Why Digital Platform Governance in Africa Requires Collegiate Approach

Why Digital Platform Governance in Africa Requires Collegiate Approach
Why Digital Platform Governance in Africa Requires Collegiate Approach

Africa-Press – Mauritius. The growing concern about the governance of digital platforms globally, and the mistrust many policymakers are showing is a cause for concern, looking at the benefits that have come with technological innovations.

Many governments have taken the approach; you don’t play by the rules, you don’t access our market, a very adversarial direction that’s not good for innovation and huge advantages.

But the most dangerous trend is that most of the regulators don’t have the technical knowledge and expertise to come up with practical governance models nor do they need to, and with continued reluctance by the big techs to meaningful engagements with others in the media and technology space, some drastic measures might be taken that are dangerous.

Information is a public good and an enabler for the promotion and realisation of human rights, and in discussing the issue of information integrity, we must ensure the interventions to govern digital platforms must not only look at the source and receiver in the communication continuum and extend more focus on the channel (digital platforms).

Given the complexities including money, research and technologies involved, governments will not manage to catch up with the big techs in the race, and even laws per se might help the situation, save for pushing governments in Africa to take drastic interventions including claw back laws and administrative actions such as internet shutdowns.

African governments must as a matter of urgency use existing mechanisms such as the African Union to prioritise a continental approach to engaging the big techs in the efforts to protect against harm that comes through digital platforms, rather than leave it to individual countries to enact national laws to govern the digital channels.

Issues including design, system and processes that are involved are above individual African countries, a collegiate approach is the most feasible for now.

Given that the big techs see Africa as a small market for their products, language differences require massive deployment of content moderators and the required technology deployment might be scaring them.

Regulators in the media and communication space from the continent must quickly realise that a continental approach is required, and the faster they advise their governments, on such an approach they should consider a co-regulation model, allowing governments, regulators, academics, civil society, religious groups and tech experts required in this endeavour.

The technological wars pitting the USA, Europe, China and Russia are too fast for Africa, and a united front from the continent is required today more than ever before.

The AU has for example already done a continental strategy on Artificial Intelligence (AI), a very good move. We now need a continental approach to the governance of digital platforms, given the dangers that are lurking.

In addition to the protection of minors which seems a global concern relating to digital platform information sharing, stakeholders have raised the issue of safety online, information integrity, disinformation, foreign

As the African Continental Free Trade Area becomes a reality, it is important to harness technology and innovation to boost pan African approach to the governance of digital platforms

It is acknowledged that tech companies have begun stepping up their standards and actions to curb harmful content due to the increasing circulation of illegal and harmful content, although more needs to be done on platforms.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to identify content that violates their policies, tech companies are working with third-party fact-checking organisations to identify and address mis/disinformation or engage “trusted partners” to monitor and flag harmful content as well as rely on users to report content that violates policies on these platforms

UNESCO through social media for peace has piloted a project in four countries about creating coalitions as a mechanism for the improvement of dialogue, cooperation, and coordination of efforts between CSOs, regulators, and tech companies to address harmful content, disinformation and hate speech, on digital platforms, and it has worked well.

This approach needs to be adopted by regulators on the African Continent, to convince relevant bodies to lead a continental move to engage tech companies.

Through support from UNESCO and the EU, players in the sector have formed a national coalition of content regulators in Kenya, to steer the country away from the existing laws and regulations to ensure platforms are not misused in the sharing of harmful and irresponsible content.

This might be a new concept about regulated self-regulation in content that may be strengthened purely by self-regulation and or coregulation being practised in some areas.

Europe and other regions are using such a regional approach, and it is working well for the reasons, given that what applies to those countries is not necessarily good for Africa, our uniqueness requires that we engage and negotiate for what is critical for us.

Source: The Star

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