Adjunct Professor Alison Gillwald, of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, has been named as the first African executive member, and deputy president, of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet).
GigaNet is an international association of academic researchers founded in 2006 by a group of scholars engaged in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) and the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF). It is the only international academic research conference dedicated to scholarship on internet governance.
Members include researchers from a wide range of disciplines and locations who contribute to research, teaching and engagement in local, regional and international debates on internet governance.
Gillwald’s election as deputy president was based on a manifesto in which she committed her tenure to securing the participation of more global south scholars, particularly African scholars, who have been largely absent from the network.
Separately, in her keynote address to the African Internet Governance Forum in September in N’jamena, Chad, she pointed out that African leaders face similar challenges, albeit in different forms, to advanced economies seeking to create a safe, secure and trusted internet for citizens.
But doing so, she said, is critical to harnessing the consequent social and economic benefits.
Stressing the depth of digital inequality on the continent, Gillwald said that of the 10 African countries surveyed between 2017 and 2018 by Research ICT Africa as part of the Global South After Access surveys, six had less (most considerably less) than the 20% penetration level required to reach the critical mass that unlocks the effects of the network that are associated with economic growth and other positive social multipliers.
“Even in a country such as South Africa, with over 95% broadband coverage, only half of the population is online,” she said.
The next annual symposium, GigaNet 2019, will be held alongside the IGF in Berlin, Germany, on 25 November.
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