The global information economy has provided freedom-enhancing affordances for previously marginalized groups, but has also enabled extractive practices in the form of digital imperialism, or as others term it, data colonialism. For so-called “periphery” countries such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, the information economy represents an opportunity to chase the long-elusive quest for industrialization, now dubbed “digital industrialization”, “digital development” or “data for development”. Despite the optimism represented in the digital development policy discourse, the limits and potentials of any kind of development are heavily constrained by background conditions rooted in past global power imbalances and a colonial legacy of non-contextual laws and institutions. This panel examines questions of unequal power in the global digital economy (through U.S corporations, China, and Brussels (i.e. dominance through legal rules), and the ways in which this manifests itself in developing countries in Africa.
Prof.Ofunmilayo Arewa, author of the forthcoming book “Disrupting Africa: Technology Law and Development” (Cambridge University Press), and Thomas Streinz, Executive Director of the Guarini Global Law & Technology-NYU Law join BKC fellows, Jacquelene Mwangi and Padmashree Gehl Sampath, also Adjunct Professor at the University of Aalborg, Denmark, as they discuss the political economy of digital development in sub-Saharan Africa.