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Internet Governance 11 November 2012

Africa roars in Baku: The Africa Internet Governance Forum

On 9 November 2012, I participated in the workshop on the Africa Internet Governance Forum. The workshop was coordinated United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and African Union Commission (AUC). Nermine Sadani, chair of the workshop introduced the panellists. She stated that the meeting provided an opportunity to facilitate exchange of ‘good practice’ between sub-regional IGFs on coordinating sub-regional IGFs, especially taking into account the multi-stakeholder dimension of IGF. Each sub-regional IGF presented on what has worked for them in organising their 2012 meetings and put forward key recommendations from their own experiences.

Nnenna Nwakanma presented on what has worked for the West African IGF:

  • The countries where government is actively engaged, internet governance discussions have been active: Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Sierra-Leone.
  • A Coordinator to support internet governance national resource persons
  • A website with a dedicated webmaster to assist with information collation helps support country activities. Webmaster is fluent in English and French which are spoken in West Africa.
  • Strong national IGFs lead to a stronger regional IGF
  • Transparency and openness in management, regular reporting and regular consultation to keep all West African IGF stakeholders informed
  • A viable social media network (Twitter and Facebook) has increased remote participation and engagement of people who might otherwise not be involved in discussions

Alice Munyua the convenor of the East African IGF (EAIGF) gave background of the EAIGF and outlined what has worked for region.

  • Kenya was the first national IGF to be established in Africa and in the whole world in 2008 (5 national IGFs have been held from 2008 – 2012)
  • The first East African IGF was held in Kenya and the model has been replicated in other parts of Africa
  • The EAIGF has a bottom up multi-stakeholder model where participants engage in online discussions and a face to face meeting
  • The participants do not tie themselves to the global IGF agenda but define for themselves issues to discuss. For the 2012 EAIGF the main focus was on the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)

Ms Munyua also urged the participants to read the Internet Society (ISOC) report on internet governance in Kenya which was written by David Souter and Monica Kerretts – Makau for a deeper understanding of the EAIGF model.

I presented on the recommendations from a pre-event workshop held at the Africa IGF in Cairo on 2 October 2012. The workshop focused on World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) and International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) and addressed the following questions:

What do the WCIT, and proposed revisions to the ITRs mean for African internet governance stakeholders?

How are African member states involved? What are they proposing? Are they consulting stakeholders in their countries? How can non-governmental stakeholders participate?

In response to the questionon how civil society should respond to the ITR review and WCIT, participants made the following recommendations:

  • African governments should be urged to include civil society stakeholders in their delegations to the WCIT.
  • African governments should convene consultations nationally with other stakeholders before the WCIT and get their input into respective government positions on the ITRs.
  • African governments should convene report-back sessions early in 2013 to feedback on what happened at the WCIT.
  • Africans participating in the WCIT should consult as a region and develop strategies based on regional interests during the negotiation process; and civil society and business actors from Africa should be part of those consultations.

The workshop was well attended and had lively interventions from the participants who urged more collaboration and synergy among the regional IGFs so that Africa can claim its space in the Internet Governance discussions. Ms. Sadani concluded the workshop by noting that Africa IGF is not an event but a process hence the need to work together and share experiences.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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