We live in interesting times, not only with the COVID-19 pandemic, but just how the internet seems to be making our lives move at the speed of light, literally. Before we can catch a breath, there’s already some new digital platform or digital technology that has weaved its way into our daily lives, not only weaving its way but becoming somewhat essential in our daily lives.
Take Twitter for example. It started off as a micro-blogging platform and it has now un-officially become the public square. Where influence is peddled, masses persuaded, gospels preached, and even people metaphorically lynched. Although this is good for all of us in general, we sometimes forget that Twitter, like many other digital services that have assumed a public function, is a private company. As such, they owe us as citizens no favors but are accountable mostly to the shareholders and employees, we, the users, are just a product.
This raises several concerns and questions. Chief among them is, as a private company performing a quasi-public function, under which regulations is/should companies like Twitter operate?
In his latest article on iAfrikan.com, Bataung Qhotsokoane shares his thoughts on this subject:
"The dilemma with technology increasingly taking up this public authority is quis custodiet ipsos custodes (who watches the watchmen). When deleting President Buhari’s tweet, what are the standards and metrics used by Twitter to come to that conclusion. Wrongfulness is not the concern of this article, the concern is unilateral conduct that effect’s subjective rights. The concern is unilateral conduct that has public consequences."
That, summarizes it succinctly, i.e. "The concern is unilateral conduct that has public consequences."
How do we then, with this fast changing world we live in where private companies morph into performing roles that have public consequences ensure that the same companies are accountable to the citizenry?
Surely they can't just reap the benefits of being able to perform such perceived public functions without any public accountability?
💡 Who keeps a watch on the technology watchmen? This is an important question when you consider that technology is increasingly being used for public focused functions. These are public functions that have traditionally been reserved for governments to deliver or facilitate. Take for instance, what happened on 4 June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria released a statement that it has suspended Twitter indefinitely. This is after Twitter deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account. When deleting President Buhari’s tweet, what are the standards and metrics used by Twitter to come to that conclusion? Link
🏭 It appears that Kenya is set to be the first country in Africa to make electronic chips. Semiconductor Technologies Limited, a company in Kenya located at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri County, has established an electronic chip manufacturing plant according to the owners. The company has also indicated that apart from manufacturing electronic chips, it will also manufacture other electronic devices such as mobile phones and television sets. These will be sold locally in Kenya and to international customers too. This is a commendable announcement and goes a long way to developing Kenya’s economy. Link
💻 During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed many things change including how Societies in Kenya operate. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules that prevented remote participation in meetings of Societies in Kenya were relaxed. Something worth noting is that organizations were given a go-ahead to hold virtual AGMs and other meetings before rules and regulations were crafted to guide the process. This is a good example of how the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation. However, digital transformation doesn't need to wait for another pandemic, we need to be constantly re-evaluating how we do things and see where we can be more efficient. Link
🖋️ It is being reported that Nigeria is demanding that social media companies need to acquire a local license in order to operate in the West African country. This is according to new proposed regulations announced by Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's Information Minister, who added that “to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission.” This comes after Nigeria’s Federal Government continues to indefinitely suspend Twitter for deleting a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is not clear when these proposed regulations will come into effect. Link
🔒 Most organizations and businesses tend to view cybersecurity as merely a technology issue. However, cybersecurity is not just a tech issue but a business problem too. Cybersecurity is a business-wide risk it requires more than isolated activities to be addressed. A concerning number of South African companies are not prepared for the inevitability of a cyberattack despite the significant financial and reputational risks. Ultimately, and especially in relation to the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, there needs to be a coherent strategy and allocated responsibility in place with respect to cybersecurity, data management, compliance and fraud prevention. Link
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