Written by Samuel Muchiri, KESIG 2017 participant.
Internet stakeholders are major contributors to the development and governance of Internet. They were termed as entities that use the internet as was defined by Mwendwa Kivuva of Afrnic. Internet governance categorizes them into 5 or 6 groups that is the government, civil society, business community, technical community, academia and arguably as it was highly debated media.
From a much narrower perspective we also looked at actors who shape and manage the Internet. Some of the major organizations that came out from this discussion are IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) that help set technical standards, RIR’s (Regional Internet Registry) that help distribute internet protocol resource around the world etc.
The Internet model is characterized by an open and free accessible process in development of technical standards and development of policy – the course of action starts from end user e.g. engineers to organization that approve these decisions e.g. ICANN, IETEF. Forward thinking governments have been involved in these processes although some have come through a learning process into embracing multistakeholderism in which these organizations support.
The development of internet has gone through major milestones in Kenya from the use of satellite communication to undersea fiber optic cables. From use of international channels of connectivity to localization of traffic through Kenyan internet exchange point. From high transit prices of up to $2000 per MB to $4per MB and all this have been Progress within the last 8years. Development of Technical standards have not been left behind either and as put by Kevin Chege of ISOC “open standards enable permission-less innovations e.g. YouTube”
Internet governance (IG) in our country has crossed major hurdles just like the development of Internet. IG was first brought about by technical vs human right contention that arose as was explained by Alice Munyua of Africa Union during her presentation on history of Internet governance. Internet was initially meant for government in and through transitional government National Rainbow Coalition – multistakeholderism was achieved. First government body was established to deal with this and hence the launch of Communications Authority of Kenya. Multistakeholder brought with it challenges and some of them were; it was viewed as a tedious and expensive process, stand-off between government vs civil society and non-governmental organizations, it is hard for government to control internet.
Other challenges that Internet brought with it that are becoming increasingly had to manage is Cyber-crime which has constantly become a potent issue to deal with. According to 2016 Africa Cyber Security report published by SERIANU crime in Kenya had soared to $ 175 million in 2016. As William Makatiani explained that a typical cyber-criminal in Kenya take their time in surveying their environment and destroy evidence behind their acts hence it become hard for persecution. Emerging reasons for this insecurity were that we do not know ourselves, our enemies, hackers are getting smarter and also that we don’t learn from our mistakes.
“it is important to understand how internet works for us to be able to discuss about internet governance” (AliceMunyua)
The Kenya Internet Governance Forum celebrated 10 years of internet governance in the country. The forum always focuses on bringing in new voices and ideas from individuals who understand ICT globally and in Kenya making processes, to ensure the debates and discussions held are consistent and continuous. The KIGF week held a Youth Internet Governance Forum for the first time as well as the School of Internet Governance.
The first discussion held at the forum focused on Technology Use in the upcoming elections. The role and contribution of technology in the elections were the main topics of the discussion. Citizens expect elections to be transparent and accountable. The use of technology in elections ensures these are achieved. In the upcoming general elections, Chris Musandu of IEBC clarified that the election process was semi-electronic since the method of casting a vote is purely manual. The electoral process cannot fully depend on technology which only complements this process making it free and fair.
The issue of fake news or alternative news was also a topic in the use of technology in elections discussions. People who run these platforms earn a living from it. Therefore, stopping this news from spreading can be challenging. However, an individual who propagates alternative news and is charged for this offence faces a 1 million Kenyan Shillings fine or a five-year jail term.
The second topic of discussion was on enhancing cyber security in Kenya. Cyber threats have become rampant over the years. The threats can face any individual including government entities. Most individuals in the ICT industry face challenges pertaining to cyber threats but prefer to face them alone without telling others. This should otherwise be avoided and the knowledge and information learnt should be shared with other concerned parties. Concerned parties in the ICT sector should work more on collaboration since individuals who disseminate cyber threats are increasing and there needs to be collaboration and togetherness to fight these threats.
However, today, people are targeting customers instead of the system. This is a form of social engineering, which uses fear and urgency to get information from customers.
The case of online bullying was also mentioned. This particular subtopic focused on protecting children from online content that is harmful to them from online games, online betting to being targeted on their social media platforms. This includes gaming channels like the previous ‘Blue Whale’ that led to the death of a teenager in Kenya. Education and awareness on online use are therefore important to not only the children but also the teacher, parents and guardians because it is everyone’s responsibility to protect them.
The next topic of discussion was on how to safeguard free speech and privacy online, especially, in the electoral context. How many times have we heard or read about the hate speech and online defamation particularly targeted at politicians this year? Are there laws and regulations that bind the use of these words? We all need to be responsible while using online platforms. The public should also be well informed on what hate speech is and how they pose a threat to the country considering the fact that freedom of expression and free speech are constitutional. The election is a very competitive contest where individuals are seeking power, how they communicate on online platforms should be well monitored if they are propagating any certain threats.
Information controls was the final topic of discussion for the day. The question about who is responsible for Internet control was raised. Freedom is not absolute and everyone is responsible for enjoying these freedoms because when we choose to publish or tweet we have chosen to share our opinions.
The government assured us that there would be no internet shut down during the upcoming elections. It was pointed out that, an internet shutdown would lead to the loss of investor confidence to a country besides the loss of revenue, which is measured to a country’s GDP.
There are many harmful websites on the internet and we cannot be able to have control to all of them. Therefore, we have to be responsible to ensure we always use the freedom we have online to achieve the best in aspects. There also need to be trust within the government and the people, because if we are not truthful, there will not be any trust. There is also a place for everyone in the ICT ecosystem and we should all be involved in keeping it safe for everyone.
The Kenya Internet Governance Forum was a success. It was not just a social event but also an informative event full of discussions from the panel and the audience alike.
Kenya is the birthplace of some of the most revolutionary FinTech ideas. The FinTech ecosystem is fast growing in the country.
Investopedia defines the term ‘FinTech’ as, ‘a portmanteau of financial technology that describes an emerging financial services sector in the 21st century. Originally, the term applied to technology applied to the back-end of established consumer and trade financial institutions. Since the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the term has expanded to include any technological innovation in the financial sector, including innovations in financial literacy and education, retail banking, investment and even crypto-currencies like bitcoin.’
These are discussions held online concerning the Kenya Internet Governance Forum by Kenya ICT Action Network on the topic ‘FinTech Ecosystems in Kenya’.
Fintech seems to be technical but because we are all involved in it one way or another, we definitely have lessons and opinions on what needs to be done.
Is the business environment in Kenya conducive for FinTech business?
Our internet penetration levels are high compared other African states. Keeping in mind how mobile money has also picked up, there is definitely a conducive environment for FinTech.
A new law needs to be enacted to enable Africa’s first virtual bank to be born in Kenya. Kenya is the birthplace of Mpesa. Where we account for 10% of all global mobile money transactions. Yet we have a policy and regulatory regime that is still steeped in the physical cash economy.
Today, we do not visit banks anymore, we do not line up at Kenya Power; Nairobi Water or other utilities to pay our bills; we do not send money via Rift Valley Express, Coast Bus or Posta; we even pay our taxes virtually and we use Uber to travel within the city. We only need to simply use Mpesa or Pesalink to pay for these services.
However, the Kenyan FinTech environment needed to make it conducive is simply archaic from a regulatory point of view. For example, getting a mobile wallet approved by the regulator is somewhat a long process.
We need to consolidate our gains by opening up the policy and regulatory framework to make it easy and fast to move to the next phase of this Fintech Innovation.
Kenya should, therefore, have an enabling policy environment or framework that will foster growth in this sector because what we are currently doing is playing in the periphery.
Disruption is as much a form of social evolution as it is of technological improvements. We are all evolving socially and/or otherwise.
What is the experience of companies scaling & deploying FinTech to other countries in the region?
Collaboration in the FinTech industry unlocks digital growth because Fintech innovation opens up new opportunities. FinTech has helped drive tremendous advances across the financial services ecosystem through reshaping the status quo in a complex and highly regulated industry. Fintech companies are delivering more tailored, convenient and affordable solutions for underserved populations and communities.
Neither start-ups nor traditional financial institutions will be able to independently provide the range of specialised products and services that are needed to address the increasingly fragmented financial lives of 21st-century individuals and businesses.
In order to effectively navigate an increasingly complex financial system and meet changing customer expectations, companies today must build upon and extend their own unique areas of expertise by pursuing opportunities to partner.
However, with collaboration, new customer expectations are drawing traditional institutions out of their comfort zones; the ability to scale remains a challenge for FinTech start-ups and the global economy is in a constant state of uncertainty.
Fintech startups should remember, successful partnerships put the customer first.
Have banks finally caught on FinTech with their solutions?
Banks have not really caught up but they are trying to blend their products with technological solutions. This wake-up call may have occurred when interest rates were capped. It is however quite clear banks will lead to this new product and not the FinTechs as much touted.
Kenyan banks seem to be playing a catch-up game to Mpesa in the area of mobile banking with their innovative product Pesalink. Banks are actually not charging any transaction costs, unlike Mpesa, when you transfer money between accounts in the same bank. One can even buy more M-AKIBA bonds on PesaLink than when you use Mpesa.
How will bitcoins & blockchain technology affect the market?
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have started being hyped by block chain enthusiasts. However, when CBK will recognise it, it’s true effect will be seen.
The transformation of the financial services industry is top-of-mind for everyone in the field and blockchain might be the hottest topic in the rapidly changing world of Fintech. Nevertheless, how can this technology really help financial firms? A report from World Economic Forum takes a pragmatic approach to highlight more on this question.
When you converse with people in the Bitcoin community, there is only one thing mentioned – as was during the dot.com era, “Bitcoin is here and will change everything“. What all those Crypto-pundits fail to remember or read about is, at the beginning of the dot.com boom there was Netscape, Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Alsta, Vista among others. The outcome yielded different top players: Amazon, Google and Salesforce.
Again, as with the dot.com era, the larger public does not clearly understand what is happening. While the media mulls over Bitcoin and gives credence to a slew of people proclaiming a “decentralised network that no one will own” to a naive public and convince them to dump millions into “ICO”, there is something else happening. Considering Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, do you think it’s a coincidence they are major deployments for many block chain networks?
As with previous players, the winners are already taking in massive rewards because they are already hooked into an existing Information Technology and Banking Infrastructure. Currently, investments are only flowing into blockchain infrastructure that must be enterprise grade. This is similar to when the Internet did not make IT departments irrelevant and blockchain will not replace IT departments. What will change is the speed and types of skillset needed in it. There will be no immediate shift to everything block chain – there will be long periods of co-existing and integration with existing IT systems. However, block chain will lead to a strong surge in cloud adoption.
The consequence of block chain among consumers will be most felt in Infrastructure were developments relating to Identity, Privacy and Security are taking shape.
Bitcoin, therefore, does not have a fur fetching future
The globe is experiencing an exceptional growth in the information and technology (ICT) sector. This has seen immense growth in the social, economic, and business operations happening due to this global digitisation. The Kenyan government has not being left behind as it has embraced digitisation in their practices and processes. The ICT sector in the country has helped to reduce the cost of communication, increase market information and facilitate doing business.
E-citizen is one of Kenya’s ICT online platforms that have seen Kenyans get easy access to government services. The e-Citizen portal has grown immensely since it was launched in 2014. So far,1.23 million Kenyans have registered on the portal up from 400,000 Kenyans as at June 2015, while 2.4 billion shillings have been collected.
Services are accessible by registering on an online portal or via USSD on a mobile device using the existing Paybill transaction type. Payment technologies available include mobile money, cards and PayPal. Other services available on separate platforms include M-Service, a web portal for filing and making payments for domestic taxes, customs and vehicle logbook fees, and M-AKIBA, the highly anticipated $5 million infrastructure bond that is been issued and traded exclusively via mobile money.
In the counties, the ‘Huduma Centres’ has been a supporting structure making it easier for citizens to access government services. Huduma Centers are one-stop shops set up countrywide by the government to complement the eCitizen portal by providing additional services and those requiring physical presence or special assistance. This means that citizens are able to get birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, registration of business names, and applications for marriage certificates, drivers’ licences, police abstract and many other services in one place.
Each county (47) has Huduma Centres comprising mainly of upgraded post office outlets, with mobile units serving extremely remote areas. On average, 12,000 people are served daily at Huduma Centers, and as of June 2015, payments for services rendered totalled $50 million.
Some counties have adopted ICT quite well while other lag behind through free internet access and usage. Some counties, such as Nakuru, Kiambu and Kisumu have tried offering free WiFi to residents.
A document on the Government E-payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR) 2011, outlines the positive impact of digitising government service payments on the integration of the informal economy. Nairobi, is one of the counties, that has improved its revenue collection through the e-payments system.
Despite all these success’, the ICT sector in Kenya faces challenges, especially, at the county level. Digitisation is challenged by many factors including financial restraints, inadequate personnel in the projects, poor handling of original documents and material and inadequate resources and infrastructure for digitisation. Technical expertise of project staff and procurement procedures are other challenges which hinder effective digitisation in government.
It has been revealed that various county departments in Kenya undertaking digitisation projects have formulated strategies, which have enabled them to cope with some of the challenges faced in the ICT sector. Effective strategies have included documenting standards and best practices to be applied uniformly and planning, monitoring, and operational budgeting in the project. Other strategies usually applied include having digital and quality standards and policy enactment before digitisation starts. These improve coordinating with other departments that could use ICT effectively. Counties, which have passionate ICT officers, can be of assistance in coordination with other staff in other counties.
To ensure the digitisation process in Kenya is successful, the county government departments should ensure that proper planning, and budgeting is done even before the project starts. In addition, every department engaged in digitisation should ensure a consistent, high level of image quality across collections. Not forgetting to mention, all digitisation projects in government should decrease the likelihood of re-digitizing in the future by promoting best practices for conversion of materials into digital format and the long-term preservation of these digital resources.
Most of us use the internet every day. It has even become a ‘most of the day’ habit. The more time we spend online, the more disconnected we can feel from the world around us. We get excited whenever we hear a beep from our phones and always rush to view it. We even tend to look at our phones whenever we are in meetings, whether personal or professional. We continue to draw a distinction between what happens online and what happens ‘in real life’. This is because we do stuff online which we would not necessary not do in real life.
The internet is an amazing place when you want to learn how to do anything, when you are being entertained with a funny video or when popular uprising topples governments. Nevertheless, it’s a rough place when we are cyberbullied, sent anonymous threats, victims of revenge pornography and mob mentality, ransomware, fake news, companies stalking your every move, getting hacked, identity theft, getting catfished or getting doxed.
In 1994, 2 million computers were connected to the Internet and were specifically intended for academic use only; in 2012, there were 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide, from all lifestyles; recently, Facebook registered 2 Billion users.
Do we have the capacity to adequately respond to cybercrime incidences?
Cybercrime is criminal activities carried out by means of computers or the internet. The threat is incredibly serious and growing. According to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated. It does not only affect governments and the private sector but also individuals. Companies are targeted for trade secrets and other sensitive corporate data, and universities for their cutting-edge research and development. Fraudsters and identity thieves target citizens, and online predators target children.
To combat this threat, Kenya needs a proactive Cyber Division that will address cyber crime in a coordinated and cohesive manner. We also need specially trained cyber squads who will protect against and investigate computer intrusions, theft of intellectual property and personal information, child pornography and exploitation, online fraud and cyber bullying. There should be a growing partnership with other government agencies, including the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, and others, which share similar concerns and resolve in combating cyber crime.
What are the challenges in tackling cyber crime?
Technology has advanced in the past few decades making it more informative. According to the global economic symposium, there is now a sophisticated and self-sufficient digital underground economy in which data is the illicit commodity. Stolen personal and financial data, for example, are used to gain access to existing bank accounts and credit cards or to fraudulently establish new lines of credit. This has a monetary value and drives a range of criminal activities, including phishing, pharming, malware distribution and the hacking of corporate databases. It is supported by a full-fledged infrastructure of malicious code writers, specialist web hosts, and individuals able to lease networks of many thousands of compromised computers to carry out automated attacks. This poses a major challenge in fighting cybercrime.
Finding the perpetrators is hard especially in mass bullying. People tend to create fake accounts to attack people online. Finding the exact individual becomes difficult.
What is the solution to address cybercrime challenges?
Active targeting of underground forums to disrupt the circulation of powerful and easy to use cyber criminal tools, such as malware kits and botnets
Continue to develop insight into the behaviour of the contemporary cybercriminal by means of intelligence analysis, criminological research and profiling techniques, and based on the combined law enforcement, IT security industry and academic sources, in order to deploy existing resources more effectively.
Parents should be made aware of protection mechanisms, especially for children.
Bullying victims and perpetrators need counselling.
The family situation needs to be addressed before they reach an online space.
Interrelated issues need to be addressed as bullying cannot be handled in isolation.
Law enforcement officers should be kept updated on the evolving state of online behaviour
Parents and teachers should have access to tools that can be used to monitor their children’s online activities
Provision of cyber-crime unit emergency numbers to online users
To avoid online bullying or the negative image we portray online and how we use the internet, we will need to;
Commit to being our real selves online
Visualise the real person about to be emailed, tweet or comment on a post. This will bring human qualities of attention and empathy to our online communications.
Literally, take the idea of online presence and make the experience of being online a disembodiment of a journey into our minds rather than out of our bodies.
Treat Facebook and Twitter connections as real friends instead of ‘friends’. We will stop worrying about how many we have and focus on how well we treat each other.
Take Instagram photos, YouTube videos and blog posts seriously as real art and reclaim creative expression as part of our life.
Treat online attention as a real resource and investing our attention in the sites that reflect our values, helping those sites grow.
Spending our online time on what really matters and experience our time online as an authentic reflection of our values.
Embrace online conversations as real and imbue them with the power to change how we think and feel.
“Because of internet’s nature it cannot be governed by a single sector – it has a lot of “haki yetu”” said Grace Githaiga during her opening remarks at the opening of this year’s start of Kenya School of Internet Governance.
The idea of Kenya School of Internet Governance (KSIG) was first realized in the year 2015 that lead to the development and participation in other forums like Kenya Internet Governance Forum. This creates a platform for representation at regional forums like East Africa Internet Governance Forum, Africa Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and Global IGF.
The main objective of KSIG is to build capacity in understanding internet governance. In this regard Facebook has been an adherent in helping facilitate interactive forums like KISG through their African policy advocacy program.
Dr. Waudo Siganga of Computer Society of Kenya gave a brief history of the internet from its conception to the current status. One of the notable and most recurring trend was that governments were not involved through this development apart from the US government. He also mentioned last year’s major transition of IANA (International Assigned Numbers Authority) that is the coordination and management of the Internet’s unique identifiers to the private-sector, a process that had been committed to and underway since 1998.
Internet Governance (IG) was said to entail both technical infrastructure and public policy issues. According to Word Summit Information Society IG could be defined as the evolving policies and mechanisms under which the Internet community’s many stakeholders make decisions about the development and use of the Internet.
Different international organization have classified IG into various categories that emerge from this endeavor. DIPLO a non-profit foundation that works to improve global governance and international policy development, classified the issues as follows; Infrastructure and standards, legal, Development, economic and social cultural.
Some of the emerging issues as brought out by Judy Okitte from FOSSFA were cyber security, legal, taxation, economic and human rights – that cut across this fields. One of the predominant note that came out when rights were discussed was that “offline rights apply online”.
End user pain points were deemed lack of better infrastructure (provision, accessibility, cost) and human rights – child online protection. The participants passionately expressed the need to see change and development in those areas.
Written by Jefferson Anyega: KESIG 2017 participant.
The Kenya School of Internet Governance, presently in its second edition, focuses on raising awareness about emerging internet governance issues. The definition of internet governance has evolved over the years as stakeholders understanding of its role in shaping the digital era changed. The World Summit on Information Society, a UN sponsored organization, defined internet governance in 2005 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 programs that shape the evolution and use of the internet”.
Definition of terms in internet governance include: Cyber security: the technologies, processes and networks that provide protection to networks, data, computers and programs from damage, unauthorized access and attacks.
Cyber-squatting: The practice of registering names of well-known brands with the aim of profiting from their resale
Internet Service Providers: corporations that provide access to the internet
Net neutrality: the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should provide access to all applications and content regardless of their source and without discrimination.
Domain Name Server:the internet system that converts alphabetic names to IP addresses.
Zero-rating: the practice of mobile phone operators, mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), and Internet service providers (ISP) providing free access to some applications.
Importance of internet governance
The increasing digitization of modern life, from how we find and choose mates, to how we find and conduct work, to how we learn and transact underscores the importance of effective internet governance. Every person in Kenya and around the world has been affected by the internet. Effective policing of this powerful infrastructure is essential in protecting the rights of end users and promoting sustainable development of the digital ecosystem.
The Kenya ICT Action Network is inspired by recognition that effective internet governance relies on a bottom up approach where the stakeholders drive the development of policies on the sector. Stakeholders can be categorized into the following groups:
Government: States regulate the internet within their jurisdictions, creating policies that govern the transactions of users and providing protections for their people.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)was established in 1948 under contract to the US Department of Commerce. The board of Directors of the non-profit organization, headquartered in California, holds the final authority on the decision-making process in the development of internet standards. It manages the global Domain Name System (DNS), a worldwide network of databases that maps domain names to IP addresses. The DNS is critical in creating an enabling infrastructure that supports the scalable, singular and universal internet. Although members of ICANN elect representatives to its board of directors, many observers believe that the United States holds disproportionate influence over the organization because of their legacy relationship. ICANN is an important issue in the discussion of internet governance because it is transnational, holds centralized control over the internet, a privilege that is only shared by a few entities;it’s dominated by non-state actors and is perceived to be under the influence of the United States.
The reliance of organizations and individuals on the internet for their commercial transactions highlights the need for developing an effective taxation policy to ensure the government benefits from its investment in creating a robust infrastructure. In Kenya, people have increasingly embraced the internet as a platform for selling their services and products. However, the Kenya Revenue Authority is yet to provide guidelines on the taxation of the platform. Similarly, the rise of online work in Kenya underpinned by the government’s creation of the Ajira program to create employment opportunity for youths in Kenya raises questions on how digital labor can be taxed.
Human rights is also an important issue, with Mr. Henry Maina, speaking at the convention, highlighting three key factors that must be considered in interrogating the laws that passed by the government.
Any limitation that is passed by the government on online users must also be provided for in law.
The limitations should be necessary in a democratic society with the purpose of protecting public order, public morality and preserving the rights of others.
The limitations must be proportional and proportionate to the goal it intends to promote.
The enactment of digital laws should pass a critical litmus test; that international human rights law should be applicable both online and offline.
Government shutdowns of the internet have been an important discussion between the tech ecosystem and the media. China, Cuba and Iran feature prominently among countries that repress internet freedoms in their jurisdiction. However, as individuals and corporates rely heavily on the internet for commerce, it is important to interrogate the financial cost of government shutdowns, their constitutionality and the compensation that can be afforded stakeholders who incur material losses when they occur. Is it even possible for a government to effectively shut down the internet anymore?
Challenges in internet governance
The primary challenge facing the evolution of internet governance involves the unwillingness of the government policy makers to recognize the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in formulating effective, practical and acceptable regulations. However, through organizations such as KICTAnet, the government of Kenya has demonstrated a willingness to engage with all stakeholders in shaping the future of the internet in the country.
The development of practical and enforceable policies remains a critical challenge for internet regulators. For instance, provisions of the data protection Act, as discussed in different parts of the world highlights the difficulties that governments may face in their implementation. Presently, Kenya lacks a data protection law, creating challenges for individuals who may feel that their rights have been infringed. The Data Protection Act bill is still under discussion, providing an opportunity for stakeholders to start their participation in shaping the future of the internet.
Discussions on internet governance are contentious because of the plurality of views on how the internet should work. Purists believe the internet should have minimal regulation, an ideology that is rooted in the nascent stages of the technology, but is increasingly removed from the amorphous nature of digital sprawl, as every aspect of human life becomes digitized. Governments believe that national security should be the primary consideration in the regulation of the internet while the private sector believes that minimal regulation and free market principles should be embraced. The sweet spot in internet regulation will inevitably feature tradeoffs between multiple concerns, with an emphasis on protecting the dignity and privacy of end users.
The lack of awareness on internet governance has undermined stakeholder participation as few people, even professionals in the ICT sector recognize its importance and are engaged in its evolution. In particular, Africa has not been actively engaged in shaping the evolution of internet governance. In spite of this observation, programs such as the Kenya school of internet governance are playing an important role in raising the importance of the subject in Kenyan society.
Opportunities in internet Governance
The Diplo Foundation offers a Masters in multilateral diplomacy with a minor in Internet Governance, an essential course in creating policy makers who recognize international relations are increasingly going to be shaped by ICT agreements between governments and multinational organizations.
Every person should be interested in internet governance because of the critical role it plays in our lives and the impact that policies have on how we communicate, work and play. Participation in internet governance debates is essential because it contributes towards shaping the internet that we use. In this case, the adage, “if you not at the table, you are on the menu” is very well alive.
Kenya is currently involved in a General Election battle. Political parties are investing money, time and energy in their online and physical campaign presence.Television and radio are considered as the most prevalent source of news in Kenya. However, more and more people are relying on the internet to source their information. The internet can lead to a source of fake news.
According to the Conversation (https://theconversation.com/electioneering-in-the-social-media-age-77578), one trait of the online world is; people are able to comment on and discuss the news. While people are liable to come across fake news and conspiracy theories when surfing online, we should not forget that we are not passive receivers of information.
The internet might be just as powerful in slowing down the spread of fake news because people challenge it just as quickly as it spreads.
According to the Collins Dictionary, Fake News is false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.
These are discussions held online concerning the Kenya Internet Governance Forum by Kenya ICT Action Network. Is Fake News a problem for Kenya?
What the internet and its ease of access have done is given a channel that reaches to even more people at a faster rate.
A fake news website might publish a hoax, then because it is getting social attention another site might pick it up, write that story as though it is true and may not link back to the original fake news website. From there, it becomes a chain reaction. At some point, a journalist at a largely credible outlet might see it and quickly write something up, because many journalists are trying to write as many stories as possible and write stories that get traffic and social attention. The incentive is towards producing more and checking less.
Companies such as Cambridge Analytica have been using psychographic techniques such as voter profiling during elections to determine who gets to hear what message. Advertising companies have used similar targeted approaches in marketing for years- why is it a problem for elections?
Great Marketers have since eternity relied on getting into the psyche of their target deep psychology here with trends capture.This explains why your favourite supermarket had just the chocolate brand you like while when you accidentally visit another branch down the road you find some other brands.
Therefore, any astute political campaign team would borrow this. The idea is to give them what they want or design it to appear as such. This includes fake promises and fake news which is very part and parcel of how the most political campaign is designed, even without the internet.
Fake News based on psychographic analysis targets a particular demographic who are gullible and will readily believe alternative facts to build on their preconceived notions. They themselves may never know they are consuming Fake News.
Internet companies through algorithms have thrived on giving us more of what we ‘want’. People should learn to, therefore, conduct due diligence. Should internet intermediaries filter Fake News from their platforms?
Fake News is disinformation. Both sides of the political divide carry out disinformation. While we are keen to protect the Freedom of Expression, are we willing to justify disinformation as free speech? Fake News brings out the reality of click economy and big data. There is a general feeling that Fake News is here to stay hence the need to educate consumers to think critically and carry out due diligence.There is an opportunity for mainstream media to restructure and reclaim its legitimacy where they are relying on social media for news. Reposting social media, Fake News, as headlines have to stop. We should invest in traditional journalism.
We should be responsible and sober individuals on the internet and call people out on their fake news before it gets too far. This is a fair thing to do as the subject of fake news often feels like responding to each outrageous allegation. This is a waste of valuable time. Unfortunately, the more the fake story is perpetrated with no reply, the more it appears true.
A portal where potential fake news is gathered and each user can comment on their perspective on the story would be ideal. When the truth of the matter comes out, the correct perspective can be marked with a “verified” badge. Ideas like this address another aspect of fake news where the truth is not publicised as much when it eventually comes out. This is something both social and mainstream media are guilty of.
However, as much as we remain cautious, fake news is an area where regulators should exercise patience since the market is sensitised to the issue and working on ways to fix it. The proliferation of such ‘fake news’ presents good business case for major news outlets, which have been getting revenue, as there is a path to re-establish themselves as trusted news sources with resources to verify sources. To cub fake news, research and writing classes (which all students partake in) can be used to sensitise students and the media to do a double-check online whenever they read a sensational headline.
There is an increase in the number of fake news sites. Most people unknowingly rely on these sites for news. This has been made possible by the fact that people can register and maintain domain names that mimic credible mainstream media outlets with no other intention than to fuel fake news and maybe hate speech.
We should also question the internet user’s responsibility in verification of what one posts. If one cannot verify what they circulate, has that person given up his/her freedom to be a responsible user of the internet?
Indeed fake news and skewed reportage by main media outlets are already with us.The editorial policy of some houses is outright scandalous. In this time of election where perception of voters is critical, fake news will come in droves and due to compromises and skewed editorial policy by media houses on issues, agenda setting is purposed on set goals. It is worse when the main media depend on social media for its news items and worse when it uses social media content to reinforce a particular opinion and stand on an issue.When the media is sold to the highest bidder in a political environment or is compromised in being factual and balanced in its reportage, then it loses the moral ground to point out ills in the society. Should Fake News be banned?
Suggestions have been made the world over on the ideal remedy for this menace but in democracies, it is hard because it goes against the principles of free speech. The Canadian Supreme Court has held in a case to strike down a false news provision of law that the provision was contrary to the constitutional freedom of expression.
The reality is that when the matter is one on which the majority of the public has settled views, opinions may, for all practical purposes, be treated as an expression of a false fact, the Learned Justices of the Court said.
In Kenya, the law limits the right to freedom of expression to the extent that one is not allowed to spread propaganda for war, incite people to violence, hate speech and advocate for ethnic hate. These limitations also apply to the media according to Article 34. The same constitutional provision also provides for the establishment of the Media Council of Kenya.
One of the roles the drafters of the Constitution envisioned this body to play is setting media standards while regulating and monitoring their compliance. It is with this powers that are expounded on in the Media Act that the Council accredits journalists while requiring them to follow the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism. While the standards for accuracy, integrity and accountability apply to journalists, these standards do not apply to bloggers.
Hence, bloggers cannot be held to have breached the Code when they post fake news online. From the angle of defamation laws, some of these stories are not defamatory. Neither do they constitute a breach of Article 33 (2). For example, the many speeches attributed to Presidents Robert Mugabe and Donald Trump about Kenyans and corruption. If they were to be counterchecked against the elements of defamation, they will fail. The statement might be false but not damaging per se, hence, not warranting a suit for damages.
Some of the sites are not even within the Kenyan jurisdiction and no claim of damage may be sustained against them.
The level of overall exposure to fake news can give some sense of how persuasive fake news would need to be and be pivotal during this election period. In practice, social media platforms and advertising networks have faced some pressure from consumers and civil society globally to reduce the prevalence of fake news on their systems. For example, both Facebook and Google are removing fake news sites (Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow 233) from their advertising platforms on the grounds that they violate policies against misleading content (Wingfield, Isaac, and Benner 2016).
Furthermore, Facebook has taken steps to identify fake news articles, flag false articles as “disputed by 3rdparty fact-checkers,” show fewer potentially false articles in users’ news feeds, and help users avoid accidentally sharing false articles by notifying them that a story is “disputed by 3rd parties” before they share it (Mosseri 2016).
In theory, these actions may increase social welfare, but identifying fake news sites and articles, either online or on paper, raises questions about who becomes the barrier of truth.
It is an election period in Kenya. A season of loud hope that your
favourite politician will win and the quiet fear of electoral
violence. This fear is due to our unhealed scars from the 2007
post-election violence. Other than the fact that the results of that
election were contested, the violence has been blamed on hate speech
by politicians. This is the primary reason why our constitution,
expressly prohibits hate speech in Article 33(2) of the constitution.
Ten years later, with internet penetration at over 50% and widespread
membership to social media sites, there is fear that hate will be
propagated on online forums. To ensure that we do not get a repeat of
inter-ethnic electoral violence like in the year 2007/2008, concerned
bodies have suggested ways to counter possible hate speech online.
Some in government quarters have suggested internet shutdowns to
counter this. Others have called for responsibility online.
In the upcoming Kenya Internet Governance Forum that will take place
on the 6th July 2017 at Laico Regency, various thought leaders in the
internet governance space will discuss how we can ensure freedom of
expression online during this election period.
According to Alice Munyua former Chair of the Kenya Internet Governance Forum and Convener of the Kenya ICT Action Network , the Internet Governance Forum has the most impact at national level (Kenya IGF Report, 12 August 2016).
The forum has promoted the use of the multistakeholder model in public policy development across different sectors namely government, civil society, academia, private sector and the technical community. Stakeholders of varied backgrounds who have participated in the annual forum for the last ten years have gone ahead and implemented the model in their respective sectors. In the year 2010 and as a result of increased use of the model across different sectors of the Kenyan economy, multistakeholderism was embedded in the Kenyan constitution thus becoming a mandatory process in public policy development processes. Key sectors that have benefited from the multistakeholder model include information and communications technology through development of the Kenya ICT policy 2006 and 2016, health sector through development of the Kenya Health Policy 2014 – 2030, the private sector which created their own association the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the Internet Community which created the Kenya Network Information Centre the country code top level domain registry for Kenya.
The Kenya Internet Governance Forum has over the years brought together various actors who had previously been operating in silos rendering them ineffective. Using the multi stakeholder model, the forum has brought together actors from various stakeholder groupings such as government thereby building their capacity on electronic government, private sector (electronic business), academia (electronic learning) Civil Society (online activism), media (online reporting) and the technical community (electronic collaboration). Collaborative efforts that emanated from multi stakeholder processes resulted in projects such as The East African Marine System (TEAMS) a submarine cable built through local public and private sector partnerships which lowered the cost of the Internet in Kenya considerably thus opening up a new world of innovation and electronic commerce in the country.
Another positive outcome of the multi stakeholder framework of collaboration championed by the Kenya Internet Governance Forum was the launch and eventual commissioning of the National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) which connected all administrative centre’s in the country. The National Optic Fibre Backbone enabled countrywide roll out of electronic government services such as the Integrated Financial Management System IFMIS which is used to manage the government payroll and procurement process and Kenya Revenue Authorities i-tax systems that significantly improved management and stewardship of the country’s financial resources by promoting accountability and effective collection of taxes.
By Barrack Otieno
The writer is an Associate of the Kenya ICT Action Network and a member of the Local Multi Stakeholder Advisory Group