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Digital new deal for Africa

Networking technologies are now firmly embedded in the core of many economic, social, and political activities around the world. However, the benefits of the digitization of the economy and society remain extremely uneven between countries and within them. Benefits have also been accompanied by collective and individual risks. For example, otherwise beneficial networking tools (mostly mobile devices) are also being used for surveillance, tracking, censorship, and repression all around the world. In addition, global digital platforms are extracting economic value from personal data, further amplified through algorithms, which in turn help them grow into globally influential corporations with immense power over people’s data and decisions.

The shift in traditional power relations between states, markets, and citizens in global governance has blurred notions of what constitutes public and private, national and international, and has left a governance vacuum. After decades of private interests dominating data governance, public regulation of the internet has gained international attention to try to regulate global platforms that are commodifying data with little regard for the implications on democratic governance and human rights.

This project is part of an overall process to strengthen cyber policy centres in the Global South. It aims to ensure that policymakers in Africa are using objective, high-quality research to inform digital policy development. It will contribute to building the institutional capacity and sustainability of Research ICT Africa to produce credible, legitimate, and locally relevant research that brings together different perspectives on critical policy issues such as artificial intelligence, data, and internet governance challenges.

The initiative will strengthen Research ICT Africa’s research and policy capacity on these issues and support the development of a robust policy research agenda that addresses all facets of digital policy, including human rights, security and innovation, and the interplay of these issues locally, regionally, and globally.

Project ID
Project Status
30 months
IDRC Officer
Ruhiya Seward
Total Funding
CA$ 683,000.00
North of Sahara
South of Sahara
Democratic and Inclusive Governance
Networked Economies
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Alison Gillwald
Research ICT Africa


Digital new deal for Africa : governance in the age of digitalisation and datafication

Digital new deal for Africa : governance in the age of digitalisation and datafication


The Digital New Deal for Africa (DND4A) project began in 2020 as the second phase of the IDRC cyber policy Think Tank Initiative, which was called the Africa Digital Policy Project (ADDP). The term 'digital new deal' refers to experimental policy interventions in the globalised processes of digitalisation and datafication required to redress the currently uneven distribution of opportunities and harms arising from these processes. The various research areas in this programme are conceptually united by trying to understand and address the governance challenges arising from the nature of digitalisation and datafication as global public goods. The project developed a ‘rights and risks’ framework to systematically analyse the governance challenges arising from these two processes on the African continent. This framing acknowledges the uneven impact of known harms and the need to mitigate risks differently in rapidly digitalising developing economies and societies.

Author(s): Gillwald, Alison, Govan-Vassen, Naila, Adams, Rachel, Rens, Andrew, Farouk, Fazila, Olorunju, Nokuthula, Onuoha, Raymond, Chinembiri, Tapiwa, Baghat, Heeten, Shilongo, Kristophina, Schroeder, Zara

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Language: English