By Johnstone Baguma
The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFA17) was an eye opener for me on different fronts. I was one of the beneficiaries of CIPESA’s support to attend the forum in Johannesburg, South Africa in late September 2017. I would like to extend profound appreciation to organizers CIPESA and APC, who have been our partners in ICT for Development at ToroDev for many years. Their support to participate in the forum greatly exposed me to new dimensions of ICT4D that I had not paid attention to in over 10 years of my practice in this field.
I was particularly impressed by two sessions; Strategic Digital Rights Litigation and Digital Security Clinic, which I would like to spend a few minutes reflecting on here. During the former session, the issue of collaboration in digital litigation was specifically emphasized by session facilitators. When we collaborate, we are likely to be more effective, more creative and more resilient to address abuses of digital use, especial by government authorities.
|ToroDev's Executive Director, Johnstone K Baguma during the workshop in South Africa|
In collaborative litigation, the facilitator asserted that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and collaborators who work together on a given digital litigation matter can help further the bigger cause of protecting and promoting free flow of information online. On my part, I felt this was so important as a front line user of internet and its digital platforms in my professional work and daily social interactions. Digital freedom is a lifeline to the well-being of many citizens in Uganda, socially and economically. In the face of increasing threats to freedom of expression in Uganda and tendencies of gagging free flow of information through broadcast and online media, knowledge networks and collaborations to challenge such digital injustices is imperative. The recent declaration and notice by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) banning live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings of the Age Limit Debate in Uganda, for example, needed formal collaborative litigation by media houses, digital advocates and civil society organizations. This is because, this notice was issued with full force of government apparatus that has considerable control over almost all public institutions and resources and, therefore, needed a counter collaborative effort to litigate.
On the other hand, during the digital security session, I was able to receive knowledge and participate in a digital security risk assessment for my personal digital use and that of my organization. Again in Uganda, for example, digital surveillance is increasing day by day. Besides a few isolated cases of digital security offenses committed by individuals like theft and abuse of personal privacy, most cases of surveillance target those who question and advocate for good governance processes and is aided by sections of recent laws like the Computer Misuse Act (2011), Public Order Management Act (2013) and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (2010). Majority of those affected belong to civil society movements and lawful political party organizations.
During this session, I acquired knowledge on conducting digital security assessment with specific identification and analysis of nature of threats, risks, levels of vulnerability, the capacity that myself or organization have to address such digital threats and the type of adversaries that I and my organization should always look out for to curtail their negative impact on our work. In fact as a result of my participation at FIFafrica17, am planning to lead a process of organizing a staff training and conducting a Digital Security Risk Assessment activity at ToroDev by end of December 2017.
We thank SIDA and CIPESA for the opportunity.