A special report on the 14th 14th West African Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF): Courtesy: Liquid Sport and SEEDAfrique

West African nations have been urged to become flag bearers of meaningful connectivity at the 14th West African Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) held at the Airport View Hotel, Accra from the 26th to the 27th of May 2022.

The WAIGF held that this has become necessary considering the level of affordability, and affordable meaningful connectivity in the region.

They, therefore, asserted that through meaningful connectivity in the sub-region, a framework could be employed to track the components of connectivity that matter most to users and help decision-makers adopt the policies needed to connect people to an internet that is useful and empowering.

WAIGF 2022 aims to promote Internet Governance issues in West Africa through a multi-stakeholder process. It was held under the theme ‘Digital Sustainability: Data Innovations for post Covid recovery.’

In a welcome address, West Africa IGF coordinator Mary Uduma expressed her delight that the event was being held in person after two years of virtual format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She indicated that the outcome of the Forum would be communicated to the Heads of States ECOWAS member states.

“The Organizing Committee of the WAIGF 2022 has invited experts from Governments, Private Sector, Technical Community, Academia and Civil Society to discuss these topics and make concrete recommendations including massages to the Stakeholders. A communique from the outcomes will be produced and transmitted to the Heads of States of the ECOWAS member states by the Commission for inclusion in their national legislative and policy formulations.”

In an address read on her behalf, the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ghana Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful outlined 7 initiatives that the government of Ghana has embarked upon to address issues on digital sustainability.

“The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation has been working on initiatives to this effect coupled with building the infrastructure to bridge the technology gap.

“Some of these digitalisation initiatives underway including; Celebration of Girls-in-ICT Initiative, National Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) Card Registration, Protection of Critical Information Infrastructure, and more,” the speech was read by Mr. Nana Kofi Asafu-Aidoo, executive director, Ghana Domain Name Registry and chair of Ghana IGF.

A keynote speaker at the function, Nnenna Nwakanma, Chief Web Advocate at World Wide Web Foundation, urged West Africa to become flag bearers of meaningful connectivity.

“Internet Affordability is still an issue,” she said before adding, “West Africans should be brand bearers of meaningful connectivity, “she said.

“There are places in Accra where there are problems with connectivity. We should be aware of it whether we are policy people or private people. There are so many things we can complain about. But our technological ability to manage the pandemic was better than so many advanced countries.”

Among some of the key highlights of the two-day event, the Forum noted that “last mile connectivity remains a challenge in Africa. However, community networks should be encouraged to connect the very last of our villages. “

ECOWAS member states were also urged to prioritise digital literacy to promote everyday life to address issues of digital security.

In addition, the WAIGC called on member states to prioritize digital sustainability to bridge the digital divide and ensure capacity building of internet users, especially the young ones to avoid digital colonization.

The meeting called for digital sustainability needs to be prioritized while also calling for multi-stakeholder representation.

The hybrid-format event saw many participants joining the discussion both in-person and virtual. The multi-stakeholder event adopted two parallel sessions that addressed thematic areas such as #WS7 Mitigating security threats and vulnerabilities of online access and the use of the internet, and Economic Recovery in WASs: Prioritising Data Privacy and Security – AFICTA.

There were also high-level discussions on Cyber security and trust in West Africa, Data Innovation and Privacy, and Data Inclusion and Access, among others.

A member of the High-Level Panel, Dr. Aida Opoku Mensah said citizens need to be more proactive in reporting cases of cyber-crime through early detection.

“Cyber-crime has perpetuated terrorism. Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria have been going through this over the year from Boko Haram but now it is very close to us,” she said.

“When we see something posted on the internet where somebody is making threats, we need to report them. If people are showing guns, mentioning names, and making threats, we should make an effort to say something or report to the Police.

Further, the Forum agreed on the need for trust, advocacy, and accountability among stakeholders.

The programme was attended by participants from 9 West African nations including host Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, and Guinea.

It was the second time the WAIGF was being held in Ghana after the historic first edition in the country in 2009.


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