African countries are showing greater interest in how to patrol the internet and are pushing for more participation in the process, writes Clifford Agugoesi
THE recent Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA) roundtable in Abuja brought together stakeholders in the ICT sector for the first time in a bid to ramp up efforts at increasing the participation of the continent in the policy process of internet governance. For instance, there was a push to get Nigeria to vie to host the 2018 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), given that the country has one of the fastest growing ICT sectors in the world. However, there were some participants who felt that Nigeria should bid for the IGF at a later date in order to ensure that a gathering of such magnitude was well planned.
These arguments notwithstanding, it was clear that there is now deep commitment among members of AfICTA to engage fully with those who are shaping the future of the internet and how to patrol it. The Chairman of AfICTA, Dr. Jimson Olufuye, spoke on why African business leaders should make their voices heard in this respect. “Where it mattered most, representation is less than three per cent. When they are talking about policy framework to chart the direction of the internet, we are not there and yet there are lots of businesses going on. So, we are really going to mobilise and encourage many of us to be involved,” he said.
He pointed out that no serious business today can survive without the internet. “That the internet is working should not be taken for granted. It can actually fail,” Olufuye said.
“ICANN, the organisation responsible for maintaining an open, stable, secure and resilient internet, needs you to continue to sustain an open, stable, secure and resilient internet.
“The US is relinquishing its oversight function on ICANN and wants to hand it over to the global internet community including business. As business you need to know where you can fit in, in the unfolding scenario to keep the internet working.”
AfICTA currently has 20 members, starting out with six countries at its meeting in Cairo last year, attracting many professionals across Africa. Its third meeting, with the theme ICT: Lightening the Way to Development and Prosperity across Africa, is scheduled for Johannesburg in September in conjunction with the Faku’gesi Digital Africa Festival 2015.
The President of ICT Strategies, mCADE LLC, Marilyn Cade, noted that internet governance mattered to everybody and that it was still a project under construction. She urged African business leaders to drive the agenda that they wanted.
“Access is still a core challenge for not only the three billion connected, but the next four billion. Capacity building, affordable devices and resiliency have not been solved,” Cade said. “Security versus privacy of data and communications – balance needs more focused debate; larger world challenges affecting geo politics. Five major threats as drivers of geo politics – water, food, energy, safety, and climate change implications for environment sustainable development goals – must be integrated into post 2015 WSIS agenda to advance the information society.”
The Chairman of the Computer Society of Kenya, Dr. Waudo Siganga, argued that the internet should be private sector-led and involve multi-stakeholders. He stressed that no business can survive a failed or unstable internet service or one that is not open and secure. According to him, the internet is the new marketplace and no business can afford to lose its identity or undergo branding abuse/defensive registrations. This was the reason why they should be part of the discussion, Siganga said.
The Vice President for Africa at ICANN, Pierre Dandjinou, stressed the need for appropriate policies on domain name system (DNS) administration to be in place, and the need for innovativeness in making alternative financing sources available by banks to provide liquidity for the growth of the industry. He called for revenue accrued from the DNS auctions to be properly invested.
The President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Lanre Ajayi, stated that Nigeria institutionalised domain name system administration in 1995, three years before the birth of ICANN. He commended past leaderships at NIRA for building a solid foundation, but regretted the number of registrations, currently about 50,000, had not been encouraging.
He said he was happy, though, that the current leadership at NIRA was committed to growing the numbers. “But we also need to look at the challenges. I think the greatest challenges we seem to have is awareness,” Ajayi said. “The awareness is pretty low about the existence of the domain name industry in Nigeria, particularly on how to obtain the.ng domain. One other challenge is the difficulty in registering .ng.
“We have heard some people saying it is not that difficult; just go to the registrars’ website and do it. In theory, it is easy. How many people in Nigeria have the capacity or knowledge to first register a domain name with the registrar and then look for a hosting company to register the hosting and now point the registration from the registrar to the hosting company and now start developing his website on his own? Only very few people have the capacity. Whereas, when you go abroad they do everything together: registration, hosting, website.”
The BC-ICANN Outreach Coordinator and CEO of AMGlobal, Andrew Mack, highlighted the need for businesses to participate and make a difference in the DNS industry which he described as both a challenge and a huge opportunity. He said there are three new movements in the internet world: the new gTLD programme and the expansion of the internet; IANA transition planning-some kind of ‘decoupling’ from connection to the US; and an incredible growth in emerging markets
On Africa and the new gTLDs Mack said it was a missed opportunity, with Africa having only 17 applications in the internet space. Africans had to show the marketplace that they will buy and use new gTLDs. It was also an opportunity for a real change for ccTLDs prompting some to revisit their plans and an opportunity for great partnerships.
In an overview of the Nigeria’s cybersecurity readiness by the CEO of Continental Project Affairs Associates, Olutoyin Oloniteru, he said that the government and people of Nigeria had jointly taken various strategic measures in the fight against cybercrime, thus creating a culture of trust and confidence in Nigeria’s digital economy.
For instance, Oloniteru said that the setting up of the National Coordinating Centre for the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and the establishment of the Nigeria Internet Governance Process were part of this process. In addition, he said, Nigeria needed to participate more in the regional and global multi-stakeholders policy process.
The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Dr. Peter Jack, who gave the keynote address, laid bare his office’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2018. “This strategic plan presents a systematic and pragmatic set of programmes or initiatives that reflect what needs to be done to [move the] NITDA towards a service oriented, modern, accountable and real time agency that will facilitate a digitally transformed Nigeria,” he said.
“The main thrust is to identify and highlight the drivers and catalysts that will transform the economy as well as foster high quality of life for all citizens. Finally, it will foster a set of principles that NITDA and its stakeholders shall imbibe to accomplish these initiatives.”
Some of the targets set by the plan include:
4,000,000 additional jobs by 2018; 80 per cent of public services would be available online; 60 per cent of the populace to access services online; and 70 per cent of computing devices especially in homes with school going children. The plan also aims to develop 3,000 new SME IT companies in Nigeria; generate over $15 billion from home grown software/hardware and IT services to the economy; and generate $3 billion revenue through BPO; local software and digital content growth of 55 per cent in four years; 40 per cent reduction in cybercrime; and 50 per cent improved privacy and personal safety.
In the final analysis, Mack said, the internet “is perhaps the greatest tool for economic development ever – and we have the chance to steer its course. The community needs all voices – especially business – to get the policies right”.happy wheels