The ninth edition of the African School of Internet Governance (AfriSIG) finally happened – virtually, because, well, COVID-19 couldn’t allow various fellows and facility members to attend an in-person school. I had mentally prepared myself to travel, eat some airplane food, change my environment, physically meet new people, but that hasn’t happened. Nonetheless, we move.
Who would ever think that I, Ruth Atim, a traditional girl from Northern Uganda, would ever join a school of internet governance, a platform full of the crème de la crème in the world of the internet? Well, I did, and I had a good time learning, unlearning and relearning the internet.
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) did a great job putting together content for a 10-day training, the coordinator and her team deserve a rest, the kind of rest with a view of the ocean while sipping one of those drinks with an umbrella in it. Again, COVID-19 may not allow that to happen. Nonetheless, we move.
During the school, which was held from 4 to 15 September 2021, various faculty members discussed the internet through different lenses, leading to a more holistic understanding of internet governance.
When you first read the abbreviation, AfriSIG, one would think you are going to be trained on how to govern/manage the internet. But, in the end, we were equipped with knowledge that will enable us to participate confidently and effectively in national, regional and global internet governance processes and debates.
The moderators and facilitators
The moderators were well handpicked.
Avri Doria and Kiito Shilongo did well introducing the practicum. Wolfgang Kleinwaechter gave a different perspective about “The multistakeholder approach, multilateralism and digital cooperation”.
The session about OTT taxes on social media apps to fair taxation of big tech, by Raymond Onouha, was another eye-opener for me, based on the fact Uganda, my country, recently scrapped the OTT tax and proposed a 12% tax on internet. This clearly shows that many Ugandans won’t be enjoying their freedom of expression and access to information on the internet. This is like “one step forward, three steps back”, as the saying goes. Nonetheless, we move.
Still on the moderators and facilitators, Koliwe Majama, Gayatri Khandhadai, Anriette Esterhuysen, Avri Doria, Alison Gillwald, Sheena Magenya, Adil Suleiman, Chengetai Masango, Kiito Shilongo et al all did an amazing job. The fire in them was blazing hot, the content prepared, the mode of presentation top notch. I can just imagine how this cohort would have been if it was an in-person school. I think it was going to be one of those cohorts that everyone keeps making reference to, because I can assure you that we were on fire to re-learn internet governance.
The Sunset Chats
Woohoo!!! The Sunset Chats were calming, especially after a whole day of being in class. Kleinwaechter, Nashilongo Gervasius, Jeanette Hoffmann, Fiona Alexander, Milton Mueller and Leonid Todorov did a great job digesting “The current ‘state’ and ‘status’ of multistakeholder internet governance”. This was the first Sunset Chat, by the way.
I came to understand that global debates over alternative approaches to governing the internet have been wide ranging, but increasingly have been pivoted around the wisdom of “multistakeholder governance”. My conclusion from that chat was that a multistakeholder process appears best suited for helping a widening array of actors, including multilateral organisations, to connect a worldwide ecology of choices that are governing the internet.
The fourth Sunset Chat, about “Shutdowns to opening doors: Focus on internet rights in Africa”, blew me away. Lillian Nalwoga from CIPESA did justice to the chat and Ephraim Kenyanito also did well moderating it. Coming from a country where internet shutdowns and state violence go hand in hand, I must say I enjoyed this particular one.
Being someone in the digital security space, the fifth Sunset Chat was my favourite. It was called “Dialogue on digital security: What does it mean, for who? What are the gender and stakeholder dimensions at play?” and all the dimensions around it just gave me a whole new perspective around digital security and I am grateful to Natasha Msonza and Koliwe Majama for this well-sought session.
Attending AfriSIG was also an opportunity for me and various other stakeholders to come together and navigate internet governance-related issues affecting all 54 nations that call Africa home. And I am grateful to APC for selecting me and various Ugandans to take part in this timely school.
|Ruth Atim is a journalist by profession and works as a sub-editor for an online media outlet. In 2019 she was shortlisted as a finalist in the Isu Elihle Awards, a South African media award that rewards innovative journalism about children. Ruth also co-founded The Gender Initiative-Uganda (https://www.genderinitiativeug.org), a community-based organisation that empowers women with digital safety/security skills and digital literacy skills. Her work has been able to save many female journalists from online harassment. Ruth is passionate about gender and tech.|