Dot.Africa? First Southern African IGF starts Sept 1

By APC Publisher: APCNews     Johannesburg,

On September 1-3 the first ever Southern African Internet Governance Forum kicks off in Johannesburg in preparation for the global UN internet forum to be held in Kenya.

Hosted by APC, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and South African non-profit SANGONeT, the event is aimed at ensuring that the views and voices of Southern Africa are represented in Kenya at the end of the month. Participants from all fifteen Southern African nations are expected at the forum which is supported by the Department of Communications of the South African government.

What does internet governance mean for Southern Africans?

Internet governance is a means for promoting the equitable distribution and use of internet resources by all citizens. In Africa given the diversity of cultures and languages, internet governance could be a means for dealing with issues of multilingualism and promotion of local content.

Developing local internet industries is a high priority for Africa. Through robust and effective internet country registries (called ccTLDs), countries can begin to reap the benefits that come with a well-established national internet identity. The event organisers would like to see this extended to the establishment of African regional and continental identities such as .africa (“dotAfrica”) and regional domains to ensure localisation of cost and traffic within the continent.

International internet bandwidth is an expensive and scarce commodity in Africa and Africans need to make a concerted efforts to keep as much of the traffic local and within national, regional and continental boundaries. This could be achieved through integration and sharing of resources such as broadband infrastructure, internet exchange points (IXPs), and data centres complemented by the creation and localisation of content. All this will be discussed in Johannesburg in early September.

What about human rights?

Access to the internet facilitates freedom of expression and freedom of association, enables knowledge sharing, learning and collaboration and is a driver for social and economic development. Freedom of expression and freedom of association play a crucial role in supporting democracy and guaranteeing all human rights. Yet, as a June report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion details, human rights are increasingly at risk online.1

IGF go-ers will be looking at issues of privacy and data protection, the role of internet intermediaries, unlawful surveillance and an increasing trend towards laws which criminalise online content (including defamation laws) as well as harassment, arrest, detention and violence towards journalists and citizens.

What’s the agenda?

The thematic issues to be addressed are based on the proposed agenda for the global IGF which will centre on five main topics:

  • Internet governance for development (IG4D)
  • Emerging issues
  • Managing critical internet resources
  • Security, openness and privacy
  • Access and diversity
  • Taking stock and the way forward

Issue papers from APC will be available online next week on four of the themes. In addition to the themes from the global IGF2, the Southern African forum will have sessions on:

  • Multi-stakeholder participation and internet governance
  • National and regional perspectives on internet governance
  • Capacity building for internet governance and
  • Establishment of the Southern African IGF.

What do APC and the other organisers hope will happen next?

The inaugural Southern Africa IGF is intended to kick-start the establishment of a coordinated and coherent “platform” for dealing with internet governance issues in the Southern Africa and/or the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

The organisers hope that there will be increased awareness of internet governance issues affecting the region, that appropriate interventions will be discussed and considered and participants intending to attend the global IGF will be better prepared to participate.

In the longer term, it is hoped that a systematic, bottom-up, national, regional and global internet governance policy dialogue process in Southern Africa will emerge.

Photo by austinevan. Used with permission under Creative Commons License 2.0

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