African Digital Rights Network

Many countries in Africa are experiencing a closing of civic space: a reduction in the freedom of citizens to openly discuss politics, criticise government policies, and to take an active part in key decisions that affect their health, education, liberty and livelihoods. Civic space is crucial for any open and democratic country where citizens and civil society can hold power holds accountable. In an increasingly digital world, human rights are digital rights. Research shows that typically, as governments close civic spaces offline, citizens often open civic space online.
 

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As citizens open civic space online, governments often to act to close it down restricting digital rights with surveillance, disinformation and shutdowns. This breaches citizen’s digital rights (e.g. right to privacy – freedom of opinion and speech) and makes it impossible for citizens to play a full part in governance and policy issues that affect their lives (right to political participation). This in turn makes it impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., SDG 16 requires, ‘inclusive, participatory, decision-making at all levels’).

Objective

The overall objective of the African Digital Rights Network (ADRN) is to produce a better understanding of the actors and technologies involved in the opening and closing of civic space online. The network’s ambition is to enhance citizens’ ability to exercise, defend and expand their digital rights.

Results

 

  • ADRN has produced the first comparative analysis of how digital technologies are being used to both open and close online democratic space in 10 African countries .
  • There are twice as many examples of digital technologies being used to close as opposed to open civic space.
  • The research has led to recommendations on how to address gaps in evidence, awareness, and capacity. ADRN is building a multi-actor network of journalists, researchers, activists and policy-makers to counter the closing of online civic space and breaches of digital rights. This will include training and development of tools such as a virtual observatory for monitoring digital propaganda and disinformation.
 

 

Duration

01 May 2020 - 20 April 2021

Methodology

  • ADRN brings together in-country academics, analysts, activists and global digital rights organisations to understand what tools, tactics and technologies are being used to open and close civic space.
  • ADRN is underpinned by interdisciplinary research led by data scientists, political economists, digital ethnographers, political communications and development studies scholars, convened by IDS, a global leading institute for development studies

HU researchers involved in the research

  • Anand Sheombar | Researcher | Process Innovation and Information Systems
    Anand Sheombar
    • Researcher
    • Research groups: Process Innovation and Information Systems
  • Pascal Ravesteijn | Professor | Process innovation and information systems
    Pascal Ravesteijn
    • Professor
    • Research groups: Process Innovation and Information Systems

Relevance

The research has led to recommendations on how to address gaps in evidence, awareness, and capacity. ADRN is building a multi-actor network of journalists, researchers, activists and policymakers to counter the closing of online civic space and breaches of digital rights. This will include training and development of tools such as a virtual observatory for monitoring digital propaganda and disinformation.

Funding
The research network is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) through the United Kingdom Research Institute (UKRI) fund for Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA) in the research area Digital Rights.

More information

The project network is coordinated by the Institute of Development Studies, at the University of Sussex and consists of partners from over ten African countries and the HU.

Any questions or want to collaborate?

Anand Sheombar | Researcher | Process Innovation and Information Systems

Anand Sheombar

  • Researcher
  • Research group: Process Innovation and Information Systems