The online space is increasingly becoming a central part of our lives. Its role in facilitating the exercise of rights; participation in national discourse; demand for accountability and transparency from duty-bearers; and the strengthening of democratic processes in general cannot be underestimated.
Fortunately, internet penetration and access to digital devices is steadily increasing across West Africa. Access to mobile connectivity, in particular, is facilitating participation in governance processes, expression and socio-economic empowerment and development.
Many people in the region are, however, left behind in the digital revolution due to factors such as accessibility, affordability, safety and security concerns which deny them the opportunity to communicate, socialise and participate in national discourse.
Unfortunately, for the few who are connected, governments in the region are increasingly exploiting already existing laws, and introducing new ones to limit their expression and other activities online.
There is also the challenge of gender inequality in online spaces. Gender inequality in access and use of the internet in a number of West African countries is quite alarming. In a number of countries in the region, less than 10 percent of women have regular internet access.
To respond to the above challenges and other emerging ones, the MFWA has decoupled digital rights from its freedom of expression programme to make it a full programme with a focus on only digital rights issue. Through the Digital Rights Programme, the MFWA will work with its partners towards ensuring:
A freer and safer online environment for expression and participation by all, especially, women.
The Digital Rights Programme generally focuses on:
- Improving policy environment through research and stakeholder engagements
- Free expression online
- Gender Digital Equity and Equality aimed at empowering women to assert their online rights and take advantage of the potential of the internet