Inclusive internet essential to Africa’s growth – Cwele

The internet should be open, neutral, resilient, interoperable and responsive to the growth needs of all. This was the message Dr Siyabonga Cwele, South Africa’s telecoms minister, brought to the fifth annual meeting of the African Internet Governance Forum this week.

The main theme of the meeting, held in Durban from 16 to 18 October, is “Inclusive development and the digital transformation of Africa”.”While the internet was first developed in the US, it has become a global resource for the development of all our citizens,” Cwele said.”The African continent believes internet governance should be multilateral and democratic. It should involve all governments and relevant stakeholders – such as academics, NGOs and ICT companies – in their respective roles.

“The minister cited the launch of the first African Regional Internet Exchange in Johannesburg three weeks ago by African Union (AU) Commissioner Dr Elham M Ebrahim as an example of internet innovation on the continent.

The African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGIF) annual meeting has been held every year since 2012. This year’s gathering aims to discuss and finalise African positions on the internet and its governance ahead of the December 2016 Global Internet Governance Forum in Mexico.”We are extremely grateful for your continuing partnership,” Cwele told delegates. This, he said, would “ensure that we build an inclusive continent by rolling out large infrastructure projects that connect Africans to opportunities – and each other”.A robust internet was essential to achieving the AU’s Agenda 2063, Cwele said. This 50-year plan aims to build effective institutions, enhance accountability, strengthen solidarity and integration, ensure gender equality and youth empowerment, and achieve peace and security across the continent.”

AU infrastructure projects, particularly those of power and internet connectivity, are crucial for this continent to leapfrog in development to be on a par with the developed world,” he said.Locally, South Africa Connect, the country’s national broadband policy, has been prioritised as part of the Nine Point Plan to reignite growth after the global economic downturn.More than this, the South African government recently finalised the National Integrated ICT White Paper to guide the development of information technology. This was achieved, Cwele said, “after long consultations since 2012, and in line with our vision 2030, the National Development Plan”.The white paper, he said, outlined a policy framework for maintaining an open internet, to maximise the net’s potential to transform how citizens interact with their government, how government delivers services, and how businesses transact.”We need to ensure that the continent is empowered to take advantage of the internet and the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Cwele said.”I hope that after three days we will have an action plan that we can take to the Global Internet Governance Forum and show that Africa is ready to do business with the international internet community on an equal footing.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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