Africa in the Global Governance

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					Africa in the Global Governance of Cyberspace
A paper presented within the framework of the IFAS Conference on « Globalisation and the effects of 1 information and communication technologies on African Societies » by Pierre Dandjinou

With the advent of the Internet and related technologies, the world has become more and more globalized and many have come to portray it as a global village. While the notion of the village implies a model of governance that caters for all citizens and makes sure that all tribes thrive equally, the extent to which some parts of the village have been contributing to the village (global) governance is still an issue. In the eyes of many, Africa for instance has not yet placed its footprints on the global cyberspace. Recent developments such as debates at the World Summit of the Information Society however give an opportunity for taking stock of the African perspectives on the Internet governance and its overall role within the policy-making mechanisms of the cyberspace. This paper therefore examines the African emerging Internet bodies such as the AfriNIC, AfTLD, AfNOG and Afrispa and seeks to demonstrate that though many in Africa still feel as though they are dominated by foreign, and generally US bodies, the new home grown organizations are opportunities to gain control of their own Internet Governance and strengthen effective participation of Africa in the global governance of the cyberspace.

1-Deconstructing Cyberspace
Much of the burgeoning literature on the economic and social restructuring of the advanced capitalist societies is predicated upon the notion that such transformations are driven by the revolutionary developments in a range of information and communication technologies (ICT). Through their potential capacity to transcend the time and space delimiters of modernist organization and technique, some people have come to suggest that ICTs are facilitating the emergence of new forms of human interactions in what is becoming known as cyberspace, i.e. a computer generated public domain which has no territorial boundaries or physical attributes and 2 is in perpetual use. One point of interest is that this collection of electronic telecommunications and computer network, usually referred to as the Internet, is growing at fast speed and is giving rise to new forms and expressions of governance. For John Perry Barlow, Cyberspace came to denote the emergence of an alternative virtual world, an electronic frontier (Sterling, 1994), which quantitatively is more than a network of computers linked by telephony. On the Internet, Barlow has this to say :” Internet is too widespread to be easily dominated by any single government. By creating a seamless global economic zone, borderless and un- regulatable, the Internet calls into question the very idea of nation state” (1996). According to Castells (1998) 'the network society disembodies social relationships, introducing the culture of real virtuality'. In a recent report of the US National Security Council dubbed « Mapping the global Future », Internet was perceived as a powerful disruptive technology for current institutions.


Pierre Dandjinou is a Regional Advisor on ICT and Development for the UNDP, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Afrinic, the African Internet Registry 2 Brian D. Louder in “ the Governance of Cyberspace : Politics, Technology and Global restructuring, Routledge,1997


But Herbet Schiller (1995) was the first to allude to the US’ government possible role in colonizing global culture through the Global information Infrastructure (GII), and one needs to recall that Internet itself was the product of the US’ desire to build a military communications system which would be secure from terrorist and nuclear attack. In fact, as a research and civilian communication network, it continued to be funded by the US Government through the National Science Foundation until April 1995 when the business took over. Recent developments demonstrate that although cyberspace may be regarded by some as a medium through which concepts such as emancipation, empowerment and transcendence of physical subjugation can be explored and experienced, it cannot be an uncontested domain where politics of modern nation states would be absent. Hence the paramount importance of issues such as surveillance, control and privacy in relation to the Internet and the likes, and the consequent on going debates on how to govern the Internet and the cyberspace.

2 – Global Governance
How does one apply governance to Cyberspace? It should be stressed on the outset that the transition to a global knowledge economy has created new challenges for global governance and regulation of the processes. The international regime so far has been the one of developing a set of principles, norms and rules that regulate international relations as epitomized by the modus operandi of most intergovernmental entities such as the UN. Now, how does one apply this regime to the ‘virtual communities’ of today? In recent years there has been increasing focus on the need for effective transnational institutions and arrangements to address the growing challenges of governance in an interdependent world. The importance of such arrangements is particularly apparent in the case of information and communication technologies (ICTs), which by their very nature raise both technical and policy questions that transcend national boundaries. It is noteworthy that neither the Internet Society, nor Icann have always choose not to use the concept of governance, but have preferred the idea of coordinating different entities and functions that are fundamental to the running of the Internet. The Internet Society ( is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. With offices in Washington, DC, and Geneva, Switzerland, it is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world. ISOC is the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other Internet-related bodies who together play a critical role in ensuring that the Internet develops in a stable and open manner. For over 13 years ISOC has run international network training programs for developing countries and these have played a vital role in setting up the Internet connections and networks in virtually every country connecting to the Internet during this time. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) ( is an internationally organized, non-profit corporation that has responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions. These services were originally performed under U.S. Government contract by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other entities. ICANN now performs the IANA function. As a private-public partnership, ICANN is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; to achieving broad representation of global Internet communities; and to developing policy appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensusbased processes. The Domain Name System (DNS) helps users find their way around the Internet. Every computer on the Internet has a unique address called its "IP address" (Internet Protocol address). Because IP addresses (which are strings of numbers) are hard to remember, the DNS allows a familiar string of letters (the "domain name") to be used instead.


ICANN is responsible for coordinating the management of the technical elements of the DNS to ensure universal resolvability so that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the distribution of unique technical identifiers used in the Internet's operations, and delegation of Top-Level Domain names (such as .com, .info, etc.). Other issues of concern to Internet users, such as the rules for financial transactions, Internet content control, unsolicited commercial email (spam), and data protection are outside the range of ICANN's mission of technical coordination Within ICANN's structure, governments and international treaty organizations work in partnership with businesses, organizations, and skilled individuals involved in building and sustaining the global Internet. Innovation and continuing growth of the Internet bring forth new challenges for maintaining stability. Working collectively, ICANN's participants address those issues that directly concern ICANN's mission of technical coordination. Consistent with the principle of maximum self-regulation in the high-tech economy, ICANN is perhaps the foremost example of collaboration by the various constituents of the Internet community. ICANN is governed by an internationally diverse Board of Directors overseeing the policy development process. ICANN's President directs an international staff, working from three continents, who ensure that ICANN meets its operational commitment to the Internet community. Designed to respond to the demands of rapidly changing technologies and economies, the flexible, readily implemented policy development process originates in the three Supporting Organizations. Advisory Committees from individual user organizations, and technical communities work with the Supporting Organizations to create appropriate and effective policies. Over eighty governments closely advise the Board of Directors via the Governmental Advisory Committee. Because ICANN is de facto a major player in the governance of the internet, it has become the target for many criticisms and discontent from all parts of the world. Thus, in a recent comment on the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), a representative of the Indian Government maintained that : "Presently ICANN is a private organization, working under MoU with US government. We understand that the MoU is to expire in September 2006. ICANN's incorporation in the USA implicitly means it will always be subject to USA law. It is believed that this shall introduce an asymmetric role of the USA Government vis a vis other governments.(..) At the international level, there is no single international (Inter-government or private ) organisation that coordinates all the issues related to the Internet and IP based Services’’. In essence Internet Governance includes collective rules, policies, standards, procedures that are consistent with the sovereign rights of the states. At present there is little or no role of governments in these multifarious decision processes and Governments of developing countries are effectively marginalized. India like many other developing countries is not at ease with the limited influence of Governments of various countries in ICANN and in particular with the purely advisory role of GAC. Governments have a clear interest in ensuring that internet evolves in a direction that protects and advances the public interest.

3- Africa in the cyberspace
Africa got its first connections to the Internet by 1995. However, due to concerted efforts of native enthusiasts with some overseas assistance soon the entire continent gained full connectivity in the decade. Still, the so called digital divide is pervasive, both on country and regional levels. As


per the declaration of the African Ministers at the recent PrePcom of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which took place in Geneva on 18-25 February, the African continent sees Internet governance as a means for: promoting the equitable distribution of the resources; making the internet accessible to all in a secure and stable manner; and taking into consideration the need for multilingualism and content usage to facilitate the use by all of the Internet in an unrestricted manner.

In the past few years both the public and private sectors of the African continent have been preoccupied with establishment of basic high-speed Internet connectivity and development of human resources. The goals have been largely achieved, with the exception of about half a dozen countries, most of which are on the verge of attaining full connectivity. Some of the countries on the continent have continued expansion of the Internet onto regional capitals and to rural communities. Several applications also have been experimented with, including telecenters and business centers as vehicles for attaining a semblance of universal access. While the physical interconnections were being developed, governments were creating enabling environments in support of the telecommunication sector in general. Governments in the region have accomplished this primarily by liberalization or privatization of national PTT’s. In the meantime, professionals in the industry on the African continent also were developing institutions that focus on Internet-specific issues. In the subsequent part of this paper we tend to summarize what is publicly known about those burgeoning institutions. There are at least seven institutions at various stages of development. The African Networking Symposium (ANS) was a meeting place for all of the various organizations to discuss issues, test ideas, present results, and `obtain feedback. The first official meeting of the ANS took place as part of ISOC’s annual conference at INET ’97. At INET ’98, the success of the ANS was recognized and the program was expanded to become the Developing Countries Networking Symposium. The African Regional Network Information Center (AfriNIC) is the Internet numbering authority for the region which aims to be the fifth regional number registry in the world. The AfriNIC Regional Registry is counterpart to APNIC, RIPE and ARIN and LACNIC. It is the most developed of all the emerging institutions on the continent. It is expected that African organizations that currently obtain Internet protocol address space from RIPE in Europe, ARIN in the US and APNIC in the Asia pacific region, will in the future obtain IP address space from AfriNIC. AfriNIC will allocate IP address space to members and non members, following the same policies and guidelines for each. In fact, AfriNIC has now started operation after its provisional recognition by ICANN in 2004. it was incorporated in Mauritius, with its technical operation conducted from its south African offices at the CSIR, Pretoria, and its disaster and back up recovery services in Cairo, Egypt. Training and capacity development are expected to be coordinated from Ghana. As a non for profit, AfriNIC will charge – according to a fee structure – for services of allocating address space and maintaining databases, and will contribute to capacity development in the industry and business of the internet in Africa. AfriNIC is governed by a board of trustees and has an Executive Director. The African Internet Group (AIG) is an association of past and present students of ISOC Networking Technology Workshop, formerly known as the Developing Countries Workshop.
3 3 .- At the recent annual meeting of ICANN at Plata del mar, Argentina, AfriNIC got its final recognition as the fifth Regional internet Registry. See


The movement has been in existence since INET ’95 in Hawaii. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to maintain continuity and bring focus to the experience of Africans during acquisition of the technologies. The mission was, clearly, to effect technology transfer to the continent. At maturity, the AIG has the potential of becoming the African Internet Association, because there are several hundreds of the workshops. The Africa Network Operators' Group - AfNOG is a forum for the exchange of technical information, and aims to promote discussion of implementation issues that require community cooperation through coordination and cooperation among network service providers to ensure the stability of service to end users. The goal of AfNOG is to share experience of technical challenges in setting up, building and running IP networks on the African continent. AfNOG workshops offer advanced training to operators of existing African Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who are participants in the process of developing and enhancing a national Internet with regional and international connectivity. Each workshop builds upon the experiences of the previous ones. AFTLD ( As part of the evolving structure of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), it became necessary that ccTLD holders reach consensus on their role in the proposed Naming Council of the new IANA. Over 100 ccTLDs signed on to a proposed worldwide TLD (wwTLD) group and were organized naturally along continental regional lines. The African group is the AFTLD, whose objectives are to:     represent the interests of the African ccTLDs, including the neighboring islands the neighboring islands around the African continent promote communication and cooperation between ccTLDs' managers inform the African Internet community about the ICANN process, through an awareness and outreach program provide a common address where information about African ccTLD's can be obtained

African Top Level Domains Limited was incorporated as a Mauritius non-profit corporation on 19 December 2002. it should be noticed that at this stage, there is no registry for allocating the gTLD (i.e. .com; .Org; .Info etc.) in Africa The African Internet Service Providers Association (AFRISPA) African Internet services providers resolved in 1998 to organize themselves into a commercial group known as AFRISPA. The grouped to focus on regional ISP needs, including interconnects, as well as to become a lobby group for addressing tariffs and related issues. The overall objectives of Afrispa are: 1. To provide industry perspective on policy formulation and regulation as it relates to the Internet industry and to act as an interface with Governmental bodies and the public at large. 2. To develop policies and positions in the best interest of the Members and protect and promote these interests in regional and International Fora. 3. To promote the development of key Internet Infrastructure on the Continent. 4. To promote the development of a free and open telecommunications market. 5. To facilitate the establishment of national ISP Associations in Africa and to provide common services to them. 6. To provide and promote educational opportunities that will enhance and empower technical and policy understanding of the Internet. 7. To build, maintain, and publish relevant industry data for Members .


More specifically, Afrispa aims at helping address the issues of low teledensity in Africa and the exceptionally high bandwidth costs to African ISP's (partly due to Africa having to bear the full costs of connectivity to G8 countries) ; among the solutions it proposes, one note the following :     Building national Internet Exchange Points Building regional carriers Removal of Regulatory barriers to Private Sector built Networks within and between African Countries Building of an East African submarine fibre optic cable network .

African Chapters (AC) is a loosely coordinated organization of ISOC chapters located in the African region. The idea for it was first put forth at the INET ’98 birds-of-feather meeting of chapters. The African chapters share ideas on programs, experiences, promotional schemes, and exchange programs among local chapters The African Information society initiative (AISI) is a program of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The African ministers of state have signed a commitment to the program, aimed at creating the environment for developing an information society.

4- What Perspectives for Africa?
From the above survey on African emerging Internet institution, one observes that specific issues on African participation to global policy making of the cyberspace should relate to pursuance of this transition and consolidation of the new possibilities for hooking African professionals and institutions to the cyberspace, to the deepening of the relationship of the emerging organizations to ICANN, and the responsibility of these organizations to respond to the African public in a transparent, democratic and inclusive manner. Also, for Africa to fully partake in the global policy of cyberspace, it may seek to resolve a few more general issues such as: a. interconnecting African networks through a multifaceted technologies including satellite links, fiber optic sub marine cables, wireless links and Vsat appliances; b. adopting more transparent and attractive regulations to both foreign investors and national stakeholders; c. pooling resources in view of reducing costs, through projects such as RASCOM, NEPAD.; d. intensifying training and development of strategic partnerships, with a prominent role for South-South cooperation so that a critical mass of professionals be generated and an emerging ICT industry be installed; e. designing bold strategies that seek to codify national languages in view of their use under the UNICODE protocol and subsequent Internet related usage. Finally, a specific research programme should be geared towards assessing the overall interaction of Africa with the other global bodies governing policy affecting the Internet such as WIPO, WTO and also ITU. Such an endeavor should sensibly contribute to a comprehensive strategy for hooking Africa to the cyberspace.


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