The African School of Internet Governance (AfriSIG) just concluded much-needed learning that successfully exposed us to the multiple layers of the issues surrounding internet governance and the role Africa plays on the global scale.
AfriSIG was launched in 2013 as an annual five-day residential course, run by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). Its goal is to develop a pipeline of leading Africans from diverse sectors, backgrounds and ages with the skills to participate in local and international internet governance structures, and shape the future of the internet landscape for Africa’s development.
Given the continuing reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s AfriSIG was held virtually over two weeks, from 4 to 15 October 2021. Over the course of those two weeks, we came to view access to the internet in a new way.
Time and again, whenever discussions around the need to create access and connectivity to the internet on the continent have been raised, one would wonder, where is the infrastructure to provide internet services sustainably and equitably across the continent? Inevitably, our thoughts would turn next to whether we have sufficiently solved the issues surrounding poverty, health, education and energy to decide that access to the internet is a needed right in Africa.
More recently, however, we have witnessed an accelerated need for internet connection, usage and adoption brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a continent, Africa has seen steady growth in internet penetration from a rate of just 0.78% in 2000. The internet usage rate had reached 28.2% by 2019, according to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), but Africa remained the region with the lowest usage rate. In Europe, the region with the highest internet usage, the rate was 82.5%. Moreover, there are major disparities in access and use across the continent. The same report revealed that sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of people without access to an internet connection.
Image: Beyond Access Africa Masiphumelele, via Flickr Commons.