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10th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF23) kicks off in Nairobi

The 10th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF23) kicked off in Nairobi today, setting the ball rolling for the three-day conference bringing together 600 delegates from across the world.

The event started with a high-level panel discussion comprising Emma Inamutila Theofelus, Namibia Deputy Minister for Information Communication & Technology (ICT); Grace Githaiga Chief Executive Officer (CEO) & Convenor, KICTANet; ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative and Vladimir Garay, Advocacy Director, Derechos Digitales.

The panel was unanimous on the need for sustainable internet and balanced regulation across the continent.

Theofelus, who spoke about the level of Internet penetration in Namibia, pointed out the huge cost involved in developing infrastructure and the need for government and political will.

“Rolling out infrastructure is difficult and very expensive. We have put in place the conditions for licensing and investment from the government. There has been some political will. This includes the Universal Service Fund. We also have one of the most liberated media on the continent,” she said.

Githaiga emphasised the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration and joint convenings in delivering Internet access. “As KICTANet, we have held joint convenings focusing on cybersecurity, data protection and the broadband report. The Kenya Internet Governance Forum is our flagship program. Through the forum, we discuss and see how to fit issues into our local context.”

On his part, Garay stressed the importance of Internet access saying connectivity supports human rights. “People want high quality, affordable and secure internet connectivity. The Internet is expensive and limited. We need to acknowledge and address internet connectivity gaps.”

Sesan also urged stakeholders to contribute towards efforts aimed at ensuring Internet accessibility. “If all stakeholders don’t get their hands dirty, we will come back here 10 years later to discuss the same issues,” he added.

Paradigm Initiative is hosting the Pan-African bilingual event in collaboration with Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) and the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) established under Strathmore University. KICTANet is a multi-stakeholder think tank in Kenya for ICT policy and regulation. CIPIT is an evidence-based research and training Centre based at Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya.

At the forum, Paradigm Initiative is hosting key partners from Internews, the Global Digital Inclusion Partnership, Derechos Digitales, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), Inclusive Tech Group, Access Now, Data Privacy Brazil, Defend Defenders, Youth and Society, Tech Societal, the Global Network Initiative, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, MTN and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, to mention a few.

The event sponsors are the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ford Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, Google, Open Technology Fund and the Global Network Initiative (GNI).

PIN, which is a leading Pan-African Digital Rights and Inclusion organization, has convened DRIF since 2013. The forum, whose theme is  Building A Sustainable Internet For All, will bring together representatives from government, non-governmental organizations, academia, media, funding partners, the United Nations, the technical community, and the private sector within the digital ecosystem.

The forum is hosting 70 sessions with partners from 48 countries across the world. Sessions are focused on, among other themes, Internet shutdowns, Universal Service Fund utilization, data protection, content moderation, and censorship. Also lined up at the event are key launches of research, platforms, and networks.

Last year’s DRIF under the theme, Towards a Digitally Inclusive Africa was a hybrid event that was able to reach over 1,300 individuals. Physical sessions were hosted in 17 African countries.

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