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Quick notes from the Africa Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) 2013

September 30, 2013  »  ICT PolicyNo Comment

Building on the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a United Nations led-activity initiated in 2006 as a global platform for “multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on prevailing and emerging issues on Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the Internet.” Recently, Africa has hosted continental IGF events in Egypt (2009) and in Kenya (2011 and 2013). Five ongoing regional initiatives plus more than a dozen national ones also go a long way to promote discussion of issues pertinent to the internet in Africa.

Objectives addressed at AfIGF 2013 held from September 23-26 in Nairobi included the usual blend of increasing awareness on Internet Governance for African users, increasing representation of all parts of the continent, and forming recommendations on reducing the internet access gap.

Participants saw a need to increase the diversity of participation. One shortcoming of IGF events is how panels are very “expert to expert” in that presenter and audience are often on the same page. Better remote participation is needed to capture a larger portion of those who are interested in reducing the internet access gap. Youth, in particular, should be given a voice as they often have the tools to help advocate online rights. National participation is also an issue; many nations still do not have their own forum to discuss IG topics unless they attend regional events.

Either way, info from #AfIGF shared via social media suggests a desire to protect users online and reduce access costs:

  • It is easier to buy Internet capacity from Abuja to London than Abuja to Lagos.
  • Need more platforms to support researches on TV White Spaces in Africa for a wide success and awareness.
  • There is no “one size” fits all cyber response.
  • Youth need to be included in COP debates because they are mostly the victims.
  • SADC and NEPAD are to facilitate the setting up of National IGFs in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe 2014/15.
  • Major lessons clear from the sub-regional prĂ©sentations: there is huge need for 1. Coordination 2. Funding 3. Remote Participation.
  • Senegal: We had great discussions, but we still felt that we were experts talking to fellow experts.
  • Encourage local research and Internet development , sensitization about the business opportunities on the Internet.
  • Uganda: social media monitoring center to be created to catch conversations on social media.
  • Burundi: online magazine shut down because the information posted was exposing the head of state and government.
  • Zambia: docking of a watchdog website.
  • Many governments lack technical and legal cyber-competence, so some of their actions end up hurting rights of citizens.
  • Infrastructure sharing regulations for ducts and masts among ISPs will reduce operation costs hence reduce cost to end user.
  • There is need to set price caps on the costs on Internet to consumers.
  • Recommendation on Internet access gap: governments need to reduce taxes on access.
  • There is also need for human capacity building in order to reduce the access gap.
  • Some African telecos want a refund on their investments before lowering the price.
  • Human rights should be both online and offline. One of the biggest challenges and needs to be addressed.
  • The emerging Internet world has a lot of information that can facilitate informed decision making. – Prof Mamadou Iam Diallo
  • By 2015, >50% of the African population will be at least 25km from a fibre node.

A Draft Report lists the thematic panels, recommendations, and ways to monitor and implement internet governance principles.