Premier Urges African Nations to Influence Standards that Enable Them to Participate In Innovative Technologies

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Addis Ababa (ENA) November 29/2022 African countries should be able to influence standards in a way that corresponds with their values and enables them to participate in innovative emerging technologies, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.

Addressing the 17th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) today, the premier underlined that African countries should be able to influence standards in a way that it corresponds with our values and enable us to participate in innovative emerging technologies.

“This is why the focus should be on building trust, equity, and security in cyber space.”

He further noted that “the advent of the internet has no doubt revolutionized our global societies, economies and politics,”adding that the dynamism of our global community and the related socio-economic and political shifts warrant gatherings such as the IGF.

Such gatherings will help us to co-create a shared understanding on the use and governance of the internet.

According to him, most if not all African nations have been leapfrogging in this highly globalized context and with the hopes of closing the digital divide.  

While there are many advantages to this, undoubtedly plenty challenges confront and await us as a continent, with the dark side of the internet requiring adequate policies and practice safeguards to be in place, he underscored.

The internet’s contribution to social development is immense, the PM pointed out. “The democratization of knowledge and communication, access to entrepreneurship skills and new employment opportunities, health care access and education, are a few noteworthy ones.”  

However, Abiy stressed that today the principle of neutrality of the internet is questioned. Giant platforms control the content that users can access.

“They control their personal data, and with the power of artificial intelligence, they very quickly cease to be gateways and rather become gatekeepers.”

He argued that “in politics, it has allowed greater participation; but it has also posed a threat to political stability, sovereignty and democratic values of nations. The key elements of internet politics are the manipulation of information to frame ideas and behavior. Spreading of misinformation and rumors by individuals protected by anonymity has become a common practice.”

On other hand, the premier stated that the rapidly evolving global digital landscape is allowing  to produce massive amount of data. But cautious optimism is required, and mainly around ownership of critical infrastructure, data strategy and data governance, and cyber-security.

Countering imbalances in ownership of submarine cables, terrestrial fiber-optic networks, and data centers as well as international data traffic routes, particularly for Africa, are dependencies that risk jeopardizing state autonomy, the PM elaborated.

Moreover, “we need to have data strategies to strengthen privacy standards. We need to prevent feeding the Artificial Intelligence industrial development and surveillance capacity of third parties.”

Data governance should also aim at harmonizing rules in the digital ecosystem to spur economic growth while protecting individual rights.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Li Junhua said on his part Africa is the least connected region.

Some 60 percent of the population are offline, representing a majority of the 2.7 billion people who are offline globally, he revealed.

This is a dark contrast with the developed regions such as Europe that are the mostly connected  with 89 percent of its population enjoying access to the internet.

“The vital role of internet in building Africa’s sustainable future cannot be overstated. It is my hope that the IGF will help accelerated Africa’s transition to digital future.”  

At the same time, the connected people are confronted daily with misinformation, disinformation and the fake news impacting how we live, how we work and how we interact with each other and the cycle attacks, among others.

“Collectively, we must step up to deliver a digital future and address these failings. We must ensure that the promise of the technologies is not clouded by misuse and abuse,” the Under-Secretary-General stressed.

The 17th IGF which opened yesterday under the overarching theme: “Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future” will be remain open until December 2, 2022.