The Digital Agenda for Tanzania Initiative, in collaboration with Internews, USAID, and Greater Internet Freedom, recently organized a Digital Rights Advocacy Engagement meeting to assess the Ranking of Digital Rights in Tanzania. The study focused on two major mobile operators, Vodacom Tanzania and Airtel Tanzania, with a comprehensive analysis in three categories: governance, privacy, and freedom of expression and information. The findings and recommendations shed light on the current state of digital rights in Tanzania and provide valuable insights for improvement.
One significant finding in the governance category was the absence of human rights impact assessments from both Vodacom and Airtel Tanzania. It was observed that these assessments had not been published by the companies. Additionally, the study highlighted the lack of disclosure of grievance mechanisms specific to unjust acts related to the right to freedom of expression.
In terms of privacy, the study revealed that the privacy policies of Vodacom and Airtel Tanzania were not detailed and comprehensive. Of particular concern was the non-disclosure of data on information requests received from governments.
Freedom of Expression & Information Findings:
The findings regarding freedom of expression and information showed that while all companies published terms of service, some were not clear and comprehensive. However, Vodacom and Airtel Tanzania were praised for their clear communication of terms of service for prepaid services. On the other hand, there were concerns regarding the lack of disclosure of circumstances under which network access may be restricted or shut down, as well as the absence of advertising targeting policies and a stand-alone advertising policy.
Recommendations for Improvement:
– It is recommended that Vodacom and Airtel Tanzania reflect the Vodafone Group’s commitments to respect human rights on their websites, including the translation of these commitments into Kiswahili.
– With the upcoming elections in Tanzania and the new government, it is crucial for Vodacom and Airtel Tanzania to conduct human rights impact assessments to evaluate how their services affect privacy, freedom of expression, access to information, and other human rights.
– It is advised to establish grievance mechanisms specific to unjust acts related to the right to freedom of expression, ensuring customer-friendly and user-oriented processes.
– Privacy policies should include a commitment to notify users of any changes to privacy policies.
– Publishing transparency reports in Kiswahili would promote accountability and understanding among users.
Freedom of Expression & Information Recommendations:
– Companies should publish policies specifying the circumstances under which access to the internet may be disrupted.
– Clear advertising policies need to be developed to ensure transparency and accountability.
– Providing users with the choice to opt-in for targeted advertising, instead of making it a default setting, and informing them about the categories of targeted advertising allowed on Vodacom and Airtel services would enhance user control and consent.
The Digital Rights Advocacy Engagement in Tanzania has provided valuable insights into the ranking of digital rights, particularly in the areas of governance, privacy, and freedom of expression and information. The recommendations put forth aim to address the identified shortcomings and encourage mobile operators to enhance their practices, policies, and transparency. By prioritizing digital rights, Tanzania can pave the way for a more inclusive and secure digital future.