Digital Civil Society Lab

Ayeta: Proactive Toolkit for African Digital Rights Actors

Overview

The ayeta project will develop a Digital Rights Toolkit that can prepare civil society actors for when their work puts them in harm’s way. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, civil society actors – especially those on the frontlines of human/digital rights advocacy – continue to face challenges as governments clamp down on a group that seeks to maximize the opportunities that the Internet provides as a public space that remains fairly open compared to traditional channels used previously. While the toolkit will focus on the entire continent, it will be sensitive to unique national and regional contexts. The development of the toolkit will build on stakeholder mapping exercises completed by Paradigm Initiative, and other partners, as well as feedback from 6 years of training at Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights workshops. The toolkit will include learning materials on general introduction to digital rights, tips for digital security, case studies to learn from, among others. In addition to these, an explainer section of the kit will highlight, define and contextualize key terms that are used by experienced digital rights actors. The toolkit will also, subject to verification of its need by actors, include model policy briefs of key issues, model press releases that can be used around incidents, model coalition statements that can be used for regional (or far-reaching national) incidents and details of digital rights actors (who will be potential action and resource partners). The tool will also include an events’ calendar that will be relevant towards networking opportunities by actors.

Approach

The preparing for the development of the toolkit will build on the stakeholder mapping exercise completed by Paradigm Initiative, and other partners, as well as feedback from 6 years of training at Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights workshops. This will be followed by meeting with various stakeholders at various convenings, in order to verify and add to the list of identified tools needed to be equipped for digital rights work as beginners. Apart from African civil society actors who daily face the challenges that the toolkit seeks to prepare them for, the academic community at Stanford will be able to provide input into how similar tools have been developed/deployed, and also serve as a community that will provide feedback at various stages of the project, including immediately after the toolkit content is finalized, when the structure of the kit is being finalized, once the draft version is released for testing, during the testing process and after the first version is launched. Through the life of the project, various stakeholders will be consulted for birds’ eye view feedback, and rigorous testing of the tools.

Process

After the initial consultations that verify and help update the elements of the toolkit, expected to start in February and end in April 2020 (to coincide with the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum that hosts over 300 African digital rights actors from over 35 countries), the first version of the tool will be developed between May and August 2020. The first version will be discussed with an expert panel in September 2020 and will then be announced as an available resource during the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa at the end of September 2020. October and November 2020 will serve as test months for the tool, with the possibility of releasing the Digital Rights Toolkit during a special session at the Internet Governance Forum in November 2020 or similar events between November 2020 and January 2021, that will have the right audience mix. The toolkit will remain a living document that will get the opportunity of continuous review with users and experts, and a new version will be announced at the annual Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum every April.

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