Internet society: no simple, binary answers for Africa’s challenges
a dent in sub-Saharan Africa’s unnecessarily shocking road death statistics.
According to Mwangi, to date, Akah’s solution has been deployed in several urban areas in Cameroon, and he is currently working with the country’s transport ministry to deploy the solution nationwide.
Isoc recently released a global report entitled “Paths to our Digital Future”.
The document looks out over the next five to seven years and identifies factors that are likely to shape the future of the internet.
Despite sporting a relatively optimistic outlook overall, Isoc published a list of threats (or opportunities – depending how you look at it) to realising the promise of an internet “for everyone, everywhere”.
Some of those items include the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), imminent cyber security threats, fluid internet standards, the proliferation of internet of things enabled devices, the expansion of the digital economy and the increasingly problematic role of government and big business in regulating internet use.
Several weeks ago, in referencing the disturbing impact that fake online news had on Kenya’s recently annulled election, I posited that as a society, we may well need to accept the inconvenient fact that because pretty much anyone in the world with internet access and web skills (however modest or sophisticated) now has the unprecedented capacity to assert or promote a nefarious agenda, no one can be trusted.
When I put to Mwangi that perhaps even seemingly impartial entities such as Isoc – proponents of net neutrality and free, universal web access – shouldn’t automatically be entitled to the people’s trust, he admitted that as the internet continues to transform every sector of the global economy, the debate around digital divides of the future won’t be limited to matters of internet access but will also pertain to the gap between the economic opportunities available to some and not to others.
He also acknowledged an online security divide that separates individuals, corporations and countries who can protect their digital assets and those who cannot – citing the problematic trend towards the creation of “walled gardens”.
However, Mwangi was quick to highlight the fact that there are no simple, binary answers to how Africa and the rest of the developing world can harness the full potential of the internet and avoid the inevitable inequities that stem from the early colonial age from being perpetuated in the digital era.
He did emphasise, though, that adopting an insular, isolationist view is not the way to go for Africans.
Sally Wentworth, Isoc’s vicepresident of global policy, recently said their research shows the internet’s core values are still widely embraced.
It appears that at Isoc there is no shortage of rhetoric promoting the existence of this sublime imaginary of the world wide web as being a global, open, secure internet that is “used for the benefit of people everywhere in the world”.
I have some difficulty ignoring the steady decline in internet freedom around the world, as well as the normalisation of surveillance, internet shutdowns and content regulation.
Call me paranoid, but I also can’t bring myself to trust the motives of increasingly dominant commercial tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon.
This statement by Wentworth does a good job of summing up my feelings: “We found people share a sense of both optimism and disillusionment for the Internet’s future in equal measure.
“While there are no guarantees of what lies ahead, we know that humanity must be at the centre of tomorrow’s Internet.”
Andile Masuku is a broadcaster and entrepreneur based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the executive producer at AfricanTechRoundup.com. Follow him on Twitter @MasukuAndile and the African Tech Round-up @africanroundup