Home → Magazine Archive → May 2018 (Vol. 61, No. 5) → Internet Freedom in West Africa: Technical Support... → Abstract

Internet Freedom in West Africa: Technical Support for Journalists and Democracy Advocates

By Richard R. Brooks, Lu Yu, Yu Fu, Oluwakemi Hambolu, John Gaynard, Julie Owono, Archippe Yepmou, Felix Blanc

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 5, Pages 72-82
10.1145/3199477

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In developed countries, Internet penetration is near saturation and population growth is stagnant. In contrast, the African population is young and growing quickly. UNICEF estimates that by the end of the century, 40% of the world's population will be African.a Where Africa in May 2016 had 16% Internet penetration, the McKinsey Global Institute predicted in 2013 that by 2025 the penetration rate will be approximately 50%b and that 600 million Africans will be using the Internet,c producing approximately $75 billion in annual e-commerce activity and contributing $300 billion to African GDP.

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Key Insights

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West Africa is a diverse region in sub-Saharan Africa, including both the Sahel desert and lush rain forests. Many local languages from distinct language groups are spoken, along with the former colonial languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. The region includes thriving democracies like Ghana (with press freedom ranked by Reporters Without Borders better than France and the U.K.) and repressive regimes like Equatorial Guinea (with press freedom ranked by Reporters Without Borders at the level of Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, and North Korea). The majority of the West African population lives in countries that do not allow effective freedom of expression.d,e

2 Comments

Gunnar Wolf

Very interesting article, and definitively worth revisiting for a greater insight and sharing with my colleagues!
I wonder whether you are aware of the OONI project (Open Observatory on Network Interference, https://ooni.torproject.org/), as it seems quite closely aligned with your needs of probing the network as viewed from different countries looking for censorship evidences.
As you can see from the project's URL, OONI is quite closely related with Tor. It has worldwide coverage (https://explorer.ooni.torproject.org/world/), but as you can see, Western Africa is (besides Morocco and Mali) a very sparse territory for them. I think both OONI and your research could strongly benefit from getting in touch with each other!

Richard Brooks

Gunnar,

Africtivistes have integrated a discussion of OONI into their current training. You are right, there is a natural synergy there.

-RRB

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