From the millennium bug to current trends in internet perceptions, use and access in Africa, there has been a mixed bag of developments that have taken place over the last 20 years that have shaped the African digital society. This year, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has focused on what has shaped the African digital society in its latest State of Internet Freedom in Africa Report.
According to the report, the countries reviewed appear to have adopted similar patterns particularly on information controls which have been increasing gradually parallel to the internet penetration growth over the same period. In the early years, there were efforts made in pursuit of increasing access to the internet. However, by 2005, some countries started taking steps to intercept communications, including of digital communications. Between 2006 and 2010, several governments started to take dedicated moves to regulate the digital sphere, including prescribing various restrictive laws aimed at the use of information and Communication Technologies (ICT), coupled with investments geared towards enhancing government surveillance capacity.
Since then, we have witnessed a significant increase in African narratives and civic action online. However, these have been hampered by restrictive laws and practices which continue to contribute towards self-censorship, affronts to freedom of expression and press freedom, a persisting gender digital divide, and growing exclusion of vulnerable communities such as Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) through to the systematic disruption of communications and other internet freedom infringements.