Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gakuru urges stakeholders to fight ‘digital plantation’

Arising from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi-Kenya, last weekend, the chairman of the Internet Consumers Association of Kenya, Mr. Alex Gakuru, has urged stakeholders under the aegis of Noncommercial Stakeholders Group (NCSG) to save Africa from what he tagged ‘Digital Plantations.

According to him, as at June, this year, Africa contributed only two per cent of the global webpages, while the global average of people to domain name stood at a ratio of 90:1.

“Africa’s ratio was 10,000 people per domain name, while Kenya is at 2,500:1 per domain,” he said.

Also, he said that randomly pick any Kiswahili language words and WHOIS revealed that majority of their corresponding domain names were registered by aliens, from as far back as 1992.

“I urge you to save Africa from modern era digital plantations,” he declared.

Responding to questions from ITRealms Online, Mr. Gakuru, on what should be done to get Africa out of the alleged mess, called for an urgent reclamation of African opinion, position and voices at all global internet governance, policy and regulation institutions grounded on her peoples’ best public interest.

This, he said, could be achieved by forcing the world, if need be, to listen to Africa, adding that it’s high time Africa abandon ritual conferences attendance pepped up with photo sessions to depict “Africa and developing countries participated.”

As said by him, African governments need to wake up from their deep Internet policy and regulation slumber to assert their positions, otherwise the resultant void is filled by blind embrace of exported foreign internet policies, conventions, laws and regulations, usually engineered to serve theirs, but not African’s interests.

“African social justice, human rights and economic empowerment non-state actors need to upgrade their interventions to include the Internet economic, social and political rights on their programmes,” he posited.

Gakuru enjoined African universities and colleges to introduce Information and Communication Technology (ICT) law courses to address the acute shortage of local legal expertise in this area on the continent.

“This deficit has resulted in easy Africa arm-twisting at global negotiations,” he said.

Gakuru insisted that Africa must urgently protect her innovations, Intellectual Property (IP), traditional knowledge, culture and heritage from the onslaught and acquisition by foreigners.

“Aware that knowledge harvested locally by researchers through cunning grants ends up owned, re-packaged, and re-sold as highly price intellectual property we can hardly afford,” he said, stressing that Africans could start by reviewing representatives participation to ensure the routine few ‘usual suspects’ individuals attending every such gatherings actually represent Africa’s interests do not act as agents of foreign voices, interests, multinational corporations or African ‘jungle’ prospector investors with some positioning themselves as “Venture Capitalists.”

He pointed out that friends of Africa’s Internet development partners and  organisations  acknowledged, such as, Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Global Voices Online, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalist, Google, and Ford Foundation for their continued support in amplifying subdued African voices online.
“We urge more development partners to support African, Latin America and all developing countries’ local content online initiatives,” he said.

Remmy Nweke: 
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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