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Paradigm Initiative Rallies Stakeholders on Digital Rights of Citizens Ahead of General Elections

Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative

Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a leading Pan-African organization has launched a project that will see the institution collaborate with elections stakeholders across the continent to proactively sensitize citizens on digital rights ahead of General Elections.

The move comes just 17 days ahead of the Nigerian election poll, which will take place on Saturday, 25th February 2023.

This year, 23 African countries are set to hold elections in the process of selecting leaders from the local to the presidential level. Presidential elections will be held in Gabon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

In Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative is currently engaging key stakeholders including the government, leading civil society organizations, tech companies, and regulatory bodies in IT and telecommunications to ensure the free flow of information before, during, and after elections.

Speaking in Abuja, Nigeria, after a meeting which brought together multiple stakeholders, Mr. Adeboye Adegoke, the organization’s Senior Manager, Grants, and Strategy, said the project known as Digital Rights and Elections in Africa Meetings (DREAM) will also play a significant role in creating awareness regarding these rights and capacity building across Africa.

He urged the Nigerian government to respect the digital rights of all and provide support by collaborating with platforms to make credible, verifiable, and independent information accessible to citizens constantly.

In rolling out this initiative, PIN is cognizant of the growing number of internet users in Africa. According to Statista, in 2022, the number of internet users on the continent was about 570 million, with Nigeria having over 100 million internet users, the largest in Africa.

Statistics from DataReportal reveal that as of January 2022, out of a population of 214. 1 million there were 109.2 million internet users in Nigeria with an internet penetration of 51% of the total population. The report further indicates that there were 32.90 million social media users in the country in January 2022, which translated to 15.4% of the total population.

In Africa, the expansion of the digital space has led to an increase in digital rights violations such as arrests and intimidation of online users, internet blockages, and the proliferation of laws and regulations that undermine the potential of technology to drive social-economic and political development on the continent.

Mr. Adegoke said the organization is committed to safeguarding, expanding, and developing internet freedom in Nigeria and the continent, which contributes to civil society’s effort to safeguard human rights, including freedom of expression and access to information, ensuring platforms are alive to their responsibilities in the fight against misinformation.

PIN, he added, is currently providing digital security support to citizens, journalists, and civil society organizations, among others. Towards this end, the organization has developed digital tools which can be accessed by members of the public to report digital rights violations before, during, and after elections. The organization’s platform known as Ripoti enables individuals across the region to report digital rights violations before, during, and after elections. On the other hand, PIN’s Toolkit known as Ayeta provides digital security tips for rights actors. Ayeta is a Yoruba word for bulletproof.

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