By Silvia Tsitsi Mukwindidza

I left my three-year-old son, who had just gotten his tonsils and adenoids removed, to attend the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG 2023). It was a difficult decision, but I was determined to learn more about internet governance and how it could be used to improve the lives of people in Africa. It was comforting to know that he was not going to struggle with sleep apnea again and that I left him in the safe hands of my helper, his grandmother, his father, and above all, God.

AfriSIG was a treasure hunt for me. I discovered a new world of knowledge and insights, met inspiring experts, and made lifelong friends. I also gained a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the African internet.

A cybernaut’s journey

I have always been passionate about technology and its potential to transform society. After graduating with a degree in journalism and media, I started working on projects that used technology to promote social justice and economic development at Bustop TV in Zimbabwe.

Along the way, I became increasingly interested in internet governance. I realised that the internet is not just a technical infrastructure, but also a social and political space. The way that the internet is governed has a profound impact on our lives, from the information we access to the way we communicate and interact with each other.

The quest for knowledge

AfriSIG was a goldmine of knowledge on internet governance. I attended sessions on a wide range of topics, including the future of the African internet and internet policy and regulation.

I had the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions and group assignments with experts from all over Africa. I learned about policy briefing through our practicum sessions where we produced a multistakeholder implementation strategy for the African Union Data Policy Framework.

One highlight was meeting and learning from experts from all over Africa including Lillian Nalwoga, Edetaen Ojo, Guy Berger and Josephine Miliza. I was asking them how they chose their area of specialty in internet governance as it is broad and wide. They gave me varying insights, indicating that it is a process and that I should give myself time. However, some of them advised me not to narrow down too much, as it will limit me from exploring other opportunities and eventually become unmarketable.

The tribe

I found some special moments in making new friends and connecting with the community of internet governance practitioners in Africa. I met people from all walks of life, including parliamentarians, journalists, academics, activists and policy makers.

I was particularly excited to meet Zimbabweans at AfriSIG. I had never met other Zimbabweans outside of Zimbabwe before, and it was magical to be able to speak Shona with them.

Applying the treasure

I am committed to using what I learned at AfriSIG to make a positive impact on the African internet community. This is how I plan to apply my treasure:

Cybersecurity: Presentations made and the discussions that followed on the current processes in global and regional cybersecurity and cybercrime gave me a strong regional perspective on the importance of cybersecurity awareness training for all internet users. I plan to apply this knowledge by developing and implementing cybersecurity policies, procedures and training programmes for my organisation and volunteering my time to help other organisations improve their cybersecurity posture.

In particular, I would like to develop a cybersecurity policy for my organisation that outlines our security requirements for employees. That includes developing procedures for responding to cybersecurity incidents. Additionally, I will provide cybersecurity awareness training to all employees, covering topics such as phishing, password security and digital hygiene.

Internet and data governance: The importance of internet governance and the role that stakeholders from all sectors play in developing and implementing internet governance policies is another cherishable lesson I learned. I got to understand the challenges of internet governance in Africa, such as the lack of access to the internet and the lack of awareness of internet governance issues.
I’ll be participating in internet and data governance regulatory and policy processes in Zimbabwe and the region, and advocating for policies that support a healthy and vibrant internet ecosystem.

Training for marginalised groups: During AfriSIG, I began to understand the importance of digital inclusion and the need to bridge the digital divide. During sessions on data governance, internet access and inclusion, I gained an appreciation of the challenges faced by marginalised groups in accessing and using the internet.

My intent is to apply this knowledge by conducting training on data governance for marginalised groups in Zimbabwe. This training will cover topics such as the importance of data protection, how to collect and use data ethically, and how to protect oneself from online privacy threats.

Blogging and social media: Heated debates erupted during sessions on media freedom and the safety of journalists, which got me really excited as a journalist to take the discussions to my blogging online. What I captured most is the importance of communicating internet governance issues to a wide audience. I learned about the different ways to use blogging and social media to raise awareness of internet governance issues and to promote public participation in internet governance processes.

My specific plans are to research and write about platform regulation, internet shutdowns, and the relationship between human rights and emerging technologies.

Continued learning: A session on current challenges in internet policy and regulation in relation to content, platforms and AI helped me realise the importance of staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in internet governance. This background has encouraged me to continue learning about internet governance by attending other training and forums.

Deciding on my area of specialty in internet governance: I am still exploring the different areas of internet governance that I am passionate about. However, I am particularly interested in internet shutdowns, cybersecurity, data governance, and internet platforms policy. I plan to take some time to reflect on my interests and skills, and to consider the different areas of internet governance which I can make the biggest impact in.

I’m excited to start applying the treasure I found at AfriSIG to make a positive impact on the African internet community. I believe that the African internet has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people, and I’m committed to doing my part to make that vision a reality.

Silvia Tsitsi Mukwindidza is a journalist and communications professional with over six years of experience in communication strategy, content creation, creative campaigns and project management. She is the Communication and Admin Officer at Bustop TV, a leading digital media organisation that creates edutainment content for advocacy-based projects. Silvia just finished a course with the Internet Society on internet governance and another course on internet shutdowns with Access Now. She is passionate about digital rights, cybersecurity and internet freedoms; these are topics she often blogs about. She is a candidate for a Masters in Politics and International Relations at the University of Zimbabwe.

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