I have always been of the opinion that POLICY IS BORING, I say this every time I have the opportunity to be at gatherings where policy discussions, especially tech/internet policies are held and I also ask myself all of these times, what can I do to make these conversations more interesting to the people who the outcomes of these conversations will benefit the most? Getting accepted into the 7th African School on Internet Governance held from the 4th to 9th September 2019 in N’Djamena Chad was a huge opportunity, and step in the right direction for answers and ideas to solve these issues.
Bringing my content creation skills and experience to good use, I decided to curate exciting, insightful and unforgettable AfriSIG19 moments in the most compelling and appealing ways on my platform. I also had the pleasure of interviewing fellows and resource faculties on subject matters, and activities in the global internet governance space. I did these because I wanted to share my learnings and experience at the school in the most simplified and engaging way as much as possible.
The journey and knowledge acquired
On Thursday 5 September 2019 when classes began, we were given instructions on the rules of communication and advised to respect other attendees privacy as well as ensuring that we had permission before taking pictures. We were then given a lesson on the history of the internet, as well as an introduction to internet governance. We learnt about major milestones in internet history from the beginning to date. I have been buying domain names and hosting spaces on the internet since 2009, but never really gave a thought to how space was being governed nor the organizations in charge. The session on the internet addressing system and numbering was insightful and helped me understand why I pay a certain ICANN fee each time I purchase a domain name online. I got so interested in the work that ICANN does, that I have started taking a couple of courses on the learn.icann.org platform.
The session on the ‘Broader mapping of internet governance and the institutional context’ led us to one of my major highlights of the 7th school, the Practicum, where we had to choose roles of key institutions working in the internet governance space to deliberate on and review the report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation: The Age of Digital Interdependence. We were advised not to pick roles.
I am very passionate about women’s rights, online and offline so I found the session on Internet governance and exclusion/inclusion really interesting, eye-opening and thought-provoking. I learnt that to achieve digital inclusion, it is important for our societies to address these four important aspects: digital access, connectivity, digital literacy & skills and digital capability.
The human rights and internet governance session was about the most emotive and interactive of the 7th school. We learnt about human rights mechanisms, right-based approach, the role of the UN human rights council and the Universal Periodic Review and how states, CSOs and individuals can make submissions. This prompted me to take the 2 recommended courses on UPR. All in all, the most important thing to note is that internet rights are human rights.
Attending the 2019 African Internet Governance Forum is a big plus as I was able to not only gain knowledge on internet governance but to also participate actively in the panel sessions that I attended over the 3-day forum.
Call to action: the role new media should play
Having worked for more than five years creating and implementing digital communications strategies for digital rights and inclusion programs, and seen the important role the media (new media especially) plays in internet governance and digital right conversations, there is a need to make these conversations ‘attractive’ for citizens across the world. My experience at AfriSIG has left a few thought-provoking questions on my mind.
How do we explain to citizens that the same rights they have offline are applicable online without reading out the whole section of the constitution? How do we explain to them that their privacy is still very important even when there is security involved? How do we explain how the internet everyone is using is governed without sounding all technical? How do explain that access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury and should be available and affordable to all? How do we explain internet penetration without sounding too complex? How do we explain the economic effects on internet shutdowns in understandable forms? These and many more pertinent questions are what I am leaving AfriSIG with and hopefully finding a solution to using compelling storytelling techniques and interactive platforms. We need to make digital rights, internet governance and policy conversations cool and sexy! And I will play my part, will YOU?
Finally, meeting and interacting with awesome participants from across the African continent and beyond is a memory that I will cherish forever. Learning and unlearning, agreeing to disagree and finally creating lasting friendships that will impact the internet governance and digital rights community in Africa for a long time to come. Big thank you to the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the African Union Commission (AUC) and Research ICT Africa (RIA) for the great platform and opportunity to learn.
This post was first published here