The African Digital Rights Network brings together more than fifty activists, researchers, journalists, and policymakers from 20 African countries who are working on digital rights in Africa.
Network members share a commitment to opening online democratic space and to enabling citizens to freely exercise their digital rights including the rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and speech.
Begun in 2022, our Sousveillance Project involves mapping the supply chains of digital technologies used in illegal surveillance of citizens. We will identify which companies from the global North are providing which technologies to which African governments for use in illegitimate surveillance.
The word surveillance literally means over-watching: monitoring conducted by powerholders on less powerful groups. Sousveillance (under-watching) refers to the study by less powerful groups of the tactics and technologies deployed by powerholders. This study will enable those subjected to illegal surveillance to produce the evidence needed to hold accountable the companies and government agencies violating citizens’ rights to privacy of communications. This project builds on the work of our two previous studies:
Our initial Digital Rights reports (2021) identified a wide range of citizen use of digital technologies to open up new civic space online in order to exercise their rights to opinion and expression. The reports also identified an even larger range of tech tools and tactics being deployed by governments and corporations to close down online civic space including digital surveillance, digital disinformation and internet shutdowns.
Our follow-up Surveillance Law reports (2021) examined surveillance legislation in six different African countries to understand more about the ways that legislation is used both to open and protect civic space but also how it is circumvented by state agencies in ways that violate privacy and other fundamental rights. The report documented a range of illegal surveillance practices being conducted with impunity.
Our first book 'Digital Citizenship in Africa: technologies of agency and repression' was published by Zed Books in July 2023. This first collection edition of case studies by African authors on digital citizenship documents the creative use of digital technologies to open online civic space, claim rights, and hold power to account. Each chapter analyses a specific episode in which citizens used hashtag campaigns, hacking, or e-petitions to raise issues being ignored by mainstream media and politicians.
This is a the first book in a six-book series by ADRN members: "Digital Disinformation in Africa" will be released in Feb 2024 and "Digital Surveillance in Africa" will be published in Nov 2024. Hard copies are available to purchase here and you can download an open access e-book here.
the African Digital Rights Network gratefully acknowledges financial support from our funders
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