Megatrends panel discussion „Use or misuse? The emerging global Challenge of data authoritarianism“

On 16 November 2023, IDOS hosted a panel organised by the „Megatrends Africa“ project, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) and the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (CASSIS).

Photo: In the audience of the Megatrends panel discussion „Use or misuse? The emerging global Challenge of data authoritarianism“ facing towards the presentation.


Megatrends Africa is a joint research and policy advisory project of IDOS, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which deals with structural transformations such as digitalisation on the African continent. The discussion aimed at analysing the restrictions on civil rights caused by data misuse, digital surveillance and disinformation in various contexts.

Three speakers took part in the discussion moderated by Dr Basile Boulay (EADI), first presenting their main areas of research and placing them in the overall context of the discussion. Dr Sangeeta Mahapatra from the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) addressed the connection between data misuse and access to public services in India. On the one hand, digitalisation improves the population’s broad access to services, but at the same time can be used to repress minorities. The second input by Ennatu Domingo, a junior policy officer at the Centre for Africa-Europe Relations, dealt with the interplay between digitalisation in Africa and demographic processes. The use of technology excludes and marginalises certain parts of populations, for instance older people or people living in remote areas without internet access. The last contribution by Dr Ignatio Gagliardone from the University of Witwatersrand dealt with the use of Chinese and Western technology on the African continent and took a critical look at the various interests pursued by the private sector and states.

The discussion underlined that digitalisation has great potentials, for example by simplifying democratic processes, providing digital spaces for expressing opinions and improving access to public services. However, there are also challenges, such as election manipulation, targeted state repression or censorship. It is therefore important to continue investing in regulation and to implement frameworks such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) so that the benefits of digitalisation can be maximised and the risks minimised.

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