IGF 2021 WS #208
Human Rights in Technology: Stakeholder engagement in Africa

Organizer 1: Okille Ashanut, African Internet Rights Alliance
Organizer 2: Isabel Ebert, UN Human Rights B-Tech

Speaker 1: Okille Ashanut, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Dragori Tim, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 3: Joseph Kibugu, Civil Society, African Group


Isabel Ebert, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator

Okille Ashanut, Civil Society, African Group


Isabel Ebert, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Break-out Group Discussions - Round Tables - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?
Inclusion, rights and stakeholder roles and responsibilities: What are/should be the responsibilities of governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, the academic and research sector and community-based actors with regard to digital inclusion and respect for human rights, and what is needed for them to fulfil these in an efficient and effective manner?

Through an inclusive and dynamic process of dialogue, the session will identify good practices for stakeholder engagement fro rightsrespecting technology across different technologies and companies across the African region.


10. Reduced Inequalities

Targets: There is a well-established understanding that digital technology
is a cross-cutting accelerator for the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals. It is essential to harness this
potential to be able to reach the goals by 2030. The benefits of
digital technology lie at the core of fostering the Sustainable
Development Goals within the 2030 Agenda.

However, there is a growing sense that the impact of
technological change on development could be more profound, as
the speed of innovation causes social and economic disruptions of
which the consequences – including on human rights and
development - are not yet clear. The emergence of new
technologies, such as AI, robotics, and block chain, and
especially their convergence, will be the driving force of
radical change. New policies and measures are needed to steer
this change into a direction that benefits development objectives
while mitigating risks of adverse impact, demanding considerable
awareness and adaptability by governments.

To harness the positive contribution of digital technologies on
development, there is a critical need to more effectively prevent
and mitigate the risks, including on human rights. This requires
clearer guidance about what should be expected on human rights
from companies as they develop and deploy digital technologies in
developing economies.

A strong opportunity lies with the interwoven character of the
SDGs and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
(UNGPs). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has put the
planet and people at the center of development, building
specifically on international human rights standards as stating
that the aim of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to
“realise the human rights of all”. Both the SDGs and the
UNGPs focus at the potential of the cooperation of states and
business through an inclusive approach with civil society to
foster a transition to a sustainable use of resources, fair
governance practices and inclusive growth for all. The UNGPs
provide a roadmap to build in human rights protections and
dignity for all within the 2030 agenda, ensuring that new
technologies are developed, designed and deployed especially for
the most marginalized, such as human right defenders, women and
LGBTQI communities. The corporate responsibility to respect Human
Rights and Human Rights due diligence measures include the idea
that companies are pro-actively changing practices and addressing
systemic issues to deliver positive development gains and do not
exacerbate inequalities.

At this juncture, action should be focused on supporting
responsible development and use of technology in the private
sector as a cross-cutting theme for sustainable development,
where business and human rights standards are an integrated part.


The `UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) articulate a clear expectation for the private sector to respect human rights. and are applicable to all companies—regardless of industry sector, size, structure or operating context—to identify and address human rights risks that might occur in relation to the use of their products and services. In 2019, UN Human Rights launched the B-Tech project which provides authoritative guidance and resources for implementing the UNGPs in the technology sector.

However, the discourse around business and human rights in tech is still a relatively new subject for Africa. The rapid pace of technological advancement in African countries poses new challenges for human rights in the region, such as discrimination in algorithm-based decision making in credit scoring or company involvement in curbing freedom of expression, e.g. through internet shutdowns in election times. The UNGPs presents opportunities to address and mitigate these human rights risks, by complementing and filling the governance gaps in business and human rights areas. Only through navigating these adverse impacts on human rights can the full benefits of technology in promoting human rights be realized in the African region.

It is therefore imperative to reflect on early multi stakeholder-engagement around tech company conduct and identify how we can put human rights front and centre in how technology companies do business in Africa.

Expected Outcomes

This session aims to:
1. Identify key issues on the intersection of human rights and technology company conduct in Africa
2. Explore ways in which the UNGPs on business and human rights framework can be applied in the tech sector; and foster multi-stakeholder dialogue
3. Discuss the essential roles of the government, private sector and civil society organisations in promoting business and human rights in the tech sector, including examples of good practices

approach of Business and Human Rights, circling around the United
Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs),
endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, can offer a
principled approach to ensuring that technology companies'
governance and operations are grounded in respect for human
rights. The Guiding Principles can serve as tool for guiding
company conduct because they are internationally agreed and
supported by a diverse set of stakeholders including business,
governments and civil society around the world. The workshop will
identify and analyse best practices in Africa and
address the complexity, scale and fast-evolving nature of the
technology industry in Africa.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.