By APCNews 28 September 2018
“It’s important to ask, does Africa have a digitalisation agenda? Who set it? What is the strategy? Who is the gatekeeper?”
These are the crucial questions APC’s Koliwe Majama posed at the start of her keynote lecture, delivered at the “Digitalisation in Africa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Technology, Development and Justice” conference at the University of Tübingen, Germany on 26 September.
Speaking to a rapt audience , Majama questioned whether Africa “responds to the reality of a digital environment with recognition of citizen rights and freedoms” during a speech entitled “Exploring Africa’s Digitalisation Agenda in the Context of Promoting Civil Liberties”. The lecture delved into the complex discourse around freedoms and rights in the African context, outlining user, government and industry perspectives on pertinent issues such as internet shutdowns, content regulation and online access.
Analysing recent policy developments from across the continent, Majama stressed that a sustainable digitalisation strategy will depend on the “sincere political will” to shift from top-down decision making to a participant culture that puts citizens at the heart of policy making.
Majama is a Zimbabwean media and ICT consultant with more than 15 years of advocacy and lobbying experience under her belt. She is also an alumnus of the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG), and the organiser of this year's edition of AfriSIG. As such, Majama is more than well equipped to lead the conversation on these issues. Even so, deserving voices like hers are not always given a platform. “Personally,” she said, “it was a very empowering experience for me as a young, black woman representing my continent as a keynote speaker on a public forum.”
Attending the two-day conference gave Majama the chance to make “useful contacts” that she believes will facilitate further “European-African collaborations on research and policy interventions,” particularly related to “gender gaps and access.” As a fresh Master’s student in the Public Policy and Governance programme at Zimbabwe’s Africa University, she also found it “inspiring” to spend time connecting with practitioners and scholars at an academic institution.
In the wake of the conference, Majama sees plenty of opportunity ahead. “It made me realise that the sky really is the limit,” she said, “and that a whole lot of possibilities are on the horizon.”