The past decade has seen a sharp increase in Africa’s internet penetration, mostly driven by the expansion of mobile phone infrastructure.
This rise in connectivity has marked Africa as an emerging market for all manner of ICT role players, including social media companies, cloud service providers, telecoms companies and hardware providers. This also makes the region a priority hotspot for the expansion of foreign platforms looking to expand their user bases.
It has resulted in an equally rapid expansion of cyber-crimes and the need to integrate cybersecurity into business strategy and policy considerations.
- Writing, sending, or sharing any information through a computer which includes smartphones, has now been made illegal if it ridicules, degrades, or demeans another person, group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or gender. On top of that, it also criminalizes that same if the information shared creates divisions among persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion, or a gender; and or, promotes hostility against a person, group of persons, a tribe, ethnicity group, religion, or gender.
- The computer misuse law draws a very thin line between online regulation and free speech and was introduced by Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko.
- It listed several punitive measures against people who send malicious information, hate speech, unsolicited information, and share information about children without the consent of their parents or guardians. The punishment for the convicted person is UGX 15 million or a seven-year jail term, if not both.
This renders African cyberspace governance a core international foreign policy and law issue.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, 2022, which criminalizes unauthorized access to data and prohibits sharing data relating to legal minors without authorization from parents or guardians. The law also prohibits sending or sharing false, malicious and unsolicited information.
The announcement was made on Thursday, October 14, 2022, by the Presidential Press Unit (PPU). According to the PPU, the president signed four bills into law: the Physical Planners’ Registration Act, the Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Act, the Mining and Minerals Act, and the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill.
One legislator introduced the Computer Misuse Amendment Bill 2022 to Uganda’s Parliament and passed it on July 19, 2022.
The Uganda Computer Misuse Act was enacted earlier in 2011 to enhance safety and security in the digital arena by preventing unlawful access, abuse or misuse of information systems including computers and securing the conduct of electronic transactions.
According to Tech Cabal, while these amendments would naturally help national cohesion and deter cybercrime, but countries like Uganda can and have used them to suppress free speech and digital rights.
In July, Muhammed Nsereko, a Legislator, proposed an amendment to the 2011 Act, arguing that the Act doesn’t take into consideration sharing information across social media.
According to the bill, its objectives are “…to enhance the provisions on unauthorised access to information or data; to prohibit the sharing of any information relating to a child without authorisation from a parent or guardian; to prohibit the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech; to provide for the prohibition of sending or sharing false, malicious and unsolicited information…”
While most of the bill is similar to its 2011 predecessor, the parliament introduced clauses for amendment of Section 12 of the bill. Clause 2 of the amendment reads:
“Any person who, without authorization, (a) accesses or intercepts any program or another person’s data or information; (b) voice or video records another person; or (c) shares any information about or that relates to another person, commits an offence.”
The bill also includes provisions combating online harassment with further amendments prohibiting Ugandans from writing, sending or sharing information which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, tribe, religion, or gender.
Some proposed amendments were struck out by the parliament in September. For example, the bill initially proposed the adoption of fines up to UGX 15 million (US$3,900), and imprisonment of up to 10 years, or both for the listed offences. All public officials found guilty of offences under the bill would also face disbarment from holding public positions for 10 years.
According to the ITU, the recent index shows a growing commitment worldwide to tackle and reduce cybersecurity threats. On the international front, the United States ranked number one, followed by the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, both shared the second place.
In Africa, Mauritius ranked top although it was 17th on the global ranking. Egypt was second in Africa, followed by Ghana. Uganda was the ninth on the list, but obviously this will change with the new development.
Each country’s development is assessed along the five strategic pillars of the Union’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA): Legal Measures, Technical Measures, Organisational Measures, Capacity Building, and International Cooperation. This is then aggregated into an overall score. The current assessment covers the 2019-2020 period and reflects data collected during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. It was established over 150 years ago.
Early this month Uganda was re-elected as a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council for the period; 2023-2026 during the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference which took place in Romania.
Uganda’s delegation to the conference in Romania which ran till October 14 was led by Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister for ICT and National Guidance.
The seats in ITU Council are divided into five regions, A to E. Uganda was elected into the ITU Council Region D for Africa, which has 13 seats. Other 12 countries elected alongside Uganda are Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, and South Africa.