Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a civil society group canvassing for inclusive digital rights says African States should ensure better recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by embracing technology and enabling internet access to marginalized communities and vulnerable groups.
The group also said digital rights are also human rights as the world marks the 2020 International Human Rights Day.
In a statement emailed to HumAngle to commemorate the day with the theme: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights Thobekile Matimbe, the PIN Community Manager, said it is critical to highlight that digital rights are human rights.
“Digital rights are the rights that have enabled education in our African countries and provided a platform for the enjoyment of quality life,” Matimbe said.
She stated that every human being entitled to inalienable rights such as the right to life, human dignity, and equality.
“In ensuring that information relevant to human rights protection is accessible, PIN reminds African States to adhere to Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Principle 37 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the declaration) which provides that States shall facilitate the rights to freedom of expression and access to information online and the means necessary to exercise these rights,” the PIN community manager said.
She also called on States to recognize that universal, equitable, affordable and meaningful access to the internet is necessary for the realization of freedom of expression, access to information, and the exercise of other human rights.
“The declaration further states that in providing access to the internet, States shall take specific measures to ensure that marginalized groups have the effective exercise of their rights online,” Matimbe said.
She said the declaration also includes that states must adopt laws, policies, and other measures to promote affordable access to the internet for children that equip them with digital literacy skills for online education and safety, protect them from online harm and safeguards their privacy and identity.
“During the pandemic and beyond, it is pertinent that discrimination and inequalities are left behind in favour of a bridged digital divide and closed inequality gap. PIN is ever ready to partner with governments and the private sector to ensure we recover better during the pandemic,” she said.
Similarly, ‘Gbenga Sesan, PIN’s Executive Director, said the organisation was launching a digital rights toolkit for human rights and other civil society actors.
“PIN and its partners are launching Ayeta, a Digital Rights Toolkit to prepare civil society actors for when their work puts them in harm’s way. The virtual launch will hold at 11 am GMT, on December 10, and you can join the event by signing up at https://bit.ly/AyetaLaunch,” Sesan said.
Paradigm Initiative is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth.
Need For Technological Improvement
Explaining the need for technology advancement, PIN said the United Nations in a UN/DESA Policy Brief #61: COVID-19 urged the government to deploy effective digital technologies to contain the outbreak.
“In Africa, many were left behind in accessing education and health care following the exposition of inefficient healthcare systems and technology deficient education sectors,” PIN said.
PIN said it was highlighted that coronavirus exposed the need for government leadership in the development and adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to ensure an effective provision of public services.
“The crisis has accelerated the digitalization of many businesses and services, including teleworking and video conferencing systems in and out of the workplace, as well as access to healthcare, education, and essential goods and services,” he said.
Digital rights are referred to human rights and legal rights that allow individuals to access, use, create, and publish digital media or to access and use computers, other electronic devices, and telecommunications networks.
Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. The year 2020 International Human Rights Day is themed ‘Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights!’