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Digital exclusion, COVID-19 tops FIFAfrica agenda

Digital exclusion and COVID-19 will top the agenda at this year’s Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica), scheduled for September.

Co-hosted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Paradigm Initiative (PIN), the 7th edition of the Forum will discuss how and why the internet is now posing a threat to efforts to fight COVID-19.

While digital financial services and subsidised internet access has been implemented to help deal with the pandemic, CIPESA notes that expanding technology use in many African countries has resulted in an avalanche of “false and misleading information on COVID-19” on social media platforms. Pre-existing regressive measures such as digital taxation and internet disruptions mar technology-based responses to the pandemic in some countries, the organisation adds.

Minority and marginalised communities such as refugees and persons with disabilities are also being left behind in accessing information on COVID-19, the digital rights group points out, adding that digital exclusion still persists even as ICT usage increases because of limited access and affordability of the requisite ICT tools and shortage of content in accessible formats.

PIN’s Community Manager Thobekile Matimbe said hosting FIFAfrica at a time when the world is battling COVID-29 will “help put a spotlight on the role of technology in the fight against the pandemic, an assay of the application of COVID-19 legislation with a focus on digital rights and how access to information is critical.”

“This year's gathering is most exceptional as it will look at issues like the intrusive surveillance and data-based tracking, as well as how other government responses and restrictions, are harming the enjoyment of digital rights, including the right to privacy and personal data protection,

“This edition will expand conversations on digital rights and offer solutions to ensuring that no one is left behind factoring in a look at digital inclusion. Expect more diversity and strategies that advance digital rights and a broader reach enabled by web streaming.”

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