A total of 10.75 million Ghanaians do not use the internet as at the beginning of last year, the 2023 LONDA Report on the digital rights and inclusion in Africa, published by the Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a Pan African organisation, has revealed.

Thus, at least 31.8 per cent of the national population (33.80 million) were offline at that time. However, the country’s internet penetration rate, which stood at 53 percent in the previous year increased to 68.2 percent in 2023.

The LONDA 2023 report features 26 African country reports, authored by digital rights experts from across Africa, and is published annually and monitors the environment, documents violations, and reports on the state of digital rights and inclusion in the continent.

As an advocacy tool of engagement with different stakeholders in the reported countries, LONDA serves as a yardstick for measuring their annual performance and provides critical recommendations to improve the digital space.

Thobekile Matimbe, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Engagement, PIN, launched the report at the closing session of the 11th edition of the Digital Rights and Inclusive Forum 2024 (DRIF24) in Accra on the theme: “Fostering Rights and Inclusion in the Digital Age”.

PIN and other partners organised the three-day conference, attended by hundreds of delegates, civil society organisations and actors, NGOs and the academia drawn from 61 countries across the world.

Other partner organisations in Ghana included E-Governance and Internet Governance Foundation for Africa (EGIGFA), University of Media, Arts and Communication, Media Foundation for West Africa, Inclusive Tech Group, Internet Society (ISOC) Ghana Chapter, and Human Security Research Centre (HSRC).

Event sponsors included Wikimedia, African Digital Rights Network, Ford Foundation, Luminate, Google, Kingdom of The Netherlands, Mott Foundation, Open Technology Fund (OTF), Internews, Small Media, among others.

According to the report, digital technologies, especially mobile phones, and the internet had become indispensable tools for participation in society and the economy, and urged the government to do more to improve internet penetration in the country.

In 2022, the World Bank approved US$200 million for the government’s Digital Acceleration Project, aimed at enhancing internet access in rural areas and promoting digital inclusion.

However, despite these efforts, a persistent digital divide exists, particularly affecting women and persons with disabilities (PwDs), hindering their access to and utilisation of digital technologies in Ghana, it explained.

The report further recommended a multi-stakeholder approach to tackling the digital rights situation in the country, saying the approach would address issues such as internet and mobile phone affordability through subsidies, special pricing, financing schemes, and other innovations.

Stakeholders, including government bodies, non-profit organisations, and research institutions, should work collaboratively towards reporting on the myriad barriers confronting PwDs.

Additionally, collective action was required to ensure Ghana leveraged connectivity for empowerment and prosperity for all and calls on the nation to establish protections, reporting mechanisms, and accountability for violence against citizens.

The National Media Commission ought to be reformed and strengthened to safeguard press freedom, the statement suggested, and called for the protection of vulnerable and marginalised groups such as women PwDs and LGBTIQ+ by refraining from enacting legislation that would enable their censorship, surveillance, or arrests.

It also called for the development, review, and updated comprehensive legislation that addressed digital rights, including privacy protection, freedom of expression, and access to information.

The Parliament of Ghana must also strengthen legal protections for media freedom, censorship, data privacy, digital security and safety of journalists, the statement recommended.

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