This article explores how national and regional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted human rights online. It also examines the widening digital divide and the role telecommunication policy and regulatory frameworks play in closing these gaps. Two preliminary observations inform the article. First, regional state and non-state actors predominantly view the pandemic through clinical lenses while essentially projecting its current and anticipated impact in public health and socioeconomic terms. Second, the responses have been state-centred, resulting in widening the digital divide and violating digital rights, such as the right to information and freedom of expression.
It compared inequalities online and offline, especially as it affects work and education and how this is impacted by the digital divide and the potential capacity of community networks in Africa to provide access during and beyond COVID-19.
Lastly, it discusses the importance of bottom-up approaches to fighting the pandemic and the role of community and community-based organisations such as community networks, radios and health centres.