In theatre, they say “the world is a stage” and in life, we say that we attract what we think of and what we draw attention to.
It was in 2019 when I first heard of the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG). In my mind, I thought it was a university where one goes to attain a degree, a Master’s or even a PhD. So I gave it a shot and applied for the seventh AfriSIG while still at the foundation stage in the internet governance space and just an ordinary officer at the Internet Society (ISOC) Namibia chapter.
I surely feel like I undermined this ecosystematic (if there is even such a word, “LOL”) AfriSIG university, as my engagement in AfriSIG 2021 surely proved a lot of knowledge and connections gained through the two weeks of online training.
Unfortunately I did not make it through for the 2019 fellowship. When this year’s call opened, I remember seeing the call, but it totally slipped my mind until the closing date on 23 August.
I remember emailing Koliwe [Majama, the AfriSIG coordinator] on the closing date, pleading if I could still submit my application. Luckily I was given time to submit before 30 August. That week I reached out to a professor that I look up to for advice and guidance, Prof. Shava from the Namibia University of Science and Technology. I wasn’t sure what to say to her in such a short time and I just gave it a shot and reached out. She was very helpful and came to my rescue in such a short time with a recommendation letter. I remember sitting down the evening of the 26th writing that application like someone who was writing a state of the nation address speech for a president, working on every detail of my application.
Guess what? I made it through for the year 2021! Was it worth the effort and commitment?
Certainly yes. The moment I logged into the Zoom account on day one and saw everyone online, it brought a different perspective. The engagement in the internet governance ecosystem brought a whole different perspective from what I know as the chairperson of the Namibian Internet Governance Forum as well as the vice president of ISOC Namibia. I got to understand other fellows’ perspectives and their countries’ issues on this topic. Different topics during the fellowship brought different angles, views and understanding on internet governance. I particularly enjoyed the sessions on “The Digital Inequality Paradox”, “Gender and Internet Governance” as well as “Digital Economy: Trade, Labour and Innovation”.
The internet is very diverse and its governance is also diverse, and what makes it more complex is the pace at which the internet keeps evolving. I realised that this evolution needs critical thinkers, fast thinkers, as well as the end-users’ inputs in internet governance.
What I valued the most about this year’s fellowship was not the fact that it was the first AfriSIG fellowship to be hosted online, but the effort, dedication and engagement from both the facilitators and the fellows. It almost felt like we were in a physical fellowship, although I am not sure which country this fellowship could have been for this year.
My greatest takeaway and observation from this year’s fellowship is that we need to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn all that needs to be understood in the internet ecosystem. It takes all key stakeholders to play a vital role in the governance of the internet. We need to tap into the network, collaborate, create content and most importantly, engage as much as we can.
I am proud and happy to have been part of this and I will surely make use of the knowledge and skills gained here.
Josaphat Tjiho serves as the vice president of the Internet Society Namibia chapter, where he oversees and runs the day-to-day activities of the chapter. He also serves as the chairperson of the Namibian Internet Governance Forum (NamIGF) 2021. He is passionate about raising awareness on the issues of access to information and human rights through the use of performing arts and innovation in technology. He loves acting and travelling.