Multi-stakeholder Model Stands Out at 2011 IGF in Nairobi

Internet activists emphasised the need to maintain the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) at the sixth IGF meeting in Kenya at the end of September 2011.

The multi-stakeholder model allows for numerous internet stakeholders, such as those from government, private sector, technical community, academia, civil society and users, to meet and debate internet policy issues without making decisions for anyone. This non-decision making nature of the IGF has been widely praised, as it has allowed for the emergence of national and regional IGFs created by communities in a bottom-up manner.

The IGF was created from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to provide an environment to continue dialogue on internet public policy issues so as to ensure the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the internet. The 2011 IGF under the theme ‘Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation’, attracted more than 2,000 participants, the highest number to attend the IGF.

While making his opening remarks, Rob Beckstrom, the president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) asked participants to “stand up for the multi-stakeholder model in all its manifestations, including the vital institutions of ICANN and the IGF.” ICANNis a non-profit public benefit corporation that manages the Internet address system. ICANN works to ensure a secure, stable and unified global Internet is based on the multi-stakeholder concept, which allows everyone with an interest in the Internet to participate in its work.

Besides Access, Diversity, Critical Internet Resources and Security, Openness and Privacy, which have been recurring for the last three years, this year’s forum also, provided a session for discussing emerging issues. For the first time, mobile internet and its role in internet governance was discussed. Discussion was centered around how governance of mobile internet varies from that of wired internet; and how internet policy and regulation choices in the mobile internet context impact human rights, openness and neutrality.

While calling for an inclusive IGF, participants reiterated the need to uphold internet freedoms, including freedom of expression on the internet. Participants also called for less control of the internet by governments, noting that the internet should be freely accessible to all without undue restrictions.

Some stakeholders welcomed the Declaration by the UN for adoption of Internet Rights as a basic Human Right. While others called for Internet Rights to be adopted as next year’s theme, urging that Internet Governance cannot be complete without Internet Rights. This recommendation was welcomed by many stakeholders as it is argued that the Internet and the opportunities it presents serve a wider benefit to its users.

The event in Kenya saw the formation of the Africa IGF (AIGF), which will be coordinated by the African Union. The question is why does Africa need an IGF? Despite the high mobile penetration in Africa, internet bandwidth continues to remain high in some parts of the continent. Hence the formation of the Africa IGF comes at the time when African countries need to be moving at the same pace. It is nonetheless believed that issues such as lowering internet costs, increasing access to the internet, regulating cyber crime and increasing freedom of expression on the internet will be addressed at a continental level.

The African forum will allow for input from national and regional IGFs as a way of ensuring that the multi-stakeholder model is observed. With endorsements from regional bodies like United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), DiploFoundation, United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Department of Communication (DOC) – South Africa and FOSSFA among others, participants called for wider consultations amongst stakeholders to discuss the way forward in managing the AIGF. Egypt offered to host the first Africa IGF next year.

The Nairobi meeting called for more participation of developing countries while stressing the need for greater e-participation. 47 remote hubs were set up during this year’s forum, which  allowed for over 823 people to follow and contribute to the forum. An estimated 2,500 connections were made throughout the week from over 89 countries. (Chairman’s report of the Nairobi IGF 2011)

The next IGF will be hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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Telecom price war to affect taxes and service quality

A REDUCTION in revenues to the treasury and possible consolidation in the telecom sector will follow in the wake of the current price war, triggered two months ago by Warid, industry watchers have said.

In the latest round of cost cutting MTN has offered calls at a shilling a second to new MTN subscribers. Under the new scheme a subscriber will buy three Sim cards and create his own network with two others to enjoy the rock bottom tariff.

Almost simultaneously Warid announced their Kawa promotion that promises calls at one shilling per four seconds.

This race to the bottom was prompted by the entrance in April of Bharti Airtel, after the Indian firm bought Zain’s Africa operations in 15 countries.

Bharti Airtel, the fifth largest mobile phone company in the world with 190 million subscribers, is the leading telecom company in its home market accounting for just under third of all subscribers.

No one from Zain was available to comment on the subject but industry analysts point to Bharti’s economies of scale and its business model where everything except marketing, sales and finance are outsourced will be key in their driving prices down.

The price war has halved tariffs and leading to longer and more frequent calls.
“We are experiencing an increase of 26% on minutes of use per day meaning people are calling more. The number of callers form other networks too has increased especially Warid,” Mark Kaheru, the Uganda Telecom public relations, said.  Read more….

Telecom companies caught in a survival for the fittest race

When Warid Telecom entered the Uganda telecommunications  sector with their famous slogan “Warid Telecom, We care”, little did anyone know that they really cared for Uganda’s telecom subscribers!Many Ugandans called it “worried telecom” with the view that they were set to face competition from the already existing telecom companies like MTN, ZAIN and Uganda Telecom!

With their catchy campaigns and product offers like MEGA BONUS, DOUBLE THE FUN, PAKALAST , it was clear that Warid was set to conquer the Ugandan market.  These enticing offers allured many Ugandans to join the Warid family.

However, Warid’s well packaged products did not only allure Ugandan consumers but they shock up other telecom operators, who introduced products to match Warid’s unbeatable product offers.  As the giant telecoms fought to win new customers and retain existing ones, Ugandans enjoyed their battles by benefitting free airtime as well as an opportunity to reach out to their loved ones at lower rates.

This week, we awoke to news headlines announcing yet another mega offer from Warid. The giant telecom was urging us to “Switch to Warid for the lowest call rates of 5% per second to all networks.” Now, this was not good news to their competitors who have been ripping subscribers of their hard earned money.  It seems like they did not have any survival strategy. They needed one immediately and from the way they have responded to this new tariff, they were caught unaware. I was reading these basic means to survival in the wilderness where they say, “In a survival situation, you will be extremely fortunate if you happen to have a map and compass. If you do have these two pieces of equipment, you will most likely be able to move toward help To me, these telecoms seem not to have a map and compass! Why? Today on my way to office, I read this eye-catching headline from two of Uganda leading newspaper reading Telecoms declare new price war” and the other Zain,Uganda telecom, MTN cut call rates!!

Seriously, I hope these telecoms have thought through their reaction to Warid’s bombshell offer!

Let’s start analyzing one by one. First lets look at Zain Uganda, which happens to have the best rate as per the new tariff plan; 3/- per second across all networks. I hope this will help them allure more subscribers to the network which has lately been introducing many lucrative products on the market on top of sponsoring international artistes to perform in Uganda in the name of “Corporate Social  Responsibility”. Their new rates might help them retain their existing customer I guess!

Moving on to Uganda Telecom, which I obediently subscribe too, their new rates may pass for now as they seem a bit realistic!

As for MTN, at times I do not know what their strategy is but I know one thing for sure, they are milking a cow they do not feed! Like the survival in wilderness basics, I guess they need help! Why? They seem to have a map but they lack a compass! They are too comfortable in their position as they pose to have the largest number of subscribers on their network. But again, one thing is for sure, Ugandans are not sleeping! MTN seems to always have a hidden agenda somehow! Quoting the MTN Marketing Manager Isaac Nsereko from the Daily Monitor yesterday, he says its customers will be charged Shs320 per minute to all networks for the first 10 minutes of calls each day. Thereafter, calls within the MTN network will be charged at Shs160 per minute while calls to other networks will revert to Shs320 per minute. Honestly,  I do not see any change in their rates bacause on average, people on per second tariff plan usually talk for a few seconds  to minismise costs. So if a subscriber is going to be charged Shs320 to talk for the first ten minutes, in just two minutes they will have deducted Shs640 from his/her airtime and in 10 minutes, it will be Shs3200! Now, if we are to follow the Shs6/- per second, it is even worse! In just one minute a per second subscriber will be charged Shs360! So is MTN taking us for a ride? If MTN does not wake up from its slumber land and get help, the likes of Warid not to mention Orange Uganda are set to conquer the Ugandan market!

On the contrary, we are going to see many Ugandans having more than two sim cards (which has been the trend anyway)! However, if the Ugandan government does not enact a law requiring telecoms to legally register their existing subscribers and new ones, we are set to witness mobile connection figures that do not tell the actual story on the ground. Subscribers will keep playing safe, switching to which ever network gives them the best rate!

Telecom experts call for lower mobile broadband costs

Mobile Communications Experts yesterday urged Uganda Telecom operators to reduce the cost of mobile broadband to increase the penetration of mobile phone-based services among people at the Mobile Monday Kampala (MoMoKLA) inaugural meeting held at the Orange Uganda head office in Kampala.

Mobile Monday is  a global community of mobile industry visionaries, developers and influentials fostering cooperation and cross-border business development through virtual and live networking events to share ideas, best practices and trends from global markets. Mobile Monday is launching chapters in Africa and the Kampala chapter opens its doors on March 8, 2010.

Having affordable mobile broadband acts as a major incentive for the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms.

Engineer Patrick Mwesigwa, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC),  predicted that the cost of mobile broadband in Uganda would reduce with the increase of more players in the industry and entry of more fibre optic cable like the East African Submarine System (EASSy) cable. The cable is due to be launched mid this year to compliment Seacom and TEAMs which are already operational.

Edouard Blondeau, Chief Officer Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Orange Uganda said his company has now reduced the cost of mobile broadband to as low as Shs49,000 ($25) per month, which is a great step forward towards achieving lower internet costs.

Now this is something for Ugandans like me who have time again had to spend thousands of miscalculated shillings loading airtime to access my email onto of making calls and sending SMS.  All I have to do now is load my phone with Shs49,000 per month saving a whole Shs101,000 ($51) per month. I am hoping all service providers do the same, then we can be sure that all Ugandans will be able to take advantage of internet-based services like e-commerce, e-governance among others not just having internet access.

Uganda starts Internet Governance Forum Discussions 2009

Ugandans are at it again! Following successful Internet Governance Forums last year in several East African Countries including Uganda, new discussions are under way.

Last year, the main issues were to raise awareness, update stakeholders on the issues under debated at the international stage, and gather views on what the priority issues for Uganda were.

This year however, IG discussions seek to focus on consolidating the understanding of the issues and to state positions that may have been previously ambiguously defined. Some of the issues that continue to be discussed are; promoting access, managing Uganda’s Critical Internet Resources, gender issues in internet governance; content control Vs freedom of expression; cyber security and crime, e.tc

Discussions can be followed on the I-Network website

Internet Governance: Why should I care?

I have just come out of the Uganda Internet Governance Forum meeting and I’m beginning to think that it’s just talking and more talking about Internet Governance (IG) issues in Uganda.

The meeting which is supposed to feed into the East African Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF) has just made me realise that our government just doesn’t care about IG issues or if it does then it is not doing enough. A presentation from the Ministry of ICT just confirmed my fears about their ignorance or complacency about IG issues. The presenter was just limited to the role of governments in IG yet what we wanted to hear what the Ugandan government has done as far as Internet governance is concerned. To make it even worse, he could hardly even talk about the three main bills (e-signatures, cyber crime and e-transactions). He simply put it that they were being tabled in parliament for “approval” and knowing the way in which our parliament operates, this may take forever to be finalised!

Less than 5% of Ugandans have access to the Internet that is according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). Latest data shows that there are 175,568 active mobile internet users, who access internet through data-enabled devices or at fixed wireless hotspots. This increasing accessibility via mobile phone is helping to shift the internet landscape from traditional fixed access to mobile wireless access.

Looking at these figures, I’m not exactly hearing what the government is/has done to make IG a success in Uganda. Right now, I’m seated in an Internet cafe and I’m wondering how safe it is for me to work from here! That is in terms of protection of my information. All I know is that the Cyber crime bill is is waiting Parliament’s approval.  So between now and then,  I do not know what happens in case someone hacked into say my email account (just in case I forgot to logout) and used my private data for their own use.

Not my kind of imagination, so I will leave it to that! I hope this bill comes out pretty fast because we need it to combat internet crime and fraud that seems to be on the increase Uganda.

    ICT News Across Africa

    Today. I decided to just do a google search for ICT news around the world and the news making headlines are;

    1. Connecting Africa: How ICT is transforming a Continent
    2. ICT and Telecom
    3. UNDP ICT for Development Observatory
    4. NewsforDev | News for Development News – Euro-Africa | ICT News
    5. EuroAfriCa-ICT News The MobileActive08 Summit is being held in (South Africa) 13th -15th October
    6. ICT Africa 2008 Doctoral Consortium 18 Dec 2008 – Geo: International:Djeuga Palace Hotel, Yaounde, Cameroon The ICT Africa 2008 Doctoral Geo News RSS. 2008 Earth Observation Handbook released…
    7. Research ICT Africa – Towards evidence-based ICT policy:News · Regional Roundup: A Primer: Africa, ICT for development and the millennium development …. CTO, ICT Development Agenda, 28 October 2003
    8. Africa ICT Network – An Africa Business Community
    9. ICT and electronics in South Africa « Palapye.com News Blog a selection of news about Palapye, Botswana & Africa · ICT and electronics in South Africa. 13 October, 2008 in South Africa, Technology,
    10. News From Africa:News and Views on Africa from Africa.

    Not in the mood to write too alot now but one thing I like doing best is being in the mix 🙂