IGF Day 0:I&JPN “Framing, Mapping and Addressing Cross-Border Digital Policies in the Africa Union” Report launch

IGF Day 0:I&JPN  “Framing, Mapping and Addressing Cross-Border Digital Policies in the Africa Union” Report launch

Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network launched their “Framing, Mapping and Addressing Cross-Border Digital Policies in the Africa Union” report on Monday, November 28, 2022 at the Internet Governance Forum being held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This year’s theme of the Internet Governance Forum is “Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future.” The meeting programme is guided by five themes drawn from the Global Digital Compact in the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report which are:

  • Connecting All People and Safeguarding Human Rights

  • Avoiding Internet Fragmentation

  • Governing Data and Protecting Privacy

  • Enabling Safety, Security and Accountability

  • Addressing Advanced Technologies, including AI

Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network is a multistakeholder organization that has been addressing the tension between the cross-border Internet and national jurisdictions. They organised a session at the IGF under the theme ‘Avoiding Internet Fragmentation”. The speakers in this session were Tracy Sinkamba Faustin, Alison Gillwald, Andrew Rens, Hon. Neema Lugangira and Jean-Paul Adam. For the past year, they have been researching cross-border digital policies in Africa.

Their research examines the significance of policy coordination in creating an inclusive and thriving digital economy in Africa. It outlines major trends that are emerging throughout the area and lays out possibilities and obstacles for players in the public, private, and civil society to take into account.

The report highlights the fact that the challenges around digital policies for Africa seem to be similar to the ones encountered in other regions around the world. Some of these challenges are:

  • Managing interdependency between separate knowledge and policy silos like trade, security, privacy and data protection among others

  • Different countries have different priorities hence incompatibilities in the push for unilateral measures

  • Conflict of interest between the desire to protect the free flow of data and ensure digital sovereignty through measures such as data localization

  • The data debate is driven by actors outside Africa and African countries who are reduced to takers and not standard makers.

  • Concern about the extractive nature of the data economy

Unique African characteristics as reported by the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network in this report include:

  • Size of the continent, number of countries and the territorial footprint

  • Disparities in levels of development among and within countries

  • Unbalanced geographic population distribution, with crowded urban centres and widely separated rural communities

  • Sub-regional integration groupings with strong historical roots.

  • Uneven availability of reliable energy and infrastructure, which is key for the digital economy.

From the above findings, Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network came up with four structuring questions which they are putting forward as a contribution to the ongoing debate on digital policies in Africa. The questions are:

  1. What is the path toward harmonization?

  2. What is digital infrastructure strategy?

  3. How to leverage data sharing for development?

  4. How to strengthen the voice of Africa in the global data governance fora?

IGF 2022 has brought together stakeholders in the digital space from all over the continent. Data governance and cross-bordered data transfer is a key issue across the continent with the continued increase in the adoption of data protection laws. This forum and the questions raised offer the opportunity for stakeholders to contemplate and consider harmonized aspects of data governance in order to strengthen the African voice on data governance on a global platform. This is especially important as we work towards building the digital infrastructure in the continent.

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