Program Goal: The goal of the Cyber Policy and Digital Rights Program is to lead in Cyber Policy Research and Knowledge sharing and, to inform policy makers, entrepreneurs and the general public about the politics of Cyberspace; and thus fostering strategic, productive and secure cyberspace use in the Great lakes sub-region.
GLISS, a nonprofit think tank, is devoted to independent research and hence will promote consistent use of objective, high quality research and analysis to inform decision-making on cyber policy formulation, governance, and use of cyberspace.
The program will focus on expanding the Great Lakes’ cyber policy research and facilitating appropriate application of cyber and digital tools, to enhance innovativeness and inclusive growth while advancing human rights and freedoms.
The Program’s five priority areas shall be: Digital Democracy, E-governance and Human Rights; Cyber Security; E-Commerce, and Media and digital Communications. GLISS will lead in conducting fundamental policy research in these priority areas to facilitate informed decision making in the political, economic, and social spheres.
Program Rationale: Internet use is evidently part of our everyday lives. It has fundamentally altered the way people work, live and interact with each other. Cyberspace provides a diversity of opportunities including innovation, commerce, and societal advancement. Yet, its advent raises significant challenges to our society, especially to policymakers attempting to secure cyber vulnerabilities, and formulate appropriate policies and laws on cyber related subjects. Cyber-surveillance and new forms of censorship have increasingly become a bigger threat than before, especially by governments, posing a grave disruption to cyber rights and usage.
Digital communication has become a huge phenomenon owing to technological advancement, enabling the creation of platforms that have quickened the wide and fast spread of information and online dialogue.
Globally, over 5 billion people will be on the internet by 2020. With over 400 million current internet users, Africa has 35.2% internet penetration rate. The Great Lakes’ five East African Countries have an increasing combined 90 million internet users, with Kenya’s 43 million in the lead.
In the great lakes region, there’s minimal effort to prioritize cyber policy research despite the region’s increasing internet penetration. The information gap and government’s minimal efforts to address it, justify the need to invest in cyber policy research.
Despite the adoption of the 2014 African Union Convention on cybersecurity and data privacy, there’s a growing concern of data misuse and deliberate restriction of cyber engagements in several African states including those in the region. Apart from the constitutional right to privacy, most governments still lack pertinent data protection laws. With 22 African governments ordering network disruptions, worst of all being absolute shutdowns, in the last four years—the trend isn’t yet on any better track. The consequences of the cyber disruptions remain uninvestigated and undocumented.
Generating and providing relevant data and analysis on cyber policy and Digital Rights in the Great Lakes region: This will include research on current policy and legal frameworks and controls in the region, in addition to other digital threats and their impact on free expression and citizen use of digital tools. The research output will inform engagements with policy and decision makers at various levels particularly parliamentarians and other state actors. The research output and engagements will also shape public awareness campaigns and networking sessions. This will enhance provision of evidence-based policy guidance on cyber issues putting men, women and the youth at the centre.
Nurturing a generation of informed young leaders on cyberspace digital rights and responsibilities: An absolutely dynamic digital era requires an up-to-speed generation of leaders. The program will take lead in training and building capacity of leaders fit for the 4th Industrial Revolution. The young leaders will be trained in skills to harness digital tools to cause societal development in various sectors. GLISS will also work with universities to integrate digital communication in their journalism curricula; as well as build the capacity of media houses to include it in their in-house training.
Track, compile and disseminate relevant regional cyber policy data and information to stakeholders: To increase awareness about the opportunities and threats in cyberspace usage and the need for protection of persons, privacy and human rights. Despite the unmatched cyberspace activity on the continent and within the region, there’s a gap in research oriented cyber policy data generation. GLISS intends to document and share (with key stakeholders including; policy makers, civil society, media, et al) information on emerging issues in cyber laws, policies and regulations through policy briefs, publications, public lectures and media programmes.