Loyce Kabahima works with Isis-WICCE, a feminist organization whose mandate is to strengthen women’s leadership and potential in post conflict settings. She hold a Master’s degree in Development Studies. She has over six years of managing and communicating women’s rights information and managing ICT4D projects. She is in charge of managing and communicating organizations information and knowledge using various communication channels and platforms such as website, social media and print. She has also managed ICT4D projects with grassroots women in Uganda that aimed at combating violence against women and prompting women’s rights using ICTs. The most exciting aspect of this work was seeing rural women embracing technology despite their low levels of education to challenge SGBV their community. She hopes to learn about the trends, debates and discussions taking place around internet governance and women’s rights.
It is on again, the third African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) kicked off on Tuesday September 2015 in Addis Abba. A diverse and dynamic group of people with different gender identities, expertise and age. Students include government officials, civil society, IT technicians, media practitioners, University students among others. Being at the AfriSIG is a whole new experience to me and has made me realise how little I know about the internet and internet governance in particular despite that fact that I use it every day. One of the remarkable assignments has been the practicum where as students have been grouped into four stakeholder teams which include the Business Community, Civil Society, Government and the Technical Community. Each team was tasked to develop a policy statement on the subject of Net Neutrality and Zero rating.
In this case, I was in a group that presented the interest of the civil society. Sincerely speaking, this assignment brought out the dynamics and complexities involved in public policy formulation process, the nature of stakeholders and their vested interests. Even within the individual interest groups, it was very difficult to reach at a consensus because the groups were composed of different categories of people from different institutions. The civil society group, where I belonged composed of the Academia, Charity NGO, Multinational Advocacy organisation, Non Commercial Internet user, Privacy advocacy, rights advocacy and a Youth group. All these people have different values and priorities and at times they contradict each other. I also believe that this was not any different from other groups.
Furthermore, the nature of the policy issues were also confusing as it they seem to contradict each other. Net neutrality is the principle that individuals should be free to access all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites. On the other hand, zero rating refers to the provision of access to certain internet services by internet service providers in such a way that the bandwidth consumed is not charged to the customer. Although zero rating has been embraced as a solution to bridge the digital divide by increasing access and affordability, it contradicts the principle of net neutrality. Therefore it was very challenging for stakeholders to come up with clear positions within a few seconds given to them.
In actual sense, this discussion was a clear reflection of what happens in real policy negotiation and formulation processes between different stakeholders who have different interests especially the civil society organisation who are rarely given an opportunity to present their issues.
As I conclude, I would like to thank the faulty team of #AfriSIG for organising and facilitating this mock exercise that has exposed us to the realities and complexities of public policy making.