‘Multi-stakeholders Research Will Boost Africa’s Internet Policy’


Emma Okonji

Technology experts from the academia and civil society who gathered for the second colloquium on Internet Policy, organised by the African Academic Network on Internet Policy (AANoIP) in Ibadan recently, stressed the need for a concerted multi-stakeholder approach on research, that will boost internet policy and governance ecosystem in Africa.

The colloquium, which was hosted by the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) in Ibadan, called on the academia to increase their research on internet policy, in order to equip Africa with a robust internet policy and governance ecosystem.

The African Academic Network on Internet Policy is a network for interdisciplinary scholarly engagement and discussion on the state of the internet, related policies and regulatory regime in Africa.
As part of its mandate, the African Academic Network on Internet Policy hosts seminar series/colloquiums to bring into focus and foster discourse on crucial issues as it connects the digital economy.

The guest lecturer, Dr. Lucienne Abraham, who is the Director of Learning Information Networking Knowledge (LINK) Centre, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, in her keynote presentation, identified issues such as limited academic input, outdated internet regulatory policies, power-play among industry regulators, and lack of innovative competition as some of the challenges confronting Africa’s digital ecosystem.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Fostering Good Internet Governance in a Complex Ecosystem of the Digital Economy: A Multi-Stakeholder Perspective’, she called for a policy regime ‘that promotes shared participation in the provision of innovative solutions to local challenges that will help enhance Africa’s technological readiness in the current digital economy’.
She noted that Africa has a very complex internet ecosystem, and it becomes imperative for the players especially at the institutional level to be very adaptive. She challenged researchers particularly on the urgent need for a more evidence-based research in developing internal frameworks for technological readiness assessment.

Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, acknowledged the contributions of African researchers and other actors in the digital space to the global digital revolution but also lamented the dearth of cross-disciplinary engagements for shaping policy design. He advocated for a multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance issues in Nigeria. He said with over 2.5 billion Internet users today, it could become a “Wild Wide West” as against the safe “World Wide Web” if constructive engagement of multiple stakeholders is not taking place.

A member of the AANoIP Steering Committee and a Research Partner at the Cyber Security Research Laboratory, Centre of Excellence in Software Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, while introducing the network to the participants, spoke on the objectives of the academic network to raise the level of public discourse, deepen academic research and training in internet policy and governance in Africa.

Chairman of the colloquium, and Director of the African Regional Centre for Information Science, University of Ibadan, Prof. Wole Olatokun, noted that the internet plays a major role in the daily lives of people, hence the need to participate in the governance structure.

President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association and the Chair, Board of Director of AFRINIC, Rev. Sunday Folayan, said the Regional Registry for Internet Number Resources provided an insight into the Internet Ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa. He shared with the participants on the primacy of data as a key asset in driving digital economy.