By Abdiaziz Ahmed
Understanding the intricate web of policies and principles that govern the digital age has become vital, especially where the internet is the lifeblood of our interconnected world. My journey into the fascinating realm of internet governance began when I had the privilege of attending the prestigious African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG), organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the African Union Commission (AUC) and Research ICT Africa (RIA) and held in Abuja, Nigeria.
This intensive five-day school combined insightful keynote speeches from various organisations with hands-on practical experience. One of the highlights of this experience was the focus on the African Union Data Policy Framework (AUDPF). The AUDPF offers advice on data governance for the African data market, simplifying the regulatory complexities for African Union member states. The objective of the framework is to enhance intra-African digital trade, foster entrepreneurship, and promote digital innovation while protecting against the potential risks and harms of the digital economy. As I reflect on this transformative experience, I am excited to share my journey through the corridors of internet governance and the invaluable insights I gained.
As someone passionate about digital inequalities and inclusion, I embarked on this journey to expand my horizons and delve into the world of internet governance. The programme offered a diverse range of courses and topics related to internet governance. From the intricacies of data policy to the broader aspects of governing the internet, I found each class to be an eye-opener. I had the privilege of learning from renowned instructors and guest speakers, who provided valuable insights into the complex world of internet governance. Their expertise was truly enlightening and expanded my territory on what project I will be working on in the future.
One of the most enriching aspects of this journey was the opportunity to work with fellows from various stakeholder groups. We were divided into five stakeholder groups: civil society, business community, government, parliamentarians, and academia and research. Our task as an “academia and research” group, just like the other groups, was to find ways of implementing the AUDPF with a focus on the free flow of data and the establishment of a trusted data environment, and then present our findings, challenges, opportunities, recommendations and actionable steps. We received useful feedback from the convener, faculty and resource persons, who have significantly improved our work, and now the outcome document is in good shape and ready to be published. The collaborative nature of these schools fosters lifelong connections and friendships. This highlights the importance of multistakeholder processes for internet governance.
Throughout the programme, I gained invaluable insights into internet governance, such as the multi-stakeholder approach. The practical aspect of the school, coupled with my interactions with experts and peers, deepened my understanding of this critical field. The culmination of our efforts arrived on the last day when we presented our policy proposal. It was a moment of pride to witness our hard work, endorsed by fellow participants. It showcases the power of collaboration and multistakeholder engagement in shaping internet governance policies. Our group’s work on the AUDPF and presentation of our outcome document in the parliamentary track session were moments of pride. It was heartening to see our efforts being endorsed by everyone.
As an AfriSIG fellow, I now have a broader perspective and renewed passion for addressing critical issues, such as internet shutdowns. My journey in this field has just begun. My experience at AfriSIG was transformative. From intensive learning to meaningful collaborations, this has left an indelible mark on my journey in the digital landscape. As I navigate the digital realm, I carry with me the knowledge that the internet is not just a tool, but a complex ecosystem that demands responsible stewardship. AfriSIG was a stepping stone on this journey, equipping me with insights and connections to make a meaningful impact on the world of internet governance. I am confident that these new relationships will lead to great collaboration in the future.
For those considering internet governance studies, I highly recommend embracing this opportunity. It is a journey of knowledge, growth and networking that opens the doors to a fascinating field. I encourage you to explore the world of internet governance and consider attending similar programmes.
Abdiaziz Ahmed is a research fellow at Research ICT Africa, working on issues around digital inequalities and the potential benefits and risks of digital technologies for development in Africa. He is currently undertaking a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Abdiaziz holds a Master of Arts degree in Economics and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Nairobi. His research interests fall into the fields of digital economics, environmental economics, labour economics, and health economics.