CSO Kickstarts Action to Protect Digital Rights of Nigerians

A Civil Society Organisation, Accountability Lab Nigeria has taken the centre stage in driving awareness campaign and seeking innovative solutions for favourable digital governance in protection of the digital and data privacy of Nigerians who uses different internet-based platforms for their business and social engagements.

The CSO said it was driving the process to push government and stakeholders in the digital governance space to come up with effective protection for the teeming population of Nigeria who were already at risk of being victims of all kinds of data or privacy violations, through personal data they made available in the digital platforms they used.

Accountability Lab added that it also intended to drive a precaution consciousnesses awareness campaign to enable Nigerians to know their digital rights and risks in the usage of digital platforms and space.

Gathering in Abuja for a 2-day brainstorming meeting, Accountability Lab Nigeria in collaboration with its partners, Space for Change, Paradigm Initiatives Nigeria, National Endowment for Democracy and of course, the National Data Protection Commission, insisted that digital and data rights awareness was very sacrosanct to the protection of Nigerians in the digital space.

Speaking to journalists at the opening session of the meeting, Accountability Lab Nigeria Country Director, Odeh Friday, said: “We work in the digital governance space to ensure that we build capacity of government officials and also help citizens understand their role in making digital governance work. The basic background for this event today is on how Accountability Lab knowledge program can support the digital rights Innovation Lab, which is basically a platform to discuss issues around digital rights and data privacy and protection as the case may be.

“In recent times, we’ve seen what has happened during the elections and how misinformation or disinformation has taken the stage. So the provoking question is; all these are digital platforms and digital tools which citizens engage with, how do we begin to manage information to ensure we have the right information being passed to citizens? How do we help the citizens understand how their rights are protected on these platforms while they use them to communicate and converse with their fellow citizens and share information?

“In this day and time, we need access to information. However, we also to have think about the challenges that has to do with content, which go on digital platform, which causes disunity in some contexts, causes hate speech in some contexts. We need to create a balance.

“So we are bringing this platform together with government officials, civil society organizations working on digital rights and data protection, to see how we can form collaborative or collective actions to understand how we can provide solutions and collectively agree.

“One of the key things that has happened within the Nigeria system is also to speed up citizens driven policy mechanism where citizens feedback into this conversation to understand that they are drivers of policies, they are drivers of monitoring of policies, they are drivers of implementing policies. As we need our voices to be heard and how the strategies we want to develop through this platform will help solve some of the issues around digital rights and data protection.”

On his part, Accountability Lab Programme Officer, Mnenga Shiiwua, noted: “We’re looking for innovative ways to sensitize the people and create a collaborative approach towards pushing the understanding of the Nigerian Data Protection Act to the citizens to engage the relevant stakeholders, those from the civil society organizations and the governments side, to see how together we can ensure first the awareness of the Act is deepened, and secondly to see how together we can protect the rights of the citizens.

“This is important because if there are no awareness on the protection of rights, the tendency to violate them is very high and this is particular in terms of the digital rights Protection Act, which was passed recently. So there is need to engage on it to ensure that the security agencies comply with the provisions of the Act and ensure the rights of the citizens are protected, as well as making citizens to understand what actually constitute their data because that is the starting point.”

Speaking on behalf of the National Data Protection Commission, Chidera Okonkwo, Head, innovation Unit, said: “The idea of digital rights comes from the fact that everything we do these days is connected to technology and as a result of that, we need to be able to have some control over the use, the access, and what exactly is being done with the information we exchange online.

“The Nigeria Data Protection Commission regulates the processing of personal data, which means that we superintend over issues of data protection and privacy in all sectors of the economy. We also organize training and any form of capacity building just to make sure that we’re doing something to positively increase the awareness of data protection and privacy in Nigeria.

“If people are aware of what happens when they are exchanging information online, they would be better informed about how they can protect themselves online because most of these platforms are free of charge. It’s free to use; they process your information usually based on consent.

“You sign up to this app and exchange information, it then becomes necessary for citizens’ data subjects, users, or whatever you would call them, to be informed about data protection laws, about their digital rights. So that the more that they know about these rights, the better they will be in a position to actually make sure that these rights are not being abused.”