On a rainy Monday in Addis Ababa, where the monsoon heavens have opened ushering in Kiremt, Ethiopia’s prominent human rights lawyer, Amha Mekonnen, had called a meeting to discuss a blackout. Internet was out for weeks and it had nothing to do with the weather. Local and international headlines pointed fingers to the country’s new reformist leader, Abiy Ahmed, who was hailed as a guardian of freedom of expression going quickly for the internet kill switch. This was not an isolated incident, and there was no explanation from the government telecom provider, which was a cause for concern for Amha Mekonnen.
“What shall we do about internet shutdowns and lac restrictions?” he asked a room full of civic groups and interested individuals. “Is internet shutdown an effective way of improving public order?” provoking a brainstorming session that let to the creation of the Network for Digital Rights in Ethiopia, a volunteer group composed of civil society and interested individuals that works to improve digital rights in Ethiopia.
NDRE is led by prominent Ethiopian lawyer Amha Mekonnen, and its administrative and legal home is the Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD), a registered civil society organization in
Ethiopia. NDRE is a civil society-led network composed of human rights, media, and digital rights advocacy civic groups and interested individuals.
NDRE works to identify digital right gaps in Ethiopia and seeks proactive solutions that advance freedom of expression, association, and economic rights of citizens utilizing the digital space. To do so, we create strategic partnerships with civic groups, government, private sector and citizens at large to advocate and protect a principal medium of communication that people depend on.
We are a volunteer, open membership crew working to advance digital rights in Ethiopia through the following priority areas of civic engagement and actions:
- Build capacity to create awareness on privacy gaps, uninterrupted access to information online, and protect economic opportunities citizens have in the digital space.
- Establish communities online and offline that protect digital freedom, setup platform watchdog groups that monitor and respond to misinformation and advocate for data privacy.
- Influence policy, laws and regulations that affect platform ownership and the right to internet access that is deemed critical for the socio-economic advancement of the continent.
- Proactively and strategically engage with telecom providers, government regulators, courts, law enforcement, private sector, civic groups and other stakeholders to mitigate internet shutdowns.
Theory of Change
Universal internet access and use unleashes people’s potential to create, innovate, communicate and open their entrepreneurial spirit to an interconnected world. With internet on, business thrives, disadvantaged groups, gain access to knowledge and information they use to change their lives, free speech flows and futures are secured.