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 By Tawanda Maguze

My debut appearance at the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) 2017 was certainly an eye opener in respect of a lot of very important issues related to internet governance, without doubt one of best spaces to start engaging with internet governance issues on continental level.

Distinctively, AfriSIG is a rich melting-pot of professional backgrounds, nationalities, ages, expertise and many other persuasions. This in my view made for very rich ground for networking and getting a multidimensional feel of internet governance issues across Africa under one roof.

But by far my take-back-home session was cybersecurity. I must note here that from the onset the conversation starter ringing in my head was: Should cybersecurity even be an issue of concern for the average users of the internet here in Africa? Could we probably have other “more important” issues to be addressing expeditiously and leave this for some time in the future? The conversations during the school, while very insightful, only cast me farther away from answering these questions.

I have always wanted to engage with this topic and learned as much as I could, and of course, it just simply sounds cool, more like something out of a science-fiction movie. It is exactly for this sci-fi feel that makes it an issue for me. Cybersecurity is a secondary issue that is quite easily subordinated to access here in Africa. Progressive conversations during AfriSIG 2017 built and supported the feel of a lopsided focus on the internet governance aspect, in the cybersecurity debate. My sense is an asymmetrical focus around consensus building on terminology and legislative approaches. In my view, some really high-level issues, versus basic literacy on how to safely navigate online spaces. If the ratification of cybersecurity conventions is anything to go by, then the debate on cybersecurity is really still stuck up there in international diplomacy clouds.

When it comes to the high-level conversations, ordinary consumers/users are more or less just passive audiences. This may justifiably be so, because more than anything ordinary internet users lack either the means or the comprehension capability to participate in the “conversations that matter” covering the issues that affect them most. What is undeniable, however, is that conversations about the internet in Africa, particularly the least developed regions, circle mainly around access and connectivity, and yet security as a theme should be running in parallel.

Internet users are no longer just consumers of online content, but also producers, something a colleague at the AfriSIG2017 school referred to as prosumers, fashioned from the two words producers and consumers. These prosumers are definitely relevant and often the missing voices in the high-level dialogues on cybersecurity issues, shaping internet governance. So, at the end of the day it’s not a question of whether internet users should be concerned with cybersecurity issues or not, but rather how cybersecurity can run parallel with other immediate issues such as access.

There is arguably an unavoidable interest in the centrality of cybersecurity issues to general human development in Africa, where the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will hinge on leveraging ICTs and the internet. Some simple examples relate to how Africa leads the world in money transfers using mobile phones, with 14% of all Africans receiving money through mobile transfers as quoted in the Symantec 2016 Africa Cyber Security 2016 report. Zimbabwe’s Ecocash, One Wallet, Telecash, as well as Kenya’s M-Pesa and many other examples across Africa, certainly paint a picture of hope of how Africa is potentially leapfrogging itself into some future alongside global leaders such as Europe and the United States. Cybersecurity becomes a more critical issue when one considers how ICTs, connected online, have the potential to contribute to growth in areas such as health (telemedicine), education (resource access) and energy. Public dialogue on cybersecurity should therefore be an absolute priority.

So then what’s my point from all the reflection I made during AfriSIG 2017?

Well, simply put, ordinary internet users have not been sufficiently included in the cybersecurity conversations. They lack the means and capability to participate properly and ultimately cannot afford to be part of the process. The “prosumer” is the most important stakeholder in a multistakeholder process. The language and content of discussions on cybersecurity need to be understandable to everyone.

Yeyyy to AfriSIG 2017 for getting us to talk about this. We will definitely be taking the conversation back home to Zimbabwe.


By Phoshollo Phasha

I am a young woman who grew up in the rural areas of Limpopo in South Africa, where there is not much development done, internet is regarded as a luxury, and technology is not exposed. It has therefore been much of a privilege for me to be a participant at the 5th African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG).

In Limpopo, many people have different technological gadgets but use them in a way that is not necessarily beneficial to them. Many people have mobile phones in these rural areas; however, there are times when they do not even have network coverage. And without this network coverage, they are unable to have an internet connection. This is the case particularly for those who are subscribed to operators like Cell C, MTN and Telkom, just to name these few. For people in my area who do not have digital satellite television (DSTV), they aren’t able to watch TV unless they climb on top of a tree or climb a mountain to access a network. Even at schools there is no internet access for use by students.

For all these reasons, I consider myself fortunate and honoured to have been selected and to have taken part in the 5th AfriSIG, which took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from 28 November to 2 December 2017. Being someone who didn’t use the internet on a regular basis for the reasons cited above, I got to be in the same space with people who came from different walks of life and had strong academic backgrounds. I got to learn a lot from this experience.

I came to the realisation that despite the fact that we come from different places, we are almost familiar with our needs and wants in cyberspace. Before AfriSIG, I used to make use of the internet mostly for social media. Today I have learned a whole bunch of new terminologies, not only in the internet governance domain, but also in the internet and human rights domain as a well.

I have learned to take one step at a time and that I need to learn until I understand it, because for one who is not familiar with the terminology of the internet, it is difficult to understand it all.

When I get back home, I plan on sharing with my peers, who lack information, all that I have learned. My hope is to have these people in rural areas exposed to the internet and its ramifications the way I have been, especially those with disabilities. People need to have access to the internet no matter where they live or how they are. We might come from different areas but the internet will make us all be in one space; and this is the only way we can be able to work together in order to solve the issues related to internet governance.

In my Language, Sepedi, we have a quote that says “Tau tsa hloka seboka di shitwa ke nare ehlotsa,” meaning “The lions that fail to work as a team struggle to bring down a wounded buffalo.” So, by working as a team, we can achieve better results; it doesn’t matter if one comes from a rural, semi-urban or urban area, we all need the internet.

Coming to AfrSIG 2017 was an eye-opening experience. I did not have much information about this school and how it works, but now I have much information, and having met people who have diverse backgrounds gave me the opportunity to network.

I am hoping to have small workshops, trainings, dialogues, debates and/or critical conversations where I will inform and share information for the people in the rural areas about AfriSIG and what one can achieve from participating in it. I hope to come up with innovative ideas for the development of the internet on the ground level where people are not reached or can’t voice their opinions or miss out on information.

I still need to learn a lot on internet governance and I intend to have a continuous learning experience by going through the pamphlet and all the resources we received during the school. I will keep doing research on the topic and stay informed on what is happening in other countries, topic-wise.

I express my gratitude to whom it may concern for awarding me this opportunity. I am hoping the people from other rural areas may have the same opportunity and may it reach many people as far as possible. Thank you so much for organising such trainings; they have a great impact in our lives. The next generation is gradually but surely being equipped with knowledge on internet governance, thanks to the stakeholders and organisers who made it possible for us to absorb so much information in a short period of time.





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