As Southern Africa convenes this year’s edition of its Internet Governance Forum (SAIGF-15) in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 8-9 December 2015 it should identify and reflect on its key priority areas.
This comes on the backdrop of developments in the past year including recommendations made at the just ended 10th edition of the Global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held in November in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.
The nine-SADC member states that attended the SAIGF-14 hosted by the Government of Malawi in Lilongwe last year noted key recommendations that are worth revisiting for consideration and prioritisation as the continent thrives to ensure the development and governance of the internet in the region.
Multistakeholderism as echoed in the SAIGF 2014 resolution relating to internet and human rights remains a hazy point that needs critical introspection for the continent. The recommendation makes a call to the tech community to engage actively in human rights online and internet governance related issues. Multistakeholderism is a process in which stakeholders make decisions based on consensus in an open, transparent and accountable manner.
Input into the Best Practice Forum (BPF) on Strengthening Multistakeholder Participation Mechanisms at this year’s global IGF, noted important issues pertaining to strengthening multi-stakeholder participation mechanisms, which the region must recognise and take on board. Trust, albeit recognised over time, remains a huge component of successful multi- stakeholder engagement and that transparency and accountability are the main components in building trust.
The second issue is that of defining consensus or ‘rough’ consensus so that all stakeholders are aware of processes for decision making and that the national IGFs have mechanisms or ‘equality safeguards’ in place to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately represented at decision level.
For the 2015 SAIGF, it is prudent to take stock of the extent to which member-state IGFs reflect multi-stakeholder engagement to reach a model that works within ‘our’ context.
Critical to this process is for the conveners of the IGFs to introspect on mapping of critical internet governance stakeholders within their national context. It is also important to locate these within agreed national strategies and facilitation processes.
Of note is the variations in the five Southern African countries that have established national IGFs. In Malawi the convener of the MIGF is the Department of e-government in the President’s Office. In Tanzania, its civil society led by the Union of Tanzania Press Clubs.
For South Africa the conveners are the Internet Society Gauteng Chapter, in collaboration the ZA Central Registry and Google S.A. As for Zimbabwe, this is through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ).
While the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s (MISA) national offices in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi recognise the importance of engagement in setting up national IGFs, there are challenges that may hinder participation by some stakeholders. These include economic, social, linguistic and cultural barriers and gender inequality.
Net-neutrality vs. zero-rating
One of the prominent debates at the Global IGF related to net-neutrality versus zero-rated services in the context of both competition among internet service providers and content consumption by the everyday user. In her blog post: Zero Rating: Are we in Danger of killing the goose before knowing if its eggs are golden, pro-poor market advocate, Helani Galpaya’s argues that poor people should have access to the internet.
Galpaya’s argument that zero -rated services offer an opportunity for the poor to consume their favourite content for free or at a much lower price, was central to debates during the Global IGF.
It was argued that choices by telecommunications companies on which services or applications should be zero-rated was not necessarily driven by their popularity, but rather on how much they stood to benefit.
Critical for Southern Africa within the context of connecting the next billion is consensus on whether or not zero-rating is an issue warranting either net-neutrality policies or policies maintaining or limiting zero-rating. The latter would require a definitive role for the regulators in assessing the impact of zero-rating on fairness and competition in the sector.
Overall, this is a debate relating to the determination of special promotions, their cost and benefits for service providers, end users and content producers alike.
Developments in Southern Africa related to net-neutrality and zero-rating include South Africa’s MTN’s zero-rating of its Video on Demand (VOD) service, MTN FrontRo, in December last year. This gave MTN subscribers the advantage over other consumers of paying a waived R199 fee in a country where an estimated one million households have capacity to stream videos.
In Zambia and Malawi, Airtel customers have benefitted from Airtel Africa’s partnership with Facebook under its Internet.org application, renamed Freebasics. Airtel mobile customers in Zambia that use the android application and mobile website, access Facebook and its Instant Messaging service, Accu weather as well as local health and job services.
In Malawi Airtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi enjoy free access to Facebook, Ask, Bing, UNICEF and online publication, Nyasa Times.
In Zimbabwe, mobile network operator, Econet Wireless, in the past year launched its own zero- rated services by selling data in ‘bundles’ which include Data, Facebook, Whatsapp, Opera Mini Surf and Buddie Bundles of Joy. Their other services include EcoSchool Zero, which gives its subscribers free access to over 50 educational websites.
Relating to the enhancement of digital trust, SADC member states were encouraged to undertake national transpositions of the SADC Cyber Security Model Laws and facilitate dialogue among stakeholders and create awareness on privacy and consumer protection on the internet.
They were also encouraged to promote more capacity building on cyber security and cyber crime.
This, followed adoption of the Convention on the establishment of a Credible Framework for Cyber Security and Personal Data Security in Africa at the African Union’s 23rd Ordinary Session in June 2014.The Convention addressees many issues associated with increased use of information and communication technologies in Africa.
During the Global IGF deliberations on the session on Enhancing Cybersecurity and building trust, one of the most critical issues raised was that cyber security is everyone’s problem. This warrants awareness that enables stakeholders to understand the cyber world and its potential impact on the individual’s privacy and threats to the nation as a whole.
Given internet growth in the region as a key driver of not only the African, but global economy and its potential in the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals, a comprehensive approach is key to tackling cyber crime and building trust between government, private sector and the everyday user of the internet.
It is crucial within the SAIGF context to outline the critical role, firstly, that awareness on cyber crimes laws plays as well as paying particular attention to contextual trends on the most likely crimes to occur in given country.
Secondly, to ensure stakeholder participation in coming up with the ideals for countries yet to adopt the law as is the case with Zimbabwe. Some critical issues to be discussed in the region should include judicial oversight on execution of the different warrants such as the interception of communication, search and seizure, and authorisation of a forensic tool.
Without the protection of the judiciary, intermediaries continue to be vulnerable. Also related to this is the debate on the publication of transparency reports by the government and intermediaries to determine the extent to which citizens’ right to privacy are protected including the prevalence of filtering and surveillance in the region.
Appreciation by the SAIGF and its member states that the driving factors within the internet governance framework are access, security, diversity and openness is critical at this moment.
And as the continent moves forward in its bid for a more accessible and democratic internet ecosystem, it is prudent that the principles relating to the protection of the rights of Africans to free expression, access to information, privacy and fair competition takes precedence in the interest of promoting development.
Nigeria for instance has mandated passive sharing through a comprehensive policy that lists passive network components that can be shared. This move has resulted in the emergence of tower companies as specialist providers of site sharing such as Helios Towers Nintendo company of Nigeria.
Other African countries and companies already implementing the sharing mode include Zain & Essar in Kenya and Cell C, MTN, NeoTel and Vodacom in South Africa.
Unlike in other African countries’, sharing of infrastructure is not mandatory by law or policy in Zimbabwe. However, Statutory Instrument 28 of 2001 empowers POTRAZ, to issue guidelines on sharing for licensees and service providers.
For this reason, infrastructure sharing is minimal in Zimbabwe, and according to POTRAZ, service providers have a preference for passive sharing which stood at only 13.4 percent of the existing infrastructure nationwide in 2014.
Alternatively, since all the mobile networks in Zimbabwe own their own infrastructure, they could be merged into one company in which they all have shares. The shareholding will be proportional to the size of infrastructure that each operator is bringing to the new company.
This model is working in China where the country’s three mobile carriers created a new company, China Tower, which took over ownership of the three firms’ telecom infrastructure while ambitiously planning to build one million new towers in the next two years. The asset value conferred to China Tower is more than $16bn.
However, what remains apparent is the need for the overall convergence of the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors to address the shared infrastructure debate.
MISA-Zimbabwe’s Model ICT Policy Framework 2013, stresses the need for shared infrastructure through which multiple services are offered over the same infrastructure, translating to network efficiencies.
Converged networks allow operators to offer ‘triple play’ services, where subscribers can access telephony, the internet and television over a single broadband connection.
The current situation in Zimbabwe where several services are offered over wireless networks has resulted in spectrum congestion, hence the need for a single ICT policy and regulatory framework.
Co-authored with Chris Musodza and published on BizCommunity Africa
To date, a snap shot of the current broadcasting industry, very few independent productions are aired on Zimbabwean radio and television, a reflection of the challenges shared at the 2014 MISA-Zimbabwe Stakeholders broadcasting conference, by Independent film producer Tapfuma Machakaire. These include among other issues, the stringent commissioning conditions and editorial control and quality of productions, as set by the broadcasting entities.
The import of digitisation in the television industry in Zimbabwe is apparent when one looks at the only television channel in the country – ZTV. Undoubtedly the challenges that ZTV faces in meeting its obligatory quota will definitely filter down to the new television broadcasting players. At this juncture what is required is diversity in television production to include a variation in content for documentaries, diversity in language use in sitcoms, diversity in socio economic and political issues in drama and even exploring reality TV that genuinely reflects Zimbabwean day to day experiences.
In 2011, the High Court received a total of 1 551 divorce cases, a 21% increase from the 1216 cases received in 2010. It took me ‘bumping’ into a friend’s astonishment at the statistics on her Facebook status; and some rather insensitive comments that followed, to realise that divorce – no matter the circumstances – remains an abomination in our society.
Zimbabwe, and indeed many Southern African countries, are largely Christian nations who view a failed marriage as the ultimate sin. This unfortunate trend is the total opposite of their rank-and-file conservative Christian counterparts in the European nations who have woken up to the realisation that divorce may be the solution to the disintegration of a marriage. Some prominent church leaders get divorces and continue to lead thousands of Christians in their ministries.
As a 32-year-old professional Zimbabwean woman, mother to two children and going through a divorce, I will undoubtedly be ‘another’ statistic this time next year. I view divorce as evidence, in part, of women’s empowerment of their legal rights and power to walk away from a violent or an unfulfilling relationship. That is not to say that it is only women who walk out of the marriages, nor are these the only reasons why people walk. NO!
In fact, throughout my own marital and legal battles I have observed the vast number of women of various ages and classes sitting side by side on the creaky benches in the glum and dreary offices of the Harare civil court. All of them want either protection from a violent partner, to escape unhappiness through a divorce or get some man to realise that he needs to feed and clothe the baby she is carrying on her lap. It is an indication that indeed, Zimbabwean women are more empowered and resilient than ever before.
Women in Zimbabwe now realise their legal and social rights; the need for education and have more awareness about self and the world around them. This self-awareness coupled in some instances with financial independence reduces the probability of women staying in a relationship out of sheer necessity and obligation.
The trend seems similar in South Africa where statistics indicate that in 2010 alone, women initiated 49,3% of the divorces recorded. Women from the black African population group had a lower proportion of plaintiffs compared to white female plaintiffs.
The comments on Facebook reflect the gender stereotypes still prevalent in our society. One (a male contributor) states that divorce is “centered on pride, arrogance and equality” and that there is need to “… think of our children and AIDS.” Among others the comment reflects the naivety of regarding marriage as a safe haven against HIV and AIDS. The Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council points to the fact that married women constitute the largest number of those infected by the virus.
The other comment (shockingly by a female contributor) reads: “The problem is equal rights. Equal rights mean no submission, no compromise, no competition and more. Biblically the MAN is the head. Once we modernise marriage, then there is a problem. Even if the woman earns ten times more than her husband, she is not the head.”
Great personal cost
In African societies, women are expected to marry and ‘stay married’ even at great personal cost.
Marriage in African societies is followed by the cultural expectation to procreate. This means that – no matter the battering, sexual abuse or deprivation; multiple concurrent partnerships that can expose a woman to HIV and AIDS – she has to endure all forms of abuse to protect her reputation in society and “hold on” so that the children can have a “father”.
Women’s empowerment; the change in social and family structure due to globalisation; increased communication and access to information on marriage, sex and sexuality; smaller nuclear families; work pressure, and a declining trust in the institution of marriage are slowly changing these norms. The changing status of women in society is undoubtedly central to all of these.
This article was first published on the Gender Links News Service.
For me the most provocative aspect of Robert Mugabe’s presidential run-off campaign this time around is the abuse of word empowerment and its simultaneously use of women — particularly in adverts that are inserted in mainly the State media.
I am particularly revolted by an advert in support of Robert Mugabe’s ‘empowerment’ policy or stance (whatever you may call it) inserted by a group who I am hearing of for the first time, called the Young Women Movement (YWM). The advert is set on a very femininely pink background, has an image of a fairly middle aged woman (who to me represents the minority class of Zimbabwean women who have managed to maintain such a fair facial skin, albeit sunken eyes) and has a headline that screams, “Enough is enough! Zvakwana! Sokwanele!”
On first sight of the advert, I thought to myself, ‘At last someone has finally found the right words to summarise the pain that we Zimbabwean women have had to go through and maybe sought to encourage us to stand up for something worthwhile’; but alas the advert proceeds to read:
“Women of Zimbabwe, enough is enough, there have been too many lies and demonisation of our country. Zimbabwe has done a lot for us (that is when I began to blink!!!) Age of Majority Act, Equal pay for equal work, Maintenance Act, Domestic Violence Act. Women can and now own land, businesses…” (There I thought, well, Okay!) Then the advert goes on to say…”On 27th June, vote for the consolidation of women’s empowerment.”
I cannot believe that a sincere women’s movement would utter such nonsense! To a Zimbabwean woman, empowerment is not defined by a couple of Acts that are not supported to ensure that the woman is able to benefit from them.
To us empowerment means being able to walk into a supermarket, or stand at the counter of the kiosk at the corner in the township I live in, and being able to buy pads or the basic cotton wool — and not to be told the price has gone up or that they have run out. Or being able to walk into a pharmacy or local clinic and get contraception of my choice! Empowerment means being able to take good care of my bedridden HIV positive relation at home because I have running water at the house; and not that water becomes so scarce I cringe every time my two year old son requests to use the loo. Empowerment means being able to get equal pay to my male counterpart if I even make it through college. And not this thing of fees being topped up every semester such that I have to ‘fundraise’, because it is obvious that my parents salaries are way below the monthly expenses of my siblings — and grandparents who by the way are still in the same reserves they were in during the days of Ian Smith (so much for land empowerment). I do not know of a single ‘ordinary’ woman who worked on the Baas Jones farm, who during the land resettlement programme got a portion of the land that she had toiled on for so long. But I do know of a few prominent female ‘liberators’ who went on to take over that land.
Empowerment to us means being able to stand up and speak on issues that affect us and being heard. And not to be shut up in prison when we do — like Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, the Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists arrested while participating in a demonstration on May 28, 2008. Or being slain in front of our children like Abigail Chiroto, Wife of Harare’s newly elected Mayor, who was abducted and found dead on June 17 for being married to the wrong man. Empowerment means having a roof above my head and not being classified ‘dirt’ (Operation Murambatsvina) in a clean-up campaign that seems more important than that I have a home.
My take on the adverts being placed by YWM is, “Enough is Enough!” We are tired of being used by politicians when they realise they have run short of a political gimmick. And woe to the woman who thinks that she can speak for the women of Zimbabwe, without even consulting them.
The average woman in Zimbabwe stresses throughout the day about how the hell to run a household, raise children and care for the ill in this crazy economy — not to mention worrying about her family’s safety because of her own or husband’s affiliation. No one has a right to speak on behalf of the Zimbabwean women unless they can stand up and wholly identify themselves with the majority of us angry, stressed, hungry mothers and wives itching for change and true, not theoretical empowerment!
First published on Walking the talk
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