The seventh edition of the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) was held in N’Djamena in Chad between September 4 and 9, 2019 and trained 45 participants from 23 countries across Africa and from outside the continent.
AfriSIG aims to develop the leadership skills of Africans from diverse sectors and backgrounds to enable them to effectively participate in local, regional and international internet governance structures. This is not only important for shaping the continent’s internet landscape, but also to ensure that the African region is adequately represented at the global level.
During the school, participants were introduced to the governance of the internet starting from the history of the internet and its evolution to emerging issue in internet governance.
The first day of the school introduced fellows to an overview of the history of the internet and internet governance, internet architecture and core protocols exploring internet protocol, transmission control protocol, packet switching, the internet addressing system, Numbers and names and the institution that look after them as well as a broader mapping of international context: who does what, where? What internet governance issue is dealt with by which institutions or at national, regional and global level.
The second day looked into issues of access and infrastructure, digital inclusion, gender, community networks and sustainable development. The discussion delved into the complexity of the internet ecosystem, the layers of governance in the ecosystem; Digital inclusion i.e. using technology to create social inclusion of marginalised communities specifically women, youth and sexual minorities. In achieving digital inclusion the society has to address digital access, connectivity, digital literacy and skills etc; how the unconnected are connecting themselves – how the community network works; internet governance and sustainable development, climate change and the impact of the environment of digitisation.
The third day focused on internet governance and human right, data protection and cybersecurity where the bill of rights was discussed focusing on internet-related human rights in Africa and highlighting the challenges that internet governance actors should respond to ranging from internet shutdowns, data protection and access to information to taxation of social media use. It highlighted opportunities for building more awareness of and the respect for human rights on the internet in Africa using legislation and international instruments such as the Nigerian Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, the Resolution on the Rights to information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the work of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedom Coalition and its members.
There were further discussions on the internet governance and human rights in respect to the international and regional treaties, charters and mechanisms with regards to issues, mechanisms and processes, roles, responsibilities and how internet governance stakeholders can participate, tackling the question of whether human rights is or is not an internet governance issue.
On the fourth day, there were discussions around multi-stakeholder experience on internet issues an overview was given on internet governance institutions, processes and issues in Africa including the African IGF and efforts of the African Union at a regional level.
On the last day emerging issues in internet governance were discussed touching on the history of the internet in Africa, technological development and policy responses in the context of content control, hate speech and harmful content, misinformation, platform responsibility and the impact of content control on the media. It also addressed the question: should States regulate online content or not? If so, in what way?
Furthermore, looking at issues of how African governments increasingly respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 4th industrial revolution (robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, internet of things, and so on). The school also looked at the question: Is the 4th Industrial Revolution the path to greater social and economic equality in Africa or is it a distraction drawing resources away from a focus on fundamental pre-conditions for ICT- enabled development?
Throughout the school period, fellows were introduced to the practicum exercise which was to give the fellows a chance to experience multi-stakeholder decision making in a realistic simulated environment while discussing a current issue of importance to internet governance.
This year, fellows focused on the implementation of some of the aspect of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel report on the Digital Cooperation titled “the Age of Digital Interdependence” and thereafter made recommendations on the report.