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The Internet Governance Forum: what does it mean for Africa? (research article)

The Internet Governance Forum: what does it mean for Africa? (Le forum sur la Gouvernance de l'Internet : quel sens pour l'Afrique?)

By Ken LOHENTO - Octobre 2009


This article seeks to understand the representation and interest of the IGF process within the African ICT community, and to give illustrations of its eventual impact. To do this, we, primarily, have analyzed exchanges on two key discussion lists on which African views on Internet governance are conveyed. To complement and validate if necessary observations, we have consulted some documents produced by some players and have questioned others. We have also based conclusions on our observation of the process since its launch in 2006.

The two lists analyzed are a panAfrican list (the AfrICANN list, created by the AfriNIC, the body responsible for managing IP and ASN addresses for the continent) and an international list (the Governance list, a discussion space for the international civil society Internet Governance Caucus). The first space was analyzed during six months (November 2008 - April 2009) and the second during a year (May 2008 - April 2009). These lists are two public lists, the most relevant for our analysis. It has been observed that only 7% of contributions dealt with IGF on the AfrICANN in the period; this figure shows an interest in the international process, but it is minimal, on a space that gathered key African ICT governance players. However, as contributions on other subjects discussed on the list illustrate, Internet Governance as an issue is of a strong concern, specifically when it relates to its consolidation in Africa. “Localising IGF” has then become a common leitmotiv on the continent. From another point of view, 5.43% of the Internet Governance Caucus list contributions came from African subscribers during the twelve months analyzed. This figure is at least below the continent's presence on this space (about 10%). However, it has to be stressed that Africa do contributes to life in this group at all levels, including during development of contributions submitted to IGF. On both lists, the feeble African participation that may be understood by several factors is regretted, by African stakeholders themselves first of all, and calls for reversing this trend are often made. All these conclusions are validated by the observation of the whole process, the analysis of some written productions and discussions with some key actors.

A main conclusion after this research is that, although Africa contributes and participates in IGF in different manners and for various reasons, its interest in the international process is minimal; this is due to the mandate of the Forum (which is not seen as a space for solutions that Africa is urgently longing for), due to the basic access to ICT needs and to the crucial need to strengthen internet governance on the continent, which is seen as a greater priority. In addition, the involvement of the academia is laking, as well that of regional economic organizations (ECOWAS, SADC, etc.), maybe because governments seem less interested in the process. The other main conclusion is that, capacity building for some African ICT actors, and the increased awareness on the importance of the multi-stakeholder approach in policy making in the sector, are seen as the key advantages gained from the international process.

It is therefore crucial, in this period of mid-term “evaluation” of IGF, and some days before its fourth annual meeting organized in Africa, that mechanisms that support capacity building are strengthened and made more visible, if further enhancing the importance of the international process in the eyes of actors of the continent is an aim.

Key words: internet governance, Africa, political participation, discussion list, access, WSIS, IGF, civil society, technical community, international cooperation.

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Comment by Ahmed Almarwani on November 27, 2009 at 6:28pm
Very Good Article



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