Data protection and secured internet access remain a challenge for Kenya's digital landscape. [Getty Images]

Although Kenya has made remarkable strides in digital infrastructure development, with high internet penetration rates and a sprouting tech sector, its landscape highlights significant progress and persistent challenges in the journey towards a more inclusive and secure digital future.

The latest LONDA 2023 Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa report indicates that challenges such as data privacy concerns, cybersecurity threats, gender disparities in digital access, and barriers to inclusion for persons with disabilities remain prevalent.

The report released on Friday urged the government to develop clear and comprehensive supportive frameworks to support the Data Protection Act, aligned with emerging technologies.

The report, titled Londa, is a call to action for every government and stakeholder to take their place in defending digital rights, which are human rights online and or enjoyed simply using digital technologies.

A digital rights group Paradigm Initiative (PIN) annually monitors the environment, documents violations, and reports on the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

The title ‘Londa’ is of Zulu origin and echoes a call for action to protect and defend the digital rights and inclusion environment in Africa.

Londa is an advocacy tool of engagement with different stakeholders in the reported countries, serves as a yardstick for measuring their annual performance and provides critical recommendations to improve the digital space.

According to the report, last year’s WorldCoin craze is a clear demonstration of a general lack of awareness among Kenyans about their data privacy rights.

As a result, the report indicates that there is an urgent need for greater public education and awareness-raising efforts to empower citizens to take control of their personal data.

A recent study by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights found that many Kenyan citizens were unaware of the extent to which their personal information was being collected and processed by various organisations and expressed concern about the possibility of their information being used for unintended purposes or being accessed by unauthorised parties.

This, the report said is supported by the fact that in July 2023, the eCitizen platform was hacked, affecting 5000 government services.

A report released by the CA said Kenya recorded 860 million cyberattacks in 2023, making Kenya among the top three targeted countries in Africa, behind Nigeria and South Africa.

During the three months between July and September 2023, the National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team – Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC) detected 7,514,964 malware threat attempts targeting critical infrastructure service providers.

In its recommendations, the report states that the government must ensure a well-functioning digital infrastructure and adequate digital literacy before rolling out AI and blockchain-enabled registries.

 The LONDA 2023 Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa report was launched on Friday.

For instance, although there has been an active search for AI-related information showing people’s interest in transformational technology, the country currently lacks a stand-alone law or policy governing AI.

“The government should formulate a governance framework led by the Ministry of ICT that fosters regular audits and feedback loops for AI operations in the country, formulate comprehensive gendered legislation and policies on data protection, cybersecurity and Online Gender-Based Violence and enforce regulations that protect women from online harassment and cyberbullying,” read part of the report.

While civil society organisations must push and advocate for regulations that protect women from online harassment and cyberbullying, the report said they should also advocate for a multisectoral approach to address human rights concerns related to AI exploitation involving government agencies, civil societies, and technological companies.

“The CSOs should increase awareness and education regarding personal data privacy issues, collaborate with the government, industry, and other stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities presented by big data and personal information privacy,” said the report.

While advocating for the creation of online spaces for women and girls, including people with disabilities on digital platforms, with accessible and transparent reporting and complaint procedures, the CSOs should further promote a change in societal attitude towards people with disabilities to achieve digital inclusion for young PWDs in Kenya.

The report further urged the civil society sector to advocate for the inclusion of PWDs in policy-making processes to enhance their understanding and contribute to bridging the digital gap.

“The Private Sector should develop clear and comprehensive institutional policies for data protection aligned with emerging technologies, create partnerships between the government, private sector, and nonprofits to provide affordable internet and digital services and products to women,” read the report.

While collaborating with the government, industry, and other stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities presented by big data and personal information privacy, the private sector should also create online spaces for women and girls on digital platforms with accessible and transparent reporting and complaint procedures.