January 19 2023 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EST / 2pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

Digital Society Africa’s (DSA) Framing Digital Security in the Context of Southern Africa: Issues, Challenges and Best Practices

This will be a conversation that contextualizes the issues of digital security in Southern Africa, where we ground the key challenges we face in the region and speak on the role of local communities in our successes. We will also speak on how different countries are responding to issues such as shutdowns and elections, identify who can provide support to onground defenders and how they can provide their assistance. Finally, we also speak on the work DSA is doing within the region and identify best practices that need to be developed

Bio: Tawanda is a Co-founder of Digital Society of Africa (DSA) that works to strengthen the resilience and ability of frontline activists; human rights defenders and other at-risk groups in the region to independently recognize and respond to digital threats and attacks. They seek to achieve this using the holistic security approach; through a range of activities including: organisational security audits; risk assessment; training, sustainable security accompaniment; security policy formulation and tech support.


Can you kindly introduce Digital Society Africa's (DSA) work within Southern Africa?
  • DSA has since been on a mission to demystify tech and empower everyday technology users with basic digital security skills, while contributing to strengthening their digital resilience in the face of increasing digital threats. The range of work DSA has been doing over the years includes:
    • Organizational Assessments & Audits
    • Digital Security Trainings and Awareness Raising
    • Long term sustainable accompaniment
    • Training of Trainers
    • Usability Testing
    • Research on Internet Governance and InforSec issues
Throughout your experience working within digital security, how would you frame the issue in Southern Africa? What are some of the key things we should keep in mind when conceptualizing or thinking about security in the region?
  • To be honest, I would just like to say, I love my work and always enjoy the diverse experience I and the DSA team get with each country we have worked with in Southern Africa over the years.
  • Digital security years back maybe like 7 years ago was a none issue, no-one would take you seriously because there were more pressing issues i.e just having decent infrastructure, money to be online (internet costs are high this part of the world), the device itself, knowledge to use digital devices like computers or even electricity to start with yet a lot of organizations were working on serious human rights issues and documentation was usually paper based.
  • But governments and organizations started to push for infrastructure development. The Internet is now being accessed by a considerable number of people, however most use their mobile phones to access the Internet. Covid happened too, forced a lot of people to use online platforms and systems and also made our governments start to introduce cyber laws which have a lot of issues (this is a whole discussion for another day. As predicted a lot of security issues started to emerge and a lot of people started to want assistance especially those we approached years back.
  • Anyway, I hope this background assists: key things which we should always keep in mind;
    • Technology is still something that is being invested in most if not all countries in the region; there is limited infrastructure with some parts with no electricity, mobile service coverage etc
    • Digital Literacy is still an ongoing process; sometimes there are organizations that ask us for digisec training and upon assessment we actually see its a digital literacy issue.
    • Cyber Laws are being erected so fast and they are sometimes a copy and paste from other regions.
    • There are so many languages spoken depending with the country but you can get away with speaking English in most countries in Southern Africa
    • Psychosocial security is one of the biggest issues within the civil society space but it's the least acknowledged simply because of mainly lack of adequate knowledge around the topic and funding too.
How can digital security work be inclusive throughout its process to ensure that communities are being supported while navigating some of these gaps you have identified?
  • We have actually added basic computer literacy as one of our training arms as we address digital security issues, simply lack of digital literacy is actually a threat towards digital security. In some cases we have also involved local partners to bring solar equipment or battery powered equipment for us to achieve some training.
  • Also we have been pushing a lot for Offline First tools that make it easier to be adaptable in some of the communities we work with.
  • In some instances we look for partners to even donate computers, tablets etc for us to donate to some communities
  • An organization can be doing amazing work with 1 desktop machine yeap do very sensitive issues in remote areas
What tools are in your arsenal of Offline tools first? Also, are these offline tools curated as per country, community basis? Or is it a list that applies to all?
  • As you are aware in our region it's not just infrastructure issues sometimes it can be Internet shutdowns. So we are currently working on this but they are tools like KoboCollect, Tella, etc which we have been training and using for data collection with human rights organizations. The database is actually being built including chat based platforms like DeltaChat.
  • Tawanda is working on this with OkThanks and will share the list of offline tools by mid-year.
Along the lines of curating tools that work within specific contexts and for people in certain locations, how can we take a community based approach to creating digitally and physically resilient spaces?
  • Thank you for this really great question; we think and believe that local issues are better dealt with by local people and those local people are the community. As DSA building these local trainers we see the value ie a community needs to be in full or majority ownership i.e. they know their problems better, they have the full context, they actually know where they need help, they know the language, and how to discuss difficult/address issues and it has given us better results rather than sending a foreigner in the country to assist but instead getting assistance remotely with local implementers.
  • Hope this makes sense; would have loved to speak about this point broader.
  • This goes around some principles which were shared in one of the TeamCommunity workshops around community building; we at DSA are using a lot of the principles and ideas shared
How can you describe the fundraising possibilities to fund initiatives focused on building digital resiliency/ digital security skills in Africa? Which funders do you recommend for small grassroots?
  • Thank you for this question; there are organizations that fund this type of work like Frontline Defenders, DDP, Southern Defenders, Ford Foundation i.e Ford Foundation has now resource hubs where one can apply for support.
  • Also through OTF too and Access Now; some might not give these organizations the financial means but will give the resources ie in kind grant.
This year you have shared some exciting things DSA has planned, which you attribute to the constant support received from the community. Who would you like to give a shout out for their contribution, and continuous support to your organization and team's growth?
  • As I mentioned, DSA is in existence yes we might have been working hard but they are a lot of people and organizations we need to appreciate:
    • Kody (Former ISC Project) - its started here
    • Wojtek (Frontline Defenders) - it started here
    • Glitter Sandy; for all the glitter and push (this lady can push and can believe in someone with that person in doubt)
    • Victoria (IFF) - we had a nice pic at IFF loved it and we were celebrities for sometime
    • Trinh (TeamCommunity) - always there to answer our questions
    • Megan & John (former Internews) - always pushed us and gave us a chance
    • Neil (Former DefendDefenders & now Internews) - literally now family
    • Harley (Internews) - our constant reminder why we do our work
    • Hapee (Greenhost) - the only human that we stress and always makes it happen
    • Dragana (Localization Lab) - our friend who checks in and never gives up on us
    • Carrie (OkThanks) - usability is a thing we are pushing and her guidance is amazing
    • Matt (Ford) - the guy literally keeps us on our toes and we appreciate that
    • Maria (OONI) - internet measurement discussions check in are much appreciated
    • Ronald Kakembo (Frontline) - our big bro too
    • Mardiya (Team Community) - took the weight from me loved it
    • Erin (Localization) - we love her she gives us gifts lol
    • Selma (TeamCommunity) - the health reports made us incorporate psychosocial to some extent
    • Organizations: Frontline Defenders, Open Tech Fund, Internews, DefendDefender, Southern Defenders, OONI, TeamCommunity, TunnelBear, OkThanks, LocalizationLab, DDP, Freedom House, Ford Foundation, Greenhost, Guardian Project, AccessNow, Tactical Tech, CDR, AfricaMeetup group, African Digital Security Network, The DSA team (you rock), and everyone else.
Tawanda, how can the community reach you? What conversations are you open to having? And what collaborations do you hope to happen between DSA and others this year!
  • As you might or might not be aware; DSA recently launched a Helpdesk so please if you want to assistance or want to refer people for assistance around Holistic Security they can reach us on helpline@digitalsociety.africa
  • You can reach me directly on tawanda@digitalsociety.africa or Signal +27649554600
  • We have a physical presence in Eswatini, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and a regional focus on Southern Africa; do reach out anything human rights, digisec
  • @tawmug on Mattermost