Digital Debates

The Online Debate from a Civil Society Perspective

Digital Debate 2: Is Africa ‘falling prey’ to Data Colonialism?

The extraction of personal data is highly controversial. However, the discussion tends to centre on the OECD countries where the leading tech companies are situated, which pursue business models based on data extraction (GAFAM). In the OECD countries, civil society organisations are at the forefront to denounce and hedge such business practices, advocating for high data protection standards.

The situation in Africa merits equal attention. First, the Global North’s tech companies are operating on a global scale that includes the African continent. Unnoticed elsewhere, social networks have been used in African countries for digital campaigning.

Meanwhile, others have introduced the term “data colonialism” to describe the appalling asymmetry of information that often exists between ICSOs and the communities and governments in the Global South. Thus, it is held that CSOs may collect, use and share data without much benefit coming back to the African countries themselves.

In this situation, Jean-Louis Corréa, a law professor at the Virtual University of Senegal, argued in favour of a new African digital nationalism. For him, the primordial fundamental digital right is “digital sovereignty” of the African states and people. He calls for the construction of universal fundamental digital rights to prevent Cyber colonisation.

Karen Guevara presented an approach that is both, rigorous data and grass-roots driven. Data is collected and managed in the global South for the needs of the stakeholders in the global South.

Nduta Sally, representing the Union of Disabled Persons of Kenya, showcased how communities themselves can collect, analyse, and share data.


You can watch the recording of the debate on YouTube:

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1 April 2021, 16:00 hrs. CEST 

Digital Debates: Event Series

Every month, this event series will provide inspiring discussions for the civil society sector based on the constant change that digitalisation brings to our societies. Each debate will be a call to action for CSOs to take a more active role in shaping our digital future.

Barbara Iverson will moderate each debate. She teaches Interpersonal Skills and Intercultural Management at the CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.

Digital Debate Panellists

  • Jean-Louis Corréa
  • Lawyer, teacher and researcher
  • Bio
  • Karen Isabel Guevara
  • President of Equanimity Foundation, Board Member at WCAPS
  • Bio
  • Sally Nduta
  • Programs Manager at United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK)
  • Bio

Further Reading

Artificial intelligence and cyber-colonisation: implications for Africa

This Policy Center for the New South study, in French, tries to analyse and explain the technological dependence of Africa subtly imposed through foreign technological facilities (data centres and others). This dependence, which generally translates into increased data exploitation, has negative, sometimes significant, economic, political and social consequences, which in turn increase the continent's vulnerability.


Digital: Africa wants to make its voice heard

With a high rate of connected citizens, many African countries have opted for tracking applications in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, these applications raise concerns about fundamental rights and freedoms. This article, written in French by Jean-Louis Corréa, analyses the risks of such a situation.


How is aid changing in the Covid-19 pandemic?

The trends reported in the article « How is aid changing in the Covid-19 pandemic?” is based on data provided through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) set-up by major donors and international intergovernmental organisations.


The Work Bank Data Catalogue

The Data Catalogue of the World Bank contains microdata obtained from sample surveys, censuses, and administrative systems worldwide. The Microdata Library is sourced by the World Bank, Statistical Offices of States, and other organisations.


Creating Community for the Future of Data

Groots is a start-up and social enterprise focusing on community-generated data. In their article 'Creating Community for the Future of Data', they explain their approach and how putting people before business creates a beneficial data economy for communities and customers alike.