The 10th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF23) has started in Nairobi. DRIF23 is a three-day event with 600 people from all over the world. The forum started with a panel discussion that featured Emma Inamutila Theofelus, who’s the Deputy Minister for ICT in Namibia; Grace Githaiga, the leader of KICTANet; ‘Gbenga Sesan, who heads the Paradigm Initiative; and Vladimir Garay, who’s the Advocacy Director of Derechos Digitales. They all agreed that we need good Internet and fair rules across Africa.
Ms. Theofelus, who spoke about the level of Internet penetration in Namibia, pointed out the huge cost involved in developing infrastructure and the need for government and political will.
“Rolling out infrastructure is difficult and very expensive. We have put in place the conditions for licensing and investment from the government. There has been some political will. This includes the Universal Service Fund. We also have one of the most liberated media on the continent,” she said.
Ms. Githaiga emphasized the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration and joint convenings in delivering Internet access. “As KICTANet, we have held joint convenings focusing on cybersecurity, data protection, and the broadband report. The Kenya Internet Governance Forum is our flagship program. Through the forum, we discuss and see how to fit issues into our local context.”
On his part, Vladimir stressed the importance of Internet access saying connectivity supports human rights. “People want high quality, affordable, and secure internet connectivity. The Internet is expensive and limited. We need to acknowledge and address internet connectivity gaps.”
‘Gbenga also urged stakeholders to contribute towards efforts aimed at ensuring Internet accessibility. “If all stakeholders don’t get their hands dirty, we will come back here 10 years later to discuss the same issues,” he added.
Paradigm Initiative is hosting the DRIF23 event with two other groups: Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) and the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) from Strathmore University. KICTANet is a group of people who think and talk about ICT policy and regulation in Kenya. CIPIT is a research and training center at Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya.
At the DRIF23, Paradigm Initiative is working with some key partners from Internews, the Global Digital Inclusion Partnership, Derechos Digitales, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), Inclusive Tech Group, Access Now, Data Privacy Brazil, Defend Defenders, Youth and Society, Tech Societal, the Global Network Initiative, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, MTN and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, to name a few.
The DRIF23 sponsors are the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ford Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, Google, Open Technology Fund, and the Global Network Initiative (GNI).
PIN, which is a big group for digital rights and inclusion in Africa, has been running DRIF since 2013. The forum’s theme is Building A Sustainable Internet For All. It will bring together people from the government, NGOs, schools, media, funding partners, the UN, the technical community, and businesses in the digital world.
The forum is hosting 70 sessions with partners from 48 countries across the world. Sessions are focused on among other themes, Internet shutdowns, Universal Service Fund utilization, data protection, content moderation, and censorship. Also lined up at the event are key launches of research, platforms, and networks. Last year’s DRIF under the theme, Towards a Digitally Inclusive Africa was a hybrid event that was able to reach over 1,300 individuals. Physical sessions were hosted in 17 African countries.
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