Stakeholders in the technology sector have been urged to collaborate in order to tackle challenges facing the industry such as Internet governance, Artificial Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and cyberbullying, among others.
The rallying call was made today during a High-Level Panel Session titled, The Internet We Want- Empowering All Kenyan People at the ongoing Kenya Internet Governance Forum (KIGF). Panelists at the session were, Dr. Vincent Ndungi, Ag Director Cybersecurity, Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), Ms. Grace Githaiga, Convenor and Chief Executive Officer, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Bernd Lakemeier, Director Digital Transformation Centre, GIZ and Ms. Mercy Ndegwa, Public Policy Director, East & Horn of Africa, Meta.
The Kenya IGF is an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder forum that annually brings together industry stakeholders representing the government, the private sector, civil society, the technical and academic community, and the public to discuss Internet Governance. This year’s global IGF theme is ‘The Internet We Want – Empowering All People’. The Kenya IGF theme is aligned with the global IGF theme in response to the local context.
While speaking on Internet regulation, Ngundi pointed out that Kenya has taken a liberal approach because it believes in an open, liberal, and secure Internet. “We had a challenging election in Kenya but we did not shut down the Internet. It is the government’s effort and desire to ensure we manage the Internet,” he added.
Githaiga emphasized the need to ensure online spaces are free from disinformation and discrimination and foster a positive digital environment. “We cannot do all these if the image is not secure and is not free from imagined cyber threats and existing identities as we embrace new and emerging technologies”.
On his part, ‘Gbenga said it was paramount to have an Internet focused on empowering people because over the years, there have been conversations about those who are connected, yet there are individuals who are deliberately disconnected.
“The Internet we want is that which focuses on economic opportunities or the rights of citizens and not the wastage of resources and meager resources that we have by investing in clampdowns and creating a climate of fear or illegal surveillance,” he said.
Ndegwa stressed an urgent need for all to have a degree of governance. “We are putting in place very strong policies to enable individuals to know how to behave on the platform. We are actually speaking about the Internet we want globally. We are constantly engaging the youth to emphasize the use of platforms and how to scale their innovation, she added.
Lakemeier said the organization was keen on having free and fair Internet. “We want a productive use of the Internet. It’s not about consumption but how we can contribute to sustainable development in a country. Productive use of the Internet is very important,” he added.
On exploring emerging issues on data governance, including progress and challenges in the legal frameworks and promoting best practices to enhance trust in the digital ecosystem, Rose Mosero, Deputy Data Protection Commissioner Office of the Data Protection Commissioner emphasized that:
“Envisioning an internet we want demands that we collectively respect privacy, promote equity and ensure safety. Achieving this vision requires collaboration, education, and an environment that fosters innovation”
The Principal Secretary in charge of ICT and Digital Economy, Eng. John Kipchumba Tanui graced the occasion and joined an esteemed panel in an evening fireside chat titled “Harnessing the Power of AI and Emerging Technologies.”
The PS observed that AI should be treated as a tool and is here to stay. “It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, the stakeholders in the room and beyond to plan around how to leverage its potential while minimizing its risks.”
The PS urged participants to take on the challenge of proposing new policies, regulations, and industry best practices that would position Kenya as a key player in the digital economy in general and in particular its AI sub-sector.
He observed that Africa’s role in AI seemed to be at the lower levels of the AI value chain—that is, limited to the annotation of data sets—while developed economies reaped the highest benefits as the creators of the AI algorithms and owners or custodian of the massive data sets required to feed the AI algorithms. There is a need to start playing at the higher levels of the AI value chain by creating local capacities in specialized AI skills such as data science, machine learning, and data engineering amongst others.