Africa Internet Freedom (FIFAfrica) 2019 Edition of the Forum Underway

FIFAfrica19 will be among recent strategic convenings in Ethiopia related to broadening the range of freedoms enjoyed by citizens online and offline, such as the World Press Freedom day commemoration last May. The annual Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) will take place in Addis Ababa on September 23-26, 2019.

The four-day forum will be hosted by the Ethiopia Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MoIT) and the Collaboration on Internet Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

FIFAfrica19 will be hosted at the Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa, and is expected to assemble at least 300 participants from across the continent and beyond.

The partnership is part of the Ministry’s digital transformation efforts, and aims to engage stakeholders on strategies for harnessing the benefits of new technologies.

MoIT said in a statement that it is working towards building a digital economy and society grounded on knowledge and technology and as such “values the power of knowledge, novel ideas, learning and the unlimited potential of virtual endeavors.”

As Ethiopia continues to embrace wide-ranging political and economic reforms, it is integral to ensure greater awareness within the country as well as beyond its borders of what the reforms mean to the potential of ICT as an enabler of democratic governance and sustainable development.

The annual convening offers a platform for critical engagement of diverse stakeholders on internet rights and freedoms and looks at them through the lens of policy, regulation, and governance.

In spite of challenges that still exist, including in governance and security, over the last one year, Ethiopia has made notable strides in improving the state of internet freedom, in ways which can be instructive for other African countries.

FIFAfrica 2019 will thus provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge, skills, advocacy efforts and policy agendas that can have an impact on digital rights and internet governance agenda among key actors including policy makers, regulators, human rights defenders, law enforcement representatives, and the media in Ethiopia and Africa as a whole.

Among the Ministry’s undertakings at FIFAfrica19 will be the hosting of a high level meeting of government officials within the auspices of the ICT committee at the African Union (AU) to discuss some of the reigning concerns and initiatives related to innovation ecosystems, data protection and privacy, access and affordability, diversity and inclusion, network disruptions, and access to information, among others.

Hosting FIFAfrica19 in Addis Ababa will this year mark its return to East Africa since 2016, keeping with the stride of expanding the conversation, as well as knowledge and skills development to different parts of the continent.

The 2018 edition was hosted in Ghana, while the 2017 was hosted in South Africa. Other editions since 2014 were hosted in Uganda.

@FANA

On September 23-26, 2019 the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will host the sixth Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica). This landmark event convenes a spectrum of stakeholders from across the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online.

This year, FIFAfrica will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where since April 2018 the new Ethiopian government has undertaken unprecedented political and economic reforms. These have included release from jail of thousands of prisoners, announcing plans to liberalise the telecom, aviation, and transportation sectors, and dropping charges against many opposition leaders, bloggers, and activists. On the internet freedom front, the new administration has restored mobile and broadband internet services that had been disrupted since 2016, and unblocked 246 websites, blogs, and news sites that had been inaccessible for over a decade. These pivotal developments serve as an avenue to advance more progressive efforts on internet governance and promotion of human rights online, not only in the country that hosts the African Union (AU) but on the continent at large.

Hosting FIFAfrica in Addis Ababa is also in keeping the stride of expanding the conversation, as well as knowledge and skills development to different parts of the continent. In its inaugural years, the Forum took place in Kampala, Uganda. Since then, FIFAfrica’s expanding footprint has seen it being hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in 2017 and in Accra, Ghana in partnership with the Media Foundation West Africa (MFWA) in 2018.

The Forum responds to rising challenges to the enjoyment of internet freedom in various countries, including arrests and intimidation of online users, internet disruptions, and a proliferation of laws and regulations that undermine the potential of digital technology to drive socio-economic and political development on the continent. FIFAfrica therefore puts internet freedom on the agenda of key actors including African policy makers, regulators, human rights defenders, law enforcement representatives, and the media, paving the way for broader work on advancing online rights in Africa and promoting the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.