Nigeria stands on the cusp of great progress in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, owing to diverse efforts by mostly youth-led entrepreneurs and collaborations. In recent years, policymakers and economic experts alike have come to appreciate this reality, looking beyond an annual budget built around oil barrels to better measure the country’s diverse economic potential. Startup hubs are sprouting up across the nation; huge investments are being made in capacity building; a critical mass of Nigerians now have access to telecommunications services, and the government is finally exploring the economic potential of the ICT sector. These indicators position Nigeria as a possible leader of Africa’s emerging digital economy.
Nevertheless, a major obstacle remains. Around the world, the global digital economy is built upon the foundation of strong legal and policy frameworks, often grounded in international human rights law, which protects the actors within it. Individuals and organizations only thrive and invest in the digital sector when there is a legal certainty, regulatory trust, and rule of law that ensures that the rights of users are respected and that the interests of citizens, businesses, and the government in the digital age are protected.
This is not yet the case in Nigeria. Although the country’s constitution mentions certain rights, there are many laws—nominally in place to protect against legitimate concerns over cybercrime and terrorism— that are ripe for manipulation, leading to clampdowns and digital rights violations. Experience shows that the resulting uncertainty, abuses, and lack of trust will hinder innovation and experimentation by entrepreneurs, chill the critical work of journalists and advocates who use the Internet to improve government services and foster accountability and limit investment by technology platforms. The collective pushback against the proposed “Frivolous Petitions Bill” demonstrates Nigerian citizens’ recognition of such risks
But this could change with the stroke of a pen. The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which was developed through deliberate, multi-stakeholder consultations, and has been passed by both houses of Nigeria’s Congress, provides a comprehensive legislative framework that describes and clarifies relevant obligations and responsibilities for human rights online. Making it law will boost Nigeria’s burgeoning Internet economy, improve governance, and further Nigeria’s position as a regional and global leader in information, communications, and technology issues.
The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill addresses a range of critical digital policy issues, such as data in the cloud; surveillance and a lawful interception; data privacy; and freedom of expression online. The bill also provides for the protection of citizens from errant behaviours such as hate speech and misinformation, as defined by a competent court of law. Overall, the bill addresses key challenges, provides regulatory clarity, and safeguards users rights, all while maintaining a preference for “openness”, which the OECD and many others have noted is vital for boosting trade, enabling innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering new, creative and cost-saving business models, and enriching social well-being.
The Bill presents Nigeria with the opportunity to build an effective digital economy with a robust policy framework that protects businesses and secures human rights, complementing ongoing efforts by citizens, civil society, the private sector, government and other actors. The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will further cement Nigeria’s reputation as a pioneer in progressive, positive legislation in a world where repression, clampdowns, violations and dangerous laws are on the rise. We urge the national assembly to transmit the bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his presidential assent. We also urge the President to give his assent to the bill immediately it reaches his desk.
‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise he founded in 2007 to improve livelihoods of underserved youth through provision of ICT-enabled support system and entrenchment of digital rights.
Mark Stephens, CBE has served as the Independent Board Chair of Global Network Initiative since 2014. A partner at UK firm Howard Kennedy, Stephens has undertaken some of the most important freedom of expression and privacy cases in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Party Registration Should Be Full Time Job For Another Body – INEC
Registration of political parties should be a full time job of another body, the chairman, Board of The Electoral Institute,...
UN Fears Safety Of Aid Workers As Terrorists Kill, Abduct 6
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon has raised concern over the safety of aid workers in Borno and northeast...
Edo, SON Partner To Check Sub-Standard Products, Sensitise Artisans
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his administration will collaborate with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)...
el-Rufai Swears-In Head Of Service, Chief Of Staff, Others
Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has on friday sworn-in Head of service, Chief Of Staff, Principal Private Secretary, and...
World International Day For Justice: Obaseki Harps On Stiffer Measures To Curb Trafficking, Punish Perpetrators
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said there is need for a stronger collaboration among international actors to...
SUBEB Staff In ‘Soup’ Over Employment Racket In C/River
An employee with the Cross River Universal Basic Education Board (CR- SUBEB), Mr. Ikwa Bassey has been suspended by the...
Plateau Govt Tasks Parents On Immunisation Of Children Below 5 Years
The Plateau Government on Saturday urged parents and guardians to ensure that all children below the age of five are...
FEATURES22 hours ago
Sen Abbo Abducted My Daughter – Father
COLUMNS9 hours ago
Who Is After Pastor Fatoyinbo?
SPORTS9 hours ago
I Never Wanted To Fight Ruiz — Joshua
EDUCATION22 hours ago
30 Nigerian Students Get Full U.S. Govt Scholarship
POLITICS21 hours ago
Bayelsa APC Writes Oshiomhole Over Adoption Of Direct Mode Of Party Primary
NEWS22 hours ago
U.S. Designates Hezbollah Leader Global Terrorist, Offers $7m For Information
OPINION9 hours ago
What Are Obaseki’s Sins?
OPINION22 hours ago
GYB – A Performer Who Deserves The Ultimate Crown