Paradigm Initiative, formally known as Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, has unveiled a new identity in line with its new aspirations and pan Africa focus.
Paradigm Initiative works to connect under-served youth with improved livelihoods through digital inclusion and digital rights programs. The Initiative also kicked off the Internet Freedom Forum 2017.
Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative’s, Gbenga Sesan said;“We are an indigenous social enterprise, registered corporately in Nigeria and our programs have been completed across several states in all geo-political zones. We currently operate out of 5 offices in Kano, Lagos, Abuja and Aba. The removal of ‘Nigeria’ from our name reflects the on-going expansion of our work to the rest of Africa.”
Voice of Nigeria talked to Mr Sesan about his view on digital rights and how Paradigm Initiative plans to deepen its work across Africa.
You have mentioned digital rights could boost innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. Could you do a recap and explain what you mean?
The problem with the initial assumption that digital rights is about human rights is the fact that it blocks us from seeing the relationship between rights and profits.
Africa as a continent has lost out on many revolutions. The final frontier is this digital revolution and if you are clamping down on digital rights, then what you are doing is making the space poisonous. It’s like giving someone hungry poisonous food. It will kill them. Instead of killing them with poisonous food, let them grow and become healthy.
And that’s what we are saying, if you allow an open space where people can express themselves and use the internet without the fear of it been shut down or getting arrested, they will have time to think of innovation and have time to create the next Facebook. That’s why we say digital rights are good for business.
So how does this concept of digital rights and opportunities fit into rebranding of Paradigm Initiative as a pan African organisation?
Our work has been focused on Nigeria, because we started from here and we did work on digital rights and digital inclusion. Going forward, we have seen one country and another copy bad policies from each other in Africa. Uganda shuts down the internet during elections, the Kenyan police chief says ‘maybe we will also shutdown the internet.’ And that we have seen happen from one country to another across the continent.
We believe we can do what we have done in Nigeria in other countries beginning from the regional level, and then eventually go in-country to make sure that digital rights are respected and that the conversation about rights are not only human rights, but also about the economic opportunities.
How does Paradigm Initiative plan to operate across Africa?
We are starting with regional offices. One office focuses on East and Central Africa and another office focuses on francophone West and Central Africa and we have teams working on those locations in their own countries of residence.
The good thing is that we are a digital organisation. In Nigeria, we hold regular meetings on the internet and we will continue to do that for other countries.
Mercy Chukwudiebere | Samuel Okocha, Lagos