By Stellamaris Ashinze
Lagos – Stakeholders in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector have urged the National Assembly to transmit the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
Mr Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and Mr Mark Stephens, the Independent Board Chair, Board of Directors, Global Network Initiative, made the plea in Lagos on Wednesday.
“The bill presents Nigeria with the opportunity to build an effective digital economy with a robust policy framework that protects businesses and secures human rights, complementing ongoing efforts by citizens, civil societies, the private sector, government and other actors.
“Around the world, the global digital economy is built upon the foundation of strong legal and policy frameworks, often grounded in international human rights law, which protects the actors within it.
“Making it a law will boost Nigeria’s burgeoning Internet economy, improve governance and further Nigeria’s position as a regional and global leader in Information, Communications and Technology issues.
“Individuals and organisations only thrive and invest in the digital sector when there is a legal certainty, regulatory trust, and rule of law that ensures that the rights of users are respected and that the interests of citizens, businesses and the government in the digital age are protected,’’ the duo said in a statement.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill which was developed through deliberate multi-stakeholders’ consultations was passed by the Senate in March 2018.
Sesan said that the bill provided protection for the citizens from errant behaviours such as hate speech and misinformation, as defined by a competent court of law.
“Overall, the bill addresses key challenges, provides regulatory clarity and safeguards users’ rights.
“It maintains a preference for `openness’, which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and many others have noted is vital for boosting trade, enabling innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering new cost-saving business models.
“The bill presents Nigeria with the opportunity to build an effective digital economy with a robust policy framework that protects businesses and secures human rights.
“It complements ongoing efforts by citizens, civil societies, the private sector, government and other actors.
“The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will further cement Nigeria’s reputation as a pioneer in progressive, positive legislation in a world where repression, clampdowns, violations and dangerous laws are on the rise, he said.
On his part, Stephens said that Nigeria had great prospects in the ICT sector, due to diverse efforts by mostly youth-led entrepreneurs and collaborations.
According to him, in recent years, policy makers and economic experts have come to appreciate this reality; looking beyond an annual budget built around oil barrels to better measure the country’s diverse economic potential.
“Startup hubs are sprouting across the nation. Huge investments are being made in capacity building.
“A critical mass of Nigerians now have access to telecommunications services and the government is finally exploring the economic potential of the Information and Communication Technology sector.
“These indicators position Nigeria as a possible leader of Africa’s emerging digital economy,’’ Stephens said.