In today's interconnected world, the digital space has become a vital platform for civil society organizations (CSOs), Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), and various groups to advocate for social change, amplify their voices, and mobilize communities. However, this dynamic landscape presents challenges that necessitate the protection of digital rights.
The Power of the Digital Sphere
The digital space provides an unprecedented platform for CSOs, HRDs, and groups to engage with their audiences, mobilize support, and raise awareness about critical issues. This amplification of voices has led to meaningful social change, challenging oppressive systems, advocating for human rights, and promoting inclusivity. There are many examples in Kenya of decision makers acting on issues raised in the digital space. It is for this reason that the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) with support from UNDP Amkeni Wakenya saw the pressing need to safeguard the digital space for civil society and groups in Kenya. However, as the digital space evolves, so do the threats and challenges faced by CSOs and groups.

Governments and authorities, in some cases, impose restrictions on online activities, limiting freedom of expression and civic space. Cyberbullying, harassment, and online attacks targeting activists and organizations have become alarmingly prevalent. A 2021 report by Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organisation, dubbed “Inside the Shadowy World of Disinformation in Kenya” revealed how some twitter influencers were paid to silence government critics and civil activists. Their job was to discredit journalists, judges, and civil activists on the platform.

Moreover, privacy concerns, data breaches, and online surveillance compromise the safety and integrity of these groups.
Recognizing the significance of protecting digital rights, KARA and Amkeni Wakenya UNDP have joined forces to address these challenges. Through their partnership, they are implementing a project focused on safeguarding the digital space, encompassing research, advocacy, capacity development, and civic education in Kilifi, Kwale, Kitui, and Turkana counties.

The overall objective of the project is to provide an enabling environment for increased opportunities for digital space protection in the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Kenya. It aims to strengthen the technical capacity of human rights defenders (HRDs), CSOs, and government authorities to protect civic space in the digital era. Additionally, the partnership seeks to increase awareness and public dialogue on human rights and digital rights among communities. It also emphasizes the importance of coordination and evidence-informed advocacy to protect the digital space at local, county, and national levels.

By fostering collaboration among civil society networks, technology companies, policymakers, and international organizations, the partnership endeavors to develop effective frameworks, policies, and guidelines that uphold digital rights. Through advocacy efforts, they aim to promote legislation that safeguards digital freedoms and raise awareness about the importance of digital security. The project further encourages a culture of online respect and responsibility to counteract the threats faced by CSOs and groups in the digital realm.