The fourth edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) was held on September 27 – 29, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This marked the first time that FIFAfrica was hosted outside Kampala, Uganda, where it has been held since inception in 2014. The 2017 edition of FIFAfrica was co-hosted by the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).
The landmark event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online. This unique assembly of mostly African based human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, private sector players, global information intermediaries, bloggers, developers, the arts community, law enforcers and regulators – is steadily gaining traction in the internet freedom landscape arena and drawing a diversity of stakeholders from across the continent and beyond.
The Forum’s growing audience (from 80 participants representing six countries in 2014 to over 250 from 35 countries in 2017), the diversity of participants, and discussions reflects increased awareness among Africa’s growing internet user and stakeholder community for the need to pave the way for broader and more impactful work on advancing digital rights advocacy and drawing up common strategies to promote internet freedom.
See this info-graph on the Evolution of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica)
Highlights at the FIFafrica included the launch of the State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2017 research report, the launch of the New Framework for Calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Disruption in Sub-Sahara Africa and the annual commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) that is marked every September 28. For the second year, the Forum featured a digital security clinic and for the first time an exhibition showcasing the work and products of various players in the internet freedom arena in Africa including the hosts APC and CIPESA, Access Now, Defend Defenders, Right To Know (RTK), Media Monitoring Africa and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Africa.
The conversation on promoting internet freedom is crucial and the Forum provides a unique opportunity for deliberations and building a network of African actors to promote internet freedom for rights holders and responsibilities of duty bearers. It is also crucial to involve multiple stakeholders, civil society, the private sector, government officials, developers and other actors, in conversations around advancing the realisation of a free and open internet in Africa.
FIFAfrica 2017 was the first ever event of its kind in southern Africa, thereby enabling a particular focus on internet freedom concerns in the sub-region while maintaining a pan-African profile. With a dedicated focus of bringing together a larger network of actors that advocate for internet freedom in the region and beyond, a richer and broader mix of actors, state and non-state, the Forum contributed towards creating a larger network of actors that advocate for internet freedom particularly in Africa. Notably, this network of actors included African technology innovators and developers as well as internet measurement practitioners, who – while being crucial to promoting digital security – remain largely removed from the internet freedom eco-system.