Strengthening cyber policy research centres in the global South: Research ICT Africa Digital Policy Centre

Networking technologies are increasingly at the heart of economic, social, and political activities. Yet while digital tools improve people’s ability to innovate, organize, document, and share, they are also used for surveillance, tracking, censorship, and repression. Policies and regulations are key both in amplifying technology’s role in economic and political empowerment and in ensuring its harms are restricted. New standards, skills, and applications are needed to enable digitally-driven development.

Leaders and policymakers, particularly in the Global South, generally lack the evidence and objective advice to develop effective regulation in the digital space, yet they are increasingly confronted with cyber threats (such as crime and terrorism). They need to ensure that unstable or insecure digital environments do not undermine innovative potential, and they must balance these priorities with obligations to protect privacy and free expression.

However, there are few organizations in the Global South that have a specific research orientation on cyber policy issues, and there is a shortage of experts able to provide rigorous, evidence-based advice on cyber policy. While there are civil society organizations engaged in valuable advocacy, they often have little evidence to inform that advocacy or to conduct their research.

This project will support the efforts of South Africa-based Research ICT Africa, a regional policy and regulation think tank with a network of research centres active across the Global South, to strengthen research and policy capacity on critical cyber policy issues. It will facilitate research centres to develop a robust cyber policy research agenda that addresses all facets of cyber policy, including human rights, security and innovation, and the interplay of these issues locally, regionally, and globally. It will build institutional capacity and sustainability to produce credible and locally-relevant research that convenes various perspectives on critical cyber policy issues. It will also help strengthen the network’s abilities to inform and influence policy development.

This will enable policy leaders to respond to the rapidly changing digital environment using objective, high quality research. It will also allow communities to benefit from the opportunities that digital innovation offers, including improved health, governance, education, and economic prospects, while shielding them as much as possible from the harmful aspects of the digital revolution.

Project ID


Project status



24 months

IDRC Officer

Ruhiya Seward

Total funding

CA$ 784,100


South of Sahara


Networked Economies

Project Leader

Alison Gillwald


Research ICT Africa

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website