Taking the highway to Grahamstown

Publisher: APCNews     Grahamstown, 07 September 2012

Five years back, I took the highway to Grahamstown, South Africa. I had landed in Port Elizabeth, took a shuttle bus headed for Rhodes University and got off at the beautiful university campus. This year, many people like me will travel the same route to Highway Africa. But the 16th edition of this digital media conference will be something special. Africa rising?

Organised by the university’s renowned journalism and media department, Highway Africa is “an opportunity to engage media professionals, academics and civil society leaders on critical issues that confront Africa,” as the acting Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela puts it. But Highway Africa is first and foremost an opportunity for journalists, bloggers and other digital news makers to carve out some time to reflect on their coverage of Africa.

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is subscribed to the annual conference, so to speak. Not only does APC find Highway Africa important for connecting with a vibrant community of people interested in progressive communications, it has been featured in the event’s programme for a number of years. When I attended HA in 2007, APC was promoting open internet access in Africa by contributing its vision on fibre optic cables, the SAT-3/WASC cable in particular.

This year, from December 9-11, APC has been invited to participate on several panels. The first thing on the radar, a workshop co-animated with the Tactical Tech Collective on “internet rights for civil society: privacy, freedom of association and freedom of expression”. Taking place on Sunday September 9, this event will delve into APC’s campaign to Connect Your Rights], a campaign which argues that journalists need to take a fresh look at human rights in the context of an ever expanding internet. How does the internet alter promotion and violation of human rights? For a peak preview of the workshop, check out this infographic http://www.apc.org/en/irhr/internet-human-rights

On Monday September 10, APC’s Anriette Esterhuysen will take part in a plenary about internet freedom, again applied to the African context. Note that the plenary session will be moderated by Dr Mawaki Chango, APC’s new African ICT policy advocacy coordinator. This plenary should be of particular interest to those who this video speaks to https://vimeo.com/42225779#

Right after the plenary, Grace Gathaiga, an APC researcher based in Kenya will be in a discussion about “technology and social change in the context of North Africa and Southern Africa” with panelists from the Reuters Institute and Rhodes University. This contribution will be particularly striking since it addresses issues of freedom of expression and freedom of association in the African context. Once you will have attended this panel, you might want to go deeper into freedom of expression and the internet or freedom of association and the internet.

The busy Monday will be completed by a second workshop lead by APC and the Tactical Tech Collective around internet and civil society. This time around, Anriette Esterhuysen will be joined by APC’s internet rights lead Joy Liddicoat (@internetrights) and digital security specialist Bobby Soriano.

On Tuesday September 11, APC will be on a panel about internet governance. Alongside internet access and internet rights, internet governance is one of APC’s staple themes. Having invested many spaces in which internet regulation, standards and protocols are discussed – among them the International Telecommunications Union, ICANN, and the global and African Internet Governance Forum – APC hopes to be able to discuss it’s latest take on internet protocols. For a more in-depth look at APC and internet protocols, stay tuned as a full issue paper is forthcoming.

Highway Africa remains one of the main, if not the main event for journalists and media professionals in Africa. This has to do with the continued leadership and vision at Rhodes University, but also the capacity to open this event to civil society. Highway Africa continues exploring emerging genres in journalism (e.g., South Africa’s first ever Data Journalism Bootcamp) while staying true to its commitment towards “justice, human rights, equality, non-sexism and non-racialism.”

APC will be live tweeting from #HA16 here: http://twitter.com/apc_news Also follow the conference Twitter feed at: http://twitter.com/highway_africa

For a complete conference programme, click here: http://www.highwayafrica.com/?page_id=961&did=32

Photo by Bigstock-. Used with permission.

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