On December 8, 2020 the Nigeria Network of NGOs supported by International Centre for Not-For-Profit Law organized an all-female led conference to; commemorate the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, encourage female participation in technology while also highlighting the importance of nonprofit awareness and knowledge in relation to technological advancement and Artificial Intelligence.
The 60-minute hybrid event, hosted on zoom with over 70 participants was live-streamed on FRCN stations across the country in a bid to reach not just the wider civil society community but citizens at large, thus, providing a platform to discuss the implications of technology for the Nigerian civil society and the need to incorporate its use in nonprofit work in a way that enables civic space especially in an era inundated by AI techniques.
Ms. Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, board member and founding Executive Director of the Network, in her keynote remarks welcomed participants and noted “As change makers, we the opportunity to think through our work and how the technology of AI can aid the work we do and challenges it presents”. She also stressed the need to facilitate conversations in a way that empowers females and sets the tone for better society, one that respects the rights of everyone and discourages gender-based violence.
Facilitators which included female top-executives and policy analysts in the areas of technology, Artificial Intelligence and digital rights spoke on the need for civil society organisations to drive policy and regulation of AI techniques globally. Chenai Chair, a digital policy researcher with World Wide Web Foundation said, “Nonprofits have a duty to steer the conversation of AI and digital rights from a social impact angle and bring to fore the issues of marginalized groups which include women, the poor and hard to reach societies”. She added that nonprofits must ensure that they become curious enough about technology such that they become intrigued about how AI techniques can help create solutions to age-old problems experienced within our society and civic space.
Emma Amaral, a policy analyst with the Centre for International Digital Policy at Global Affairs Canada, emphasized the need for civil society to pay attention to how governments use AI. She noted, “We must make sure the approaches of government and industries around the world to developing and governing AI, uphold and reinforce national values and international priorities such as diversity, equality and inclusion”.
The third speaker, Francesca Fanussi, an International Lawyer with the European Centre for Not-For-Profit Law called on Nigerian nonprofit organisations to take a proactive step in developing AI strategies saying; “When it comes to national AI strategies, we must ensure what is developed safeguards fundamental rights and freedoms- we must therefore agree as civil society organisations what we consider ideal for our society and work with government to achieve that”
“The Covid19 pandemic has shown that the internet is no longer a luxury but a lifeline” said Onica Makwakwa, Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet, World Wide Web Foundation. She added that the Nigeria broadband policy sets a new standard for the continent but there is need to work more closely with marginalized groups to ensure affordable and accessible internet. She therefore called on government and other stakeholders to commit funding to the implementation of affordable internet in Nigeria.
Participants were encouraged to not simply raise awareness about technology or AI techniques within civic space alone but to also engage government in conversations that show active participation in development of strategies, legislation and policies around technology. Civil society must be included in the implementation of the human right impact assessment envisaged in the long term by the government of their country.
The Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) represents nonprofits, think tanks, coalitions, associations, foundations and other non-state actors dedicated to delivering development to grassroots communities and the vulnerable across the country in the fields of education, health, environment, gender, agriculture, social protection, youth, poverty, good governance, and other areas of progressing national development. Since 1992, NNNGO has worked to advance the common interests of the nonprofit sector, providing programs that advance national development, civil society legitimacy, transparency, accountability with the inclusion of technology affordability and accessibility.