By Billy Ray
I am a young woman who grew up in the rural areas of Limpopo in South Africa, where there is not much development done, internet is regarded as a luxury, and technology is not exposed. It has therefore been much of a privilege for me to be a participant at the 5th African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG).
In Limpopo, many people have different technological gadgets but use them in a way that is not necessarily beneficial to them. Many people have mobile phones in these rural areas; however, there are times when they do not even have network coverage. And without this network coverage, they are unable to have an internet connection. This is the case particularly for those who are subscribed to operators like Cell C, MTN and Telkom, just to name these few. For people in my area who do not have digital satellite television (DSTV), they aren’t able to watch TV unless they climb on top of a tree or climb a mountain to access a network. Even at schools there is no internet access for use by students.
For all these reasons, I consider myself fortunate and honoured to have been selected and to have taken part in the 5th AfriSIG, which took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from 28 November to 2 December 2017. Being someone who didn’t use the internet on a regular basis for the reasons cited above, I got to be in the same space with people who came from different walks of life and had strong academic backgrounds. I got to learn a lot from this experience.
I came to the realisation that despite the fact that we come from different places, we are almost familiar with our needs and wants in cyberspace. Before AfriSIG, I used to make use of the internet mostly for social media. Today I have learned a whole bunch of new terminologies, not only in the internet governance domain, but also in the internet and human rights domain as a well.
I have learned to take one step at a time and that I need to learn until I understand it, because for one who is not familiar with the terminology of the internet, it is difficult to understand it all.
When I get back home, I plan on sharing with my peers, who lack information, all that I have learned. My hope is to have these people in rural areas exposed to the internet and its ramifications the way I have been, especially those with disabilities. People need to have access to the internet no matter where they live or how they are. We might come from different areas but the internet will make us all be in one space; and this is the only way we can be able to work together in order to solve the issues related to internet governance.
In my Language, Sepedi, we have a quote that says “Tau tsa hloka seboka di shitwa ke nare ehlotsa,” meaning “The lions that fail to work as a team struggle to bring down a wounded buffalo.” So, by working as a team, we can achieve better results; it doesn’t matter if one comes from a rural, semi-urban or urban area, we all need the internet.
Coming to AfrSIG 2017 was an eye-opening experience. I did not have much information about this school and how it works, but now I have much information, and having met people who have diverse backgrounds gave me the opportunity to network.
I am hoping to have small workshops, trainings, dialogues, debates and/or critical conversations where I will inform and share information for the people in the rural areas about AfriSIG and what one can achieve from participating in it. I hope to come up with innovative ideas for the development of the internet on the ground level where people are not reached or can’t voice their opinions or miss out on information.
I still need to learn a lot on internet governance and I intend to have a continuous learning experience by going through the pamphlet and all the resources we received during the school. I will keep doing research on the topic and stay informed on what is happening in other countries, topic-wise.
I express my gratitude to whom it may concern for awarding me this opportunity. I am hoping the people from other rural areas may have the same opportunity and may it reach many people as far as possible. Thank you so much for organising such trainings; they have a great impact in our lives. The next generation is gradually but surely being equipped with knowledge on internet governance, thanks to the stakeholders and organisers who made it possible for us to absorb so much information in a short period of time.