NEW BOOK: Digital Identity, Data and Technology in Africa by the Africa-China Reporting Project, 2022

Publication on two Pan-African journalism workshops and published investigations in 2019 and 2021, convened by the Africa-China Reporting Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The Africa-China Reporting Project (the Project) based at the Wits Centre for Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa is proud to announce the publication of its new book on the impact of two Pan-African journalism workshops and investigations published in 2019 and 2021.

The Project has been operational since 2009, with the aim to improve the quality of reporting on African and Africa-China issues by providing facilitation and capacity building for journalists, in the form of reporting grants, skills training workshops, reporting resources, networking and other opportunities. Over the years, the Project has grown organically, placing importance on African perspectives while expanding the scope of its partnerships and collaborations.

It is with the generous support of Omidyar Network, from 2019 and partnership with Paradigm Initiative, from 2021, that the Project was able to advance its network of journalists and facilitators, with targeted training and reportage on digital identity systems in Africa, the concepts of good ID, and issues around data privacy, surveillance and technology in Africa. To this particular focus, from 2019 to 2022, the Project awarded reporting grants to 19 journalists spread across the continent and in China, while upskilling them via their participation in training workshops, they published insight which saw the production of this book which captures stories informing of Africa’s developments within digital identity, data and technology from the local and ground level perspective.

At the core of the Project’s objectives, is to amplify Africa’s voices in its development as it continues to engage with other global players.  As the continent ventures into the technological revolution that has changed the ways we live, work and associate, African governments and businesses implement new systems of digitization. The digital identity system is increasingly crucial for citizens to gain access to numerous services and amenities including employment, banking, healthcare, education, opening businesses, owning property, paying taxes, lending money, and traveling.

While the technologies at the end of these goods and services are beneficial, they also bear implications for economies and communities at large. Very few people have knowledge on how their personal information is used by governments, businesses and individuals, on what rights and responsibilities they have, what risks they become exposed to, and what safeguards are or could be in place.

Africa’s ambitions to the Africa We Want are detailed in its African Union Agenda 2063: Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. Inherent within all of the AU goals, is the technological data and AI driven systems which will or need to be implemented in order to achieve the set goals. And as we align the Agenda 2063 goals with the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, we are spearheaded to develop at an accelerated pace. This pace could influence the chances of cutting corners and violating some human rights.

As at 2019, an estimated 500 million African citizens were still without formal online identification. And according to the World Bank, approximately one billion people worldwide lack official proof of their identities. This has given rise to new and distinctive digital identification projects being implemented across some African countries, many with an economic development agenda and others with national security goals. The private sector has also played a key role in the development of these systems. Although African governments have enacted laws to collect personal data, very few ensure that the data is recorded, stored and used in a manner which protects and promotes the privacy of users. As at 2017, only 17 of 54 countries in Africa have enacted comprehensive personal data protection legislation.

This translates to the work that still needs to be done, which is to inform of these policy concerns for the Africa We Want. The Project is thus proud to be supportive to journalists, and of the impactful and informative stories produced. Community by community, journalists have investigated how the lives of ordinary people are affected within the adoption of digital identity systems and data technologies. The publications have been impactful informing society and influencing policy-making.

The full contents of the book are comprising of five sections assessing digital identity systems, biometric technologies, civil rights, gender and democracy, data rights, privacy, and technology in Africa.  The book also includes two workshop reports which have numerous resources and tools for journalists, academics and other professionals. See link below for the full book.

NEW BOOK: The ACRP’s impact – Digital identity, data and technology in Africa. Report on two Pan-African journalism workshops and investigations in 2019 and 2021, convened by the Africa-China Reporting Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. ©2022 Africa-China Reporting Project. All rights reserved.