Although Africa has registered remarkable growth in digitisation with increased internet penetration and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the proliferation of ICT and other new and emerging technologies has significantly expanded states’ toolkit for repression and social control, deepening human rights challenges.
Several African governments have embraced digital authoritarianism characterised by aggressive and sophisticated measures that curtail internet freedoms. These have included using digital technologies to surveil, repress and manipulate domestic and foreign populations. Although state surveillance is not new, it has dramatically expanded with the increased digitisation.
Further, surveillance has been digitalised and automated, making mass surveillance possible. Numerous countries across the continent have adopted policies and enacted laws that permit states and their respective agencies, especially security services, to use ICT to conduct surveillance; impose liability on telecommunication intermediaries to facilitate the interception of communication; stipulate the mandatory collection of biometric data; limit the use of encryption; require the localisation of personal data; and grant law enforcement agents broad search and seizure powers.
In this brief CIPESA discusses the key control measures adopted by some African states in enforcing digital authoritarianism and their effect on democratic participation.
The brief notes that the rise of digital authoritarianism has greatly undermined citizens’ rights to enjoy the benefits of digital technology. Several of the tools and control measures that states have employed include the surveillance and interception of communications, poorly regulated collection and processing of personal data including biometrics, as well as the weaponisation of laws that have fundamentally undermined the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Collectively, these controls measures have continued to undermine citizens’ digital rights and democratic participation and cement authoritarians’ hold on political power.
Read the full report here: Digital Authoritarianism And Democratic Participation in Africa