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African participation in ICT policy and Global Internet Governance- an emerging dynamic

by Ashraf Patel
1st International Giganet Workshop ()

Abstract

The UN World Summits on Information Society (WSIS) summits in Geneva (2003) and Tunis ( 2005) were historical ICT for Development events that galvanized participation of key stakeholders in bridging the digital divide, especially in regions like Africa. One positive observation has been the high level of interest and mobilisation of new actors in Africa around WSIS. These induced civil society organizations articulating an equitable information society, , academic networks demanding better connectivity and networks, as well as other interest groups such as Afrsipa articulating better deal for African ISP's and consumers. The new Internet Governance Forum (IGF) processes, a much more diverse and multistakeholder format has seen a high level and sophisticated myriad of issues across the spectrum. A range of factors have seen a marginal decline of African voices in the " broader internet governance and development debate." The paper will map out the scope and range of African wide participation in the IGF formats. It hopes to detailed the range of organizations and their level of policy inputs and effectiveness. It will focus on the following key communities:  Academic Networks (e.g Uhurunet) One of the very positive outcome of the WSIS process was a focus on the need for quality broadband networks and connectivity for African universities. This part will map the growth of the Uhurunet network which evolved and is now playing a key role in the emerging fibre-optic infrastructure development projects in Africa. It will explore how these NREN's are governance, management and operations of Africa's mega fibre-optic projects.  African Interest Groups impact at WSIS and internet governance This component will develop a detail on the policy development strategies of key Africa interesting groups in regional and global internet governance. It will map the processes, approaches and the issues faced by key constituencies in the telecoms and Internet sector in Africa. These include the African Internet Registry (AFRINIC) and African Internet Service Providers Association (AFRISPA)  ICT Policy training in African universities The third component of the research will focus on the academic communities, more specifically, how global ICT policies are evolving in universities and executive training programs in southern Africa. It will map the telecoms and ICT policy courses and how new content are being integrated in curricula. These include WSIS and IGF related issues such as: Access to Knowledge, privacy and security, access and affordability, E Governance, open standards. I will do a academic mapping exercise on two Africa ICT policy centres 1) LINK Centre, Wits university in South Africa and 2) Centre for Public Administration and Management (CESPAM) based in Botswana. I will assess their progress in integrating new internet policy issues in curricular and teaching. I have been involved with both institutions over many years and am currently developing an ICT Policy and Executive Management course for CESPAM in mid- 2008.

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