Internet Shutdowns Taking a Toll on Africa's Internet Economy

21 December 2017 - A Workshop on Other in Geneva, Switzerland

Agenda

Proposer's Name: Ms. Yolanda Mlonzi
Proposer's Organization: Internet Society Gauteng
Co-Proposer's Name: Mr. Joash Moitui
Co-Proposer's Organization: Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies
Co-Organizers:
Ms.,Yolanda,MLONZI,CivilSociety,Internet Society Mr.,Joash,MOITUI,CivilSociety,Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies Ms.Aicha,JERIDI,CivilSociety,Hivos-IGMena

Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Proposer:
Country: South Africa
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Co-Proposer:
Country: Kenya
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Speaker: Joash Moitui
Speaker: SAMUEL NDICHO BAMBO
Speaker: Aicha Jeridi
Speaker: Evelyn Namara

Content of the Session:
“An internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information” (source: AccessNow)

Governments in Africa are increasingly enacting a "kill switch" on the internet. The recent past has witnessed internet shutdowns in several countries ranging from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya and Uganda. The growing normalization of Internets Shutdowns is increasingly worrying. This beg the critical question, "What type of digital economic future are we anticipating for developing countries?’ The internet has revolutionized the way citizens engage in politics and issues of public of interest, where citizens/netizens are increasingly finding their voices and challenging systems of governance and accountability in their home countries. Moreover, the internet is fast changing the face of employment opportunities and through the internet and ICTs economies are being diversified. The digital economy through the internet and ICTs are becoming the bedrock to translucent trading and economic growth.

With the growing number of occurrences of internet shutdowns in regions like Africa, the regional internet Registry (AfriNIC) community members proposed a policy early this year calling for denial of IP addresses to governments involved in interference of internet access in their countries. The policy also called for bans up to 5-10 years for states involved in persistent internet shutdowns. Whilst there is a strong need to eradicate the persistent culture of internet shutdowns, and traditional methods of signing petitions being no longer impactful in bringing desired results, there is need to reevaluate whether such drastic approaches will be instrumental in providing sustainable solutions that promote a prosperous digital economy in the long run. AfriNIC as an organisation has not endorsed the policy, as it is facing massive opposition from other members within the organisation. The policy suggestion will be further discussed in length in the coming months, nevertheless, the thought to prompt a digital future of a tit for tat basis warrants a turbulent internet ecosystem in Africa.

Therefore, this session will unpack prospects of an internet economy in unstable countries with policy suggestions that tend to be unsustainable in nature. The core of the workshop is twofold:
Addressing the impacts that internet shutdowns and draconian policies in response to shutdowns will have on sustainable goal 9 & the internet economy
How best to mitigate instances where the internet economy is crippled by allowing the normalization of internet shutdowns

Session agenda (subject to minimal changes) will address the following:
1. Effects of internet shutdowns in an internet dependent world and on SDGs
2. Future of the internet economy with internet shutdown
3. Country case study: Cameroon
4. Sustainable methods and strategies to deal with internet shutdowns
5. Open floor discussion

The purpose of the session is to be very interactive yet informative. The duration of the session will be 90mins roundtable, with 6 speakers discussions broken down in the following:
- 10mins opening remarks/introduction from speakers
- 45mins panel discussion with moderator probing
- 35mins open floor discussion with periodic intervals for remote participants 

Relevance of the Session:
Around the world, digital technology is seen as vital for economic development. A 2012 World Bank analysis found “a ten percentage point increase in fixed broadband generating a 1.35% increase in per capita GDP for developing countries and a 1.19% increase for developed countries.” Since then, developing countries especially in Africa have become even more reliant on the internet and digital technology has expanded its role in the overall economy. The centrality of the internet to social and economic life recently led the United Nations to enact a resolution supporting the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet”. The resolution proposed specifically condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures. As such, dimming a possibility of a thriving digital future for Africa and digressing from sustainable developmental goals call for a rise in innovation, reliable infrastructure and an increase in multi-stakeholder cooperation. The shaping of a prosperous digital future in Africa starts today and is further propelled by the type of policies that we wish to put in place. Therefore, greater efforts need to be made secure this future. 

Tag 1: Internet Economy
Tag 2: Internet & ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals
Tag 3: Digital Future

Interventions:
All the speakers invited are range from civil society, technical community, government, academia and business. Additionally, some of the speakers live in countries where internet shutdowns have occurred and they have seen firsthand the type of impacts that shutdowns have had on the internet economy and human rights. This richness will blend into giving accurate and lived experiences, but fundamentally, will try to find suitable and sustainable solutions that aim to protect the digital economic future of Africa. 

Diversity:
The session will gear towards a multi-stakeholder representative panel that will bring new voices and dynamic young individuals to the fore. Key stakeholder groups pertaining to the issue of internet shutdowns will be represented, such as civil society (which represents the user views), academia, technical community, government and business. In addition to this, we have found it important that the panel stem from the global south to give an opportunity to under-represented groups and opportunity to make their voice heard and to strategically think of solutions for the internet issue that we are currently facing. Gender, national and age diversity is incorporated, by having young leading females on the panel and representatives from different countries whom will give relevant country contexts on internet shutdowns.
Current speakers (confirmed & unconfirmed) of the session include:
3 females
3 males
6 African countries represented
5 stakeholder groups
80% speaker being youth who are leading in their career and work in internet policy

Onsite Moderator: Yolanda Mlonzi
Online Moderator: Thato Mfikwe
Rapporteur: Chenai Chair

Online Participation:
Remote participation
ISOC Gauteng (South Africa) will host a remote hub. ISOC Gauteng is a non-profit organization that mainly does work in the township areas of South Africa, sharing knowledge and digital skills with marginalized communities.

Discussion facilitation:
Format: Roundtable

The purpose of the session is to be very interactive yet informative. The duration of the session will be 90mins roundtable discussions broken down in the following:
10mins opening remarks/introduction from speakers
45min panel discussion with moderator probing
35min open floor discussion with periodic intervals for remote participants

The roundtable will be in such a way that the audience/participants and the speakers will sit in one large round table with individual microphones per chair on the table. This set up allows for an open and equal space for dialogue and emphasizing that panel speakers are not more important than the audience. Also it will give room for ease of debate and discussions, where audiences will have a microphone near to them.

There will be a dedicated answer and question period, where during this time, participants and panel speakers are free to talk about the content of the session in length. More time will be given to open floor

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: No
Link to Report: 

Additional Speakers: 

1. Barrack Otieno, General Manager, African Top Level Domains Organization (AFTLD) (Kenya, Technical Community)

Mr. Otieno areas of expertise include Internet and Information and Communications Technology Policy development and advocacy, community based Information and Communications Technology for development work and institutional leadership with emphasis on strategy development and multicountry stakeholder and coalition development. He's expertise is anchored around the role of the Internet as a tool for social and economic development focusing on Internet governance, public policy, the right and access to communication and Information for...