One idea for Africa’s Internet Future

A recent Mozilla report from Kenya brought to light the fact that web there are millions of people getting online who do know what the internet is, that the internet is theirs, that it is not one walled garden, and are not aware of the possibilities of creation and not just consumption. That
“The Internet and its potential are yet to be discovered by a substantial amount of people. Participants mainly considered the Internet as a way of interacting with others through social media, and are not aware of other resources the Internet has to offer.”

Consider that there is also an emerging problem of internet fragmentation; in various forms. The first type of fragmentation to highlight is commercial fragmentation, of which walled gardens is a particular issue. See Vint cerf paper on internet fragmentation.

Commercial Fragmentation A variety of critics have charged that certain commercial practices by technology companies also may contribute to Internet fragmentation. The nature of the alleged fragmentation often pertains to the organization of specific markets and digital spaces and the experiences of users that choose to participate in them, but sometimes it can impact the technical infrastructure and operational environments for everyone. Whether or not one considers commercial practices as meriting the same level of concern as, say, data localization is of course a matter of perspective. Certainly there are significant concerns from the perspectives of many Internet users, activists and competing providers in global markets. As such, the issues are on the table in the growing global dialogue about fragmentation, and they therefore merit consideration here. Accordingly, in this section we briefly survey five sets of issues: peering and standardization; network neutrality; walled gardens; geo-localization and geo-blocking; and infrastructure-related intellectual property protection.”

“zero rating ends up violating net neutrality and favouring the supplier and its selected partners in a manner that limits people’s’ access to and understanding of the Internet.

Why is this problem urgent? – The generativity of the internet is at risk. With the stated aspirations of African leaders to lead the digital revolution; it would be important to consider the risks to this digital revolution if key issues of net neutrality, internet freedom and most of all… access are not tackled head on with clear mandates, collaborations and projects to address these issues.

Consider this idea: A digital survival guide for the 21st century.
What if we could educate current and future generations on what the internet is, its ethos, its culture, its history. What it is and what it could be? What if we included internet and web literacy as part and parcel of learning programs in Africa and the world?

What are the initial ideas to get started on right away?

1. Work with partners to have educational content about the Internet included in the curriculum deployed to the edges of society. For this, I am excited to announce that the Internet Society of Kenya agrees to join in this regard.

2. Work with partners to deploy educational content about the Internet to community centers (turned into digital community centers), alongside the online starter toolkit, digital job training materials, women and youth empowerment activities. Intel Foundation is looking at projects in Kenya for this.

3. Support organizations on the ground with connectivity services – CISCO is providing support for connectivity as the next Africa Cancer Foundation provides free screenings!

There is more to do; and it is quite encouraging when we see governments, philanthropists, private sector and civil society engage on these matters from many angles.

If these ideas sound interesting to you, do get in touch and let us figure out how we can do our part to ensure that we are rolling our sleeves and doing our part for the next generation of african technologists and yes, that we are contributing to the African digital revolution.