African Internet Governance Forum concludes on policies to enable internet access

Abuja, 18 July 2014 (ECA) - Over 470 participants drawn from the government, private sector, academia, research institutions, technical committee, civil society organisations, media, and other stakeholders from over 41 countries attended the 3 rd  African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) held on 10 to 12 July 2014 in Abuja. The Forum was co-organised by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Information Technology through the Nigerian Internet Registry Authority and Nigerian IGF and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The Forum was also supported by Local Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (LMAG) of the Nigerian Internet Governance Forum (NIGF), and the African Union Commission (AUC) as well as the African sub-regional IGFs.

Elaborating on the Internet’s fast growth in Africa, Ms. Fatima Denton, Director, Special Initiatives Division at the ECA said that mobile technology is enabling millions of people in Africa to access the Internet, even in the absence of developed broadband networks.

“The mobile-broadband penetration in Africa reaches close to 20 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent in 2010 and although all regions continue to show double-digit growth rates in mobile broadband penetration, Africa stands out with a growth rate of over 40 percent – twice as high as the global average.”

She said that the key to making Internet Governance a success at both the sub-regional and regional levels is facilitating ownership and active participation at the national level.

“National internet Governance foras on represent a critical foundation for expanding Internet access in our respective countries,” she added.

Omobola Johnson, Nigerian Minister for Communication Technology of the stressed the catalytic effect of the internet in such sectors as finance and health. “In Nigeria’s Ondo State, the Abiye  programme links up pregnant mothers and infants up to age 5 with health centres or clinics near them and the Mother and Child Hospital (MCH) in Akure, the State capital, she said.

“Key to these linkages is the availability and use of ICTs between patients, health works and health specialists; the impact has been better maternal and infant healthcare, safer deliveries and reductions in maternal and infant mortality.  This, she stressed, is a notable achievement for a State that was ranked by the World Bank in 2008 as having the highest maternal deaths in South West Nigeria.

In other developments, Ms. Denton reported that a follow-up Summit held in October 2013 in Rwanda attended by several Heads of States and hundreds of stakeholders, came up with the SMART Africa Manifesto. The Manifesto, which outlined five pillars of change that would make new technologies and innovation at the centre of socio-economic development in Africa was endorsed by the AU Summit (January 2014). ECA as leading agency for Innovation and Sustainable Development Clusters of the Smart Africa Alliance, which will be a unique regional framework in enhancing connectivity in the continent among others, will continue to support its member States in their efforts in building an inclusive information society in Africa.

Several recommendations ensued on policies to enable internet access; Content creation, dissemination and use to educate the public towards innovation and creativity in content development; Internet as engine, growth and development and the need for policies that drive affordability of the internet and encourage broadband access policy; on the IGF and the Future of the Internet Ecosystem and the need to enhance the multistakeholder cooperation within the AfIGF to increase the participation of all stakeholders in the transition of IANA functions; Enhancing Digital Trust; the need to encourage and respect Human Rights online as well as offline; the need for countries to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6; and encourage the implementation and management of dotAfrica, among others.

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