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Enhancing Open Governance Advocacy for Internet Governance in Tunisia

Tunisia has portrayed itself as a model of Internet governance (IG) in the MENA region by holding various IG debates with multiple stakeholders (WSIS 2005). By engaging in the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) initiative in 2011, Tunisia sought to promote transparent governance by committing to respect and deliver the action plan of the Open Governance Declaration.

To establish a new road map for more inclusive IG in Tunisia, policymakers must devise institutional reforms that target the lack of transparency and bureaucratic state deficiencies concerning the government’s information sharing. The OGP initiative is a step toward new and inclusive modalities of IG processes in Tunisia. At the state level the previous revolutionary government launched an open data portal for publishing its documents.

In 2011 it ratified Decree 41 on the right to share administrative documents. Further, the newly drafted Tunisian constitution emphasizes investigating corruption in the public and private sectors to achieve an inclusive, accessible, and non partisan IG agenda in Tunisia. After the social uprising in Tunisia, two private telecom operators “Tunisiana” and “Orange” will no longer have to go through the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) for their Internet traffic, thus lending them greater autonomy.

Under the Zine el Abidine Ben Ali regime, ATI was the principal Tunisian ISP provider, run by the Ministry of Communication. However, for decades the state abused its mandate to promote just Internet usage in Tunisia. To improve IG and services to citizens while encouraging competition, the state and private sector should improve IXP digital technologies nationally through a reform strategy.This should include the proliferation of fiber-optic networks, regenerated submarine cables, and upgrading IXP physical infrastructure for more inclusive, independent, and unfiltered Internet traffic between different operating networks at the national and international level. I want to highlight the structural dependency that exists between IG and open governance.

This relationship enables us to understand that in order to achieve a good index of IG in Tunisia, state transparency and accountability efforts must go hand-in-hand with efforts to allow citizens to monitor their governments for corruption, bribery, mass surveillance, filtering processes, and abuse – both online and off-line – of human rights. A Tunisian society with an independent inquiring press, printed or electronic, can help guarantee transparency and IG legislative checks and balances.

It can also generate independent interest in providing more access to information and protecting citizens’ privacy so they are not exposed to retributions or negative repercussions. The Open Government Partnership is a promising platform for opening Tunisia to the world, showcasing IG savoir-faire, and learning about best practices. The government and private sector should engage in concerted efforts at the regional and international level through an innovative approach to the management of public affairs. It is essential that this collaboration embraces both the promotion of IG governance as well as the fight against institutional corruption. By securing such cooperation, Tunisia will better seize the formidable opportunity it has to build a genuine democracy.

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