See also:
» 09.03.2011 - Protest concerns spark Angola arrest wave
» 27.10.2009 - Govt's investments in infrastructure drive Angola's industry
» 15.09.2009 - Angola Telecom places order for fraud management solution
» 22.06.2009 - Rights body call for cessation of torture in Angola
» 23.02.2009 - Reform electoral commission – HRW
» 04.11.2008 - Angola could become continent's growth engine
» 19.05.2008 - 'Bio-fuels don't harm crops'
» 13.07.2004 - Democratisation in Angola "too slow"

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Technology | Human rights | Economy - Development

Angola going for e-governance .. or e-censorship

afrol News, 17 November - The Angolan government has announced an ambitious "Plan of Action for Electronic Governance", starting next year. The project includes electronic mapping and registering of the identity of all Angolans, using new technologies. Sceptics however hold that there still is a lack of legislation regarding protection of privacy and that authorities are planning to censor the Internet.

The large Angolan government delegation at the UN World Information Society Summit (WSIS), and headed by Prime Minister Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, yesterday visited the stand of the Swiss company WISeKey. WISeKey SA is responsible for the design, implementation and management of the "Secure Angola Project", which is planned as a component of the "Action Plan for Electronic Governance", aimed at taking conclusive steps towards a digital society in Angola.

The Prime Minister said that "the emergence of the knowledge society will demand from all of us new ways of seeing and analysing the world around us and new governance paradigms. This will involve new models and new schemes for interaction between government and citizens, giving another vision and greater effectiveness to citizens' contact with and participation in the social, cultural, educational, academic, economic and political life of the country."

Indeed, the government of Angola is working on one of Africa's most ambitious e-governance schemes. According to the action plan, the project includes mapping the identity and identification of all citizens to enrol all Angolans into a database of digital identities. For this to happen, the government has put special emphasis on the security of electronic communications.

According to the Swiss technology provider, Angola was to get "appropriate solutions" resolve the problems of security of communications, identity and identification of citizens. Carlos Moreira, Chairman of WISeKey, in a statement yesterday stressed the security and "sovereignty" needs of states such as Angola, but did not focus on citizens' needs for security and data privacy.

"In modern societies," Mr Moreira said, "the existence of technologies is not sufficient to turn them into contemporary societies, i.e. into knowledge societies. The wide variety of situations of insecurity encountered by the outside world and the mobility of the majority of citizens reaffirm the need for new forms of sovereignty: the identity and identification of citizens, using digital media, are of vital importance in reasserting the sovereignty of states."

In a country like Angola, where the government willingly restricts access to information and press freedom, the "sovereignty" to identify citizens' use of digital media may of course turn into a powerful weapon of censorship and mapping of citizens acceding websites criticising the government. This issue was not addressed in public by the Swiss provider, who will not detail the possibilities made available to Angolan authorities.

Data privacy legislation is still at an infant stage in Angola and the issue so far has not been brought to a public debate in the media. Therefore, there exist few legal limits to which data authorities can collect from citizens - for example which Internet sites they have looked at - and how authorities may use these data. This lack of legislation, combined with new and powerful mapping tools, may lead to abuse, critics hold.

Professor Pedro Teta, Angolan Deputy Minister and Chairman of the National Information Technology Commission, however is optimistic. Angola is now to be brought "up to the front line of countries committed to building the knowledge society. We are fully aware that we have a long way to go because of various historic factors, but we have the will," Mr Teta says.

"As a result, over the next five years, Angola will spare no effort in seeking to attain the levels of development in the field of knowledge and use of ICT that can bring us closer to best practice on other continents," Professor Teta states. He says he counts on essential support from President Eduardo dos Santos as well as "the institutional solidarity of the government as a whole."

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