Image: Screenshot of Maathai’s Story of Humming Bird.

I heard of the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) when I started participating in internet governance, as the ultimate school on internet governance, so naturally, I wanted to enrol. I kept tabs on the call for applications, only to find out that the 2020 one was open only for AfriSIG alumni. I was hopeful this year, so I jumped on this year’s call, amidst self-limiting beliefs on whether I would make the cut. The application process was smooth until the section that asked for referrals. My anxiety heightened. Not because I didn’t have any, but because of the self-limiting belief, getting louder…

“Maybe I should try next year when I have more internet-related work experience.”

I caved in. Paused my application, and for a few weeks, didn’t revisit that window. However, I passed on word about the call to a friend, and highly encouraged her to apply. *hard eye-roll to self.

I managed to get around the detrimental noise, a few days before the deadline, and reached out to my referees who gladly, and hastily, recommended me. I got in!

From the first day elation of introductions, and orientation through the learning wiki, the rest of the days went by in a blur; a perfect amalgamation of inquisitiveness, new information drench, subtle nudge to quit, Zoom fatigue, back to excitement, relief, and self-pride on the last day.

My most learning experience was the practicum. Our assigned task was to conduct a post-pandemic assessment of digital ecosystems across the continent. The main output of the task force would be a document with key policy recommendations and suggested revisions to section VIII: “Critical Sectors to Drive Digital Transformation A-E” of The African Union Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, after which the document would be considered for presentation during the 2021 African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF). We, the fellows, were expected to participate in pre-assigned simulated roles outside our real-life stakeholder group, in which we would present the interests of the stakeholder group as we understood them.

The purpose of the practicum was to expose us to multistakeholder decision making in a realistic environment while discussing a current internet governance issue. We had dedicated, expert faculty who guided and advised us during the process. For policy-making novices and group work-averse personalities like myself, this was a hard nosedive into uncharted waters. Akin to mandatory group discussion in university, except here, it was virtual, across different time zones, with strangers with different skill sets, work styles, outlooks, commitments and obligations offline, as this was a part-time school. I was stretched.

Rebeccah Wambui is a trained social scientist with a BA in Political Science and Communication from the University of Nairobi. Her skills and work experience fall at the intersection of capacity building, youth affairs and internet governance. She works with young learners, young adults in universities and corporate employees on various topical issues ranging from social and relational skills and cognition to hardcore entrepreneurial and leadership matters.
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