RIA at the African Internet Governance Forum 2020

This year, the 9th meeting of the African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) was held virtually from 25-27 November 2020. AfIGF aims to be an inclusive platform for multilateral, multi-stakeholder and multilingual discussion on issues pertinent to the Internet in Africa in general and Internet Governance in particular.

RIA staff were well represented at the AfIGF, speaking, moderating and acting as rapporteurs on panel discussions. Find more information about the critical Internet governance discussions that RIA’s staff participated in below.

Blockages and bottlenecks in digital government pipelines in Africa

RIA’s Alex Comninos moderated this session, while Senka Hadzic was rapporteur.

Governments around the globe increasingly plan to adopt a digital-first approach to the procedures, processes and services they provide to citizens. While such initiatives seemingly improve the availability of state services, streamlining state bureaucracy “pipelines”, factors like unsupportive strategies, the poor implementation of infrastructure, and ineffective development practices, often turn well-intentioned initiatives into costly tools that discriminate and alienate significant parts of the populace, as well as those who are most in need of state services.

Findings from this session will serve as input for a draft public policy and strategic recommendation document. Some tentative recommendations from the panel include:

1. Develop an African data protection norm and African cybersecurity principles based on internationally accepted principles.

2. Increase citizen participation in design of e-gov platforms, incl. their monitoring and evaluation.

3. Encourage use of open source technologies in development of e-government platforms, as these help avid vendor lock-in.

4. Getting approvals upfront so that the agile software development process does not get unnecessarily delayed.

5. Use the excess labour (due to automation) to provide a better service to citizens.

6. Cultural changes: fair procurement needs transparency and public oversight.

7. Interoperability: next step would be a more sophisticated platform for cross-cutting needs, e.g., across provinces, departments, etc.

8. Invest more int he power of the Internet – especially during the election period.

9. Translations into more languages other than the lingua franca. 

Watch a video recording of the discussion below.

Blockages and bottlenecks in digital government pipelines in Africa

Creating a sustainable digital taxation regime in Africa 

RIA’s Alison Gillwald was moderator in the plenary session, which had more than 60 participants with an active Q&A, while Shamira Ahmed was the rapporteur and online moderator.

This session raised policy questions about the impact of retrogressive end user taxes on objectives of affordable universal access and asked who should bear the onus of paying for Internet taxes. How do such taxes impact digital inclusion, human rights, and socio-economic developments? How the reforms of the international tax regime (BEPS) that include the global digital tax might contribute to national tax bases, not only realisation of global public goods (such as Internet, cybersecurity and data) at the national level, but to increased demand for social, labour and consumer protection from the state, as a result of globalised processes of digitalisation and datafication.

Three areas of digital taxation were covered in this session including: social networking and mobile money taxation (excise); secondary (universal service levies) and corporate taxation on mobile operators and the reforms of the international tax regime what could produce a global digital tax.

Watch a video recording of the discussion below.

Creating a sustainable digital taxation regime in Africa