This blog was written by A4AI’s Project Manager and Researcher Evelyn Namara.
The 11th Africa Internet Governance Forum took place in Lilongwe, Malawi. What stood out for me compared to other AfIGF events I’ve attended was the number of Parliamentarians from different countries. A total of 28 members of Parliament from across the African continent participated in a 2-day symposium under the overarching title “The role of parliaments in shaping our digital future. An African perspective”.
How does this make a difference, you may ask? Topics addressed at the Internet Governance Forum, particularly the African IGF, require legislators in the room. We can not talk about advancing policy and regulation when the people who are supposed to help us advocate for innovative policies are not present in the room. At one of the sessions we participated in, “The role of policymakers in advancing affordable and meaningful connectivity,” – my colleague, Onica Makwakwa, highlighted a few key areas: 1) the need for countries to have national broadband plans as a benchmark for addressing the digital gender gap, 2) encouraging healthy competition between different service providers, 3) infrastructure sharing policies and regulations and 4) smart taxation. For each of these topics, members of parliament from different countries drew examples from their policies and identified gaps. Most importantly, they vowed to work together to advance their countries’ digital tech policies.
I believe that for us to see transformational change in digital policies on the African continent, we need the support and involvement of legislators. The newly formed Africa Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance launched at AfIGF is a welcome step in the right direction.
A4AI looks forward to partnering with Africa Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance.