Paradigm Initiative with Technomag Zimbabwe
Interviewer: Journalist at Technomag, Ross Moyo (RM)
Interviewee: TOSIN Abolaji (TA) | Program Manager | Digital Inclusion | Paradigm Initiative
Media house: Technomag
1) Could we start this interview by getting an introduction into Paradigm Initiative and its work?
Paradigm Initiative is a pan- African Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion organisation. PIN works to connect underserved young Africans with digital opportunities, and ensures protection of their rights. Across our regional offices we work to connect under-served African youth with improved livelihoods through our digital inclusion and digital rights programs.
Our digital rights advocacy efforts include media campaigns, coalition building, capacity building, research, report writing, hosting the annual bi-lingual pan-African Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (where more than 200 digital rights stakeholders from over 35 countries — mostly African countries — meet to discuss, network and advance work in digital rights) and promotion of Digital Rights and Internet Freedom legislation.
Our digital inclusion programs work closely with underserved communities and youth, providing access to web-enabled technologies, digital skills training, entrepreneurship and life-skills training, online work training, connection to short-term internships and supporting youth to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
RM – 2) Which countries does Paradigm Initiative work in?
TA – We are a pan-African organization so we work across the continent , however, we have offices in Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Kenya , Zambia and Zimbabwe
RM – 3) Is PIN doing any work in Zimbabwe and if so can you explain the type of work going in the country?
TA – Yes, we conduct advocacy and policy work as of when the need arises. For example if there is a digital rights violation or new bill/ policy that requires our attention. We worked closely with local partners in Zimbabwe to push back on the January 2019 internet shutdown.
RM – 4) How critical is access to digital opportunities in Africa and also in Zimbabwe
TA – Very critical. Current and future opportunities require that one masters advanced digital skills. Through our digital inclusion programs we instill some of these digital skills to underserved youth in underserved communities, to aim them with the needed skills and entrepreneurial mindset to face and overcome economic setbacks.
Technology is a catalyst for economic growth and development and thus we must take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. The African Union Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa 2020 -2030 recognizes that the digital economy can help accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Digital opportunities will be key in solving some of the problems that have existed for many years e.g. youth unemployment
RM – 5) How has Covid-19 impacted access to digital opportunities?
TA – Both negatively and positively
Negatively in the sense that it widened the inequality gap between those with access to technology and those without. People with access to technology harassed technological opportunities presented during the pandemic while those without were left out e.g. e-learning in urban areas vs in rural areas
Positively in the sense that it forced people who were reluctant to adopt technology to take it up and use it in their day to day lives. e.g digital and mobile banking, e-learning etc.
More innovations emerged that helped people cope with living under covid-19 restrictions
RM – 6) How has PIN worked to connect underserved young Africans with digital opportunities and ensure protection of their rights across the region?
TA – The organization has strong competencies in advocacy, media and communications, capacity building, research and coalition building, having organized Internet Policy Training/Digital Rights Workshops across Africa (in Cameroon, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia) and led efforts to promote freedom of expression and privacy by challenging surveillance regimes (Gambia, Nigeria), intervening in Digital ID programs (Kenya, Nigeria), training security agencies on privacy and other citizen rights (Nigeria), training parliamentarians on digital rights (Malawi, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe), engaging at the highest level to ensure internal government accountability on digital rights (Nigeria), bringing stakeholders together to strategize on navigating oppressive environments where freedom of expression was under threat (Gambia, Tanzania), challenging governments on Internet shutdowns around elections (Cameroon, Ghana), and developing frameworks for rights-respecting legislation (Cameroon, Gambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Togo).
We have connected over 5000+ young people to digital opportunities. Paradigm Initiative has worked with stakeholders and partners to set standards in ICT education, telecenter support, ICT applications in rural areas, and other ICT interventions.
RM – 7) I understand that PIN recently launched its Digital Rights report. What are the findings and key highlights from the report?
TA – The recommendations from the country reports show a resounding consensus on calls for efforts that will guarantee human rights, develop infrastructure and promote meaningful and affordable access. Legislative and policy frameworks on data protection and privacy, as well as cyber laws, must comply with ratified regional and international standards, mainly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provide in articles 9 and 19 respectively for freedom of expression, opinion and access to information.
Additionally, it is important for outstanding African states to ratify the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection to bring it into force and provide a regional framework for combating cybercrimes while countries without data protection laws must prioritise enacting these laws. It is also paramount that countries which still criminalise defamation and false news, repeal such laws and focus on alternative means to curb misinformation such as through civil claims.
RM – 8) There was a one-day blackout across the world recently, which saw WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram going down and many people going up in an uproar; what does this say about digital technologies and their impact on our day to day lives?
TA – Digital technologies have become central to our lives. Platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook have become preferred channels of communication and free expression and so they must be kept accessible and open
RM – 9) What message does PIN have for the continent and indeed Zimbabwe?
TA – Digital Rights are Human Rights and as such we believe the digital rights of users should be protected. African Governments and legislations should put in place the appropriate framework and laws to guide and at the same time punish violators. There is no doubt that digitalisation has come with its advantages and disadvantages, educating the public, stakeholders, governments / agencies through workshops, the media, and discussions will go a long way to curb the numerous digital violations the continent keeps witnessing.
MEDIA OUTLET SYNOPSIS
ABOUT THE JOURNALIST
Ross Moyo is the Editor at Technomag. Technomag is Zimbabwe’s fastest growing technology magazine which is part of Technomag Online and TechMag TV.
Ross has worked in the media industry for more than 14 years and holds experience from the country’s state broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as well as the largest media house in Zimbabwe, Zimpapers where he worked as a Producer and a Reporter. Ross also worked as a Radio News Sub-Editor Presenter on the English Desk and a voice over artist, writer and broadcaster on both television and radio.He has a special interest in tech pieces and has featured several technology and digital solutions service providers over the years.
TechnoMag was Founded By Veteran Journalist and Editor-In-Chief Toneo Rutsito who is the Pioneer of Zimbabwe Online Television TechMag TV and TechnoMag.Rutsito is also the Founding Chairperson of Zimbabwe Online Content Creaters (ZOCC).