Monday, 1 December 2014

Soldiering on and championing the cause for Internet Governance

As we land at OR Tambo International Airport on our return from Mauritius, I cannot help but feel as big as a Baobab Tree.  We left from various parts of the African continent as just seedlings but now we were all taller and bigger. We were not big from the food we have been eating at Tamassa Resort, but we are bigger because we are all pregnant with more knowledge acquired from the African School of Internet Governance.

The seeds were planted by the call for applications to participate in the 2nd African School of Internet Governance. Out of the more than 600 applications from all over the continent, only 45 of us were selected ( ), who had varying degrees of knowledge and understanding of Internet Governance.  We are the ‘chosen ones’, the flag bearers for the various countries and institutions we come from.  The Tamassa Resort in Mauritius provided the fertile soil on which the seedlings of Internet Governance were watered. 

To be in the same room as, and listen to Mr Nii Narku Quaynor, ‘the father of Internet in Africa” who is a living and human library of knowledge, was really empowering. Same goes for an experienced faculty of thought leaders in the field of internet governance that walked the journey with us.

By the second day of the school, we could already see a difference in our reasoning as well acronyms, vocabulary and terminology use.  We have learned big concepts like:  Multistakeholderism, Net Neutrality, Internet rights amongst others.

As we bid each other farewell with other Fellows who will be catching connecting flights to their countries, the saying; ‘a mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions’ started making a lot of sense.  We have an obligation to soldier on and champion the cause for Internet governance.

As for me, I already have some fundamental questions that I need to shape the answers thereto:-

1)   Why does a developing country like South Africa, which is a member of BRICS, not have a National Internet Governance Forum?

2)   Does the current ICT Policy gazetted by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services address all the pertinent Internet Governance issues I have just learned about?

3)   Why is the Internet Governance debate not featuring on annual events like the GovtTech conference as well as the annual programme of the Government IT Officers Council (GITOC)?

As a Fellow of the 2nd African School on Internet Governance, the onus is on me and my South African Fellows to help our country in answering these questions and many more as well putting Internet Governance on the national discourse.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Technology everywhere except where needed by the majority

The year 2013 is gone and everything that happened during the hours, days, weeks and months in that year will be referenced by historians as part of history. 

To wrap up 2013, I spent almost the whole month at my home (Mamphokgo Village) in Limpopo. The December month was very eventful with lost of braaing and partying.  However, I also realized a few things about the challenges of connectivity in our not-so rural village.

·      Whereas most people are now using smart phones and tablets in the surrounding areas, these smart devices end up being used just to take pictures at weddings and parties due to connectivity challenges.

·      You have a better chance of getting a 3G connection by travelling about 20km to the nearest towns of Groblersdal or Marble Hall.  What is worrying about this, is that the residents of these two small towns are much fewer than the communities of Moganyaka combined.

·      This raises the question about the numbers punted about by the telco companies playing in the mobile space in terms of their number of subscribers.  Is the interest in the number of sim cards purchased or real value derived by the subscribers from getting the same connectivity by everyone else in South Africa?

·      In these areas, I noticed that you can only get better connectivity by going to the nearest mountain if you cannot drive. Initially I thought our community were enjoying the beauty of nature and the shades provided by the mountain trees, but I realized that most people were going there for better signals on their cellphones. Things have really changed.

On another note, I also picked up that my Limpopians just love their expensive clothes.  Every second youth in these parts had on their Carvella, Rosmotta  and Arbiter shoes (don’t blame me for the wrong spellings) for the not so young. I could not help but notice all the latest fashion labels that i was not aware of e.g Columbia clothes.  Hopefully one days Mzansi will also be a clothing label.

This might be an indication that there is more buying power for data bundles in these parts than the telco companies realize.  Otherwise, what will be the point to purchasing these expensive pieces by my fellow citizens if they cannot show them off on Facebook, WhatsUp etc.

Perhaps there is another Mark Shuttleworth waiting to be discovered in this place only if there could be more data for the people!  Hopefully one day Telkom, MTN, Vodacom and Cell C will make this happen as I am certain that this applies to most rural areas in the country …..