Innovation Support Network (ISN), Nigeria’s largest community of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship support Hubs which is focused on creating linkages with corporates, development partners, academia and government to catalyze Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem, has watched with shock and disappointment the escalation of events that have led to the Twitter ban in Nigeria.
This puts Nigeria on an exclusive list of countries that have banned Twitter. Interestingly, these countries appear to also have poor rankings on the UN’s Human Rights Index and Freedom House Global Freedom Scores including Iran (16 points out of 100), China (9 points out of 100), North Korea (3 points out of 100), and Turkmenistan (2 points out of 100).
This could be because freedoms of speech, expression and association are fundamental features of our Human Rights as stated in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human rights; and a respect for Human Rights is usually a hallmark of democracy.
We acknowledge that there is a need to ensure the quality of information being shared on Twitter, as well as other social media platforms, and call on the Federal Government of Nigeria, like the governments of several other countries, to develop think tanks and special purpose vehicles to co-create mitigants for fake news and incitory comments
The outright ban of Twitter is not the solution and has set a negative precedent for the infringement of the average Nigerian’s freedom of speech, including our access to information and technology – a critical part of our daily business, professional and social lives.
Several empirical correlations have been made between democracy, economic growth and the adoption of technology as a democratic polity would create a free economic state which would thrive on competition thereby leading to continuous innovation.
As one of the leading tech ecosystems in Africa, it is critical that the Government is vested in creating an enabling environment for our innovations and businesses to thrive. It is also critical that freedoms are respected and policies are no longer decreed and actioned with impetus as during the military regimes of old.
As a country with a high youth unemployment rate that is focused on unlocking non-oil alternative revenue sources, it should also be noted that while Twitter is a business channel for perhaps millions of Nigerians.
The larger implication of the Twitter ban on the economy is not limited to these users but also includes several other macroeconomic implications including negative tonality which would discourage much-needed development and Foreign Direct Investments into our economy by eroding investor confidence in Nigeria, the Nigerian ecosystem and Nigerian startups.
We are currently competing with startups from all over the world for these limited funds and a unilateral decision from the Government such as this automatically reduces trust in the stability of the business environment and by extension the sellability of Nigeria as an investment destination for potential funders and partners.
This action also sets the precedence for similar actions to also be taken against other businesses irrespective of their domiciliation thereby presenting our polity as being volatile and averse to investments.
As an association, as members of the technology and innovation ecosystem and as individuals, we are willing to support the Federal Government in seeking globally acceptable systems and processes such as reviewing community usage terms and leveraging fact checkers to manage the quality and authenticity of social media content.
However, we posit again that the complete ban of Twitter in Nigeria is not a solution but rather a potential catalyst to other macroeconomic challenges which could have far-reaching effects on our efforts at building a knowledge-driven economy.
The Nigerian government as a beacon of democracy in Africa, should work with these organisations to create functional modalities to manage the authenticity of content shared on this and other social media.
We hereby call upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to review its position on the Twitter ban in the light of larger Human Rights and socioeconomic factors, and offer our support, where it may be required, to address the lapses and communication gaps between stakeholders in the larger ecosystem.
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