Skip to content
December 22, 2018 / bswitaba

Let’s Talk Depression: The Valley of Shadow of Death

The Forethought

Am an indeterminate sambo,

trapped in a sphinx veil,

That deprives me off my true self-consciousness,

A complex situation, brooding confusion,

A peculiar sensation,hiding in my two-ness,

Two souls, two thoughts,

Two unreconciled strivings,

Two warring ideals all in this one body.

Am dogged with a history of strife,

O how I long to attain my old life,

Rife of a self-conscious humanity,

and merge my double self into a better and truer self.

Its a bio- in a prison,

A self imposed treason,

For lack of reason, Like a caged jail bird,

Who’s bail barred.

– Trapped in a Veil, Poem by self-

 
With the untimely death of South Africa’s renowned Kwaito artiste HHP, and the world commemorating world mental health day, something in me felt that it was about time I opened up about my battle with mental health issues for the past half a decade.

Yes- unknown to many of you, I have been battling depression for the longest time now, and even though on a number of occasions I have met many of you, and you probably sought to know how I was doing, 99% of the time, I told you I was fine, even though it was an outright lie. My smile, the only secret bearer of my struggles, knew of the pain I was hiding within me. I do not wish to delve into details at this very moment as to why I have constantly been in depression over years, but I will rather talk in general of my experience.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2017 report, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. It is estimated that more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. In Kenya, depression has been identified as the greatest cause of suicide – usurping violent relationships and other related abuses. In Africa, Kenya ranks sixth with the highest number of depression cases, with most of them affecting men. It is believed that men are more likely to commit suicide when in depression than women. Some experts have linked this to the overly patriarchal society; this societal construct dictates that men should “man up”, “be strong”, and that it is wrong for them to “show emotion”, feel weak and or pain. A good friend of mine – Mary Mukami, feels that men have been forced to become “stones” without souls.

That said, it is unfortunate that people with depression, especially men, rarely come out to seek support, owing the stigmatization that is associated with mental illness.

 
Depression is a mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, coupled with the inability to perform daily chores.”

 

Anyone who has experienced depression purely comprehends how intense it can be. The first notable time I encountered this monster was in 2011. Ever since, I have gone on to experience a series of depressions (over 10), suicidal ideation, as well as its associated post traumatic stress disorders. This monster (depression) is more than just low moods. Like the proverbial good and evil wolf in Native American folklores, it gets a part of you fight for life, while the other strives for death. One can indeed win and or lose depending on the wolf they decide to feed – that of life, or that of death. This contest between these two un-reconciled souls within me, perpetually sapped my happiness, energy, self worth, and hope.

During all this time, I would develop anorexia nervosa, insomnia/ oversleeping, nightmares, hallucination, and even amnesia. One time I was unable to remember my passwords (social media), phone PINs, Visa card PINs, for a period lasting up to 8 months! At one point, I became so heavily reliant on antidepressants, and sleeping pills to a level that I could barely “relax” and or sleep without them. With anorexia biting in hard, I began to fast lose weight, forcing me to start taking multi-vitamins to necessitate me regain my appetite for food. As time went by, my body got used to too excessive medication that no amount of medication seemed to work at all moving forward. I would do straight back-to-back nights without blinking –CNN was my best friend, and other times, my consultancy for a company in some country that had a different time zone (8+ hours), would have me stay up all night, sometimes doing a total of up to 4-5 days without sleep! Also, I sought solace in writing – reason I am a writer to date!

The downside is that I soon became anti-social because as I didn’t want people noticing what I was going through. Someone would set up an appointment with me, well in advance for instance, and I would wait till last minute (a day or few hours), then cancel on the flimsiest grounds. For communications, I carefully screened all my calls and e-mails, as a measure to limit unnecessary interactions that would drain my energy further, or act as dead giveaway of my sorrows.

In private, I  became temperamental, ruing, kicking stuff out of my way, putting myself down, constantly having repeated suicidal ideations. In public however, I was the strongest and happiest person you could talk to and laugh with – in fact, on many occasions, I was bravely there for those whom I was aware were in depression themselves, though all this while, despite the support I accorded them, I never revealed to them that I was equally fighting depression myself. Between 2011 and 2017, I have posted hundreds of coded messages on my fight with depression on my social media platform/s. Many of my followers never got to decipher these though, save for a few smart “psychologists” on my friends’ list.

Screenshots of deciphered messages depicting my fight with depression

Causes of Depression

It is said that every happy family is happy in the same way, and every unhappy family is unhappy in different ways. The same applies to depression. Everyone has their own given reason for depression. In the beginning, I was categorical that I was not going to directly reveal the cause of my depression. Nonetheless, depression can, and is caused by a number of factors namely: -economic factors, toxic relations and relationships, and last but not least, lack of social support and appreciation.

I am generally a peace loving individual, and every time someone wrongs me, I always try to diffuse a conflict. Some individuals can however taunt you repeatedly (deliberately), and have hearts of stone (read: they will NEVER apologize for their acts, and you can never change them because they don’t see anything wrong with their nagging behavior). This usually broods another war within self, culminating to resentment. Worse is if these individuals are your closest circles.

Another causal affect is lack of social support and appreciation. In the 21st century, our society is still so patriarchal that as men, we are expected to do A, B, C, D because it is our “RESPONSIBILITY”. Sometimes we may have no means to do what is required of us, but that is a ground enough to be “branded” as “weak”. In instances where we have been able to partake the so called “responsibility”, the society fails to appreciate one’s effort where applicable, even raising the bar “higher” so that you can prove you are “man enough”.

Helping a person with depression

A person in depression needs all the support in the world – more than ever before. The reason as to why there are increased cases of suicide is because there was no timely intervention in effort to support them, thus they gave up on life and hope. I have stated again and again – a depressed person doesn’t kill themselves, they are driven into death by the untimely intervention of those that purport to love them . Imagine someone reaching out to you and entrusting you with their fears and sorrows – then all you manage to say is “If you need anything let me know”. With all due respect, while this may be intended to mean well, in reality, it has never worked – at least not for me. Personally, I have come to detest the statement, because no one that ever uttered this beautiful words ever came out to support me at my hour of need as desired. In my view, the statement in its entirety is a “false hope” to the depressed individual, and may deter them from further seeking support in future (even from others), because they will tend to believe the cycle of “false hope” will be the same.

In cases where you offer to help, kindly do so promptly, at your own will of course, without they having to follow up on you – they probably have no energy following up on your pledge, plus they may feel not “entitled” to your support in any case.

One other thing, kindly note that it may not be the best of times to sell a depressed person your “perceived” beliefs and religion, or start quoting inspirational scriptures to a depressed person. For instance telling me “even though you walk through the valley of shadow of death….” For heavens sake, please, don’t tell me about walking in the valley of shadow of death…I already live in that valley…with suicide on my mind 24/7…and a part of me feeling like it’s the rational decision to make – take my life, what other valley can be deadlier than this?

In the final analysis, next time a person tells you they are in depression, offer to reach out (on your own accord), spend time with them if it’s fine by them, get to hear them out, offer to cater for their medication and or even therapy if you can. That way you’d have helped “save a life” in a million ways as you will make them feel “appreciated” and “valued”  in the midst of their sorrow.

#EndTheStigmatisationOnDepression
******************************************************************** I want to specifically send a special shout out to the rare individuals who have over time, without entitlement shown me their love and accorded me support in one way or the other (material or emotional). The topmost individuals (in no particular order) – Sarah Kiden, Yolanda Mlonzi, Victor Mito, Mary Natiki, Maryanne Muriuki, Sharon Muriuki, Rebecca Ryakitimbo, Gideon Rop, Marilyn Vernon, Grace Githaiga, Eli Likuyani, Kathy Lihanda, Mary Rose Rontal, Martha Chilongoshi, Aida Mahmutovic, Helgrit Bruce. I value your every support, conversation, little prayers, and motivation. May mother earth bless you abundantly.

About the Author

The author is a Depression survivor, Writer, Trainer, and Researcher.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of any of 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 .

If you feel the work on this blog is informative, please support it. For as little as 1€, you can inspire more articles capable of creating an empowered knowledge society – Thank you. PayPal A/c: bswitaba[@]yahoo.co.uk

 

Advertisements
October 25, 2018 / bswitaba

ICANN at 20: Looking Back Forward

DqWIGyJUcAI0KNg

Image credit: #ICANN63 – Barcelona, Spain

This year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), marks its 20th anniversary since inception.

ICANN was birthed as a result of the infamous DNS Wars — in 1994, the U.S National Science Foundation, the then overseer of the Internet infrastructure decided to sub-contract the management of the Domain Name System (DNS) to a private U.S company called Network Solutions INC (NSI). This move was not well received by the Internet community, culminating in the so-called “DNS Wars”.[1]

The controversial Relationship

With ICANN mandated the key role to manage the core Internet infrastructure i.e IP addresses, domain names, and root servers, Internet actors seemed to breathe a sigh of relief for this development.

However, a new issue rapidly emerged once again — that of the U.S government’s influence into ICANN’s affairs.

This would become the focus in most United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) debates.

While ICANN was largely perceived as a multi-stakeholder institution involving a variety of players in their respective roles, a section of Internet players felt that the global accountability of ICANN could be in jeopardy if the mandate was rested on one country, namely the U.S.

Considering that the Internet started off as a U.S government project sponsored by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency Network (DARPANet), there was a misconceived perception that the U.S government could use this as a veto to dictate on the form and pace of the globalization of the Internet Governance.

The other point of concern was the issue of practical and legal consideration; the fact that ICANN was based in California, some Internet Governance players felt that it would be “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, North Korea.”[2] This viewpoint led to immense calls to push for the handing over of the Internet management to a neutral body free from U.S government interference.

IANA Transition

Following the anticipated expiration of the Internet Assigned Numbers and Names Authority (IANA) functions contract, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), announced its intent to transition key Internet Domain Name functions in its efforts to support, and enhance the multi-stakeholder model of Internet policymaking and governance.

In its March 2014 press release, NTIA asked ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the role that was then being played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS).[3]

In light of this directive from NTIA, the new phase of the status of ICANN, otherwise known as the IANA stewardship transition, took effect resulting in ICANN forming 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 its 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.

All’s well, ends well

Some Internet pundits had expressed pessimism over the IANA process, casting doubt that the U.S Congress would eventually reject the proposal, and acquire the mandate to oversight ICANN. An imminent regime change in the U.S would further fuel these speculations.

The NTIA, however, approved the proposal before ICANN’s IANA functions contract expired in September 2016, thus paving the way for the globalization of an ICANN, free from U.S government’s influence.

Conclusion

In 1998, U.S Department of Commerce (DoC) issued a Statement of Policy pointing out that the U.S government was “committed to a transition that would allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management”.

The move to globalize ICANN can thus be in part seen as a deliberate commitment by the U.S government, and other stakeholders in their respective roles, in efforts to enhance and enforce ICANN’s Global accountability to the Internet actors.

[1] An Introduction to Internet Governance, Jovan Kurbalija
[2] Ibid
[3] NTIA Press Release, March 14, 2014

 

By Bonface Witaba, ICANN Fellow, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant in Internet Governance and Policy
Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of ICANN, any of its organs or agencies nor of any other organisation(s) mentioned or discussed.
This essay  was part of a series of posts CircleID was hosting from the ICANN community to commemorate ICANN’s 20th anniversary. It was originally published on CircleID

Since you’re here…

If you feel the work on this blog is informative, please support it. For as little as 1$, you can inspire more articles capable of creating an empowered knowledge society – Thank you. PayPal A/c: bswitaba[@]yahoo.co.uk

October 22, 2018 / bswitaba

View from Accra,Ghana: FIFAfrica 2018

#FIFAfrica meetings in brief

  • FIFAfrica is held annually – the first three meetings were held in Uganda (2014-2016), with the fourth and fifth being held in South Africa (2017), and Ghana (2018) respectively.
  • The forum agenda and sessions are shaped by a public call for proposals and speakers.
  • FIFAfrica meeting offers opportunity for face-to-face discussions and airing of opinions among various stakeholders dedicated to Internet Freedom.
  • FIFAfrica meetings are free and officially run for two days. There are however a few pre-meeting workshops and working sessions – this year UPRoar fellowship programme and Localisation sprints took center stage.
  • Remote participation is possible while the meeting is ongoing – live streaming (audio and video), Twitter #tags.
  • CIPESA’s Fellowship programme supports attendance to FIFAfrica meetings for selected individuals in the Internet freedom ecosystem, from around Africa.

Topics discussed at #FIFAfrica

  • A broad range of Internet rights and freedoms topics are discussed at each meeting.
  • The agenda is ever changing and dynamic – this year’s meeting consisted mainly of panel discussions, workshops, hubs, exhibitions, and lightning talks on a range of topical issues ranging from ICT facilitated violence against women, African content online, digital rights advocacy, Cybercrime, The future of the unconnected, Internet shut downs, Censorship, Privacy and data protection.

24 Sep 2018 – 28 Sep 2018 Accra, Ghana

The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica ) took place on 24-28 Sep 2018, in Accra, Ghana. The event which was hosted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), in partnership with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA , was the first of its kind to be held in West Africa. Previous FIFAfrica meetings have been held in East Africa (Kampala), and Southern Africa (Johannesburg). This year’s meeting consisted mainly of panel discussions, workshops, hubs, exhibitions, and lightning talks on a range of topical issues among them ICT facilitated violence against women, African content online, digital rights advocacy, Cybercrime, The future of the unconnected, Internet shut downs, Censorship, Privacy and data protection.

One of the notable sessions at this landmark event was “Advancing Advocacy and Research on Gender-Based Violence Online in Africa”. The session whose panel comprised of Yunusa Ya’u, Centre for Information Technology (CITAD), Dr. Letshwiti Tutwane, Dora Mawutor, (Media Foundation of for West Africa – MFWA), Martha Chilongoshi (RevoltForHer), and Josephine Karungi, highlighted the increasingly normalized gender-based violence and hate speech against women online.

Similarly, a lightning session by Oarabile Mudongo (Funda), Tess Wandia (iHub), Nasubo Ongoma (iHub), on Sexting and Selfie: Reimagining Social norms on the Internet, sought to discuss the importance of rethinking online privacy and safe online spaces in the wake of the Non-consensual sharing of intimate images phenomenon.

Another notable session was one on (Re) setting online narrative on Africa. This session was moderated by Demba Kandeh (University of Gambia), and included panelists such as Charles Onyango Obbo (Nation Media-Kenya), Bonface Witaba (Centre for Youth Empowerment and Leadership), Dragana Kaurin (Localisation Lab), and Sandistar Tei (Wikimedia). The session emphasized on the importance of “decolonizing” the Internet through the creation of local content in Africa to foster Internet development.

DoHT3GMW0AAN7o2Left to right: Charles Onyango Obbo, Sandistar Tei, Demba Kandeh (Moderator), Bonface Witaba, Dragana Kaurin. Photo credit: Gilbert Frank Daniels

The Council of Europe (CoE) on its part hosted a session on Cybercrime legislation in Africa, that was chaired by Gbenga Sessan, (Founder, Paradigm Initiative). The session deliberated on the current state of Cybercrime legislation on the African continent.

In his remarks, Dr. Henrik W.K Kaspersen, Council of Europe (CoE), called on the need to have harmonized Cybercrime legislations. Henrik urged for the adoption of a Cybercrime legislation that granted law enforcers investigative power to halt crime, investigate and collect electronic evidence. He hailed the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection, otherwise known as “The Malabo Convention”. Kaspersen however lamented that this convention had fallen short as it did not emphasize the aspect of International cooperation and capacity building, as compared to the Budapest Convention.

Jimmy Haguma, Uganda Police Commissioner for Cybersecurity, pointed out that Uganda had enacted a number of Acts to curb Cybercrime. Jimmy added that Uganda was considering assenting to the Budapest convention, but was first working to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Benedict Ishabakaki, a lawyer from Tanzania, decried the Tanzania Cybercrime Act of 2015. Benedict reiterated that this act was not specifically aimed at curbing crime, but rather focused on restricting freedom of speech and suppressing the civic space.

In his Intervention, Albert Antwi-Boasiako, Ministry of Communications, Ghana, revealed that Ghana would be launching its national Cyber-security awareness month as from the 1st of October 2018. Albert cited that Ghana’s Cybercrime policy was a practice in reality, and that it complemented the Budapest Convention.

On September 28th, FIFAfrica saw UNESCO hosting a session to raise awareness on the intersection of access to information and application of the Internet universality indicators. This coincided with the marking of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). IDUAI which was first celebrated by UNESCO in 2016, reinforces target 16.10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose focus is on ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. As curtains drew down on FIFAfrica, NetBlocks, a digital rights group, launched “Cost Of Shutdown Tool (COST)”, a device aimed at automating the task of economic estimation of the impact of Internet shutdowns, mobile data blackouts and Social media restrictions.

About the author

The author is an ICANN Fellow, Writer, 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 any of 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 .

Since you’re here…

If you feel the work on this blog is informative, please support it. For as little as 1$, you can inspire more articles capable of creating an empowered knowledge society – Thank you. PayPal A/c: bswitaba[@]yahoo.co.uk

 

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:

Twitter: @bswitaba