The Web Foundation believes in the African internet. Most of our senior team are based on the continent, and a lot of our work is focused here. Yet, by any account, it’s been a depressing few months for digital inclusion and human rights across Africa. From internet shutdowns in Uganda and the Republic of Congo, to the prosecution of netizens in Tanzania, to sweeping and poorly drafted cybersecurity bills being pushed through in many countries and lack of progress on closing the digital divide – the online rights of Africans are under attack.
That is why we are doubly delighted that Nigeria – the continent’s most populous nation and largest economy – is bucking the trend. We’re proud that the determined efforts of our allies and partners in Nigeria have led to three wins for the open Web that could cement Nigeria’s place as a continental and global leader.
The government has abolished artificial cost barriers
Following implementation of last year’s decision to remove an artificial floor on data prices, all the major mobile networks have slashed the price of mobile data. Today, N1,000 ($3.50) will buy 1.5GB of data on any of the four major networks – a year ago, Nigerians would have gotten less than 0.5GBs for that price. This paves the way for millions more to be able to access the Web affordably.
Other factors contributing to lower prices include increased competition between submarine cable operators as new cables have come online. In 2013, Nigeria was the first African country to join the Web Foundation’s Alliance for Affordable Internet initiative, and we have been working closely with the Nigerian government to help drive prices down since then. We’re delighted to see this progress, but we are also mindful that even at these levels, connectivity remains an unaffordable luxury for many and Nigerian women are far less likely to be online than men, and so we will redouble our efforts.
A Digital Bill of Rights Took a Step Closer to Becoming a Reality
The Nigerian House of Representatives passed the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill through its second reading. The Bill, which seeks to ensure that fundamental rights such as privacy and freedom of expression are protected online, will now go to committee stage for consultation, before returning to the House for a third reading. If passed, it will then be sent to the President for signature, and Nigeria would become the first African country to pass a digital Bill of Rights.
The Bill has been partly inspired by the African Declaration of Internet Rights, which we are proud to have co-drafted and advocated for. We will continue to advocate for the Bill and support Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and the organisations working tirelessly to see this bill passed, and hope to see Nigeria join Brazil and Italy in codifying and transforming citizens’ digital rights into law.
Nigeria formally stated its intent to join the Open Government Partnership
Following a speech by President Buhari in May, on 20 June, Nigeria sent a formal letter to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), noting their intent to join the partnership and work towards “accountability of government institutions, enhancing freedom of information, and corporate ownership transparency.” In May, Nigeria also committed to implement the Open Contracting Data Standard, and the principles of the International Open Data Charter.
Taken together, these steps are important progress for all of those who believe in the power of the open Web in combination with Open Data to deliver more transparent, accountable and efficient government.
All of these developments show that Nigeria is increasingly recognising the importance of the open Web to building a prosperous, just and thriving society. We want to congratulate the country’s leaders, activists and citizens and urge them to continue on this path. We are also proud of the role played by many Web Foundation partners in delivering this progress – such those we work with through our A4AI local coalition, FAST Africa campaign network and Women’s Rights Online initiative. We stand ready to help further!