The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have brought into stark relief the implications of digital inequality in Africa, said key partners who helped organise the 2021 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG): APC, Research ICT Africa and the African Union Commission.
It was June 2010, the schools were about to go on a long break. The eyes of the world were on South Africa. The first African country to host the FIFA world cup. Huddled in the corner of the small and dusty school library, a little girl came across a book that spoke of computers and the internet.
I remember sitting down writing that application like someone who was writing a state of the nation address speech for a president.
From the first day elation of introductions, the rest of the days went by in a blur; a perfect amalgamation of inquisitiveness, new information drench, subtle nudge to quit, Zoom fatigue, back to excitement, relief, and self-pride on the last day.
The ninth edition of the African School of Internet Governance (AfriSIG) finally happened – virtually, because, well, COVID-19 couldn’t allow various fellows and facility members to attend an in-person school.
What happens when an ardent internet governance activist has to suddenly place themselves in the shoes of the private sector? Or a social tech enthusiast has to play the role of the government during a simulation? Does the shift of perspective strengthen everyone’s grasp of internet governance?
When discussions around access to the internet are raised, our thoughts turn to whether we have sufficiently solved the issues of poverty, health, education and energy to decide that internet access is a needed right in Africa. But COVID-19 has changed our view of the need for connectivity.
It is undeniable that our world today is a digital one. It is this world that young Africans are navigating today. Perhaps our play, our natural gravitation towards games, social media and movies, is our way of expressing our desire for mastery, and ultimately our claim on the internet.
For the young person I was, under 25 years, attending the African School on Internet Governance and getting involved in the internet ecosystem in my country was a dream that I will continue to follow.
The 2021 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) has brought together actors from digital ecosystems worldwide. It has been a golden opportunity for me and my community as I have learnt about several topics on internet governance.