• Having hosted over 300 researchers, activists, policymakers, activists, and technologists across Eastern and Southern, the participants indulged in developing practical solutions to issues such as digital extractivism.
• They delved into how emerging technologies like AI have furthered the marginalization of vulnerable groups across the continent and how extractive data practices continue to broaden the gap
On Thursday and Friday, Mozilla Foundation hosted its inaugural MozFest House Kenya event with the aim of bringing together diverse communities to discuss, debate, and connect around some of the most pressing issues in Africa.
This includes issues such as the role of technology in propagating social injustices in Africa.
Having hosted over 300 researchers, activists, policymakers, and technologists across Eastern and Southern, the participants indulged in developing practical solutions to issues such as digital extractivism.
They delved into how emerging technologies like AI have furthered the marginalization of vulnerable groups across the continent and how extractive data practices continue to broaden the gap.
Other discussions revolved around introducing global content moderation unions advocating for fair and equitable wages, and building strong solidarity for digital labor movements.
Speaking during a media brief, Mozilla senior VP of global programs and MozFest executive producer J.Bob Alotta said the local robust community largely contributed to the decision to settle on Kenya as the host country.
She said the whole idea of the festival was to bring people together which signaled an enduring commitment in the region, not only in Kenya but across Eastern and Southern Africa.
“The magic that happens when people, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to each other but have different ideas based on expertise, come together, that’s when we actually get to be creative and come up with new ideas and stories,” Alotta said.
“If we do not involve people in these conversations, and listen to their needs and their ideas, it will become impossible to come up with policies and regulations that actually service the needs of people.”
Mozilla also hosted a data futures lab focused on understanding the value of data, what gets monetised, extracted as well and used to make sense of and to fuel all the technology used today.
Alotta said different local projects had the chance to showcase and talk about how they use data differently, as well as talk about the ideas they are working on.
“The lab is a hub to understand the different ways we can actually govern and steward data and communities as opposed to the presumption of consent and distribution of data away from people,” she added.
“This was just a taste of the brilliant work that is happening in Kenya and we are excited that these projects have trusted us to come and talk about chartering new ideas and pathways to using data that doesn’t obstruct the value of the people.”
Alotta also noted that a lot of innovation is happening on the continent, adding that there are needs and ideas driving the uptake.
“There is a lot of conversation around big tech. Innovation is not the providence of a few men in Silicon Valley, it always comes from the people who have real needs, desires, and ideas,” she said.
On her part, Mozilla African Innovation Mradi senior programme officer Chenai Chair said the festival was part of the company’s re-engagement strategy, which was quite intentional about how to build communities in Africa.
Chair said tech built in the Silicon Valley can be quite exclusionary hence why African people’s languages fail to show up in such spaces and the way they interact is often flagged as problematic.
She added that they seek to use most spaces of convening to actually have such conversations of what would it look like to centre African communities in such talks.
“We have seen a practice of big tech companies outsourcing cheaper labour, for instance, that are involved in coding and doing content moderation,” Chair said.
“An example is Samasource in Kenya where people were being paid little money and being exposed to problematic content. There were no labour protections put in place for people to advocate against such practices as the idea was as long you get a little something, we addressing the issue of unemployment.
“What we have seen is community mobilisation that brought about collective action in order to hold Sama accountable as well as Meta and the fact that the Kenyan court system worked to have these tech companies come to the continent and be held accountable is something worth noting.”
She added that Mozilla is excited about its cohort course on responsible computing challenge and the selection of Kenyan universities to the programme.
This, Chair said, is because the core in ensuring that there is trustworthy AI and responsible practices is actually in the education system.
“The people who built these technologies were trained somewhere and the exciting thing about new technology is that everyone doesn’t know how to do it but we can come together and decide that we can do this and this could work,” she said.
Former Facebook Content Moderator, Whistleblower and Union Mobilizer Daniel Motaung said people are the key component to driving solutions about labour rights.
“If all digital workers unite, we have the power to twist the hand of big Tech companies to change,” he said.
“We cannot rely on cat and mouse court cases and Big Tech CEOs in closed-door “tea-party meetings” to effect change. Real change, happens in regulation and for this, we need a strong, united voice globally advocating for a common cause.”