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These days, African Internet users need to worry about privacy and not just access

June 4, 2014  »  ICT PolicyNo Comment

Internet freedom is a key issue that needs to be solved in order to establish every nation as an information society. Numerous discussions take place every month around the globe. The most recent event was the 3rd annual Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) held from May 27-28.

SIF 2014 certainly seems to have succeeded in achieving its goal of deeper discussions on how freedom and openness on the Internet promote economic and social development worldwide. Especially in focus this year was the concept of Internet surveillance – which really isn’t any different from Internet governance.

More specifically, participants spent hours discussing themes like:

  • privacy for civil society and business
  • taking privacy and data protection seriously
  • affordable, equal access
  • building knowledgeable communities around cyber security
  • applying laws online
  • reconciling privacy and security for economic growth
  • inclusive internet governance
  • balancing privacy and transparency

All concepts are very important in the African context and deserve more attention from all parts of society. In fact, over the course of the SIF sessions, multiple anecdotes of African Internet governance were brought up. We count fewer than last year, but the following were found using the #SIF14 hashtag.


  • Most African users are worried about internet access and not privacy (needs to change)
  • Rural users are not just a market but are humans with real needs
  • Data protection would boost international trade


  • Serious violations of online freedom are commonplace


  • A reminder that Zone9 bloggers could not be present


  • No law for data protection makes it difficult to trade with EU
  • Kenya has freedom of expression by default, not by design
  • People are self-regulating online content in Kenya, but cyber crime and freedom of expression needs to be untangled


  • No data privacy
  • “Rule of law” often doesn’t even apply offline and less so with anti-terrorism context
  • Citizens are beginning to speak out for online freedom expression legislation


  • Fear of government collecting data exists
  • Government is looking into ways to control social media


  • LGBT rights face major challenges offline and online
  • Users are avoiding Facebook out of fear of new anti-homosexuality law


  • Total transparency is needed to rebuild trust in the government

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