The Senegal Internet Penetration

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Senegal is a comparatively small country in West Africa. Bordered by the Atlantic, the Sahara, and the Sahel region.

Around 16 million people are thought to be living there. Its capital, Dakar, which is the only city with a population of over a million, is the most populous in the country.

More to it, regarding percentages, 44 per cent of the state’s population lives in cities, while more than half live in rural areas. Added to it, it has one of the highest birth rates in the world with 4.84 children per woman.

As a result, youth make up nearly half of Senegal’s population, which shows that the need for internet access by every youth in the country should not be regarded as a luxury but rather a necessity.

Going by the statistics shows that the nation had 8.01 million internet users as of January of this year. Additionally, the internet penetration rate was 46.0 per cent at the start of 2022. A Kepios investigation revealed that, between 2021 and 2022, Senegal saw an increase of 209 thousand (+2.7%) internet users.

These user numbers, however, merely hint at the fact that 9.41 million Senegalese were offline at the start of 2022, which, when measured simply, represents 54.0% of the nation’s population. However, it was asserted at the time that COVID-19-related worries had an impact on research regarding internet adoption. Therefore, leading to anticipation that the overall number of internet users would increase.

Senegal currently ranks among the top countries in West Africa for digitalization efforts. It boasts good ranks for journalistic freedom and has made progress in data protection, as well. Players in the telecommunications market include the state-owned Sonatel, Free (formerly licensed as SENTEL, then rebranded as Tigo), and Expresso Senegal, as well as 2018 newcomers ARC Telecom, WAW Telecom, and Africa Access.

Additionally, access to affordable internet continues to be a problem, with the nation placing 25th out of 72 in the Affordability Index assessment. The West African country’s internet and mobile penetration rates as of December 2020 were expected to be 88.7% and 114.2%, respectively. Repressive measures that are intended to combat cybercrime, false information, and hate speech, on the other hand, raise problems.

It makes sense that Telecentres, a site where electro nomads can go to be connected to friends and family, appear to be the pinnacle of Western living in this country.

However, these communication hubs are beginning to proliferate in Senegal and are proving to be just as beneficial, albeit for various reasons.

The centres offer assistance to those in traditional vocations as well as means for people to become familiar with cutting-edge concepts, ideas, and careers.

By providing locals with an opportunity to express their concerns that might otherwise go ignored, one centre is even serving a community to fend off threats to displace it from the land it has been occupying for years.

Legislative and Regulatory perspective on Internet Usage in Senegal

The two most significant pieces of legislation create a framework for intermediary responsibility in Senegal. In this case, they include the electronic transactions statute and the eCommunications decree.

In general, intermediaries are described in Article 3 Chapter 1 of Law No. 2008-08 of January 25, 2008, on Electronic Transactions as “persons whose activity is to provide the public access to services through information and communication technologies”.

The 2008 law, which is based on France’s law n° 2004575 of June 21, 2004, on Confidence in the Digital Economy, places limited obligations on intermediaries to check the content.

But mandates that they set up systems to remove or prevent access to illegal content; notify users of service restrictions and complaints, and track intermediaries’ compliance with those requirements.

A natural or legal person who offers the public service of storage of signals, words, photos, sounds, or communications is prohibited by Article 3 Clause 2. It finds out that “cannot be held liable for the activities or information stored at the request of a recipient of these services if they did not have actual knowledge of their illicit nature or facts and circumstances showing this nature or if, from the moment they had such knowledge, they acted promptly to remove this data or to make access [to it] impossible”.

The electronic transactions law, however, leaves the potential for limitation of access to content that is arbitrarily judged illegal because there is no clear definition of what makes up illicit content, and there are also no clear rules on how to contest content takedown decisions.

Positively, Article 5 stipulates that personal information must be kept confidential. Articles 431-46 to 431-49 of the Penal Code, 2016, define failure to follow the provisions of the electronic transactions law as an offence that is subject to a fine of between 250,000 and 1,000,000 Francs ($461-1,845), a term of imprisonment of between six months and one year, or both.

The 2008 eCommunications order assumes that intermediaries just provide information transmission or storage, sometimes momentarily, and that they have no influence over the content they transmit or store.

As a result, Article 6 restricts intermediaries’ liability when “1) they do not select the recipient of the transmission; 2) they do not initiate the transmission; 3) the activities of transfer and provision of access are aimed exclusively at carrying out the transmission or provision of access; 4) they do not modify the information that is subject to transmission; 5) they execute a decision of a judicial or administrative authority to remove the information or prohibit access to it.”

Whereas the eCommunications decree and the electronic transactions legislation limit intermediaries’ liability, other laws impose duties that may have an impact on users’ rights, as explained below. These include the laws governing intelligence services, the Code of Criminal Procedure Amendment Act, the e-Communications Act, and the Penal Code Amendment Act.

Given Senegal’s Internet usage laws and regulations, it is important to note that in some instances, service providers and regulators are given disproportionate control over network operations. Others make broad demands for law enforcement officials’ cooperation without laying out the channels of redress for violations of users’ rights.

While the transactions Act and the Decree on eCommunications are explicit about the role of intermediaries in users’ content, other documents, such as the Intelligence Services Act and the Penal Code, contain conflicting provisions regarding the surveillance and interception of communications that are likely to violate online users’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.

The specific law is required to define intermediaries’ obligations, including how precisely to define what content is subject to removal or blocking; how to challenge judgments, and how to put the content back online.

The definition of intermediary liability, duties, and obligations, as well as unlawful material, should be unambiguous and consistent throughout all current legislation in the absence of a particular legal instrument fully devoted to intermediary liability.

To support privacy and data protection, intermediaries should, on their end, provide clear, accessible, and intelligible terms and conditions for service use, including choices for privacy, backup, and anonymization, in accessible formats.

Besides, service providers should be more transparent by providing notice of any changes to pertinent user policies and service restrictions, as well as by publishing in-depth reports on their interactions with authorities.

Meanwhile, there is a need for stronger collaboration with civil society and partnerships to advance business and human rights ideals.

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