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Outcomes of the Virtual Research Sprint, ‘Toward an African Narrative on Digital Sovereignty’, held in June-July 2021

  • Is Digital Identity the Solution to Digital Sovereignty in Africa?

    The political concept of sovereignty is described as the power enjoyed by any government to rule over its citizenry without any interference (Pohle & Thiel, 2020). However, in the age of digital technologies, ranging from the internet and artificial intelligence (AI) to the internet of things (IoT), it appears that this political concept is not a reality due to the fact that the internet looks like a huge maze and governments can barely keep up with the emerging technologies. The term digital sovereignty has been used to convey the idea that states should reassert their authority over the internet and protect their citizens and businesses from the manifold challenges to self-determination in the digital sphere, as set out by Pohle and Thiel (2020).

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  • e-Mourning and Post-Death Digital Presence (eMPDDP): Acceptance, Compliance and Adaptation to Conquer African Digital Sovereignty

    Over the years, it has almost become a taboo for one to mourn a close relative from a distance unless one is very sure that one will not be able to travel to the village where the late relative was a resident, as in an African culture and traditions. It is a known fact that in Africa, especially in the Oshiwambo culture in northern Namibia, one needs to give one’s last respects in person, meaning you need to be present for some days during memorial services, and during the burial service. In some cases in the Oshiwambo culture, there are even a specific number of days one needs to spend at the place of mourning as a sign of paying one’s last respects to the deceased. For example, one cannot spend uneven nights at a place of mourning, such as three or five days.

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  • The Shortfalls of and Probable Solutions for Data Governance in East Africa

    Digital governance is a structure for instituting accountability, roles and decision-making authority for organisations’ digital presence. This is inclusive of websites, mobile sites, social channels and any other Internet and Web-enabled products and services (Welchman, 2015). Digitalisation in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda) is extensive and is constantly growing. Despite the significant progress of digitalisation in every sector, however, digital rights and inclusion are lacking because present policies, regulations and guidance do not cater for data governance. The East African states are slow in adopting digital protection acts, which prevent data dominance and the massive collection and sale of data from local to multinational companies, NGOs and government surveillance. The problem is not only the issue of policies, but also the lack of advocacy and campaigns on human digital rights, since most netizens are still oblivious to their human digital rights.

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Digital Sovereignty in E-Learning Usage for Learners with Disability in Higher Education Institutions, Uganda

According to the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (AFLF) (2007), the benefits of e-learning include: available all the time and can be used nonstop for learning; flexible access and use of content from anywhere and anytime; reinforcement of the culture and values of the organization; realistically simulated work field environments that may be hazardous or otherwise inaccessible; ability to reach an unlimited number of employees simultaneously; uniformity of delivery of training; achieves cost and time reductions in delivering training; ability to monitor the learning process; possibilities of opportunities for global connectivity and collaboration; ability to personalise the training for each learner; ability to motivate trainees and provide immediate feedback to the learner’s questions or responses; consistency of training delivery; sustainable and easy to update.

Local Solutions to Global Problems – Leveraging a Hybrid Digital Policy

The absence or incoherence of frameworks for the governance of the digital economy poses a threat to Africa’s sovereignty in the digital space, as it allows for foreign entities (both state and private) to impose their digital policy on the region. Specifically, mostly Western and Chinese discourse on and notions of net neutrality, extraterritorial applicability of laws like the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), private technology platform community standards and oversight boards, the high dependence on foreign digital infrastructure, services and content, and low digital skills and fragmented policy-making, threaten Africa’s digital sovereignty.

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Advancing Gender Equality through Big Data in Sub-Saharan Africa

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Goal 5 being gender equality. Africa and the rest of the world are targeting to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. According to the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (2001:1), gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. The United Nations Development Group ([UNDG] 2017:2) mentions that the data revolution has been recognised as an enabler of the 2030 Agenda, not only to monitor progress but also to engage inclusively with stakeholders at all levels to advance evidence-based policies and programmes to reach the most vulnerable.

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The Algorithmic Technological Evolution: Attaining Digital Sovereignty in Africa

Today, the global economy is witnessing a technological wave that is reshaping social, cultural and societal norms. The technical cycles are short but far-reaching in their effects on citizens and governments. As more human activities become digitised and moved into the cloud, the nature and form by which the data is collected, stored and used have gained currency in policy and academic debates. What makes this technical boom worrying for policymakers is the subtle rise of the private sector, dominated by a few technology platforms and providers, in controlling the production and usage of digital data and infrastructure. The power and position of nation-states in the geopolitical sphere is weakened, while emerging, big-tech platforms consolidate their relationship with their users through their services.

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