The 2024 edition of the Digital Rights Inclusive Forum (DRIF24) has opened in Accra with a call on governments to invest in the development of internet infrastructure and demonstrate a commitment to protecting the digital rights of citizens while ensuring equal internet access.

The forum has brought together representatives of civil society organisations, technology companies, government, academia, and other stakeholders drawn from 61 countries to deliberate on digital policy direction and forge partnerships for action.

This year’s forum is organised under the theme: “Fostering Rights and Inclusion in the Digital Age”.

Opening the forum on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, the Director-General of the Cyber Security Authority, Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako, who represented the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, emphasised that it is essential to address the barriers that hinder access to the internet and ensure they are adequately removed to uphold the digital rights of all citizens.

He explained that despite the government’s strides to expand digital inclusiveness through the expansion of rural telephony, more work needs to be done to provide equal digital opportunities for all.

“Governments have a role to play in fostering digital inclusion among citizens. In Ghana, as of February this year, the government has made strides to expand digital infrastructure and connectivity by constructing over 1,000 new rural telephony sites in rural areas across the country to expand network coverage and internet access among the populace,” he said.

Dr. Antwi-Boasiako added that although this represents considerable progress, it is also an indication that more needs to be done to bridge the digital divide and ensure that all Ghanaians have equal access to the opportunities presented by the digital age.

He stressed the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to facilitate inclusivity for individuals to fully benefit from the opportunities afforded by the digital age irrespective of one’s status or location.

Earlier in her welcoming remarks, the Vice Board Chairperson of PIN Dr. Aida Opoku Mensah noted that the discussion sessions for this year’s DRIF would focus on the sub-themes: Trust and Accountability, Data Protection, Privacy and Surveillance, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies, Digital Inclusion and Marginalised Groups. She urged delegates to unearth the challenges faced in the global south in the areas and proffer actionable solutions to building an equitable digitally inclusive future for all.

Other speakers at the event were the Executive Director of PIN; Mr. Gbenga Sesan, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information; Ms. Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo, the Senior Manager of Aapti; Mr. Vinay Nayaran, Executive Director of Inclusive Tech Group; Dr Millicent Angagiba, and Oversight Board Member; Mrs. Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei.