CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: Reporting grants and workshop on digital identity, data & technology in Nigeria

APPLICATION DEADLINE: JULY 9TH, 2021

Please note this opportunity is open to journalists based in Nigeria only.

The Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) at Wits Journalism in Johannesburg and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) based in Nigeria (with offices around Africa), invite all journalists based in Nigeria to submit proposals for reporting grants and workshop participation. Successful applicants will be provided with a reporting grant of US$1,000 and will also participate in a Digital Identity Training Workshop in Abuja, Nigeria on 9-12 August 2021 to investigate issues related to digital identification, data privacy, and technology in Nigeria and West Africa. The workshop will also feature participation in PIN’s Digital Rights Academy 2021.

See below for How to apply and Potential issues to be investigated.

The importance of digital identity in West Africa

Travel, trade, and communication are now boundless because of technology, the Internet, and innovation. Yet they are also increasingly dependent on the use of personal data such as national IDs, mobile numbers, income and payment histories, social relationships and transactions, location, biometric information, and other identifying artefacts. They collect revealing bits of data and use them to verify and authenticate our identity and eligibility for services as well as to build trust, and support transactions between people, businesses, and governments.

Being able to prove who you are in this way can help ensure more people are included and empowered through the continent’s many transformations. As African governments and businesses digitize their identification processes, having a digital identity can be increasingly valuable, if not required, for people to obtain healthcare, education, employment, and bank services; make purchases and undertake trade; pay taxes, amass capital, own property, lend money, open businesses; and travel.

Nigeria is no exception. With new policies and directives the government has developed various identity systems that make use of biometric data, yet without data protection legislation. While digital identity has massive implications for economies and societies, very few people understand how they themselves are digitally identified; how their information is used by businesses, governments, and individuals; what rights they have; what risks they are exposed to; and what safeguards are or could be in place. Journalism and on-the-ground investigations are crucial for advancing public knowledge and understanding on digital identity and to shift thinking beyond government and business objectives by illustrating human experiences.

An estimated 500 million African citizens still have no formal online identification, although African states are now pursuing new and distinctive digital identification projects, many with an economic development agenda and others with national security goals. The private sector is also an active participant in digital identity, either as a partner of the state to deliver technology and services in support of national ID systems or in pursuit of their own commercial interests in the open marketplace. Digital profiles on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially WhatsApp can enable users to voluntarily self-assert their own identity outside of the state. While almost all Africans depend on these platforms for communication and increasingly commerce, very few know how those data trails will be used by other groups.

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