of children online, is a growing issue as more people go online. In the African context, relatively few governments have established sufficient legislation to 1) protect users and 2) keep data safe. Similarly, few nations have created national plans to improve awareness of safe online practices. A lack of general protection is not surprising considering the extremely low internet penetration rates in many nations. There simply hasn’t been the need to address this issue as other areas of society have taken a higher priority. But that is quickly changing.

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According to information provided by Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) Global Resource and Information Directory (GRID), only 28 nations explicitly address online protection in their penal code, have draft legislation, or have part of a national ICT plan devoted to protecting online users. In other words, just over half of African nations currently have some way to either raise awareness of online safety or a way to punish offenders.

The good news is that many nations are focusing more energy toward the prevention of cybercrime. Draft laws can be found in many nations, most national ICT plans feature cyber security as a pillar, and school programs address ways to safeguard information while online. An abundance of Internet Governance Forums spur ICT stakeholders to change legal frameworks and give online security the attention it needs.

Still, simply having a draft law, or even updated legislation is not enough to comprehensively keep every user – adult or child – safe. Awareness of how to keep online information secure is low. Data is often unsecured. Perpetrators face weak penalties, if caught.

As FOSI GRID repeatedly points out, many African governments are likely to strengthen cyber laws as more citizens go online. To date, there have been too few internet users to make online security a top priority. But, that is changing as “always-on” broadband access becomes more common and as mobile banking becomes as ubiquitous ad the mobile phone.

Each FOSI GRID country profile contains a detailed overview of online safety. Included are educational initiatives, mentions of education in national ICT policy, applicable research, and legislation relating to online safety. We’ve listed key laws and national policies as they relate to cyber crime and the use of the internet.

Algeria

  • The internet is heavily regulated but not technically filtered. The first cybercrime law was passed in August 2009. The government has the authority to monitor suspect websites.

Angola

  • An IT law was drafted in 2007 but has yet to be passed. It provides, among other things, online protection for children.

Botswana

  • The Cybercrime and Computer Related Crimes Act was introduced in 2007. A law forbidding obscene online material also exists.

Congo

  • A set of laws is being drafted to protect individuals online. Awareness of cyber crime is to be increased in the near future.

Egypt

  • Egypt’s National Team for Internet Safety is expected to publish the national strategy of family protection on the Internet by the end of April 2012.

Gambia

  • The Information and Communications Act, 2009 addresses cyber crime. Obscene electronic information is addressed here as well.

Ghana

  • A Computer and Computer Related Crimes Act was drafted in 2005, which would provide more protection for children and recognize the use of technology in the commission of crimes.

Kenya

  • Multiple conferences and workshops have been held to raise awareness of cyber crime and the need to protect children online. No laws protect users – yet.

Liberia

  • Regarding cybercrime, the ICT Policy envisages that the country will collaborate with other member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other countries to pool expertise, as well as sharing experiences in creating a network to safeguard cyber security.  Ultimately, the government aims to incorporate ECOWAS Directives related to cybercrime into the Penal Code of Liberia, covering crimes such as the prohibition of child pornography, fraud, hate messages, threats and insults, as well as the use of IT equipment to commit other offenses.

Mauritania

  • No cyber security initiative as of 2011. Amended its Penal Protection Code for Children in 2008 to include aspects of online child pornography.

Mauritius

  • The National Child Safety Online Action Plan, drawn up by the National Computer Board (NCB) in 2009, contains 24 projects over seven focus areas. Since 2009, Safer Internet Day has been celebrated annually in Mauritius. The ICT Authority launched a centralized online content filtering system connected to all local ISPs preventing access to online child sexual abuse website in February 2011. The National Cybercrime Prevention Committee (NCPC) guides the country’s approach to fighting cyber crime. A Consumer Guide published by the ICT Authority provides the Mauritian population with guidance on how to use the Internet safely. Internet safety messages and topics have been taught since 2011 in secondary schools. The country’s laws have been revised to include various crimes committed with the aid or as a result of the use of technology. A Child Online Protection Bill was drafted in 2011.

Morocco

  • Morocco is currently in the process of implementing a National Cybersecurity Management System (NCSecMS), which consists of four components.

Namibia

  • Although Namibia passed the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act in 2003, this only deals with offenses related to unauthorized access to computer data, interception of computer services, unauthorized modification of computer material, damaging access to a computer system, unlawful disclosure of password, and electronic fraud.18  The Act does not cover issues such as online child pornography or cyberbullying.

Niger

  • Draft laws from 2006 demonstrate a desire to update legislation to include the use of ICT.

Nigeria

  • Nigeria, aware of its reputation as a spammer, has taken steps to prevent cyber crime. Since 2008, six bills have been introduced into both chambers of the National Assembly, seeking to provide a legal framework to combat cybercrime and related offenses. However, only one cyber security bill passed its second reading by the National Assembly (in November 2012). In 2008, Microsoft Nigeria partnered with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) to launch the Microsoft Internet Safety, Security & Privacy Initiative for Nigeria. A draft national ICT policy (expected to be enacted in 2014) will greatly enhance cyber security efforts. Furthermore, in July 2013, Nigeria’s First Lady was appointed as the ITU’s Champion for Online Child Protection. The Nigerian Communications Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ITU to establish a Regional Cybersecurity Centre in the country.

Reunion

  • French laws apply in Réunion. Therefore, there is a law which mandates that all ISPs must provide free-of-charge filtering software to parents. A child pornography law, imposes a higher penalty for the dissemination of illegal images through a computer network.

Rwanda

  • A draft ICT bill that will address online security is currently under review by the Cabinet. The country’s laws include the use of technology as a means to commit certain crimes. A 2009 regulatory decision prohibits internet café providers and customers from compromising the safety of the network. Signs are required at each café forbidding cyber crime.

Sao Tome And Principe

  • The new penal code takes the use of technology into account as a means to commit crime.

Senegal

  • Senegal’s laws have been updated to include the use of the Internet as a means to commit offenses. In January 2008, Senegal’s first law on cybercrime was passed, Law No. 2008-11, amending the Penal Code to allow the government to deal with offenses related to ICT as well as adapting certain traditional offenses.

Seychelles

  • Part of the National ICT Policy of 2007 addresses legal ICT frameworks. Online security laws are expected to be drafted in the near future. The Department of ICT provides online safety tips.

Sierra Leone

  • The National ICT Policy draft from 2009 mentions the establishment of a government center for ICT intelligence.

South Africa

  • The subject of online safety is covered in schools between Grades 10 and 12. In 2013, South Africa participated for the first time in the international celebrations commemorating Safer Internet Day. An Internet hotline allows members of the public to report any child pornography or sexual abuse images discovered accidentally on the Internet anonymously online. A South African version of the Google Family Safety Center provides information and advice to parents and teachers on how to keep their children safe online. An Internet governance forum has been held annually since 2011. In May 2010, the Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) proposed the Internet and Cell Phone Pornography Bill. The DoE hosts an educational portal with an area dedicated to child online safety for principals, teachers, parents, and guardians.

South Sudan

  • South Sudan’s Penal Code Act, 2008, makes provision for computer-related offenses such as the unauthorized access to or use of a computer network, deliberate introduction of computer viruses, and the unauthorized use or credit or debit cards.

Swaziland

  • In terms of legislation, the government of the Kingdom, as stated in the NICI Policy, is committed to developing a legal framework that will support the deployment and utilization of ICTs, addressing online safety in particular, as they acknowledge the online activities and cyber crime are both rising.

Tanzania

  • The ICT Policy for Basic Education, published in 2007, enables students and teachers to respond appropriately to harmful online content.

Tunisia

  • Internet activity was closely monitored prior to 2010. The National Union of Tunisian Lawyers discussed the creation of a legal framework to address cyber-crimes such as defamation and online terrorism during a forum held in April 2013. (Link)

Uganda

  • In August 2010, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Computer Misuse Bill. The Computer Misuse Bill together with the also newly established Electronic Transactions Bill and the Electronic Signature Bill demonstrate the country’s recognition that issues involving computer and Internet use require legislation. Internet governance forums have been held on on multiple occasions.

Zimbabwe

  • A draft ICT Bill is currently under review and it is hoped that this could be introduced by the end of 2012. The bill aims to promote investment and increase competition, and also covers aspects of cyber security and digital signatures, among others.

Note: Educational projects are listed on the site but in the interest of brevity we have left them off this page. Most information is current as of 2012. Keep in mind there are many other national responses to cyber security that are not listed here or by FOSI. Namely, information is lacking for a few nations (Ghana, Mozambique, Sudan, and Tunisia to name a few). Also, not every Internet Governance Forum (or similar event) is mentioned.

Check out our recap of a 2012 report for information on cyber security initiatives in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tunisia. Additionally, searches for CERT will yield a variety of Computer Emergency Readiness Teams that have recently launched in East Africa and beyond. Also, the Southern Africa Development Community has a harmonized cyber security legal framework underway.

  • fosi

    Nice recap of what’s going on in Africa! We really appreciate you plugging GRID and are happy you found the information useful!

  • http://www.oafrica.com oAfrica

    Your information is excellent! Thank you for aggregating it and for keeping it current!