Internet Governance Forum In Nairobi- Main Points on the First day

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This  week Nairobi Kenya is hosting Internet Governance Forum under the theme“Internet as a catalyst for Change: Access, Development, Freedom and Innovation” . The global IGF is being held in Africa for the first time and thousands of internet experts and users are Nairobi to discuss challenges facing the internet.  A closer look at the theme and one would realize that  the theme is well fitting considering   the number of things which have happened so far this year. The political uprising in North Africa and Middle East , the concerted effort by the US Government to shut Wikileaks after  the exposure of cables from the US embassies are some of the incidences why net activists are up in arms demanding less control of the internet by the Governments.

The following are the main points covered on the first day of the IGF:

  • The state should be a protector and not a killer

It is a general consensus that  the internet empowers citizens  to a level that has never been seen before. With that in mind all the stakeholders should work together towards promoting and encouraging the growth of internet as a space for freedom,expression and innovation. Unfortunately there is one elephant in the room among the stakeholders called Government probably with a different agenda.  It is obvious to many that for internet to achieve it’s potential, the public authorities must support and protect the internet, and should  never do something silly to kill it.

  • The future growth and development depends largely on the Internet

Internet accounts for more than a quarter of the GDP growth in matured countries with ecommerce playing central role in this. That is supported by the study by McKinsey published this year which found out that Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in mature countries. In the developing countries like Kenya, the picture is slightly different. Kenya in particular bypassed the ecommerce stage and went straight to m-commerce (Mobile commerce aka “m-commerce” refers to consumers shopping through mobile payment system). According to Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) director-general Francis Wangusi,  ICT contributes to 2.8% of Kenya GDP.  With the massive growth of number of the mobile phone subscribers witnessed in the last few years , that is expected to rise steadily. See the Infographic: Kenya Mobile subscribers, Penetration and Internet .

  • Cyberattacks on governments, corporations, and individuals/Security
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How safe is the internet more so for those with less technical expertise or children. That is one question which will be discussed throughout across the three days of the gathering. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda has the opinion  that  the Internet must inspire confidence. According to him  people will use the online world only as far as they can  trust it.

“If the Internet is for everyone, then it must be a place of security, privacy and safety for everyone, not just for those with deep technical expertise, or deep pockets” he said on his speech.

In Kenya alone, we have seen all forms of Cybercrime including mobile money transfer fraud, electronic banking fraud,  government websites hacking (defacement of the Kenya Police Website being one the examples). Then there is the issue of the children, who require protection from the dangers they face online.

We will wait and see if the forum will come up with action which can be taken to make  internet completely safe for everyone.

  •  Multi-Stakeholders approach

Is Multi-Stakeholders approach of the Governance of the Internet the way to go or should it be changed to direct regulation by each country or region?

Some international organization and Governments are calling for multi-stakeholders to be abandoned and the direct regulation of internet be adopted. The bigger contention here is the question of attribution and of who is responsible of what. Under what law is the internet operating. Governing a borderless environment like Internet is a big challenge and sometime there could be uncertainty or outright conflict. Discussion continues on this.

  • Climate Change
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It is one the biggest issue facing humanity today, and ICT could be crucial in this regard. It is said that ICTs are responsible for 2-3% of global greenhouse emissions, but they can help to reduce emissions in other sectors by 15%. That is huge and more attention should be paid to it

….I am looking forward to the second day

What is your opinion on the topic?
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