In a report titled “Landscape Mapping of Civil Society Digital Security in West Africa”, findings revealed that within the last 12 months, thirty-one percent (31%) of CSOs in the region encountered a digital security attack, with twenty-five percent (25%) experiencing multiple attacks. These statistics clearly indicate that CSOs are not exempt from the challenges posed by digital security. The operations and integrity of civil society face numerous threats, such as cyber-attacks, surveillance, social engineering and more. These threats have detrimental effects, emphasizing the urgent need to implement measures that can mitigate these risks.

The significance of civic space in West Africa for the development of the sub-region has been substantial, particularly in enabling the active participation of civil society. The integration of technology into the civic space is witnessing remarkable growth, fueled by its evident benefits and positive impact on work. The extensive data from communities and partners, accessible to CSOs places a huge responsibility on them in ensuring the security of this information. This ensures fostering trust and upholding confidentiality. Any occurrence of a breach has the potential to erode and jeopardise this trust.

It is crucial to empower individuals and organisations with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate digital platforms securely. Additionally, the active participation of CSO representatives in policy discussions related to digital technologies is essential.

To ensure a resilient civic space and secure the future of civil society in West Africa, CSOs must invest in the implementation of the following measures:

1. Capacity Building and Digital Literacy: Promoting digital literacy among CSOs and citizens is crucial for fostering the adoption and use of technology for work operations. It serves as a first step to understanding basic technological features that could serve as a requisite to implementing some digital security principles. By enhancing digital skills, individuals are empowered to navigate digital spaces securely and learn to use the right tools in a safe and appropriate manner.

2. Advocacy for Policy Reforms: CSOs should actively advocate for comprehensive legal frameworks that safeguard digital rights, ensure privacy protection and preserve the integrity of civic space. Policy discussions at local, national, and international levels should include CSOs. This would contribute to strengthening the legal protections necessary to safeguard civil society in the digital age.

3. Ethical Use of Technology: As CSOs utilise technology to drive social impact, it is crucial for ethical considerations to guide their actions. For instance, there should be a high regard for privacy and data security when collecting data for projects and campaigns. This can be achieved through the introduction of key guidelines and principles. Upholding ethical standards in the use of technology is essential for ensuring that the future of civil society is characterised by principles of transparency, fairness, and accountability.

In conclusion, it is of utmost importance for CSOs to join the discourse on the future od digital security in the West African region. Collaboration and partnerships are essential in sharing knowledge and resources to strengthen digital security collectively. Additionally, promoting digital literacy empowers individuals to navigate the digital landscape safely and engage meaningfully. CSOs should also actively advocate for robust legal protections that ensure privacy, uphold digital rights, and preserve the integrity of civic space. By embracing these measures, CSOs can navigate the evolving digital landscape and contribute to a resilient and impactful civil society.