Legal issues, a stumbling block for creatives in Kenya

While planning out the program for this particular meetup, we (the research and governance team) had three main guiding questions that we thought would get the conversation rolling. The creative industry in Kenya, fairly nascent in its development has had several challenges with examples such as #PayCreativesKE being a visible example of how creatives in Kenya have struggled to be accorded fair and timely compensation. It is expected that this problem stems from a larger problem where the Kenyan landscape is still grappling with the idea that being a creative could be, and is a worthwhile career direction, which can and has the potential to contribute substantially to the economy.

October’s edition, a special mash up between #InternetPizzaFriday and Nairobi Research Buzz (NRBuzz) kicked off late in the afternoon, where the attendees participated in an interactive icebreaker dubbed “Spectogram” in which statements would be read out and the participants would either agree, disagree or remain neutral with the said statements and then go about debunking those statements. These statements narrowed in on the greater society’s view of digital art, and forced the attendees to pick their brains and reconcile their opinions with those of others’. There are many misconceptions about the ease of creating digital content and that most creatives receive lower compensation for their art and creations due to these misconceptions. 

An interesting debate that arose during the Spectogram activity was the statement, “digital art is easier to create, hence it should be cheaper”. A compelling argument raised during the debate was that digital creation makes it much easier to recreate offline scenarios that would otherwise be too expensive to recreate, hence shouldn’t the price reflect this?

The last session was a panel graced by Carole Theuri an IP lawyer and the Creative Commons Kenya Lead for Open GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), Chaxy of Jus Kidding podcast and UpSyd Digital Networks, Gathigia Kinyua a freelance photographer and moderated by Mel Mbugua, founder MNM Consulting. While we expected the traction of the conversation to go to monetization of artists’ work in the digital age, it took a different direction with questions mainly directing their questions to Carole on assignment and transfer of rights to other users and owners as well as forms of replication such as sampling and their legal implications.

Historically, copyright for any created work (with the exception of moral rights) in Kenya exists for the lifetime of the creator, and for 50 years post-death, after which the works go into the public domain. One of the common questions arising from this was regarding preventing the replication of work and representation of another’s work as their own by 3rd parties, to which Carole broke down the different types of Creative Commons licenses one can use to determine the extent to which they would wish their work to be reused and replicated. 

One key piece of advice meted out was the importance of having contracts set between creatives and the people they share their work. Gathigia says there needs to be clarity on ownership of the creative work, including moral rights. In addition to this, most creatives resonated with the need for users of any creative work to credit the original owners as failure to do so does not widen the network base for these creators and thus, they cannot reach new audiences for both monetary and recognition purposes.

The feedback from the attendees was quite positive with most asking for a sequel for this event with other issues targeting creatives in Kenya and with the opportunity to have more in depth discussion as well as counsel in conducting the legal end of a creative enterprise. We took this under advisement so watch out for the next event!

In response to the high number of creatives interested in getting legal advice as relates to contracting and content ownership and transfer, we are exploring the potential of hosting legal clinics here at the iHub specifically for creatives. 

If you are interested, please fill this three question survey that will better guide us as we develop this offering.

In case you have any questions please reach out to us at research@ihub.co.ke

Resources from the event:

Spectogram Activity

iHub team presentation

Creative Commons Kenya presentation

Calling all Digital Creatives: Visual Arts and the Culture of Sharing.

With the rise in popularity of various digital platforms, the ease of sharing content online has improved tremendously. Kenya’s internet penetration, fast approaching the 30% threshold, has seen platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Youtube, become the most popular in the country. This rise in patronage of digital platforms in Kenya, has availed opportunities for ‘online jobs’ for digital artists, online community managers and creators, especially in the wake of Kenya’s unemployment crisis.

Beyond promoting entrepreneurship, governments have renewed their focus on the digital economy, as an alternative solution to unemployment with initiatives such as Ajira, spearheaded by the government of Kenya, with the tagline that online work is work. Globally, careers such as Social Media Influencer, Animator, Graphic Designer, Digital Artist, VLogger etc have become more commonplace, when we compare the current labour landscape to merely five years ago. Closer home, researchshows that the total size of the online Kenyan gig economy, as at 2019 is $109 million and employing a total of 36,573 gig workers.

Social media has presented the opportunity for the ‘going viral’ phenomenon, where content can be shared instantly across multiple online platforms and within a matter of seconds this content has been viewed across existing geographical, cultural and language demarcations. However, as the ease of sharing content across digital platforms improves, concerns around content ownership and sharing permissions increase.

The questions arising from this are:

  1. How then are digital content creators protected from 3rd parties replicating and presenting this content as their own?
  2. What are the avenues available to protect and improve monetisation of their creations?
  3. What are the opportunities available for creators to widely share their content with the aim of educating, informing and entertaining wider audiences without the fear of exploitation?

Is the Kenyan landscape aware of the concerns of digital content creators and keen on preserving their intellectual property in order to foster a more informed culture of sharing?

To answer these and more questions, please join us on 18th October 2019 at the iHub for a conversation centring the Visual Arts and the Culture of Sharing in Kenya from 3pm to 5pm.

To RSVP please follow this link to our eventbrite to ensure you don’t miss a spot! Strictly no tickets will be available at the door.

If you have any questions please reach out to us on research@ihub.co.ke

#InternetPizzaFriday Roundup – What’s privacy got to do with it?

In the past couple of months we’ve probably talked about data privacy and data protection as a nation, more than ever in the past. What with the huduma namba and the concerns surrounding it and further with the recent huduma bill, that goes against several aspects of human rights; Kenyans are now taking a more active role in the discourse around their data privacy.

Our third edition of #InternetPizzaFriday hosted by iHub Research took a deep dive into the realm of privacy for individuals as well as in relation to customers; with regards to entrepreneurs who handle client or customer data, in order to effectively supply goods or services. 

This Pizza Friday we were also honoured to host TripleOKLaw who gave us an overview of data protection laws, where the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took a centre stage especially due to the fact that Kenya is still yet to implement a Data Protection Law. This is in addition to the Constitution that highlights key general provisions of the right to privacy in Article 31 and the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, despite having a majority of its sections suspended.

Find here the link to TripleOKLaw’s presentation

Find here the link to Kenya’s draft Data Protection Law

Find here the link to iHub Research’s presentation

In case you have any questions or would like to collaborate with iHub Research on a Pizza Friday please write to us at research@ihub.co.ke

Why We Should All Be Digital Rights Advocates – Entrepreneurs Edition

Since 2014 iHub Research has been supporting the uptake of digital tools and platforms for purposes of community organising and accessing opportunities and resources online by citizens around Kenya. Through our research it has been evident that there exists not only a gap, but a widening gap as countries become more digitally reliant. Kenya’s internet penetration currently stands just above the 20% threshold according to a recent report by Research ICT Africa. This means almost 80% of Kenyans do not benefit from being online. In our evolving research we have had the opportunity to work closely with counties, namely: Nakuru, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu and Mombasa. Collaborating with youth groups and community based organisations in these counties has exposed us to the actual lived reality, rather than the utopian narrative that is commonly propagated.

Kenyans are still struggling to connect to the internet due to three main reasons: digital literacy, cost of access and devices as well as infrastructural challenges. During this phase of our digital literacy program with support from SIDA, iHub has supported the establishment of communities of practice in Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and Mombasa county. This was aimed at supporting a larger percentage of Kenyans in these regions use ICTs for community organising and for personal benefits ranging from employment, education and socialising.

Kenyans are still struggling to get online, so what’s next? This edition of #InternetPizzaFriday focused on the role of entrepreneurs in bridging this widening digital gap; do entrepreneurs have a responsibility? Several businesses today rely on digital platforms in order to offer their products or services to their customers, the same platforms that Kenyans are struggling to access affordably, conveniently or even at all.

How can entrepreneurs get involved in bridging the widening digital gap?

It goes without saying that as more Kenyans get online, the bigger the market share digital businesses, will potentially be able to access for their products or services.

The solution is then simple, tech entrepreneurs need to be actively involved in decreasing barriers to access such as cost, technology, devices, complexity of platforms.

Below are a number of practical ways that tech entrepreneurs can be actively involved:

Mobile friendly and simpler platforms

Majority of Kenyans access the internet via mobile which provides a different quality of access as compared to access via personal computer; it’s thus important to note that ‘not all access is equal’. By developing platforms, products and services that can be accessed via mobile and sites that do not require large amounts of data to access, tech entrepreneurs can effectively decrease barriers to access.

Policy Discussions

Often we may think contributing to policy discussions is something that should be left to civil society organisations and governments, however this is an inaccurate assumption. By participating in policy debates, tech entrepreneurs bring the expertise of understanding a customers experience in accessing their products and services which is vital in creating a ‘friendly’ digital environment for both entrepreneurs and customers. A multi-stakeholder approach is vital for any policy creation process, which eventually results in a thriving business environment. We need more tech entrepreneurs participating in the development of digital policy. These conversations often happen in unstructured forms e.g. on Social Media or in more structured forms such as on platforms like KICTANet.

Social Media

With over 12 millions Kenyans on Whatsapp and over 8 million on Facebook, how are tech enterprises transforming their customer service dynamics to take advantage of this reach? By meeting Kenyans on the platforms where they are already actively having conversations, without requiring them to send emails, access company websites and other options that are data heavy, tech enterprises effectively improve access to their product offerings.

Digital Literacy.

Years later, digital literacy is still a buzzword, basically because it is still a challenge that plagues a majority of the population. Across the world there exists different forms and techniques of digital literacy programs, but how should entrepreneurs approach digital literacy? Does your enterprise go beyond explaining the step by step process of accessing your offering? Do you have a Frequently Asked Question resource? Do you give your customers tips on how to access your platform in the cheapest and convenient way? Do you have a customer service team that hand holds your customers as they access your offering? These are just some questions you can consider as you develop your product offering.

The journey of bridging the widening digital gap needs all hands on deck, and entrepreneurs should not be left behind this call.

Find here the link to the #InternetPizzaFriday presentation.

Does Kenya’s Huduma Namba exemplify the elements of Good Identification?

Image Credits:HILTON OTENYO

In February 2019 the government of Kenya went ahead and announced the biometric registration of Kenyans to start in 15 counties. With the plan to register nearly 50million Kenyans aged six and above, a whopping 6 Billion has been set aside for this exercise.

Since this announcement it has been evident this Digital ID System, dubbed the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), has been marred as a result of political interests. This began with the questionable procurement process, the strict timeline of conducting the process in 45days despite insufficient notice and the threat of no access to government services e.g. passport if one does not have a huduma namba as was mentioned by the Director of Immigration, Gordon Kihalangwa. Why does there exist such urgency for Kenyans to register for this ‘huduma namba’, lauded to improve security and ease of access to government services?

On April 1st a court ruling suspended the mandatory biometric registration of Kenyans, making it an optional exercise. However, reports from counties such as Mombasa and comments from government officials illustrate that the process is still mandatory where duress and even brute force is being used against Kenyans who do not comply and disparage the process on social media.

The questions that remain, is it possible to stop, recalibrate and restart this process in good faith? Can we determine why exactly we need digital identification in Kenya (if at all) and what this process should and deserves to look like?

At the Internet Society 2019 African Chapters Advocacy meeting in Addis Ababa at the African Union Commission, between the 9th and 10th of April, we got to discuss at length how exactly this process should look like, where everyone’s interests are considered and protected.

Public Participation

The Public Participation Bill of 2018 outlines that the responsible authority shall provide reasonable and meaningful opportunities for public participation. On the matter of digital ID’s in Kenya, public participation was not employed to get perspectives from citizens and other stakeholders in order to uphold a collaborative spirit. By seeking opinions and feedback from stakeholders the government could have addressed concerns and put in place solutions as well as receiving buy-in from all involved in the process, resulting in a more harmonised process.

In addition to a lack in public participation, information on the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) still seems scanty hence casting doubt on the intentions of the government especially due to the sensitivity of the data being collected from Kenyans. Communication of the roll out strategy, objectives and potential impact based on evidence based research has not been done for the benefit of Kenyans. At risk of duplication of efforts, additionally how does the huduma namba supersede all the other numerous forms of identification that Kenyans have? This is information if delivered to Kenyans in a timely, clear and organised manner could change the negative perceptions of the lauded Huduma Namba.

Data Protection

Kenya still does not have a ratified Data Protection policy, so it would be folly for the government to conduct this biometric registration process, when no law exists to protect the sensitive data being collected from Kenyans; or even protect Kenyans from their data being misused to defend infractions against them such as surveillance, exclusion to services or even spaces.

The Omidyar Network identifies Good Identification as fundamental to inclusive growth and could unlock economic value equivalent to 3–6 percent of GDP on average by 2030, this is from a study conducted by Mckinsey Global.

What is Good Identification? According to the Omidyar Network, Good Identification is an empowering form of identity designed to be inclusive, private, secure, and controlled by the individual with the goal of helping people to participate more fully and fearlessly in society and the digital economy. Issuing Good Identification, backed by safeguards and principles, helps countries maximise the benefits and continental aspirations while minimising the risks for people, business, and government.

Here is a summary of principles on identification for sustainable development towards the digital age, that highlight the elements of inclusion, design and governance.

Currently the biometric registration still continues, albeit not being mandatory; Kenyans are being encouraged to voluntarily undergo the registration process. I believe it’s not too late to fix what has been broken, but we need to do an overhaul of the process, one that employs a multi-stakeholder dynamic, is transparent, ethical, secure and eventually valuable to Kenya’s economy.

Internet Rising Costs and What it means for Kenyans

If you live in Kenya you’ll have experienced the steady increase in internet costs as a result of increased excise duty in the recently amended Finance Bill 2018, which adopts a taxation of 15% on Internet Data Services. The result has been a progressive increase of internet package costs as exhibited in the screenshot above. 

Last month, Safaricom slashed the costs of buying internet bundles and has even began providing internet packages that offer subscribers free Whatsapp on select bundles even after the exhaustion of purchased bundles. They say this is in a bid to increase internet penetration amongst Kenyans, and comes after increasing M-Pesa tariffs on the basis of Finance Bill, 2018.

However, on Wednesday last week, Safaricom released a statement indicating that their headline price for voice calls and data would increase by 30 cents and SMS by 10 cents, as a result of the increased taxes passed in the Finance Act 2018.

What then will be the effect of this?

Some of the government’s flagship programmes namely Ajira Digital, The Digital Literacy Programme, Ease of Doing Business (eCitizen) and National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) all propose to improve access to digital spaces by Kenyans through customised online platforms, skills building and even infrastructure development. However, how will this increase in internet prices impact these interventions? The bottom line is that Kenyans must be able to afford internet services in order to benefit from these initiatives, and that already precarious reality has been threatened further.

This then raises the question of the methodology used by the government to review taxation levels, if at all it exists.

By increasing the costs attributed to getting online, assuming all other factors remain constant, Kenyans are only able to afford a fraction of the internet bundles they were once able to afford before the price increase, thus directly resulting in reduced internet access across the country. It is also important to consider that there will now be Kenyans who are completely locked out of even affording, the cheapest package subscription to internet bundles as a result of this price increase. Simply put, the resulting effect is a step back in the achievement of internet affordability for most Kenyans and even the complete locking out of others from the online space.

Bar reversing the taxes on internet services, what else can the government do?

Public Access Solutions

Introduce more working public access solutions for Kenyans to access the internet for free or at subsidised rates. This would involve making budgetary allocations to include internet access in public areas such as: libraries, schools, local centres, community centres, or public WiFi for use by community.

Policy Impact Studies

The government should adopt a multi-stakeholder model that enables them to form partnerships with organisations that advise them on the impact of various policy reform regimes. By taking into consideration recommendations derived from evidence based research studies the government can more sustainably review legislation to ensure maximum positive outcomes and minimal risk of negative outcomes on the economy and livelihoods.

The African Continent

According to Africans online, the internet has had a positive impact on many aspects of society, including education, the economy and personal relationships.

In the past couple of months some countries in the Africa region have undergone a different type of ‘internet taxation’, with Uganda taxing social media and Benin imposing a social media tax, that was fortunately later repealedCurrently, the internet has only penetrated 35% of Africa’s population, what does increased internet costs as a result of taxes do to this number? What is the eventual effect on aspects of economy, education and personal relationships?

How has this increase in internet costs affected you? What are you doing differently to adjust to this increase? We’d like to hear from you! E-mail us at research@ihub.co.ke or comment below.

Re-Imagining Social Norms on the Internet

(iHub Research’s session script from #FIFAfrica2018)

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on culture, commerce, and technology, including the rise of near-instant communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, two-way interactive video calls, and the World Wide Web with its discussion forums, blogs, social networking, and online shopping sites.

With over 4 billion people on the internet, this number is only set to grow, especially with the age at which users are getting online steadily decreases.In Africa we have over 464 million users, with more male users than female.

Before we proceed let’s take a closer look at culture.

Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.  The internet’s genesis may not be African, but the very essence of having Africans on the internet, makes the internet African. Our unique identity marker, being african through our African culture, naturally spills onto the internet, making it unique to our own African reality.

What is African culture? How do we define it for ourselves?

Africa, a continent of 54 countries and over 2,000 tribes and languages spoken boasts a diversity unique, the world over. Clearly, Africa is not a country. However, our culture brings us together. Central to African culture, is the existence of values. A value here being a point of view or conviction; to live by and even in some cases die for. If we look at African values, they fall in different categories:

  • Social Values
  • Moral Values
  • Religious Values
  • Political Values
  • Aesthetic Values
  • Economic Values

Culture is passed on from generation to generation. The acquisition of culture is a result of the socialisation process. Culture is not static, it is dynamic, over the years coming from external as well as internal influences and humankind progression, as development occurs. If we look at African culture today, it has definitely expanded and contracted to accommodate the people we are today.

Cultural norms should seek to include rather than exclude people from participating in it, and hence the reason why these norms evolve over the years as people do across generations.

The year is 2018, African culture today is an integral part, when it comes to online interactions. The conversations had by Africans online, are for the most part informed by our culture. This is exhibited by the languages used, discourse on religion, arguments regarding gender roles and even enjoyment of art amongst other topics.

In our research conducted on Kenyan Women’s experiences online, we found out that:

  1. Women of different profiles experience the internet differently
  2. Women of different profiles get harassed online
  3. Women of different profiles respond differently to harassment online
  4. Women of different profiles need different support to be safer online

Another very important hypothesis that we validated from our research was that, women are harassed just for being women and this unwarranted abuse, often takes an ugly sexual turn. Patriarchal systems (those controlled by men) are pervasive in our schools, in our workplaces, our churches and even in our homes. So it it only natural that the internet wasn’t left behind.

But how does this serve us? Apart from preventing women from participating online and reducing the potential of connecting the next billion?

Negative and harmful traditional practices that dehumanise people and portray them as unimproved and backward people without future, should as a matter of urgency be discarded since culture is an adaptive system together with values that play a central role in giving the society its uniqueness. (Idang 2015)

This is what patriarchal systems do, they dehumanise and portray women as less than.

Using the example of FGM, this was a part of african practises, it is a practise that has been abolished because it risked the lives of women and took away their autonomy over their own bodies. Our beliefs regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) evolved, why can’t we re-imagine our position when it comes to other cultural norms and practises that harm rather than add value to our collective identity?

In this room we have a group of digital rights stakeholders, keen on securing internet freedom for all, regardless of sexual identity, age, religious beliefs and occupational identity. Our goals are pretty audacious, realistic, but audacious all the same:

  1. Connect the next billion?!
  2. Close the gender gap online?!

Cultural norms are inhibiting us from reaching our goals as digital rights stakeholders, so how are we addressing that? Beyond increasing infrastructural coverage, digital literacy, policy reform how are we fixing the disconnect between our cultural norms and digital rights goals?

At the iHub we are taking the time to address these cultural norms that are inhibiting our progress online one user at a time, by providing young people with informal spaces to challenge these beliefs.

Policy Influence Dynamics in a Devolved Kenya

The Kenyan Constitution, provides sovereign power to its citizens, either directly or through elected representatives. The Constitution brought in several changes including devolution which is decentralisation and redistribution of power and resources. This study had two asks, 1) Has devolution affected policy making, and if so, how? 2) Additionally who are the key players in policy dynamics in Kenya and what is the media’s role in influencing policy? Are there stakeholders whose influence supersedes the other?

Our findings confirm that devolution has devolved policy making with some actors playing a more active role than others in influencing public policy in Kenya. We also found that the devolution process takes more time than previously expected, where for example health as a function has not achieved full devolution.

While we do identify the groups and level of influence, whether they do it successfully is another challenge altogether. Due to the complexity of relationships, circumstances around public participation and nuances that differ, thus affecting degree of influence amongst them. Actors employ different methods to reach out to stakeholders, via official meetings and/or semi-structured mechanisms such as calling in favours.

Kenyans, a conservative people also hold dear the opinions and counsel of religious leaders, chiefs and village elders who form key members of the community.

The media, a key player in policy influence dynamics, plays a role in dissemination of crucial information used to educate and inform. Throughout all our interviews, radio emerged as the most dominant and trusted medium of communication in both rural and urban areas for reasons ranging from accessibility and affordability.

It is evident that there are a number of active policy influencers, but even in the event of devolution, we still see that citizens are a major stakeholder group that not only civil society but also legislators take into consideration. In the course of conducting the study in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa, we discovered that despite the differences in profiles of rural and urban populations, both are a leading influencer when it comes to policy in Kenya as explained later on in the report.

The Media, Civil Society Organisations, Politicians, Donors and International Organisations play a supporting role in enabling citizens to perform this role effectively through various resources both tangible and intangible. It is also important to point out that there exists a trilogy in Kenyan policy influence.

You can read the full report here.

#InternetPizzaFriday Roundup: Is Technology Neutral?

In the first iteration of our three part series of #InternetPizzaFriday ‘s at the iHub, the Research team tackled the question: “Is technology neutral?” What comes next is a natural progression of this analysis, where we try to understand what it means to be neutral. According to Merriam-Webster neutral basically means not being engaged on either side; not aligned with a political or ideological grouping; a neutral nation.

So with this understanding then, is technology really neutral?

Technology as it exists bears:

  • the intention of it’s creator
  • the possibilities and limits of its design; and
  • the foreseen and unforeseen results of its implementation

Bearing this in mind, technology being neutral is an aspiration, and not a current reality, and this can be showcased with a couple examples in the Kenyan context:

Free Basics

Kenya is no stranger to the net neutrality discussion. Airtel Africa in 2015, partnered with Facebook to launch Free Basics Services in 17 African countries, among them Kenya. As part of the Free Basics services, customers with an airtel mobile connection would be able to access all the services that form part of Free Basics, without paying extra for data charges or rental. Facebook were very keen on putting at the forefront the message, that Free Basics would aid in bringing more people online and reduce the digital divide, and that access to the internet is a basic internet right, which we would be hard pressed to argue with such noble convictions and goals.

However, a closer look at the Free Basics program, reveals that it offers access to some sites and not others, while being able to read all data passing through the platform. Wouldn’t this then pose concerns surrounding user free will and security, which should ideally be front and centre of principles surrounding technology?

At the same time, it is important to note, the difficult position we are in when we argue against free access to the internet, when 3.9 billion are still unconnected. Access to the internet, IS a human right. However, we need to objectively consider the risk of such programs being susceptible to manipulation and control. Furthermore, the problematic nature of providing partial access, masked as full access, should make us all question the motives of such initiatives. In retrospect Facebook’s recent  and not so recent troubles, should propel us towards being more analytical of the Free Basics offering and the importance of users’ free will.

Unlike in India, Kenya has not experienced much resistance of the Free Basics program, and this makes you wonder how governments lack of infrastructure development influenced this turn of events, making it convenient in the face of lack of alternatives or government intervention.

Cambridge Analytica

During the 2017 elections, it was revealed that Kenyans’ data was mined to help win a heavily contested election, with the help of Cambridge Analytica. Kenyan voters were psychologically manipulated, by the use of apocalyptic ads and smear campaigns against the opposition candidate, painting him as violent, corrupt and dangerous1. Unfortunately, Kenya with its weak privacy laws and lack of implementation are a fertile ground for organisations such as Cambridge Analytica to run their unethical programs.

Online Harassment

As more and more Kenyans connect to the internet, the internet has subsequently become a dangerous place with women facing the biggest brunt of cyberbullying, revenge porn, doxxing and stalking. Due to the patriarchal nature of the Kenyan society, women face an inordinate amount of online harassment, when you compare it to their male counterparts. Furthermore, majority of these online platforms have challenges addressing harassment on them (as a result of substandard and biased reporting functions), thus propagating these inequalities.

In a technological aspect, you may ask yourself how we end up with such flawed online platforms, and we can see an example here of how Facebook has been engineered to be biased against black children and to protect white men. Remember as we earlier stated, more often than not, “technology bears the intention of its creator”. This introduces the concept of privilege and power differentials in the neutrality discussion. By definition, privilege is an unearned advantage given because a person is born into a certain group in society. Privilege in society then takes different forms, through our gender and gender identity, education levels, class (social and economic status), sexuality, race, skin tone, body size, religion, mental and physical ability, debt, employment status and many others.

By being conscious about our privilege and subsequent bias, then we can proactively work towards eliminating it in our everyday lives and especially in technology.

As the event wound up, my parting shot was pointing out the importance of challenging cultural perceptions and bias, and re-imagining new ways of thinking and doing things in the age of technology; while being cognizant of power differentials. Only then can we truly make substantial steps towards making technology neutral.

1How Cambridge Analytica poisioned Kenya’s Democracy

#NotTheCost: Violence Against Women in Politics

Political violence can be experienced by people of all genders, involved at any level of the political process, it can happen online as well as offline and to individuals of different spectrums of experience in the political landscape. However, violence against women in politics is meted specifically against women because of their gender and has the following distinct characteristics:

  • It specifically targets women because of their gender
  • It can present as gendered, this is by the use of sexist threats and sexual violence
  • Its impact is to discourage women in particular from being or becoming politically active

Between the dates of 19th and 21st of June, NDI ran a workshop whose objective was to equip key civil society groups working on women empowerment, on how to understand and tackle violence against women in politics. In the course of the workshop it became obvious the inseparable aspect of violence offline and online and just how violence against women specifically in politics looks like.

Unlike many other workshops that are overwhelmingly theoretical, this 3 day workshop was unique in that there were significant activities and technical aspects of the agenda. This culminated in a key task focused on contextualising VAW in politics specific for Kenya, by building a lexicon that exhibits abuse and harassment in our Kenyan context.

The workshop also introduced the opportunity that technology, lends to such work, enabling the study of phenomena relating to online violence especially in instances where analysis of vast amounts of data is required, as in this case which involves the analysis of online abuse on social media platforms such as Twitter.

As women make advancements towards equality in politics, there is an evident pushback both online and offline against women participating in the political process and even in any discourse relating to politics. Unfortunately, the impact of this is women avoiding participation and experiencing apprehension when venturing or existing in Political spaces. Kenya is no stranger to violence against women in politics, with prominent women politicians facing the biggest brunt of violence especially online. In Kenya, women form 52% of the population and just as the Twitter hashtag #WeAre52pc achieves to communicate, having women adequately represented in parliament is not only about equality, fighting historical political bias against women, but also required by our Constitution that stipulates the 2/3rd gender rule, thus rendering the current parliament unconstitutional because it fails to achieve this.

Article 81 (b) states: “Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender”.

As we fight for more women to be represented in Kenyan political discourse, systems and structures it’s more important than ever to ensure that women can be politically active without experiencing any form of discrimination, harassment or assault. Violence is NOT the cost of politics. #NotTheCost

What Next?

In collaboration with NDI some representatives from the workshop delegates will be supporting the #NotTheCost project to bring a human aspect to the computational methods being used to study online violence, by analysing (coding) a surfeit of data that will be in form of tweets in order to produce accurate evidence based research to better understand violence against Kenyan women in politics.

Find here preliminary findings by the NDI from pilots in Cote d’Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania and Tunisia on Analysing Violence Against Women in Political Parties.

This work is also in line with our #InternetFreedom project that is supported by the Ford Foundation where we are working towards enhancing the experiences of women online.