On 23 February 2016, the Internet Society and the African Union Commission released a survey that they conducted jointly. The survey assesses African Information and Communication Technology policy makers’ priorities in the area of ICT and Internet policies. The survey participants are ICT ministers and high level officials who attended the 1st ordinary meeting of the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Communication and ICT of the African Union in September 2015. It is probably the first time that such a survey was conducted, making its results quite interesting for anyone who follows African ICT and Internet policies.
The survey confirms some expectations but also brought some unexpected results. The survey confirms that African ICT policy makers have infrastructure development as their main priority. However, it also shows that they are highly interested in regulatory, policy and Internet governance issues, which indicates that the African Telecommunication and Internet market is growing and these issues are coming to the front of ICT policy makers’ concerns.
With regards to Internet issues, African policy makers consider connectivity as their major concern followed by cyber security, access and data protection and privacy. E-commerce comes in their fifth priority. This shows that they are still focused on providing connectivity and access to their citizens. It also means that they are starting to take the security and privacy issues that come with the connectivity and access very seriously. The survey also shows that ICT policy makers do not consider yet the Internet as a major market place since E-commerce is only at their fifth priority. Similarly, local content is at the sixth position, which also indicates that this issue is still not a high priority in spite of its importance for the development of Internet in Africa.
The survey also highlighted that the policy makers have a slightly different set of priorities for the coming years. When asked about their priorities for the next three years, they said that cyber security and data protection and privacy are their top priorities followed by connectivity and access, which is a natural shift that was seen in other parts of the world. However, E-commerce and local content remain at their fifth and sixth priority levels.