SANGONET EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REMARKS DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF REGIONAL DIALOGUE ON INTERNET ACCESS HELD IN OR TAMBO PROTEA HOTEL (05/11/2019). PRESENTED BY KENNETH THLAKA

The Executive Director of OSISA, Siphosami Malunga
Chief Executive Officer of South African Women in ICT Forum, Mrs Zine Nkunkwana
Representative from SADC Council of NGOs
Media Fraternity,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good Morning.
 
SANGONeT believes that ICT provide opportunities for society to interact and communicate with one another, expressing their own ideas, knowledge and culture.
 
Technology is very important in ensuring that at macro-level the governance structure become effective. That is why IT policy is becoming instrumental in organization, guiding on how information is managed and data is collected and stored. Most of the organizations are working with people and donors require progress with details of beneficiaries to measure impact.

The internet is regarded as the limitless space where people have access to pretty much infinite amounts of information. The internet is where a large amount of knowledge comes from.  In this digital age, it is hard to imagine our everyday lives without the Internet. It is used in almost every infrastructure and in many homes. It opened up a new realm of opportunities to people who could not even dream about it before. The biggest advantage of the Internet is that it makes things easier and more accessible:

  • Communication; Education; Research; Entertainment; Work; Financial Transactions; and Shopping.

Internet shutdowns are symptomatic of a broader crackdown on communication and online rights and freedoms. The targeting of online and offline media outlets and journalists is a growing problem which, combined with internet disruption, has a chilling effect on free expression in the region.  Manipulation of Internet infrastructure has often been used to surveil conversations, prevent journalists from reporting securely, or block users in a particular country or region from learning about political events, to name a few use cases.
 
In view of the internet shutdowns happened in Africa since 2016 and, particularly of regional threats to online freedoms, which have manifested in internet shutdowns in recent past, SANGONeT proposed a proactive response to this serious assault on citizens’ online freedoms through this Regional Dialogue on Internet Access.
 
The two days’ dialogue shall be receiving researched papers and be engaged in dialogue regarding challenges posed by the internet shutdowns in the region and how it affected the societies; issues hindering access to the internet for remote and poor communities; and come up with possible intervention strategies and advocacy processes against these shutdowns.  Issues hindering internet access; such as high cost of data; and unavailability of internet (largely among poor communities) will be discussed.  And, the meeting shall also outline key advocacy issues that could be pursued going forward.
 
The Goal of the regional dialogue is to influence democratic internet governance in the region to enable citizens’ free speech and access to information essential for their participation in the democratic governance of the region.  And the following are its objectives;

i. To conduct a regional meeting of stakeholders to discuss online information controls and seek collective responsibility to make the internet accessible and free from State controls, and

ii. To formulate strategies for advocacy on democratic internet governance in the region post the meeting.

The Dialogue theme is titled “ICT as a strategic tool towards NGOs sustainability”.

The dialogue shall be characterized by presentation of papers, discussions, questions and clarification. It will also provide platform for commissions, plenary and way forward.  It shall be the responsibility of the SANGONET and all relevant structures to ensure that the resolutions adopted and strategies developed during the dialogue are taken further with the relevant bodies in the country. The dialogue shall also be used as a platform for information dissemination and sharing.
 
We commend Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA) for realising the need to support this Regional Dialogue, whose intention is to advocate for uninterrupted, accessible, affordable and efficient internet for all. I would therefore like to invite all the stakeholders involved in development sector to take part and contribute to ensure that this dialogue becomes a success, as well as living up to its expected goals.
 
Lastly, let me invite all the delegates who honoured this invitation to give this two days of engagement their full and undivided participation.
 
I thank you.

Date published: 
Tuesday, 5 November, 2019
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