REPORT: Journalism Workshop on Digital Identity, Data & Technology in Africa, 23-26 August 2021, Abuja, Nigeria

Ten journalists from different parts of Nigeria were selected to attend the Digital Identity Journalism Workshop in Abuja, Nigeria on 23-26 August 2021, based on a partnership between the Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) and Paradigm initiative. The workshop also included participating in sessions at Paradigm Initiative’s annual Digital Rights Academy. Each journalist received a reporting grant to undertake a Digital Identity investigation after the workshop.

The Digital Rights Academy featured a set of 40 selected delegates comprising lawyers, government officials, members of civil society, human rights defenders and academia. The Digital Rights Academy is aimed at building the capacity of African civil society organisations, journalists, advocates and others to understand, advocate and defend digital rights on the continent. Now more than ever, the subject of human rights online is becoming more important with digitalization shaping the majority of today’s economic and social activities. With incessant digital rights violations that manifest in the form of social media bans, Internet shutdowns, cyberbullying, arrests of activists and data privacy invasions etc., the subject is not only relevant to policy makers, journalists, advocates, and civil society organizations and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development but also individuals who are interested in and rely heavily on the use of the Internet for activism, advocacy or civic engagement.

The objective of the Digital Rights Academy and workshop was to create awareness of the key digital rights issues in Africa and equip participants with the requisite knowledge required to actively participate in digital rights advocacy.


Day 1

The Digital Rights Academy began on 23 August and comprised three introductory sessions on Digital Rights and Business and Human Rights, featuring the following speakers.

Session 1: Digital Rights 101 by Adeboye Adegoke (Senior Programme Manager, Paradigm Initiative)

This was an introduction to Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Academy, and it highlighted the importance of digital rights, what they encompass and why it matters.

During the session there was a debate on whether freedom of expression should be absolute; a good number of the participants agreed that it should not be as there will likely be a misuse of that freedom.

Session 2: Collaborative Intervention for Digital Rights Violation by Khadijah El-Usman (Programme Officer, Anglophone West Africa, Paradigm Initiative)

Based on Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights violations platform ‘Ripoti’, this session presented several case studies where human and digital rights have been violated and how the participants can provide assistance in their capabilities as journalists, lawyers and members of civil society organisations. The delegates were divided into groups and there was some friendly competition on who could come up with the most innovative solutions. The scenarios covered privacy breaches, disability discrimination, Internet shutdowns and more.

Session 3: Business and Human Rights by Gabreal Odunsi (Programme Officer, South West Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative)

This session took the delegates through the correlation between business and human rights and on how well human rights, in general, are respected. The session made a specific connection between tech-based businesses and their human rights duty in the digital age. The session also highlighted the need for respect for business rights and how the National Action Plan (NAP) of Nigeria provides an opportunity to establish and define the measures to ensure that human rights are respected by businesses including tech companies.


Day 2

The second day of the Digital Rights Academy on 24 August comprised four extensive sessions on Women’s Rights Online, Freedom of Expression and Internet Shutdowns, Effective Advocacy Communication, and Advocacy for Digital Policy, featuring the following speakers.

Session 1: Women’s Rights Online by Khadijah El-Usman (Programme Officer, Anglophone West Africa, Paradigm Initiative)

In a time where violations of human rights are recorded daily, it is important that women’s rights are also talked about to re-address the issue of gender-based violence and other forms of harassment women encounter in the online space.

The facilitator and participants discussed these issues extensively and what measures could be taken to sensitise the public more on how the violation of women’s rights can be prevented. The session highlighted issues including the digital divide and its effects on women and the economy.

Session 2: Freedom of Expression and Internet Shutdowns by Maxwell Kadiri (Senior Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative)

This session focused on identifying measures to put an end to Internet shutdowns not only in Nigeria but also in the rest of Africa. Some of the steps outlined include grassroots mobilization, aggressive push for digital rights framework, campaigns around digital rights policies, open letters and advocacy statements condemning the acts of Internet shutdowns.

Session 3: Effective Advocacy Communication by Olamide Egbayelo (Chief  Strategist, Hexal Place)

The session sought to explore the following questions:

  • How can certain advocacies be carried out effectively?
  • How can we communicate strategies effectively?

These questions were answered to help participants understand and carry out effective advocacy. To achieve this, the facilitator suggested defining the audience, identifying the audience, using the prompt of the 5 Ws & H (Who, What, When Where, Why and How), and ensuring the messages reach the decision makers as well.

Session 4: Advocacy for Digital Policy (the PIN Experience) by Adeboye Adegoke (Senior Programme Manager, Paradigm Initiative)

This session just like the last focused on informing the participants about storytelling techniques and how best their intended audience should be informed about messages through either policy briefs, newsletters, press releases and press statements, open letters and coalitions. The session spotlighted the experience of Paradigm Initiative and its advocacy journey thus far.


Day 3

Day three of the Digital Rights Academy on 25 August comprised four extensive sessions: a Digital Security Masterclass, Digital Inclusion for Disadvantaged Groups, Developing Issues Regarding Artificial Intelligence & Human Rights, and Privacy Rights in the Digital Age: Global, Regional & National Context, featuring the following speakers.

Session 1: Digital Security Masterclass by Olayinka Taiwo (Admin and IT Officer, Paradigm Initiative)

This session started with a game developed by Paradigm Initiative to test the digital security knowledge of workshop participants. Seeing as digital rights is the focal point for discussion, it is important that digital security is taught for a better understanding on how one can stay protected online. Topics like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), password generators, Universal Function Approximators (UFA) and Two-factor authentication (2FA) were discussed after which the game was re-administered to the participants. Improvements were noticed in the scores of the delegates.

Session 2: Digital Inclusion for Disadvantaged Groups by Gabreal Odunsi (Programme Officer, South West Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative)

It was noted in previous sessions that human rights were inalienable rights due to all by reason of birth. However, in ensuring human rights are respected, the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to a given individual or group, creates an overlapping and interdependent system of discrimination or disadvantage that must be taken into account. This session was focused on discussing methods in which persons in disadvantaged groups can be included in the digital space by making sure that ICT policies support their participation and that they are equipped with the necessary technological equipment, have access to the needed care and are protected.

Session 3: Developing Issues Regarding Artificial Intelligence & Human Rights by Jake Effroduh (Partner, Praxis and Gnosis / PhD Candidate Osgoode Law)

To understand and pinpoint developing issues regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI), the facilitator centered the discussion around AI and how it can be used to solve digital rights issues around the world.

Some of the issues include privacy options, data management and usage in Nigeria, and data protection. The session reminded the participants of where we are headed globally and how AI in itself is not a problem.

Session 4: Privacy Rights in the Digital Age: Global, Regional & National Context by Chukwuyere Izuogu (Head of Telecoms, Media and Technology [TMT], Streamsowers & Köhn)

This session presented participants with figures on how privacy rights have been maintained and in some cases violated in the global, regional, and national context.

The facilitator discussed data protection laws and treaties that have been put in place to protect the rights to privacy.


Day 4

The fourth day of the Academy comprised the Digital Identity Journalism Workshop. This day focused on the 10 journalists receiving Africa-China reporting grants in a bid to help them further understand their duty in terms of investigative journalism as well as Digital Identity and its implications for economies and societies.

Session 1: Data Protection and Digital Identity by Khadijah El-Usman

This session broke down Digital Identity, Legal Identity and its distinctions as very few people understand how they themselves are digitally identified; how their information is used by businesses, governments, and individuals; what rights they have; what risks they are exposed to; and what safeguards are or could be in place. This, of course, brought Data Protection into the discussion and what the political landscape around data protection is like in Nigeria.

Session 2: Disinformation Risk in the Media

In July 2021 Paradigm Initiative in collaboration with the Global Disinformation Index launched a Nigeria Disinformation Report where 34 of the most popular news websites and blogs were measured for disinformation. A panel discussion was held with Craig Fagan, Director – Policy & Programmes of the Global Disinformation Index as well as members of the Paradigm Initiative team such as Sani Suleiman, Programme Assistant, North-West Nigeria and the journalists participating in the workshop. The group discussed the findings of the report, some of which included how many Nigerian sites were not open in terms of funding and attribution, as well as journalism standards globally and how to combat misinformation.

Session 3: The Reporting Grant, Investigations and Beyond

In this session the workshop was joined by the two previous grantees of the Africa-China Reporting Poroject and participants in the 2019 Digital ID Workshop in Johannesburg, Sharon Wawira Kiburi, a Journalist at Talk Africa in Nairobi who investigated whether a centralized digital identity database is possible in Africa; and Oluwamayowa Tijani, a journalist at The Cable and Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Nigeria who investigated Boko Haram and the problem of digital identity in North-East Nigeria. Both grantees spoke in detail about their investigations and the challenges they faced. They also discussed how to find evidence and implement a successful methodology, and the importance of producing evidence-based stories. This session was a great way to end the workshop as it left the journalists excited and ready to begin their own investigative journeys to implement what they had learned at the workshop and Digital Rights Academy.


Workshop resources:

Digital Rights 101

Introduction to Digital Rights – Digital Policy advocacy

Privacy Rights in the Digital Age (Global, Regional and National)

Women’s Rights Online

Effective Advocacy Communication

Global Disinformation Index – Media Market Risk Ratings: Nigeria

Developing Issues on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights in the Digital Environment

Collaborative Intervention for Digital Rights Violations

Digital Rights Academy – Digital Security

Data Protection and Digital Identity in Nigeria

Digital Rights ActivismThe Role of Legislation, Litigation and Judiciary

Legal Landscape for Digital Rights in Nigeria

Litigating Digital Rights Using Regional and Sub Regional Systems

Digital Inclusion for Disadvantaged Groups (Persons with Disabilities)

Digital Inclusion for Disadvantaged Groups (Persons with Disabilities) II

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