The Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) at the Wits Centre for Journalism in Johannesburg with support from Omidyar Network, and in collaboration with Paradigm Initiative, a pan African social enterprise, invites journalists worldwide to submit proposals for reporting grants. Successful applicants will be provided with a reporting grant of US$1,000 to investigate issues related to digital identity, surveillance, internet shutdowns, freedom of expression online, access to information, privacy, Internet access, women’s rights online, digital empowerment for underserved communities, inclusive digital access, data privacy, and technology in Africa.
The ACRP will also be participating in the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF): Towards a digitally inclusive and rights respecting Africa, 27-28 April, Nigeria where a panel of journalists will be selected from the previous Digital identity, data & technology in Africa workshops and reporting grant series of 2019 and 2021, to reflect on the impact of their published investigations.
See below for How to apply and Potential issues to be investigated.
The importance of reporting on digital identity, data and technology
As governments and businesses worldwide innovate and digitize their identification processes, having a digital identity can be increasingly valuable, if not required, for people to obtain healthcare, education, employment, bank services, purchases and trade; and to pay taxes, amass capital, own property, lend money, open businesses, express themselves online and travel.
While digital identity has massive implications for economies and societies, very few people understand how they themselves are digitally identified; how their information is used by businesses, governments, and individuals; what rights they have; what risks they are exposed to; and what safeguards are or could be in place. Journalism and on-the-ground investigations are crucial for advancing public knowledge and understanding on digital identity and to shift thinking beyond government and business objectives by illustrating human experiences.
How to apply
Applications must be sent to ACRPapplications@gmail.com by no later than Thursday, 21 April 2022 and should contain the following (only documents in MS Word or PDF formats will be accepted):
- Applicant CV
- Brief proposal outlining (a) story to be investigated with clear headline and explanation of story relevance and significance, (b) investigation methodology, (c) proposed publication/platform, and (d) itemized budget totaling no more than US$1,000
- List of previously published relevant reporting, if any
Please send any queries to ACRPcontact@gmail.com
Potential issues to be investigated
The following themes can guide journalists to identify specific topics for investigating issues around digital identity in the Nigerian/West African context:
- Regional, national and community government-issued IDs (e.g. plans/promises, purposes/rationales, best practices and challenges, public reactions and experiences, lessons for and application in African countries)
- Private sector data practices (e.g. industry approaches to data protection, consent, privacy policies, cyber security, data sharing, Know-Your-Customer requirements, technology innovations, compliance with regulation, breaches, penalties and positive incentives)
- Governance, regulations, transparency, and accountability (e.g. privacy and data protection laws, CCTV/surveillance laws, standards, codes of conduct, independent oversight at regional or continent-wide levels, grievance processes, procurement processes, litigation, budgets, public engagement, access and representation, data bill of rights, data trusts)
- Technology innovations and start-up companies (e.g. privacy-by-design approach; “reg tech”; the promise of blockchain; the implications of biometrics, “adtech”; privacy-protecting tools; encryption; identities traded on the dark web; de-identification; open-source code; the benefits and unintended consequences of how technology is used or consumed; ethical uses of technology and data; social credit scoring algorithms; artificial intelligence to sharpen identification; hacking; locally developed solutions; futuristic technologies not yet on the market that digitally identify people)
- Foreign partnerships and investors (e.g. private companies’ data collection, data localization, African perspectives on such collaborations, technology transfers, adoption of systems first piloted outside of Africa, Chinese firms’ AI-based identification systems drawing on CCTV and government ID databases)
- Development and security agendas and human rights (e.g. data for good, inclusion, discrimination-by-design, IDs for migrants and refugees, citizenship/immigration issues, humanitarian crises, links to poverty alleviation and youth empowerment, African perspectives on the freedoms enabled or put at risk by a digital identity)
- Risks and harms (e.g. use of identity information that results in surveillance, exclusion, manipulation, discrimination, oppression, violence, financial loss and reputation issues, distrust and power imbalances)
- Trends and research (e.g. emerging issues and use cases across communities, rise of self-asserted IDs, customer preferences, trust in institutions, breaches and identity theft, fraud, technology failure)
- Privacy and user control (e.g. an African perspective on privacy, privacy as a fundamental right/public good vs. fee-based service, consumer rights, the commercialisation of our identities, treating African data as an African resource, experiences with data ownership, Africa-based data agents/fiduciaries)