The Matter of Mangala & WAP -vs- The Guacamole Republic of Avocado (GRA)
As promised, here is the account of the recently concluded CIPIT ICT Moot. Held every two years, the competition attracts teams across East Africa. It is the only one in the mooting calendar this part of Africa that has information technology and intellectual property as subject matters. This allows competitors to engage with contemporary issues, as was the case in this year’s edition. Data protection has not been legislated extensively in Kenya. The resulting lacuna forces the litigant to think outside the box and try to find viable and practical solutions to technology related problems oft outside the purview of lawyers.
“There will be winners, and there will be losers…” were the words of the Dean of the Strathmore Law School to end his address to the participating teams during the second biennial CIPIT moot. This author is sure that nothing rung truer in the minds of the eager young faces looking at him.
Lessons from the Forum on the participation of NGO’s in the 62nd ordinary session of the ACHPR at the Royal Suites Hotel, Nouakchott.
CIPIT was invited to the ACHPR NGO forum to present their biometrics research findings to a side event that was taking place during the African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights 62nd Ordinary Session and to lobby for the inclusion of the right to privacy to the ACHPR (Banjul Charter).
For this mission we teamed up with the Legal Research Centre (LRC) from South Africa and Privacy International from London. Based on his experience in previous ACHPR events, LRC’S Tsanga Mukumba advised us to advocate for the right to privacy to be included to the mandate of Rapporteur to the right of freedom of expression. He added that asking for the inclusion of the right to privacy, while still the end goal to the Banjul Charter, might be difficult at this stage. A sad truth that we discovered through our interactions with the other forum attendees.
Since we were organising a side event as well, we attended other organizations side events to advertise our event.
While interacting with other human rights advocates who had convened at the event, we faced a challenge of convincing them on our digital right agenda. Many felt that there far more important and grave human rights atrocities in the continent such as the death penalty, torture and slavery. We decided to show the participants how digital rights such right to privacy affect their work on other human rights issues. We brought up issues of government surveillance on civil society and instances where telecom corporates work with law enforcement to crackdown on human rights defenders. This argument helped us gain momentum in our interactions and many saw the relevance of our cause.
At the end of the NGO forum, Tsanga submitted a resolution to the forum, which sought inclusion of the right to privacy to the mandate of the Rapporteur to the right of freedom of expression.
Legal Resources Centre Recommended Resolutions to the NGO Forum April 2018
That human dignity, as contained in Art. 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights is the core right and value which underpins the need for the respect, recognition and promotion of the right to privacy of all people in Africa;
To accept that effective respect and promotion of this right is necessary for the enjoyment of a range of human rights, including freedom of expression, access to information, association and peaceful assembly;
That the above recognition of the importance and validity of the right to privacy ought to inform and embedded within the process of the revision of the Declaration of the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa flowing from African Commission Resolution 362;
That the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information should include privacy and digital rights concerns where these impinge on the ability to communicate and receive opinions freely. Specifically including:
Unlawful, disproportionate or unnecessary state surveillance and the private enterprises which enable this through the provision of technological solutions;
The role of the private sector in conducting unlawful collection and processing of their customers personally identifiable information;
Regulation of the costs of access to the internet, and content and platform neutrality online;
The prevalence of ‘internet shutdowns’ in African States, particularly during periods of social protest and elections;
Regulation of the processing of personal data, which can directly or indirectly identify individuals, by public and private bodies, and in particular the need for the processing of sensitive personal data such as biometrics to be subject to higher safeguards.
The LRC is a member of the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO). INCLO is a network of 13 independent, national human rights organizations from the global South and North working to promote fundamental rights and freedoms.
On 5 October 2016, the Ethiopian railway corporation launched a 750 KM rail-line connecting the landlocked country from its capital, Addis Ababa, to Djibouti, its strategic economic link to global commerce. A few hours later, the communication ministry completely shut down all Internet connectivity across the country, with the stated aim of quelling protests in parts of the country. Spending millions of dollars to connect a country to the world through a railway, while intentionally shutting down the country’s Internet connectivity on the same day is a quite a paradox. To consider a whole city, or even a country, intentionally disconnected off the Internet for days by their government, may sound quite abstract, but more than fifty incidences like these were recorded globally in 2017, of which for every two of these, one was happening in Africa.
The effects of these intentional Internet disruptions have ranged from increased citizenry backlash, economic losses, and eroded international reputation. What is interesting though, as seen from the Ethiopian vignette above, is how disrupting the Internet contradicts the very economic plans of such countries. On the one side, countries are investing heavily on communication and transport infrastructure for economic connectivity yet easily reversing the marginal gains made by their intentional Internet disconnections.
Today we are releasing findings from our continuing research on Internet disruptions, together with the associated data-sets. .
Some of our findings include:
Ten countries in Africa account for 60% of all Internet disruptions experienced in the last five years.
All countries that have had an Internet disruption have had the current ruling party being in power for 18.9 years on average.
Countries with less than 20% Internet Penetration rates are more likely to disrupt the Internet during protests than those with higher rates.
Liberal countries are less prone to Internet disruptions, especially where sufficient oversight exists over the executive arm of Government.
Detection and attribution of Internet disruptions is improving but regional disruptions remain a daunting task.
We were also interested in estimating economic impact of intentional disruptions in African countries. The report shows that by incorporating ‘shadow economy’ in assessing impact of Internet disruptions, there is an average of as high as 30% jump in economic costs from previous estimate models. The ‘shadow economy’ is understood here as economic activities and the income derived that circumvents or otherwise avoids government regulation, taxation or observation (Schneider 2013). This includes what we are calling the ‘WhatsApp Economy‘, that involves individuals or small businesses using messengers (especially WhatsApp and Telegram) and social media platforms (especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to market their wares or services, aided by mobile money and boda boda (motorbike couriers) to complete transactions without any registered business or additional tax responsibilities.
The first section conducts an audit of how Internet disruptions have been defined, detected, attributed, costed and responded to. Section two looks into how to quantify effects of Internet disruptions in Africa. Section three presents the findings from the quantification exercise and section four discusses some cases from the findings and section five presents research and policy recommendations.
The use of biometric technology in political processes, i.e. the use of peoples’ physical and behavioural characteristics to authenticate claimed identity, has swept across the African region, with other 75% of African countries adopting one form or other of biometric technology in their electoral processes. This has been necessitated in part due to the low trust majority of citizens have had with electoral management bodies and the assumptions that adopting such technologies will increase confidence and efficiency in the elections. This comes at a high cost to countries already struggling with expensive elections. Despite such costs, the adoption of biometrics has not restored the public’s trust in the electoral process, as illustrated by post-election violence and legal challenges to the results of the 2017 Kenyan elections. An unexplored implication of this techno-optimism of biometric technology in elections is the privacy aspect.
The Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology, a research centre at the Strathmore Law School is releasing the results of an ongoing investigation on the privacy implications of using biometric technology during the electoral process in Kenya. The project focuses on two main questions: what are the motivations for the adoption of biometric technology in Kenyan elections, and how is privacy and security of personal data in Kenya impacted by the adoption of biometrics in the electoral system? We conducted primary and secondary research from our location in Nairobi, Kenya before, during, and after the 2017 General Elections.
The key takeaway is that Kenya’s legal landscape lacks the protections needed to safeguard the privacy of its citizens and protect their data. Transparency, trust, and security are key when deploying biometrics technologies. When such technologies are adopted in the absence of a strong legal framework and strict safeguards, they pose significant threats to privacy and personal security, as their application can be broadened to facilitate discrimination, social sorting and mass surveillance. The varying accuracy of the technology can lead to misidentification, fraud and civic exclusion. As such, it is crucial that as Kenya reviews its election and referenda processes, the use of biometric technologies be understood from a privacy and security perspective.
The theme for this year’s World Intellectual Property (WIP) Day on 26 April is ‘Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity’. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), this year’s WIP Day campaign ‘celebrates the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.’ The UN specialised agency in charge of intellectual property (IP) urges its member states ‘to reflect on ways to ensure that increasing numbers of women and girls across the globe engage in innovation and creativity, and why this is so important.’ In Kenya, many observers note that women remain significantly underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) despite the country’s significant progress in achieving gender parity in education.
The Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) network has received funding from the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program (QES) to create new opportunities for emerging scholars. Open AIR is currently accepting proposals for short-term research projects that address Open AIR’s research questions on African innovation through the lens of gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, and inclusion of marginalized communities. Researchers will conduct their projects while based at one or more of Open AIR’s institutional hubs across Africa including our research centre at Strathmore University in Nairobi.
Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, the full video of the Master of Laws (LLM) launch ceremeny at Strathmore Law School is available on YouTube here.
Today, 29 September 2017 marked the launch of the Strathmore University Master of Laws (LLM) programme at a colourful evening ceremony at the Sir Thomas More Building, Madaraka Estate Campus at Strathmore Law School. The launch of LLM at Strathmore Law School (SLS) is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication. CIPIT was in charge of the Intellectual Property (IP) law specialisation of the LLM programme. Applications for the LLM are now open and will close on 15 December 2017 for those seeking to start the programme in January 2018.
5 years later, CIPIT remains the only University-based research centre on intellectual property and information technology law anywhere in East and Central Africa. CIPIT’s Mission is to study, create, and share knowledge on the development of intellectual property and information technology, especially as they contribute to African Law and Human Rights. Since its launch and inaugural event in August 2012, CIPIT has continued to be an innovative centre for evidence-based research and training in intellectual property and information technology law and policy.
An article by CIPIT researchers Dr. Isaac Rutenberg, Douglas Gichuki and Arthur Gwagwa titled: “Historical Antecedents and Paradoxes that Shaped Kenya’s Contemporary Information and Communication Technology Policies” has recently been published in the Harvard Africa Policy Journal available here. In the article, the authors retrace Kenya’s 5 decade long journey from independence to its present ‘Silicon Savannah’ status. Through an analysis of legislative and policy reforms in the area of information and communication technology (ICT), the authors argue that although Kenya has come a long way in introducing liberal market reforms that have immensely benefited the technology sector, policy challenges remain. In particular, the authors note as signs of relapse the passing of certain laws and introduced measures that restrict civil liberties, ostensibly as anti-terrorism measures, as well as to diffuse ethnic tensions.
Kenya’s vibrant technology sector is known for its innovations in software. The successes of M-PESA, a widely used mobile money transfer platform, and Ushahidi, a global crowdsourcing mapping app, has drawn international attention to the Kenyan startup scene. Supporting the startup scene are a number of tech hubs, incubators, and accelerators.
Software, however, can only be as innovative as the hardware it runs on. A growing network of makerspaces are training Kenyan innovators in the knowledge and skills to manufacture disruptive hardware solutions. What is the story of makerspaces in Kenya? What supports are available for hardware-based innovators? How effective are these makerspaces at promoting innovation? What methods are innovators using to share and protect their ideas?