The Chief Executive Officer for the international internet body Internet Society (ISOC) Kathy Brown is a woman on a mission. She want to see Africa have a strong internet. Brown was giving a keynote speech during the ongoing Africa Internet Summit in Gaborone yesterday. She told delegates from across the continent that Africa has what it takes to be a force to reckon with in the ICT space. (better internet for Africa)
“The Internet has revolutionized the way we live, learn, communicate and the way we do our business. Most of us now can’t and won’t imagine our lives without it and we take the existence of the Internet for granted,” she said.
In addition, the CEO explained that “Today, the Internet is everything. That is why the Internet Society believes that everyone needs to be connected. We believe everyone, in every country, should have access to the opportunities that the global information society provides. The Internet impacts and transforms the world around us and offers the potential to accelerate human progress, bridge the digital divide and develop knowledge-based societies. Through our work at the Internet Society, over nearly 25 years, we’ve seen the Internet change how people work, socialize, learn, share, and innovate. We’ve seen its impact on economies, on business, on government.”
As to what the internet can do, Brown made her point clear for the delegates. The Internet can enable and accelerate development in areas including healthcare, education, gender equality, and financial inclusion, as recognized by the UN last year.
“It’s not about technology — it’s about medicine, education, transportation, banking, and ultimately it’s about empowering people. The Internet can have a profound impact on just about everything and everyone. But, more than half of the world’s population is not online yet. There are billions of people missing out on the life-changing benefits of the Internet, and we believe it is our collective responsibility to take action to change this,” she lamented.
Talking about her vision for Africa’s full connectivity she said “I spoke about the need to continue building an Internet for Africa: Africa has an appetite for the Internet. It needs more connections, Africa’s proportion of the global population is 16%; its share of global Internet users is just under 10%. Internet access in Africa can cost 30 or 40 times more than in developed countries.
“While the increase in submarine cables has meant that Africa now has the capacity to connect with the rest of the world, challenges remain with intercontinental connectivity. Both investment and regulatory issues tend to stall the kind of cross border data flows that will allow vibrant Internet communication, collaboration and commerce between and among the African nations. Routing anomalies resulting in expensive out of continent exchange of traffic. And this is increasing costs. This can be fixed. Every country should have at least one Internet Exchange Point. And, if we want a dynamic, affordable information economies across Africa, we must create and host data locally. Africa must build its own data centers and create the extended ecosystem that builds on itself.”
I spoke about building it better: Africa has a chance to leapfrog technology and constraints, and to create an Internet that helps to solve local AND global problems Cybersecurity is a leading issue on the Internet agenda, including in Africa. We now know the consequences of a lack of security, we need to face the trust issue head-on Africa can find a legislative balance that promotes government sharing of cyber threat information with the private sector while also ensuring the privacy of online users, there is a chance to build the basic legislative frameworks to address cybercrime in Africa
“And I spoke about building it stronger: The African Internet community is the answer, this strong and thriving Internet community, in partnership with the global community, has the ability to continue and accelerate the progress made to date. As Africa continues to make further strides in building its Internet economy, we need to convince our governments and our business partners that the multi stakeholder model is vital for success.
Africa is uniquely positioned to build a stronger and better Internet for its citizens. Currently it is estimated that as much as 28% of Africa’s population is online. The continent has the highest growth rate in Internet use over the past 5 years, and is expected to have one of the highest growth rates of Internet users in the years ahead. The Internet Society believes that connecting the unconnected and building trust are the two most pressing imperatives facing the Internet today. We work across Africa and around the world to address these challenges.”
She challenged stakeholders to be torch bearers in advancing the cause for the speedy development of the internet across the continent, “Now, we need to expand the circle of stakeholders who care about deployment of an open, trusted, resilient Internet. We need to adapt the way we work to conform to this new direction. The old ways were words but today we need action. The challenges of investment, infrastructure, regulation, capacity building, and governance are deeply interlinked, requiring the commitment and cooperation of stakeholders from across sectors, nations, and regions.”
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana