Following the successful hosting of the five regional internet governance forums or IGFs by the respective regions, the inaugural Africa Internet Governance Forum (AfrIGF) opened today amidst calls for increased partnership and collaboration to curb cyber crime and enhance online security in the continent.
In his opening address Egypt’s ICT minister Eng Hany Mahmoud noted that enhancing security and building confidence and trust in the use of ICT applications is one of the “most important emerging issues that are threatening the ICT sector worldwide.”
“Collaboration of regional and international efforts from all stakeholders involved is much needed. In this respect, Egypt has established its national CERT and we are ready to discuss together policy challenges and find ways for cross-border cooperation on cybersecurity. As well, openness and free flow of information should be maintained in way that preserves the stability and robustness of the global Internet,” said Eng Mahmoud.
The minister added noted that the UN General Assembly would decide on a number of important issues such as the report of the 15th session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development of the Economic and Social Council on Internet Governance Improvements, the Enhanced Cooperation consultations, and the WSIS Review Meeting Decision.
“We have the World Conference of International Telecommunications (WCIT) that encompasses a lot of articles pertaining to Internet Public Policy matters. Such issues require series collaboration and coordination from our side to be able to face the international community with one African voice,” he said, adding that the first African IGF is a catalyst for creating more convergence between the views coming from the five different African regions.
Mr Moctar Yedaly, African Union Commission’s (AUC) head of Post and Telecommunication Division, ICT Policy and Development programmes, said that the “more the modern society depends on the Internet the more relevant Internet governance will be.”
The 2-day meeting, being held at the Smart Village Convention Centre, has been organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC), government of Egypt through the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the five African sub-regional IGFs.
The five regional IGFs include the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF), the East Africa Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF), Forum de Gouvernance de l’Internet en Afrique Centrale (FGI-CA), the Southern Africa Internet Governance Forum (SAIGF) and the North Africa Internet Governance Forum (NAIGF).
The event has drawn participants from across the continent to define Africa’s collective common position on Internet Governance and share best practices based on the results of national and sub-regional consultations. The conference was preceded by pre-conference workshops in the afternoon of 2 October 2012.
Mr Masango Chengetai from the IGF Secretariat in Geneva stated that there are 12 regional IGFs and more than 22 national IGFs covering the globe, as well as thematic IGF initiatives such as the Youth IGF.
“It is important that Africa makes its voice heard in the global Internet Governance debate. Good Internet governance begins at home, that is at the national and regional level, where the policies are incorporated into legislation and are actually implemented. It is better to have a public comment before a law is passed then after,” said Chengetai, adding that the Africa IGF has a pivotal role in interconnecting the regional IGFs and can provide a united African perspective to the global Internet governance discussions.
Mr Makane Faye, who read the speech on behalf of Dr Aida Opoku-Mensah, the director of UNECA’ ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD), said that Internet governance, as a key issue emerging from the WSIS process, is an important multi-stakeholder platform.
“The key to making Internet Governance a success at both the sub-regional and regional levels is dependent on the take up and active participation at the national level. To this end, national forums on the management of Internet resources and critical infrastructure are encouraged in countries,” said Faye.
So far, Africa has hosted 2 annual IGF meetings – with the 2009 IGF being held in Egypt while the 2011 IGF, which had the highest attendance, was held in Nairobi. The African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) was launched in 2011 to support and promote the consolidation of the on-going regional initiatives and reach out to continental and global stakeholders and guide in their engagement in continental, regional and national initiatives.
The seventh global IGF will take place on November 6-9, 2012, in Baku, Azerbaijan under the theme: “Internet Governance for Sustainable Human, Economic and Social Development.
“We expect that this conference will promote discussions on the African IG agenda and shape the way for Africa’s participation in the next IGF, in Baku,” said Faye.
Contributed by Michael Ouma (@michaelouma)