Africa Digital Rights Perspectives

From TCU Wiki
Africa Digital Rights Perspectives.jpg


Africa Digital Rights perspectives with Mardiya Siba Yahaya

In this session we will talk about digital rights in Africa, its perspectives and cases during 2022-2023. The main topics will be:

  • Engaging with ‘silent’ communities: a reflection of a community manager.
  • Connecting emerging trends in Africa; beyond the buzzwords of data governance and AI to the current realities on ground.
  • What we want as a community: imagining a self-sustaining and resilient community of digital justice practitioners and designers.


Mardiya Siba Yahaya is our Africa Community Lead at Team CommUNITY. She is a researcher and community movement builder whose work investigates the implications of technology-based surveillance within datafied societies and states, on the lives and bodies minoritized communities.

Notes & Resources

Presentation & Resources

Perspectives from the South Africa Presentation

Q&A Section

Could you share a bit more on surveillance measures the community is experiencing when it comes to messaging/communication? Also, is there something you would like to see coming from the messaging space?

There is a lot of anxiety regarding this issue. Having my SIM card and ID linked is making people get arrested, becase the government can access the social media platform/teleco companies and ask for data and it is a fluid relationship.

We focus on social media platform but we don't pay enough attention to telecommunication companies in Africa and its relationship with government. There is so much information telecos have and forms of surveillance, we have tons of cases.

Thinking about interdisciplinary collaborations, a few of us are starting to put together a remote research group through TCU Mattermost - to try and develop a research agenda in ways that can best serve the digital rights community, maybe creating projects for students and taking forward research priorities from the regional briefs. What would your advice be?

It would be a really great idea to have remote research group facilitated by experienced researchers from the community and picking out certain research topic and developing it. A lot fo people want to understand how to get in the space. And how you get that experience. This type of groups is great of this.

How do you see the next 10 years?

I want to have hope. I want to see more people within Africa create projects with the different resources and principles that the space has. Developing projects and products that solve actual problems in the community. Not just the technical aspect but advicing, collaborating.

I hope in the next 10 years we are not worried by the same things we are worried today. Address and advocate and push for fixing these things.

What do you think about how in different spaces the regional divisions in what we operate (North Africa is more connected to Middle East areas) vs other new approaches more Pan-African?

Language wise, we have one perspective. A good approach would be saying "Africa" and applying this language divisions but my geopolitical vision and education makes right now difficult to design in my head an alternative to the regional divisions. It is so important to understand the cultures of each area, and sadly, political narratives ahve shaped our cosmo-vision.

You mentioned that there are maybe too many lawyers in the Africa digital rights space, what other perspectives or frames would be missing?

We need more social scientists. These issues are mostly social and it would be so much easier to solve them from a social scientist perspective and not law/policy perspective, because they are a lot of times discriminating because they are far from the human experience.

We need more creative people, it affects on how we do produce work. Creativity is needed.

Psychologists too, we need spaces to process all the things we are living. A lot of profiles need to come together.

Do you resonate with the other Community Leads?

Yes. A lot of the regions are having conversations about labor rights or advocating for fair geek economy workers.

The same type of violence is mirrored and the same people who suffer it. Repressive laws, shutdowns, conflicts, oppression, human right defenders targeting, hacking cases... these all play around the regions.

The same with surveillance, Latin America and India share commonalities with loan apps and its threats.

With the regional briefs, it easy for us to map out how this things are similar and learn from each other to prevent/defend from them.