General News of Thursday, 27 September 2018
The Collaboration for International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa, CIPESA with support from the Media Foundation for West Africa today held a public forum on internet freedom in Africa to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy and the free flow of information online on the continent.
The event dubbed; “Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) brought together major stakeholders in the internet governance and digital rights fraternity across the country and beyond.
Since the launch of its maiden edition in Uganda in 2014, Ghana is the first West African country to host the event after South Africa organised it last year.
Stressing on the importance of the annual meeting, Head of Research and Communications for CIPESA, Juliet Nanfuka said it was to help deliberate on developments, challenges, opportunities and ways by which the internet ecosystem in Africa can be improved.
According to her, while the internet has become a vital tool for enhancing freedom of expression, access to information and boosting citizen’s participation to national governance, it was also becoming a target of hostile policies by some government and individuals.
“Since 2014 the event has been held in Uganda, till last year when it was hosted in South Africa, then we realised there was a need to have it in different countries because the issues that came out seems to run through all the African countries. Issues like data privacy and protection, social accountability, to social inclusion both online and offline are the same everywhere which is why we partnered with the Media Foundation for West Africa to come here.
So far we have heard of concerns around the issue that continue to affect internet use in Africa, the regulations online, why social media is being charged in some countries etc.
These are real concerns that people are raising and are keen on having more discussions around them, more policies put in place. It is also great to see the connections that are being made across board and what can be done to solve some of these issues.”
Speaking at the forum, Deputy Communications Minister Vincent Sowah Odotei pledged government’s commitment to helping make internet easily accessible to all.
He said, projects like the Eastern Corridor Fibre Optic Backbone will go a long way to not only ensure that people in remote areas get access to the internet but also data becomes more affordable and cheap.
“Internet is growing very quickly in Ghana. Today the use of the internet has given meaning to the rights of the people. It has brought cyber-space to the doorstep of every one. The spread of information is faster and smooth. With the installation of The Eastern Corridor Fibre Optic Backbone, now more place in the Volta and Northern parts of the country can boast of internet. This project will attract high investment and improve the socio-economic standard of the people. And thanks to our telecommunication giants, Ghana now has 4G which is faster.
We believe that as the internet becomes more accessible, cost of data will also reduce. We are also not oblivious to the harm the internet can cause and that is why the ministry never fails to educate the public on its harmful effect.”
The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa, which coincided with the International Day for Universal Access to Information was held at the La-Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra and was attend by various participants across Africa.