How can accessibility in rural areas of Africa be improved? What are the challenges for women and girls in terms of internet access? How are internet shutdowns affecting African users? These are some of the issues that Josephine Militza, Sophie Ngassa and Amanda Manyame focus on, as African experts on internet access with a strong gender perspective. The three of them share a passion for improving meaningful internet access in the continent and recently attended this year’s African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) in N’Djamena, Chad. We talked to them about their work, the challenges they face and what they are taking home from AfriSIG.
Josephine works with Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), an APC member organisation that enhances relationships between the Kenyan government and other key stakeholders in ICT policy development. Sophie Ngassa is a STEM advocate for girls in Cameroon, where she works on increasing the representation of women in tech. Amanda Manyame works for Endcode, a South African organisation that aims to increase access to the benefits of technology and innovation on the continent.
“Last year, when I attended the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), no one had prepared me for how intense it would be. I felt so lost, kind of an impostor syndrome,” Josephine states. “AfriSIG has taught me so much about the governance space. If you want to negotiate with people, you need to speak their language.”
Sophie agrees, and highlights several issues that caught her attention at the School, including “the issue of internet shutdowns” and the importance of dealing with the fact that many women in Africa are still not online, sometimes “out of fear”.
Amanda highlights the technical aspects she’s taking home, which “we don’t always know as legal experts”.
We asked them, what happens next? What does going back home mean? For Josephine, “Going back is building a strong movement of community networks in Africa.”
Sophie highlights that she’s “ready to give back to my community in terms of training. I also have a dream of having this school happen in Cameroon.”
Amanda is looking forward to starting a “youth IGF in my country, as these discussions need to start at a grassroots level.”
The featured fellows are among the women supported by Ford Foundation to attend the 7th School.