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African govts must ensure adequate safeguards in digital ID rollouts: report

African govts must ensure adequate safeguards in digital ID rollouts: report

The 2023 Londa digital rights and inclusion in Africa report published by digital rights watchdog, Paradigm Initiative (PIN), has emphasized the need for necessary safeguards to be considered by African governments in the conception and implementation of digital ID policies.

The voluminous report of 308 pages dissects issues bordering on respect for digital rights and inclusion in 26 African countries.

PIN’s internal teams and external researchers contributed to the report which presents findings in major thematic areas with information gathered from desk reviews and interviews with relevant resource persons.

The report proffers vital proposals for countries to improve their digital space with specific recommendations for governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, the academia and the mass media.

The recommendations cut across various sectors and highlight the need for synergized efforts to ensure that governments refrain from actions that infringe on digital rights when rolling out digital ID programs. This, the report notes, is vital because the rollout of digital ID systems often include the collection and use of different forms of biometric data which requires safe and secure handling.

It suggests that digital IDs should be rolled out based on indicators that reflect a country’s socio-economic realities and challenges, and also show how the system will benefit citizens, ensure meaningful public participation, and a strong governance framework that protects citizen data and includes a clear mandate and accountability mechanism.

The report also offers customized and country-specific recommendations on how to fix issues that affect digital rights and inclusion such as closing the digital divide, curbing internet shutdowns, fighting disinformation and hate speech, putting an end to surveillance without proper legislation, and putting in place relevant data protection mechanisms, and considerations for people living with disabilities, among others.

On fostering digital inclusion, the report recommends constant evaluation and monitoring of digital inclusion initiatives in order to identify areas that need to be improved upon.

In the face of the increasing use of generative AI, the report also echoes the importance for governments to “enact national Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategies to address AI and emerging technologies.”

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