CIPESA at the Internet Governance Forum 2015

The annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) this year takes place in Joao Pessoa, Brazil from October 10-13. We are excited to participate at the forum which is themed “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development”, during which we will share our insights on internet governance and related issues in East Africa.
An initiative of the United Nations, the IGF is a multi-stakeholder dialogue forum open to representatives from Government, NGOs, academia, private sector, as well as any other entities and individuals interested in Internet Governance issues. This year’s forum will explore the main theme through eight sub-themes including: Cyber security and trust; The internet economy; Inclusiveness and diversity; Openness; Enhancing multi-stakeholder cooperation; The internet and human rights; critical internet resources; and emerging issues.
Through our membership of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and partnerships with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Facebook Africa Policy and the Deutsche Welle (DW) Akademie, among others, CIPESA is directly participating in the forum in the following events:
November 8 – 9, 2015

  • Deutsche Welle Preparatory Workshop
  • Local Actions to Secure Internet Rights (LASIR) Learning Meeting

November 10, 2015

  • Workshop 187 on Promoting Local Actions to Secure Internet Rights

November 11, 2015

  • Civil Society Round Table with the United States Department of State Cyber Coordinator Chris Painter
  • Round Table – #AfricanInternetRights: Whose rights are these anyway?

Side Events
November 12, 2015

  • State of the Internet in Africa
  • APC 25th Anniversary Celebrations @APC

Follow us on twitter – @cipesaug for updates. Also follow the Forum proceedings using the hashtag #IGF2015.
More information about the IGF is available here.

What does the future hold for the Internet Governance Forum?

By Juliet N. Nanfuka
As the dust settles following the ninth Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which was held in Istanbul, Turkey between 2 and 5 September, many questions remain lurking. The biggest being whether the IGF has made a strong enough case for its continued existence. The IGF currently has a mandate that takes it until 2015. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly is due to take a decision about its renewal at the beginning of December 2014.

Lillian Nalwoga (third from left), Policy Officer at CIPESA makes a comment during a panel session at the 9th IGF in Istanbul, Turkey.
Lillian Nalwoga (third from left), Policy Officer at CIPESA makes a comment during a panel session at the 9th IGF in Istanbul, Turkey.

In keeping with the IGF’s core principle of multi-stakeholder engagement, the 9th Internet Governance Forum brought together an assortment of internet policy stakeholders including multinational organisations, state representatives, civil society and internet enthusiasts. The theme of this year’s IGF was “Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multi stakeholder Internet Governance” and was explored through the lens of net neutrality, multilingualism, youth and social media, gender, policy development, stakeholder roles and other related issues.
In a series of workshops, book launches and open sessions, internet policies were discussed and how they relate and impact upon society, development, business, governance and democracy. While there was agreement on some issues, divergence remained when it came to discussions on where monetising the internet clashed with big data, privacy, surveillance, intermediary liability and net neutrality.
This year’s meeting saw over 3,000 delegates from across the world convene in a country currently battling with some of the controversial internet related issues such as surveillance, censorship, privacy and data protection under discussion at the IGF. According to the 2013 Freedom on the Net report, nearly 30,000 websites and social media accounts are blocked in Turkey for social or political reasons. But Turkish bureaucrats deftly skirted these issues in their opening and closing speeches. While mention was made of the state of Turkish internet freedom by delegates, it mostly remained a rumbling in the underbelly of the meeting. However, some light on Turkey’s internet freedom status was heavily discussed at the Internet Ungovernance Forum organised by Turkish civil society organisations to protest the country’s hosting of the meeting given their government’s internet rights violations record.
For many participants, NetMundial was still a key talking point and formed the basis of some of the IGF’s discussions including promoting multilingualism, collaborative multi-stakeholder models, gender and internet rights, minority rights online, child online protection, privacy and surveillance and developing relevant local content. NetMundial demonstrated that multi-stakeholderism is possible and consensus can be drawn even on the most contentious internet governance topics (see NetMundial statement).

NetMundial sought to deliberate on the Future of Internet Governance by crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

Even though the IGF has for the past nine years provided a platform for the debate and deliberation on the very issues that NetMundial dealt with, there have been limited discernible outcomes and impact measurements due to the nature and complexity of internet governance and its actors.
However, much like the constantly transforming internet, the IGF will have to re-asses its financial sustainability model to ensure its survival and position itself as a driver of best practices on internet governance. Part of this includes the production of outcome documents such as policy recommendations for voluntary adoption – a suggestion put forward by the European Commission – a key funder of the IGF. Such actions could help shake off the ‘talk shop’ cloak that has shadowed the IGF and position it as a platform for deliberation on global internet governance concerns with more discernible outcomes.
The Tenth IGF is scheduled to take place in João Pessoa, Brazil on 10 to 13 November 2015.

CIPESA's Reflections on the Third Africa Internet Governance Forum, 2014

By Lillian Nalwoga.
With the internet projected to reach almost 20 per cent of the Africa population in 2014, it becomes important to discuss modalities under which it should remain an open and reliable tool for development. It is with this background that Africa Internet stakeholders gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, July 10 -14, 2014 to deliberate on key internet governance issues affecting the continent. The main theme for this year’s meeting was “connecting continents for enhanced multi-stakeholder internet governance.”

Towards an African Declaration on Internet Rights

As internet usage continues to grow in Africa, so does the interest by governments to monitor users’ online activities. This has led to a clash between internet rights promoters and governments in some African countries.
On February 12–13, 2014, participants from several African civil society organisations involved in promoting human rights and internet rights convened in Johannesburg, South Africa to draft an African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. The meeting was organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Global Partners Digital in collaboration with the Media Rights Agenda, Media Foundation for West Africa and the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
Many countries justify their tough stance on internet freedom as necessary to fight cybercrime, promote peace and maintain national security. Whereas some of these policies and practices have been adopted by authoritarian regimes to retain power, others were in response to national crisis contexts such as hate speech and terrorism. Ultimately, the measures have often had chilling effects on access to information, freedom of expression, privacy and data protection.
Participants in this meeting called for the promotion of an open, free and accessible internet. Issues identified as the most crucial and still hindering internet growth in Africa that need immediate action were: improving access to internet including the development and promotion of localised multi-lingual content; addressing internet infrastructure obstacles; capacity building for users; and the need to create a balance between freedom of expression and privacy of users.
Others identified were data protection, addressing gender inequalities and gender-based violence against women online, and adopting supportive ICT policies that promote freedom of expression online and equitable access to information.
Due to increased internet freedom violation incidents coupled with regressive policies being made in many countries, the need for a well-defined Internet Intermediary Liability (ILL) regime has also become increasingly apparent. Another meeting held on February 10-11, 2014 organised by the APC with support from Google Africa discussed the responsibility that may be placed on intermediaries in implementing monitoring and control mechanisms laid down by the laws.
At the regional level, there are legal and regulatory frameworks like the Africa Charter on Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which provide limited protection for internet rights and the liability of internet intermediaries. It was noted that such frameworks could act as building blocks for individual countries to draw up best practices on ILL regimes.
There was consensus that such existing frameworks should be the basis for adopting a general guide with definitions of terms on Internet intermediary liability. This guide would act as central referencing document on which individual countries would base their national IIL regimes.
During the discussions, participants charted their thoughts on a best practice guide for an IIL regime for Africa by asking the below questions:
While responding to these questions, participants recognised that intermediaries can play a crucial role in promoting Internet freedoms in Africa.
Meanwhile, the meeting also reviewed recent policy and practice developments in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria since the 2011 Intermediary Liability in Africa research. It identified a need to increase awareness among different stakeholder groups of the importance of clear regulatory frameworks for intermediary liability to secure rights on the internet; and for stronger collaboration to advocate for best practice internet intermediary regulatory measures in Africa.
The outcomes of both these meetings will form the basis for the draft civil society Africa Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, which will be launched at the ninth global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul, Turkey September 2-5, 2014. The declaration will be available for public input throughout the period leading up to IGF 2014.