It was a convergence of experts and digital rights activists at the 2021 Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF21) organised by Paradigm Initiative in partnership with TechHerNG, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) & A&E Law Partnership in Abuja.
The two days in-person event which held between April 21-22, 2021 featured several conversations, as panelists and participants discussed several topical issues as; Putting Gender and Human Rights First in Digital Age; Access to Technology for Children in Vulnerable Groups; New Threats to Press Freedom, eConsumer Rights Protection in Nigeria; Digital Identity and Data Protection in Nigeria.
A session by Paradigm Initiative “Putting Gender and Human Rights First in a Digital Age,” featured discussions that answered prevailing questions of how gender and human rights can be put first in times when everything operates in the digital sphere.
The panelists used existing scenarios where gender rights were trampled on and how society perceives these rights.
According to Buky Williams, “Beyond just making and updating laws, there should be implemented, and everyone, including all security actors should act according to human rights.”
Olamide Adepoju said, “There should be more representation of women in law-making to ensure equality and fairness in the system. Our laws need to be updated to cover online spaces.”
Speaking also, Muthoni Muriti said, “To ensure online safety, social media platforms should make reporting mechanisms clear and social media platforms should understand various types of online abuse beyond the western view context.”
The panel in their recommendations advised government and private organisations to invest in digital skills for women to be able to maneuver these platforms to secure themselves. It also urged the government to reduce the cost of broadband to improve its accessibility.
TechHerNG’s Session on “Access to Technology for Children in Vulnerable Groups” touched on inclusivity as it involves children and how those in vulnerable and marginalised groups can be catered for in the digital era.
Simi Olusola, a panelist pointed out how the lack of data protection discourages people from being active online or using the internet and the government’s need to roll out digital literacy knowledge and access to all schools in the country.
While Asma’u Aliyu was of the opinion that young girls are the most left behind in access to technology and government’s exuberant cost and taxes makes it hard for private sectors to make internet accessibility cheap and easy.
The conclusions were to ensure the safety of young people online, while also ensuring that the internet is flooded with the right information. It also stress the need to engage the right stakeholders who are responsible for creating content and to should ensure there is a legal framework that holds institutions responsible.
Conversation on “New Threats to Press Freedom”, session by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) maintained that “An attack on the press, is an attack on all.”
The PTCIJ’s session was impactful as it pointed out the new threats that journalists encounter in the new normal as it involves shutdown of websites by the government using telecommunication agencies, harassment of journalists online, illegal detaining of journalists and burying of credible stories.
The session recommended that existing laws should be used to advocate for freedom of expression and press freedom. It also said government institutions should respond to questions thrown at them in digital spaces, there should be an understanding between media practitioners and the government and the crimes perpetrated against journalists should be stopped.
On “eConsumer Rights Protection in Nigeria” session by A&E Law Partnership, the session gave an insight into the existing laws that guide consumers and vendors in Nigeria.
Some of these laws include: eConsumer Rights, False advertisement, right to adequate information, general consumers rights and the consumer code of conduct regulation that can be found in Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON)’s code of conduct.
On “Digital Identity and Data Protection in Nigeria” session by Paradigm Initiative which centred on understanding the concept of digital Identity and data protection, ‘Gbenga Sesan, PIN’s Executive Director who was a panelist at the session defined what data protection is. In his words, “Data Protection is the process of protecting identities in the digital space.”
The panelists went further to simplify digital identities by pointing out the types of digital identities, the role of private actors in data protection, the need for legal identities to be digital identities and the data protection regulation.
From the session, recommendations were made to hold the government accountable, and asking more questions pertaining to the draft data protection bill, Data Protection Authorities (DPA’s) should be independent and there should be a harmonisation in the data collection process.
Session on “Digital Safety: A Prerequisite for Implementing 21st Century Curriculum” handled by Edunovative Concept & Consultancy, the panelists identified the need for schools curriculum to be revamped to feature subjects in the 21st century.
The panelists emphasised the need for teachers training in the cores of digital safety and other digital skills and how a holistic approach should be taken in strategizing the way forward for Nigerian schools to be in the 21st century educationally.