RIA Consultation Highlights African Demand for Access to Tech Intermediaries’ Data

Research ICT Africa
26 Sep 2023

On September 19th, Research ICT Africa (RIA) convened a stakeholder consultation that shed light on the demand, access, and use of data held by tech intermediaries. This gathering took place on the sidelines of the Africa Internet Governance Forum (AFIGF2023) and the Africa School of Internet Governance (AfriSIG). The meeting brought together 31 experts representing civil society, government, legislators, academia, and civil society organisations in the region. This consultation exercise was led by the research team: Dr. Guy Berger, Dr. Alison Gillwald and Liz Orembo.

Preliminary findings from the research on which the consultation was based revealed that while there appears to be a relatively low level of awareness regarding the significance of intermediaries’ data holdings, there is also a notable appetite among stakeholders for increased access to and utilisation of such data. This interest extends beyond the information currently available in transparency reports or the existing access options provided by tech companies. 

Presently, substantive access to intermediaries’ data holdings predominantly occurs through expensive intermediaries or informal scraping of publicly accessible data on these platforms. A few commercial African entities have established partnerships with intermediaries, facilitating data cooperation between both parties.

The consultation also explored the idea of forming an alliance to address these data access challenges. There was a general agreement that priority should be given to access to data to address pressing challenges related to elections on the continent: issues ranging from misinformation, hate speech, digital authoritarianism, content distribution, and online gender-based violence.

Stakeholders felt that such an alliance should also focus locally to enhance Africa’s culture of datafication, access and use of already existing data on the continent by African researchers. Particular emphasis was made on the protection of human rights, safety of data, affordability of datasets, and data flows.

Consultation on this research is still ongoing and will go toward the finalisation of a report. We welcome comments and inputs and are especially interested in your answers to the questions raised in the first report document. Please send them through this webpage.

This research initiative is supported by the Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency (ACTs) that RIA is a member of. It is an initial attempt to map interest among different African stakeholders in getting access to platform data.