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April 23, 2016 / bswitaba

Internet Governance and Policy Making; How democratic is the process?

IGF Brasil 2015
Photo: The author (extreme left) during a panel discussion at the 10th
UN IGF held in Joao Pessoa, Brasil.

Since its opening up to world in 1989, the Internet has fast evolved from being just a technical tool to a political one. Today, there are about 3 Billion Internet users, majority of whom are little aware of Internet Governance (IG). Still, among those that are aware of IG, few tend to think that it’s nothing but an elitist process, a viewpoint that is rather skewed.

Following the establishing of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a Multi-stakeholder body convoked by the UN Secretary General, Internet governance has become a crucial issue in world politics and is now discussed at the highest levels of diplomacy.
Multi-stakeholderism -a model inspired by Koffi Annan, former UN Secretary General was recognized at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) as the global model for Internet governance, and WSIS outcome document (2005) provides a framework and set of principles for that model.
Paragraph 34 of the Tunis Agenda provides a working definition of Internet governance as “the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet”.

Ideally, Multi-stakeholderism is a pivotal Internet governance principle that proposes a decentralized but inclusive and participatory concept which accommodates all the stakeholders/actors. As specified in Article 49 of the 2005 Tunis WSIS Declaration, these Internet actors include National governments, International organisations, the Business sector, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and the Technical community.
The roles and responsibilities of each of this stakeholder group are specified in paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda, which states that “The management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations.”

The IGF Multi-Stakeholder model has been synonymous with the following Internet Governance tenets:
Openness – policy discussions are open to all interested actors from all sectors of life.
Transparency – discussion sessions are webcast and followed remotely. Besides, documentation to discussions are freely accessible to the At-Large community on the respective websites
Equal Footing- Regardless of the stakeholder group, everyone is accorded the same stature.
While these tenets are widely embraced by the West, China and many developing countries argue for the stronger anchoring of the IGF in the UN system, implying a more prominent role for governments as far as Internet Governance is concerned.

Even though it has adopted the IGF Multi-Stakeholder model, ICANN has experimented on a number of representation models in a deliberate attempt to involve Internet users in the governance of the Internet. The first model was through direct elections of their representatives to ICANN governing bodies, a move that was meant to secure ICANN’s legitimacy. However, it proved to be a flop as it failed to provide real representation of Internet users due to low turn out and misuse of the process.
Later in its 2002 reform, ICANN adopted the strengthening of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), eventually abandoning the direct voting system.

In recent times, ICANN has adopted a number of concurrent approaches to involve Internet users.
The first is Consensus-driven approach: This approach provides an arena where all Internet stakeholders can discuss Internet policy issues through various volunteer Working Groups within the ICANN ecosystem. The overarching aim of this approach is to ensure a broad representation across the Internet community.

The other approach is the the ‘At-Large’ governance structure: This At-Large governance structure uses a “Bottom-up” approach, meaning that rather than the ICANN Board solely declaring what topics ICANN should address, members of sub groups within ICANN can raise issues at grassroots level. If the issues raised are worth addressing, and or fall within ICANN’s proposal, they then can ascend through an assortment of Advisory committees and supporting organisations until the policy
recommendations are eventually passed to the board for a vote.
It is worth mentioning that after a policy proposal goes through the Policy Development Process (PDP), that proposal has to be put in the public domain at some point in what is termed as “Public Comment Request”. At this stage, the general public has a chance to review, challenge, and or recommend the policy clause/s in the policy proposal prior to being passed to the board for a vote.
The views by the public are then sampled and looked into accordingly for consideration where applicable.

With the IANA Transition Proposal in the hands of the NTIA, the Internet governance pundits are optimistic that if implemented, it could be key in efforts to enforce ICANN’s Global accountability to the Internet actors.

Conclusion

Some analysts argue that while Internet Governance(IG) Policy making is a democratic process, it is nonetheless complicated.
According to professor Wolfgang Kleinwachter, “the concept is very vague, lacks operational clarity, and is open to conflicting interpretations and is often not more than lip service”
On her part, APC’s Annriette Esterhuysen feels that “Multi-stakeholderism participation in Internet
policy making has a long way to go if it is to really deepen democracy”.
Despite these highlighted grey areas, a section of the global community acknowledges that Multi-Stakeholderism model is a vibrant and a balanced form of governance that exudes a relatively fair mechanism for cross-border policy making.
Indeed it is evident that anyone and everyone can get involved in the governance and Internet policy making process, with their voice/s getting heard through either the Bottom-up, and Consensus driven and Multi-stakeholder approaches.

About the Author.

The author is an ICANN Fellow, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant in Internet Governance and Policy matters.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of ICANN, any of their organs or agencies nor of any other organisation(s) mentioned or discussed.
The copyright license of this article remains with the author. The translation and publication of this article in other languages is encouraged. For more information, please contact the author.

April 22, 2016 / bswitaba

Is Encryption Being Stigmatised?

iStock_000052682510_Small.2

Image Credit: tzahiV/iStockphoto

In February, Apple and the FBI were embroiled in a bitter tussle over Cracking San Bernadino’s Gunman’s iPhone. The Department of Justice compelled Apple to hand over the iOS source code to necessitate the FBI to decrypt information on Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, one of the San Bernadino shooters.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was defiant at the U.S court’s order, arguing that providing the FBI with a backdoor would seriously jeopardize the security of millions of Americans.
Top companies such as Google and Facebook were quick to throw their weight behind Apple as a sign of solidarity. On it’s part, Microsoft was swift to distance itself from Founder- Bill Gatescomments and stance regarding the saga by filing an Amicus brief siding with rival Apple.

In the wake of Edward Snowden‘s revelations on NSA practices revealed in 2013, governments around the world have moved with haste to pass new legislation to increase surveillance.
These laws are a serious and direct breach to fundamental right to privacy of users of communication systems.
As a reaction, technology companies have transitioned towards default encryption settings to enhance privacy and security of user activity. This has prompted governments to “limit” encryption in the process eroding anonymity and privacy .
Several governments have time and again argued that encryption tools could easily be used by terrorists and criminal elements in the quest to evade being apprehended.

According to a 2015 Freedom House Publication (Freedom on the Net), “policy makers in the U.K and U.S have been at the forefront at calling for companies to provide intelligence with a “backdoor” to user data, circumventing encryption”.
Similarly, China the only country in the world to have attained a higher level of digital sovereignty has not been left far behind.
In November 2014, Chinese authorities proposed a counter-terrorism law that would require telecom firms to provide a “backdoor” to circumvent encryption.
Internet giant Facebook was engulfed in yet a similar scenario with the law enforcers in Brazil. The latter were demanding access to encrypted data on Facebook’s messaging platform WhatsApp, an act that many felt contravened the Marco Civil da Internet act. Perhaps in what may be seen as an attempt to safeguard users, Facebook vehemently objected to this demands stating that the company was not in a position whatsoever to decrypt user messages on their servers back into plain text.

2015 saw a number of foreign journalists detained and deported by the Turkish state – their crime simply being “the use of encryption in their journalism work”. At one instance, the Turkish government even went astray and likened encryption to terrorism!
In the same year, India come up with a controversial encryption policy proposal that culminated to a public uproar. The state was forced to repeal this proposal following the outcry from the civil society and public at large. Ideally, this proposal by India would have forced the populace to store plain text versions of their encrypted data for a period of up to 90 days, with the national security being allowed access to such data at any given time. Clearly, this was akin to alluding that “Encryption is
illegal!”.
Other states such as Cuba and Ethiopia are perfect examples of where encryption continues to face a backlash from state actors.

Conclusion

From the scenarios depicted herein, it is quite evident that there are seemingly endless tensions between law enforcement and tech companies vis-a-vis the encryption debate.
While encryption is a vital element of digital security to users, states have opted on deliberate attempts to stigmatize encryption.
At the time of publishing this article, the media was already awash with reports that the FBI had managed to access content of the iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s assistance.
Civil liberties watch dogs such as the UN High Commission for Human Rights, feel this
latest Crypto development could adversely compromise privacy – a pivotal human right.
ICT analysts on their side have raised a red flag regarding calls to provide intelligence with a “backdoor”; they feel that it may eventually be used by hackers for malicious motives.
Undoubtedly, the Apple vs FBI saga is a meme that has triggered a global conversation whose discourse can only be adjudged as a sphinx.
Perhaps the question we should now all be asking – Is this the beginning of the end of digital privacy and security for users?

About the Author.

The author is an ICANN Fellow, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant in Internet Governance and Policy matters.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of ICANN, any of their organs or agencies nor of any other organisation(s) mentioned or discussed.
The copyright license of this article remains with the author. The translation and publication of this article in other languages is encouraged. For more information, please contact the author.

March 29, 2016 / bswitaba

IANA Transition; A test case for Internet Governance?

At the just concluded ICANN 55 meeting that was held in Marrakech-Morocco, the IANA Transition Coordination Group (ICG) submitted the final proposal to take over stewardship of the IANA functions. This final proposal was received by the ICANN board on 10th March 2016 and later submitted to NTIA for approval.

The IANA Transition Phase

The IANA Transition process came about as a result of the global Internet multi-stakeholder community agitating for the removal of the U.S government from control of the DNS root control.
In March 2014, the National Telecommunication and information Administration’s (NTIA) announced its intention to transition the oversight role of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community.

This phase was highly anticipated to be completed by 30th September 2015. However, after factoring in time for public comment, the U.S. government evaluation, and implementation of the proposals, the Internet community projected that it could take at least a year for the process to complete.
Following a directive from NTIA, ICANN formed the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG), which comprised of 30 members from 13 constituencies. Each constituency was responsible in forming their own working groups to develop their respective proposal.

On it’s part, the Numbering Resources Community comprised of the Resource Organisation (NRO), the Address Supporting Organisation (ASO). The five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) formed the
Consolidated RIR IANA Stewardship Proposal Team (CRISP Team) to develop their proposal.
On the other hand, the Protocol Parameters community comprised of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) created the IANAPLAN Working Group.
Correspondingly, the Domain Names Community formed two working groups: the Cross Working Group (CWG) Stewardship and the Community Cross Working Group (CCWG) Accountability.

Why IANA Transition is Paramount

The special ties between ICANN and the U.S government have been a major focus of criticism.
A section of the Internet players feel that the global accountability of ICANN could be in jeopardy if the mandate is vested on one country alone (the U.S). Besides, others feel that considering ICANN is based in the U.S, it’s legally feasible and technically possible for the U.S to order ICANN to delete country domain names of states perceived to be nemesis of the U.S for instance Cuba, Iran, N. Korea.
ICANN stakeholder community therefore projects that the IANA Transition will have substantial implications on ICANN.
It is believed ICANN will extremely be held accountable to the the global stakeholder community as opposed to what has been the norm (to the U.S government).
As a result, this accountability will support and enhance multi-stakeholderism, a key Internet Governance principle. This move will ultimately bolster the openness, resilience, and security of the Internet.

Conclusion

In the past, some Internet pundits have expressed pessimism on the IANA process stating that the U.S congress may eventually reject the proposal, and acquire the mandate to oversight ICANN.
Following the submission of the complete IANA proposal to NTIA, and an imminent regime change in the U.S, the Internet fraternity awaits with bated breath to unfold if the process is indeed a test case.
At the time of publishing this article, the NTIA had started reviewing the IANA Transition proposal, a process that could last up-to 90 days.
The NTIA must then get the proposal approved before ICANN’s IANA functions contract expires in September 2016, and well before the expiry of Obama administration’s tenure.
The global stakeholder community can only hope that the Transition process will stay on course to a full fruition.

About the author
Bonface Witaba is an ICANN Fellow, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant in Internet Governance and Policy matters.

Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of ICANN, any of their organs or agencies nor of any other organisation(s) mentioned or discussed.

March 29, 2016 / bswitaba

Je, Tanzania ni mfano mwema Kidemokrasia Barani Afrika?

Rais Mteule wa Zanzibar
Picha: Rais Mteule wa Zanzibar Ali Mohamed Shein
Hisani: Daily News

Mwezi Oktoba mwaka jana, Tanzania iliandaa uchaguzi mkuu na mgombea wa CCM Mhe. John Pombe Magufuli akatangazwa na NEC kama mshindi, na kuwa rais wa tano wa jamhuri ya muungano.
Ila kisiwani Zanzibar, matokeo ya urais yalifutiliwa mbali na tume ya uchaguzi ZEC. Hali hii ilipelekea Upinzani CUF kuzua pingamizi. Ni bayana kuwa upinzani ulikuwa umetwaa ushindi lakini tume ya uchaguzi kisiwani ZEC iliamua kubatilisha matokeo kwa kigezo kuwa yalikuwa yamekumbwa na udanganyifu . Wadadisi wa maswala ya kisiasa waliona hatua hii ya ZEC kama njama ya kujaribu kukinusuru chama tawala kupitia marudio ya uchaguzi.
ZEC ilitangaza kuwa shughuli nzima ya uchaguzi ingerejelewa upya kisiwani Zanzibar .
Licha ya kuandaa mikakati ya uchaguzi mpya kisiwani humo wiki hii, upinzani uliamua kususia harakati hizo kwayo kumwacha mgombea wa chama tawala cha CCM Ali Mohamed kujimwaya ulingoni bila mshindani, na kuweza kutamba safari hii na asilimia tisini (90%) ya kura.

Nchi za magharibi zimekuwa zikiisifia Tanzania kwa kuwa mfano mwema katika demokrasia barani Afrika. Kwa jumla, imelinganishwa na nchi kama vile Ghana na Botswana.
Ni bayana kwamba wakati nchi jirani zimekuwa zikipitia vipindi na hali tatanishi za msukosuko kisiasa, Tanzania imeweza kuimarisha mabadiliko kisiasa bila ya kushuhudia hali ya mtafaruku katika kipindi cha miaka 55 ya uhuru wake.

Mtazamo wa Hali Halisi ya Demokrasia Nchini Tanzania

Je, demokrasia nchini Tanzania ni ya mfano mwema kama inavyodaiwa na nchi za magharibi au ni ya kutamausha tu?
Ili kupata jibu mwafaka kwa hili swala, itabidi tujiulize ni nini haswa kinachangia demokrasia halisi?
Kwa kawaida, demokrasia iliyonawiri inazingatia kanuni na misingi iliyowekwa ya demokrasia kama vile uzingatiaji wa sheria, kuheshimu maoni au misimamo ya kisiasa inayotofautiana, ujumuishwaji wa upinzani na mashirika ya umma kwenye maswala yenye umuhimu katika taifa mfano utengenezaji wa katiba, uwajibikaji kwa wananchi, na vile vile uhakikishaji wa mazingira yanayowezesha uchaguzi ambao ni  huru, wa haki na ukweli.
Ili kupima kama kweli Tanzania imekaribia kutimiza haya yote, hebu tuchambue jinsi hali ilivyo:

Kuondoka kwa Rais Kikwete usukani na kumkabidhi ala za uongozi Rais Magufuli ni ishara dhati kuwa Tanzania inazingatia kanuni zilizowekwa kuhusu mihula ya urais.
Hapa Tanzania inajizolea alama tele, ukizingatia kuwa marais wengine barani Afrika wamefutilia mbali swala la mihula na hata kujitanganza marais milele.
Tanzania inastahili pongezi kwa kuwa na vipindi vya mpwito kutoka kwa rais mmoja hadi mwingine.
Wasifu huu mzuri ulifanikishwa na baba mwanzilishi wa taifa hayati Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, ambaye aliamua kung’atuka mamlakani mnamo mwaka wa 1985 japo kipindi kile hakukuwepo na swala la kizingiti katika mihula. Kwa kweli sio kawaida kwa marais wa Afrika kung’atuka mamlakani. Kando na Mwalimu Nyerere, rais mwingine aliyeng’atuka mamlakani japo bado alikuwa  na muhula mwingine wa kuhudumu ni Mandela wa Afrika Kusini.

Licha ya hayo, kwenye maswala ya uzingatiaji wa sheria, kuheshimu maoni au misimamo ya kisiasa inayotofautiana, ujumuishwaji wa upinzani na mashirika ya umma kwenye maswala yenye umuhimu katika taifa, Tanzania imefeli kabisa.
Ukizingatia utengenezaji wa katiba rasimu, chama tawala kilidhihirisha ubabe kwa kiendesha shughuli hii bila ya kuwashirikisha wadau muhimu. Wengi walibaki kukisuta chama tawala na hata kukilinganisha na siha ya dalali.
Wakereketo wa CMM hawakukosa cheche za majibu kwa kudai upinzani ni kama chinga anayeuza chochote ili mradi amshawishi mpiga kura

Utawanyaji wa mikutano ya upinzani wakati wa kampeni na jeshi la polisi sio jambo jipya.
Kuzidisha, kitengo cha vijana cha CCM kinajulikana sana kwa kushambulia ngome za upinzani pamoja na wafuasi wao haswa kwenye yale maeneo yanayo onekana kana kwamba yanaegemea upinzani. Mfano mufti ni maeneo ya Arusha na Zanzibar kisiwani ambayo yameweza kushuhudia hali ya ghasia wakati wa uchaguzi, wafuasi wa upinzani wakiwa walengwa wakuu.

Mashirika ya kijamii nayo yameishia kubanwa yasiwe na sauti au uhuru wa kusema, kinyume na ilivyo kwenye demokrasia halisi.
Chama tawala daima kinaunda sheria zinazikandamiza mashirika haya pamoja na vyombo vya habari.
Vile vile, swala la uwazi na uwajibikaji wa serikali kwa wananchi limesalia kuwa ndoto tu. Jambo lingine linalojitokeza ni lile la watu wenye nyadhifa kubwa serikalini kujihusisha kwenye sakata na ufisadi pasipo na kujali. Washukiwa wakuu kwenye sakata ya Escrow bado hawajachukuliwa hatua za kisheria hadi wa leo.
Sakata hii ya mwaka wa 2014 ilishuhudia kupotea kwa mamilioni ya dollar za Marekani zinazokadriwa kuwa zaidi ya milioni 400.
Mamilioni haya yalihamishwa kutoka Benki kuu ya Tanzania na kugawanywa kinyume na sheria miongoni mwa viongozi wakuu serikalini.
Japo upinzani ulizua tetesi kuhusu sakata hii kubwa kuwahi kushuhudiwa katika historia ya Tanzania, upande wa serikali uliifumbia macho hadi pale mashirika ya ufadhili yalipoamua kukatisha ufadhili wa zaidi ya dollar milioni 558.

Hatimaye kila kunapoandaliwa uchaguzi nchini Tanzania, swala kuu husalia kuwa iwapo uchaguzi huo utakuwa huru, wa haki na ukweli. Tume ya uchaguzi NEC siku zote inasalia kuwa kitengo chenye umuhimu zaidi kinachowezesha CCM kukandamiza upinzani.
Mshirika huyu mkuu wa CCM anakihakikishia chama tawala kupata idadi kubwa ya wajumbe bungeni kwa kutumia mbinu za shauku kihisabati, hali inayoishia kuipa CCM mgao wa viti vingi na uwakilishi kwenye bunge.
Kwenye upande wao, CCM inatumia mbinu zote kisheria na hata zile zinazokiuka sheria kuhakikisha uhangaishwaji wa wale wasiokubaliana na maoni ya serikali.

Uchambuzi wa Mwisho

Nchi za Magharibi zinatoa mtazamo uliopinda kuhusu nchi ya Tanzania. Huenda wana sababu zao za kuwa na mtazamo huu kwa manufaa yao wenyewe ambayo wanayafahamu.
Labda wanahitaji kukumbushwa kusoma kitabu cha mcheshi Penelope Dyan chenye maudhui “If You Put Lipstick on a Pig-You Will Have A Beautiful Pig”.
Katika chapisho lao “Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat” (Tanzania’s missing Opposition), Barak Hoffman, na Lindsay Robinson wanasisitiza “Tanzania leo sio demokrasia, bali ni himaya iliyopo chini ya chama kimoja cha CCM”.
Iwapo baba mwanzilishi wa taifa Mwalimu Nyerere angeweza kurejea leo – je, angekuwa na lolote la kujivunia kidemokrasia nchini Tanzania au angesalia kutamaushwa na jinsi mambo yalivyo?  Haya msomaji kazi kwako, wewe yatafakari hayo.

Kuhusu Mwandishi
Bonface Witaba
:
Mwana teknohama wa tajriba ya juu nchini Kenya na mchanganuzi wa maswala ya utawala wa mitandao (Internet Governance), utafiti wa sera (Policy Research)
Pia ni Mshirika wa ICANN (ICANN Fellow-Singapore/Dublin), AFRINIC Fellow(Congo), CPRSouth Fellow-Yuan Ze University (Taiwan), na DiploFoundation (Switzerland).
Ameshirika kongamano nchi mbali mbali kutoa hisia zake, moja wapo likiwemo lile la utawala wa mitandaoni lililoandaliwa Brazil 2015 na umoja wa mataifa (UN Internet Governance Forum).

Maoni yaliyotolewa hapa ni yake binafsi na wala pasiwe na mwonekano kuwa yale ya mashirika anayohusiana nayo.

Kuwasiliana naye:

Simu: +254 722 286 583

Twitter: @bswitaba Skype: bonface.witaba

Barua Pepe: bswitaba@yahoo.co.uk / bswitaba@gmail.com

March 1, 2016 / bswitaba

Can Kenya’s Laptops For Schools Project Deliver Greater Learning Efficiency?

3-laptops-class-one
Pupils learning with laptops in a classroom. Photo Credit: Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development

Following a protracted wait for the implementation of the promised laptop project for schools, the Kenya government finally announced that the exercise would kick off this month.
Speaking to the media, the newly appointed ICT CS Joe Mucheru intimated that the pilot phase of the digital literacy program is to kick off in selected primary schools in all the 47 counties.
This follows the awarding of tenders to Moi University, and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The two institutions are mandated to conduct what the CS termed as “Proof of Concept”.

Technology integration to support education in classrooms is a phenomenon that continues to trend in Africa.
Countries such as South Africa (through ) and Zimbabwe (through Econet wireless program) have in recent times been testing technology integration concept to support learning in schools.
With Kenya following suit, enthusiastic citizens will be eager to know if indeed this concept has the likelihood to transform our education system for the better.

The Potential impacts of using laptops for teaching and learning

Since the introduction of free primary education in Kenya, there has been a steady increasing demand in training and education.
In principle, this means that traditional teaching and learning methods will not suffice to take the country from Universal Primary Education (UPE) into the Education For All (EFA) agenda as stipulated in the Millennium development Goals (MDGs). This clearly calls for a business re-engineering process, a paradigm shift, and the adoption of alternative methodologies that will encourage continuous improvement of instruction, and personalized learning in our schools.
Therefore as the government readies to launch the digital literacy program in the course of the month, it’s of utmost importance to endeavor to look beyond the general hype behind ICT enabled learning in the quest to answer the question – can laptops deliver greater learning efficiency?

In recent years, a number of studies have been carried out by ICT4D experts to evaluate the impact of ICT enabled learning.
These studies have concluded that this mode of instruction can aid yield immense positive outcomes to learners and educators alike, but only if supported by holistic approaches such as appropriate policies, infrastructure, professional development, and curricula.
For instance, from a learner’s perspective, a Centre for Youth Empowerment and Leadership study indicates that technology enhanced learning can aid students increase motivation and performance; On average, a learner who does not use ICT enabled learning is rated at 50th percentile statistically, while one that uses ICT enabled learning ranks at about 70th percentile.

Another empirical research has it that if blended with Open Educational Resources (OERs), laptops can provide equalized access to collective knowledge and provide many more learners with access to quality education through the use of books and curricula widely available on the Internet.
Additionally, laptops can empower learners with real life learning opportunities. This practical and real life experiences allow learners gain soft skills, such as time and work management, a course that permits for the enhancement of language and ICT skills, which can be acknowledged as being essential in this era.
In general, laptops can deliver greater learning efficiency to learners, as well as promote continuous improvement of instruction and personalized learning.

From teachers’ perspective, laptops can be more effective tools capable of instilling educators with a more positive attitude towards their work in terms of increasing lesson planning, preparation and productivity. This in turn aids educators to provide more personalized learning to their learners.
These viewpoints definitely are clear indicators that effective learning can emanate from using ICTs to broaden educational opportunity and help students develop 21st century skills.

Caveat

Despite the numerous advantages of ICT enhanced learning among learners and educators, there is a flip side to these devices.
For instance, in order to enable teachers properly integrate devices in the classroom, there is a profound need for adequate investment in technology access and curriculum resources for them to apply what they learn in professional development activities.
To this effect, it may be difficult to transform teaching and learning in an ICT enabled classroom environment without the sufficient technology skills required.
Another factor is that of the distracting nature of the devices to the learners; By design, technology enabled learning should by all means adhere to the principles of ergonomics. Ideally, a difficult gadget to navigate may adversely hamper learners’ engagement-a key requisite for learning.
From a technical angle, considering both educators and learners lack professional technical expertise in the event of device malfunction, it puts them at a disadvantage to handle such eventualities. In as much as it may be a non issue, it is essential especially for the educator to have basic technical trouble-shooting skills.

Conclusion

A COL review argues that though not tested statistically, laptops are more effective as learning tools when used with a student-centered approach, rather than within teacher-controlled environments.
Correspondingly, Intel findings indicate that there are no longitudinal, randomized trials conclusively linking ICT enhanced learning with positive learner outcomes”.
Nevertheless, there is need for the government to launch the digital literacy project to provide not just formal education, but all forms of learning if the country is to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
If implemented in a pensive and calculated manner, Kenya is bound to attain economic progress and become competitive globally as a result from developing a better educated workforce through ICT enabled learning.

This article was first published by the author on iAfrikan 

February 16, 2016 / bswitaba

The Jostle for .africa (dotAfrica) gTLD; The saga and the long march to Africa’s digital presence

dotAfrica
Image credit: dotAfrica

During ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore, a Registry Agreement (RA) between Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) for the delegation and administration of the .africa (dotAfrica) Top Level Domain (TLD) was concluded.
The African continent was elated with the news of this historical signing; for the first time, Africa stood an opportunity to pride herself with a much needed unique identity.
But alas before the toasting could subside, the supremacy battles and sideshows between ZACR and dotAfricaConnect (DCA) erupted again with the latter lodging a complaint alleging unfair treatment of its application.
For over two-years, these two parties had engaged in a prolonged fight to become the official registry operator for .africa (dotAfrica).
In previous years, DCA had made attempts to make applications to be the official registry for .africa (dotAfrica), a move that was rejected by ICANN in June 2013. In the following month (July 2013), ICANN oversaw ZACR’s application pass the initial evaluation of the .africa (dotAfrica) gTLD.
The result of this evaluation was published in ICANN’s initial evaluation report.
On the other hand, DCA connived several techniques to have its application reconsidered by ICANN. In October 2013 for instance, DCA officially requested for an Independent Review Process (IRP) to be carried out by the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR).

Despite signing the Registry Operator agreement with ICANN in 2014, a year down the lane, ZACR have not been able to enforce the contract or finish the Pre Delegation Testing (PDT). This follows DCA’s submission of a “Request for Emergency Arbitrator and Interim Measures Protection”, on 28th March 2014. In it’s request, DCA asserted that it was “entitled to a fair hearing and with a role to provide a meaningful legal redress”.
In it’s response, ICANN requested that DCA’s trust request be refused. This did not however deter DCA who eventually got a lifeline when their request was referred for review and consideration to the ICDR Panel.
The Panel would then rule in favour of DCA when it directed ICANN to refrain from further processing of any application for .africa (dotAfrica), until the Panel had heard the merits of DCA Notice of Independent Review process. This decision dealt a major blow to ZACR while to DCA, it was perceived as a glorious one with DCA CEO and Founder Ms Sophia Bekele hailing it.
Ever since, ZACR and DCA have been embroiled in a bitter tussle and jostle in the quest to have control of the coveted geographic brand.

Prominent Internet Governance pundits have nevertheless had a diatribe into DCA’s application stating that it “lacked merit” and accompanying supporting documentation as stipulated by ICANN’s Applicant’s Guidebook for Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). ICANN guidelines state that for an applicant to be successful in lodging an application for a gTLD, a minimum of 60% government support is required for it to go through. It is alleged that DCA does not have the required 60% threshold. Technically, this is construed to mean that DCA’s application was “flawed” from the very start and should not have gone through to the evaluation stage.
On its part, ZACR boasts of more than 75% support from Africa governments and is unanimously supported by the African Union (AU).

Why does .africa gTLD matter?

Being a gTLD for the entire African continent, .africa (dotAfrica) has an enormous brand value (estimated to be worth millions of US$), which could be considerably and very profitably enhanced. This may be one of the prime factors as to why it is so hotly contested for by the two parties.
Statistically, there are more than 1000 ICANN accredited Registrars worldwide but only five (5) are based in Africa. According to ZACR, .africa (dotAfrica) thus possess an impressively significant growth and development of a competitive and competent Registrar market in Africa that is bound to directly benefit African ccTLDs, promote enterprise development, as well as increase the accessibility to basic Internet resources and infrastructure to the public.
In terms of content development, .africa (dotAfrica) will be an opportunity to promote African content from developers. Similarly, it is projected that partnering with content providers, social media vendors, governments and NGOs will drive content development and community buy in for the gTLD.
From a marketing perspective, .africa (dotAfrica) will help Identify with the continent, eventually aiding in showcasing brand and commitment to Africa’s growth and development. This will in turn help expand business footprint and influence in the region.

Forward-Looking

Undoubtedly, Africa has been put on another unprecedented long wait to have her unique geographic identity. With the lack of a Modus Operandi between ZACR and DCA, speculations of interesting situations among the concerned parties once the IRP renders its final decision have been rife:
In the eventuality that the IRP rules in favour of ICANN (for that matter ZACR), then DCA’s long resistance may have come to a stretch. However, given the pragmatic aggressiveness DCA is renowned for, and it’s privileged ties with the U.S congress, abiding by the ruling may be a bitter pill to swallow. Rather, it is likely that DCA may instead choose to drag the matter into the corridors of the U.S justice system!
On the other hand, should DCA carry the day, ICANN has a herculean task too – to abide by the ruling, and or head to the U.S judicial system as well to have the IRP ruling overturned.
For ZACR, the scenario is homogeneous in the event DCA is fortuitous in the ruling – the U.S judicial system may be the only option for ZACR to enforce its rights in regard to the signed Registry Agreement with ICANN.

When reached for comment regarding the complexity surrounding .africa (dotAfrica), Mr. Neil Dundas, the CEO of Domain Name Services reiterated that the deadline for the Geographic Names Panel (GNP) extension had been set for 28th January 2016. “This is when the GNP must make the final decision on whether DCA’s application has the required government support – If not, the DCA application must be dismissed and the ICANN Board can elect to allow the ZACR application to proceed with the delegation of .africa (dotAfrica)”.
Assuming that this is the best case scenario, then it indeed maybe a sigh of relief, and glimmer of hope that the African continent has been waiting for eons.

As the clock ticks in the meantime, all eyes by the Internet community are set on the 28th to witness events that may unfold – of who will carry the day in the quest to have “Africa in One Space”, and most importantly when the launch of .africa (dotAfrica) will be.
Whether it will be ZACR or DCA that will be triumphant, only time will tell. All in all regardless of the outcome, Africa must prevail.

NB: This article was first published by the author on iAfrikan; the number one Pan African Tech blog

February 16, 2016 / bswitaba

Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs); The answer to a Multi-lingual Internet?

 

internet

Image credits: Digitaltrends

Recently, Tanzania hit the headlines with it’s announcement that it was ditching English and adopting Swahili as the sole language of instruction at both primary and secondary school level. This move elicited mixed reactions from various quotas, with some hailing the move as bold and necessary, while others critiqued it as a dangerous move that is set to isolate the East African country from the outside world.
From an Internet Governance perspective, Imagine if, every time students wanted to visit a website, they were expected to type in letters from a language they did not speak. Well, that’s perhaps one immediate challenge Tanzania may have to deal with considering most of the content available online is in English.
By design, the Internet is one global network. However, it was not designed to be multi-lingual. For years, this has been a limitation considering the Internet only permitted a limited set of Latin characters.

ICANN and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)

Internationalized Domain Names or simply IDNs are domain names that include characters other than the letters of the basic Latin alphabet (the 26 letters “a-z”), numbers 0-9, and hyphen “-”.
Such domain names could contain characters with diacritical marks as required by many European languages, or characters from non-Latin scripts,such as Arabic or Chinese.
Ideally, before IDNs were rolled out on a large scale, non-Latin characters could only be seen at the second, third or even fourth level of a URL.
IDNs were first introduced into the Root Zone in 2010, as countries began supporting IDN country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLDs).
Over the past decade, ICANN and community stakeholder groups have been working to support internationalized domain names (IDNs) in the quest to enable a multi-lingual web addresses.
As of today, there are over 30 IDN ccTLDs that have been delegated, for instance: Russian Federation (ru): рф
Technically, this means that Russians are no longer restricted to registering domains using the Latin (.ru) country code, and may instead use the Cyrillic equivalent .рф.

In Africa, there are continuing efforts to localize and support African languages and scripts. Prior to the AFRINIC 23 meeting in Point Noire – Congo, ICANN held a two day pre-event workshop on Internationalized Domain Names and African Languages.
The workshop focused on Langauges and Scripts in Africa, and the need of African community to participate in IDN panels.
The two day session was headed by ICANN VP (Africa) Pierre Dandjinou, ICANN Africa Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager Mr. Yaovi Atohoun, and the ICANN Stakeholder Engagement Manager Mr. Bob Ochieng’.
This event drew together African languages and scripts experts from around the continent.
After the successful event, ICANN formed an IDN Africa strategic group, with the experts being invited to volunteer on panels in respective languages of their interest.
At the time of publishing this post, ICANN had already announced the formation of the Generation Panel to develop Root Zone Label Generation Rules (LGR) for the Ethiopic script.

IDNs and the next billion Internet users

Today, the number of Internet users stands at about 3 billion users, the majority of whom depend on non Latin scripts. As the world looks forth to connecting the next billion of Internet users, the big question is: could IDNs be the answer to universal access to Internet for all?
The reply is an affirmative Yes; IDNs may just be the key to preserving national identity, culture and multi-lingualism. Besides, IDNs could create equal opportunities for all; thus drawing us closer to achieving the idea of universal access. This will eventually empower more people to use the Internet. Therefore, as IDNs begin to take root on the Internet, the world is expected to continue shifting towards a more linguistically user friendly Internet, in which netizens around the globe will be able to surf the Internet entirely in their native languages.

Conclusion

In the last analysis, Tanzania may just be on the right track in their move to switch entirely from English to Swahili – now perhaps what they need to do is pool together a team of Swahili language and script experts to form a Generation panel that will closely work with ICANN IDN Africa team.
This will indeed do a lot of justice to students in Tanzania and the Swahili Langauge as a whole. After all, Swahili is the second most spoken language in Africa after Arabic; and East Africa may eventually be the biggest beneficiary in the long run.