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Africa: Internet Freedom in a Season of Elections

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Digital rights concerns for Africa seem to be on the rise and so does the need to mount guard for its protection and respect across the region.

Chief among these concerns is the wanton disregard for respect for human rights online by the state authorities. This has spurred many civil society actors to demand dialogues from governments and when this fails, seek legal redress on many of these issues.

This is why Paradigm Initiative from Nigeria was in Court on June 28, 2017, to challenge the inaction of the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology towards the freedom of information request sent to it.

The request was made to ascertain claims that the Ministry was to build and launch two satellites capable of snooping on the private details of citizens. The hearing has since been rescheduled for September 29, 2017.

A few weeks from now, important national elections will be held in three demographically important African states. On August 4, Rwandans will be heading to the polls to elect a President. On August 8 and August 23 respectively, Kenyans and Angolans will also choose their President and Prime Minister in eagerly anticipated elections.

Even though Kenya has recently committed to not shutting down the Internet for the upcoming elections, it has become more imperative not to lose guard of shutdowns incidents that are currently sweeping through the continent.

One of such is the perennial case of Ethiopia. According to the Freedom on the Net report for 2016, the country is one of the two ranked as not free in terms of Internet freedom on the continent. This same antecedent was also duly reported in the Digital Rights Report for Africa 2016.

This also follows in the heel of a recent Internet shutdown in the country on May 31, 2017, to prevent exam question leakages. While it is high time governments got more creative on better means of engaging malpractices during exams other than shutting down the Internet, civil society organisations can also step in to fill the gap constantly created by these excuses by coordinating with authorities on smarter ways that do not disrupt Internet activities in many of these countries.

A Ugandan non-governmental organisation, Unwanted Witness has also joined 22 other international organisations to petition the Malian government on the recent Internet shutdown in the country. Many of these Internet violations occur regularly in these countries because they do not seem to be on the radar of many International human rights observers.

This apathy could also be traced to why the reign of impunity is supreme other than the rule of law in many of these countries.

There have also been reports of Internet disruptions in Congo Brazzaville due to an alleged submarine cable cut. Even though there has been widespread information that the disruption coincides with when the government of the country seems to be having a row with major dissenting voices in the country.

Election time in Africa is usually accompanied by digital rights violations – notably Internet and Internet applications shutdowns.

In 2016, five African countries – Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Uganda, and Zambia shut down the Internet/Internet applications during elections. Authorities in a sixth country, Ghana, threatened to shut down social media ahead of the December 2016 elections but were dissuaded from doing so partly because citizens made it clear it would have electoral consequences for the ruling party.

Ahead of the elections, there is much to worry about as plans are already in place to stifle Internet freedom in these countries.

In Rwanda, the government placed restrictions on the use of social media by presidential candidates, a decision which however has been recently reversed. In Angola, policies put in place in 2016 – plans to regulate social media announced by the President in his new year’s speech, and the creation of the “Angolan Social Communications Regulatory Body” to ensure compliance with new media laws, are threats to digital rights during the elections.

In January, the Kenya Communications Agency warned it could shut down the Internet during the elections, and announced the purchase of surveillance equipment for social media and mobile phones.

In March 2017, a court upheld the original court judgment to stop the installation of the mobile phone surveillance system and the last is yet to be heard of this development.

An opportunity has arisen for civil society actors to rally African citizens to uphold digital rights. Evidence from Africa in 2016 showed that the best results in defence of digital rights were obtained when civil society worked with local actors to defend digital rights, rather than waiting for the international community’s intervention through organs such as the United Nations and the African Union. In any case, an intervention by the international community is made more effective by on-going local action by citizens.

In Zimbabwe, despite government shutting down of Whatsapp during the #ZimShutDown2016 protests, citizens found other ways to mobilise to get their voices heard. In our quest to uphold digital rights during this election season, perhaps when we manage to find creative ways to mobilise citizens despite shutdowns like the Zimbabweans did in 2016, or when as seen in Ghana last year, citizens make it clear there will be electoral consequences for Internet shutdowns, real progress will be made.

Babatunde Okunoye and Tomiwa Ilori works as research assistant and program assistant with Paradigm Initiative respectively.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Western Digital Expands Its Product Range in Nigeria

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Western Digital Corporation, a global leader in data technology, has expanded its portfolio of data storage devices in Nigeria. The expansion will allow consumers to access a wide range of WD®- and SanDisk®-brand products while positioning Western Digital as a premier data technology company for Nigerians.

As part of the expansion, Western Digital has introduced products catered to mobile storage solutions, which includes the iXpand™ flash drive, SanDisk Ultra™ Dual Drive m3.0, microSD™ and SD™ cards (SanDisk Extreme™ and SanDisk Extreme PRO™); in addition to SanDisk external SSDs; WD internal SSDs, and a range of internal and external hard drives, while offering after-sales support for consumers across Nigeria.

Speaking on the expansion, Ghassan Azzi, Senior Sales Manager for Africa Western Digital said, “At Western Digital we offer high-performance, high-capacity and high-quality storage solutions to fit the increasingly digital lifestyles of consumers. More and more Nigerians are capturing moments and creating and sharing memories with their smartphones, high-resolution cameras, drones and action cams. We want everyone to know that Western Digital and its consumer brands have the right storage solutions for their needs.”

SanDisk Mobile Storage Solutions

iXpand – The iXpand flash drive is ideal for the iPhone or iPad that enables you to free up space, back up your camera roll and even watch videos straight from the drive.1 The iXpand flash drives are equipped with a Lightning connector and a USB 3.0 connector so users can move files between iPhone, iPad, and Mac or PC computers. Users can also set the iXpand mobile app to automatically back up their iPhone or iPad camera roll anytime the product is connected.2 It comes in 32|64|128|256 GB capacities.*

Dual Drive – The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive m3.0 is for Android™ devices and enables the movement of content from your OTG-enabled Android smartphones to your computer.3 Quickly free up space on your Android smartphone or tablet so you can take more pictures and videos. It comes in 16 |32|64|128|256 GB capacities.*

400GB* micro SD card – The SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card is perfect for recording and watching Full HD video, with room for hours of video.4 Ideal for Android based smartphones and tablets, this card’s A1 rating means that you can load apps faster too.

This card racks up transfer speeds of 100MB/s and can move 1,200 photos per minute.5 It meets the A1 App Performance Class specification which allows it to load apps faster. With a breakthrough capacity of up to 400GB, you can store even more hours of Full HD video on the card without worrying about running out of room for the videos, photos, music, movies and other files you want to shoot, save and share.4

SanDisk external SSDs

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD – This ruggedized portable SSD delivers high-speed transfers of up to 550MB/s** making it perfect for saving and editing hi-res photos and videos. With an IP556 rating and a solid state core, it also stands up to rain, spills, dust and drops. It comes in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB capacities.*

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Jumia Launches Africa Hospitality Report 2018/19

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The 2nd edition of Jumia’s Africa Hospitality Report looks at the 2017/2018 trends in the continent’s tourism, travel, hospitality and aviation industries.

It sheds light on the impressive growth that Africa’s travel and tourism industry has recorded through in 2017 and 2018 with an increase in international arrivals.

The Jumia Hospitality Report further underlines the industries’ contribution to the economy, underlying challenges and the potential for future growth, as African tourism becomes of age.

“The African market for online travel is still nascent with undoubted prospects.

“We are proud to once again produce a comprehensive report that highlights the diverse aspects of both the hospitality and aviation industries in Africa.

“This has been made a success by the input of our partners,” remarks Joe Falter, CEO of Jumia Travel & Food.

According to the report, “the continent receives only 5% of all the international arrivals, Africa’s travel and tourism industry continues to record impressive growth over the years.

‘In 2017, the continent hit a 63 million high in international tourist arrivals as compared to 58m in 2016 (+ 9% vs 2016).

“As a result of affordability and ease of travel, domestic travel is growing in Africa, recording a high of 60% in local spending as compared to 40% in international spending.

The UNWTO’s Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili explains the change in domestic travel landscape in Africa, noting that “people’s movement is no longer a luxury set aside for the few with high per capita income but a basic need for the ever-increasing majority of the middle class who create and shape the future generation entrepreneurs.

A growing middle class is a sign of a robust economy. The existence of domestic tourists who have more money to spend at their disposal and thus willing to travel more has led to the mushrooming of low-cost airlines, upward growth of bed capacity in main cities, flourishing of the so-called shared economy etc”.

The AU e-Passport and the creation of visa upon arrival, e-visa and visa-free travel for African citizens in line with the concept of unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services across the countries remains a strong driving factor to the growth of domestic travel.

Africans now do not require a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in 24% of other African countries, while still a dominant 51% of African countries need Africans to have visas to travel.

The report also breaks down the percentages of the various sources of traffic on Jumia.

The high record in the mobile as a source of traffic is perhaps as a result of the increasing adoption of smartphones in Africa, which stands at 34% in 2018. 61% of the travellers are using a smartphone to book their hotel or flight on Jumia Travel.

The African traveller still opts to Pay-at-Hotel as the mode of payment (65%) in 2018, even as the trust for Credit & Debit Card increases to 21% from 15% in 2017.

Africa’s air passenger traffic share is only 2.2% of the world total with 88.5 million passengers in 2017, an increase of 6.6% from 2016.

It is expected to grow by 4.9% annually over the next 20 years, creating enormous opportunities for the continent’s airlines to grow.

Addressing how to competitively position Africa’s airlines in the global aviation market, IATA’s Special Envoy to Africa on Aeropolitical Affairs Raphael Kuuchi stipulates that “the sustainable growth of African airlines traffic lies in removing the bottlenecks to effective connectivity, lowering industry operating cost and developing commercial cooperation among airlines.

With the assurance of safety, security, competitive operating environment, ease of market access and visa facilitation, Africa’s share of passenger traffic will exceed 320 million by 2037,” he concludes.

 

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Publiseer to Deliver Digital Content to Over 3,000 Libraries with cloudLibrary

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Publiseer, Nigeria’s digital content distribution company, has been working hard on developing new features and partnerships based on the feedback it received so far this year.

 

In the spirit of the holidays, today, Publiseer announces that it will now deliver digital content to over 3,000 book libraries around the world, including the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, thanks to cloudLibrary, a lending platform by Bibliotheca.

 

Bibliotheca has been a highly requested distribution channel from most of Publiseer’s authors, so Publiseer is really excited about this expansion of its distribution channel.

 

Two months ago, Publiseer announced that it will be taking its library distribution even deeper with its addition of Baker & Taylor as part of its library distribution service. Now, the distribution goes even deeper with the addition of cloudLibrary.

 

These new libraries to be added to Publiseer’s distribution channel have hundreds of thousands of eBooks and very engaged readers, and so this is an exciting opportunity for expanding the readership of its authors.

 

All books published by Publiseer will be automatically be distributed to cloudLibrary after December 20, 2018.

 

“The upcoming holidays might delay the regular distribution process. However, we’re working harder to expedite the distribution process”, said Chidi Nwaogu, Publiseer’s chief executive officer, who was recently invited to The Future Leaders Forum 2018 by The Future Awards Africa in partnership with the University of Sussex.

 

The cloudLibrary platform offers royalties based on their standard library model and “Pay Per Use” (PPU) option.

 

With the standard library model, the library purchases a single copy of an author’s book to lend out.

 

As a book is purchased for lending Publiseer provides a higher library price, which is three times higher than the original list price of the book at other bookstores like Amazon. Of course, the royalty of the author will be paid out after this higher price.

 

With the PPU option, a check-out of an author’s book by a patron triggers a sale. The price of a check-out is 30% of the book’s original list price.

 

For Publiseer’s authors who use the Premium Distribution Option, they get to keep all the royalties they earn from Bibliotheca.

 

Publiseer is a digital publisher that lets writers and musicians from low-income communities in Africa publish, promote, protect, and monetize their digital contents across hundreds of partner stores worldwide, at no charge, with just a single click.

 

Publiseer has been described by Konbini as “one of the largest digital publishers in Africa”.

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