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Internet Governance Roundtable

INET Roundtable
Panel Discussion during INET 2006
in Nairobi.

How important is the Internet Governance debate for Africa? Is this another strategy to distract us and to make Africa fall even more behind and distract from the real issues? What role can the IGF play and what topics should it address?

The main problem for Africa are the high access costs. It is not clear if the discussion around Internet Governance will help to solve that. However, it was suggested that Africa (and especially the African Internet community) needs to participate in this debate, but it needs to be prepared for it; otherwise it will be left out.

Even though not many concrete results came out of the International Internet Governance discussion, it was felt that it had a number of positive effects:

  • it increased awareness and forces people to participate and to develop a position.
  • it allows the technical community to have a forum to interact with policy makers and governments.
  • existing Internet organisations cooperate better
  • governments are more informed about the way the Internet functions, but still need to learn more (see developments of IXPs once regulators understand the benefits for all)

Top issues that need to be addressed (possibly by the IGF):

  1. international connectivity costs
  2. lower the bar to access; technical solutions exist, we need to ensure governance system supports them
  3. local content; Africans have a lot to teach to the world; we need to get the information out there!
  4. cyber security (spammers etc. use the security holes and those countries that have the lowest security (e.g. Nigeria)
  5. community radio (broadcasting commissioon needs to licence frequencies for community radio). But now we have podcasts!
  6. WiMax (access to rural areas)

It will not be useful if the IGF would talk about technical issues that are already addressed in other fora (like the RIRs, root servers, ICANN).

Even though many issue rely on governance on the local/national level (and need to be solved there), the Internet Governance Forum (for instance) can act as some sort of a watch dog to remind countries of their committments. Regarding access and costs, Africa cannot wait for the IGF to make decisions. African countries, including the technical community need to provide decisions and push those positions.