Citizens must harness digital space to encourage good governance – Experts

Citizens need to leverage the digital space to play their important role of promoting good governance and also holding leaders accountable, experts have said.

This was discussed at the 5th edition of the New Media, Citizens and Governance Conference organized by Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria in partnership with Paradigm Initiative (PIN) and BudgIT on Thursday in Abuja.

Discussions at the forum centred on protecting digital rights in closing spaces as they are important actors in enabling good governance and driving accountability and transparency.

Anriette Esterhuysen, chair, Multistakeholder Advisory Committee of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in her keynote address said a civic space is the bedrock of any open and democratic society.

She added that it enables the civil society and a wide range of actors to fulfill their roles and act autonomously in pursuit of democracy, inclusive participation, good governance and human rights.

She advised that civic spaces should be complex and multi-dimensional and should include trends such as digital openings, digital closings, and global crises.

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“Playing our respective roles in maintaining civic space is not simple, collaboration and understanding is essential, We need to have collaborative actions and build on what works to protect our digital rights,” she said.

She advised that to increase civic participation in closing spaces, digital Inclusion should be promoted, collaborative actions should be taken and there should be capacity building across the civic ecosystem which are government, media and civil society.

Temitope Ogundipe, founder, TechSocietal Consulting said tech companies should be regulated however, this should be in protection of human rights because internet shut down is a form of digital violence and intimidation.

Ogundipe also spoke about protecting those in the digital space from being harmed by insensitive content, false news, hate speech, etc.

Anthony Ojukwu, executive secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said citizens must find a way to see how social media can be harnessed for accountability, adding that online decisions can also affect people offline.

“One thing that social media has brought is information, the digital space has thrown information open and our leaders are struggling to tone it down,” he said.

He advised that citizens must be intentional about making impact leveraging the digital space but it must be done in moderation.