The eighth African School on Internet Governance (AfrISIG) was hosted virtually on 23 November and brought together over 60 participants, made up of AfriSIG alumni and faculty members along with trainers trained under the African Union Commission’s Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA) programme.
The School is co-convened annually by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the African Union Commission (AUC) and Research ICT Africa (RIA). As has become a tradition, the School preceded the African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF), which will also be hosted virtually from 25 to 27 November.
Speaking during the opening of AfriSIG 2020, the head of the Information Society Division at the AUC, Moctar Yedaly, emphasised the School’s role in mentoring internet governance leaders in Africa. “The school has been convened annually from 2013 and has remained the place where we meet, interact and exchange in order to build leadership in internet governance,” he said. He applauded APC, lead organiser of AfriSIG, for managing to convene the School despite the COVID 19 pandemic.
Vincent Durruty of the European Union’s Delegation to the African Union emphasised the importance of convening the School during this time of crisis. He said that the School would allow for further exploration of the opportunities, risks and challenges brought about using digital technologies, and in particular, threats to human rights and democracy, security and the management of information.
Research ICT Africa Executive Director Alison Gillwald pointed out that the pandemic had highlighted the compounding effects of digital inequality in the modern era. She stated that without access to digital services to mitigate the challenges brought about by the pandemic, “people are literally dying.” She noted that the convening of the School offered an opportunity to look at the related internet governance challenges for the continent.
This year’s AfriSIG covered the following three topics:
- The digital equality paradox: Does 4IR provide renewed focus on ICT for development or is it a distraction? – Presented by Alison Gillwald, Research ICT Africa
- Financial services for the poor in Africa: Is mobile money the solution? – Presented by Daniel Mwesigwa, CIPESA
- 5G in Africa: An in-depth look at the pros and cons – Presented by Steve Song and Peter Bloom, Mozilla Foundation and Rhizomatica.
The programme also included a reunion for AfriSIG alumni and PRIDA trainers during which they shared some of their experiences in the internet governance space since their AfriSIG attendance or a PRIDA training session.
An independent study of AfriSIG’s impact on its participants since its inception in 2013 was recently published. The study shows that alumni value the School itself enormously, but also that being part of the alumni network is in itself one of the most important components of the AfriSIG experience.
In the words of AfriSIG convenor Anriette Esterhuysen, “AfriSIG 2020 needed to be virtual, and while it was disappointing not to be able to have a face-to-face event, it created the opportunity for deep diving into a few specific internet governance topics with alumni. All three topics covered – the 4th Industrial Revolution, mobile money and 5G – are prone to assumptions and hype. We selected them deliberately to give AfriSIG alumni the opportunity to apply critical thinking and share their experiences. The day did not disappoint. Presentations were excellent and discussion was vigorous.”
Koliwe Majama, lead organiser of AfriSIG for APC, added: “Alumni clearly value the ongoing networking and information sharing that happens after the annual event. We should endeavour to expand our alumni support in the future through fellowships, travel support, blogs and so on, if we can secure the necessary resources.”
About AfriSIG AND PRIDA
AfriSIG was first held in 2013 in South Africa and has since taken place in Mauritius (2014), Ethiopia (2015), South Africa (2016), Egypt (2017), Tanzania (2018) and Chad (2019). It fosters critical debate on internet governance among people from multiple stakeholder groups and disciplines from an African, global South and gender perspective. Its close association with the African IGF provides an opportunity for participants to expand their experience and contribute their insights at a continental forum.
PRIDA is a joint initiative of the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), that enables the African continent to reap the benefits of digitalisation by addressing various dimensions of broadband demand and supply in Africa and building the capacities of AU member states in the internet governance space. It is supported by the EU-funded Pan African Programme.
AfriSIG website: https://afrisig.org/
African IGF: https://www.afigf.africa/
Association for Progressive Communications: https://www.apc.org
Press contact: Leila Nachawati, email@example.com