Data & Politics Virtual Round-table: Sub-Saharan Africa Event Report

At the start of summer 2020, Tactical Tech’s Data and Politics team collaborated with political analyst and writer, Nanjala Nyabola, to hold a virtual round-table to discuss the trends in the use of personal data in political campaigning in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this report, read about the two-day discussion which addressed questions such as what data-driven campaigning methods are employed by political parties and groups in the region; who is involved in the collection, analysis and use of personal data; and what short and long term impact does data-driven campaigning have on political participation.

The aims of the round-table were threefold:

  • To provide groups and individuals from civil society with a foundational understanding of the influence industry and a framework for analysing data-driven methods used in political campaigning.
  • To build an overview of the methods currently being employed in the region, by which actors, and to begin to build a community to continue building this knowledge together.
  • To analyse the challenges that data-driven political campaigning may be creating for political participation in the region, in order to inform explorations into practical solutions.

The round-table was attended by researchers, lawyers, communication professionals, policy-makers, campaigners, and educators with backgrounds in technology, political science, data protection, and elections. The attendees were based in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, The Gambia, Zimbabwe, Togo, Ghana, Canada, UK and Germany. Some of the attendees work locally, and others work across several countries in the region.

The topics discussed included analogue data collection, the catch-all justification of ‘national security’ for sharing data, fake news pedlars, the exporting of data-driven methods by French or North American companies, the use of billboards outweighing the use of personalised tactics, the digital divide leading to an exclusion from politics, and more. The conversation was nuanced and productive, discussing shared readings, personal experiences of data-driven practices, methods of research and ideas for the future.

Read the full report to find out more.

Amber Macintyre is a researcher and workshop facilitator at Tactical Tech.

Thank you to the data and politics team and all the participants, both during the event, and for their valuable insights and feedback on this report.