Last week saw over 50 participants from ten countries gather in Niamey, Niger for the West African Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF). The forum was organised by ECOWAS, A4AI’s newest member. We’re pleased to report that two areas essential to delivering a web for everyone — affordability and online rights — topped the agenda, and are clearly reflected in the official communique.
In terms of affordability, the key takeaway is that WAIGF participants will press for their governments to adopt A4AI’s “1 for 2” affordability target (i.e., 1GB of mobile data priced at 2% or less of average monthly income). First proposed in our 2015-16 Affordability Report, this target helps to ensure even low-earners can afford to get online — and is more than twice as ambitious as the current UN goal.
A second big win is the recommendation in the communique that governments adopt the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms — a pan-African initiative to cultivate an internet environment that can best meet Africa’s social and economic development needs and goals. The Charter establishes Africans’ rights to freedom of expression and association, privacy and access to information online, as well as rights to affordable access and cultural and linguistic diversity.
Of course — this good news comes with a snag — while the WAIGF communique carries the weight of ECOWAS behind it, it is not legally binding. As a result, and it will be up to each of the participants and other interested parties to press for action.
Eleanor Sarpong, A4AI’s Policy Advocacy Manager, who attended WAIGF, and was instrumental in shaping the communique, says: “We’re delighted with this progress, but this is a call to action. We’re ready to play our part in driving change, and urge everyone who believes in the power of the web to create a more equal world to join us!”