The 2024 Kenya Youth Internet Governance Forum (KYIGF) served as a transformative platform for young leaders to chart a course for the country’s digital future.

This year’s forum focused on action points, aimed to bridge the gap between protest and progress, fostering a multistakeholder approach to building a secure, inclusive, and empowering digital landscape for all Kenyans.

A Youth-Led Revolution

The forum opened with an analogy: Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 tax protests mirrored the Arab Spring, showcasing the power of social media (particularly TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X, formerly Twitter) in mobilizing youth for change.  

However, the government’s attempt to silence dissent by shutting down the internet backfired, further emphasizing its importance.

Internet and Digital Activism: A Double-Edged Sword

Dr. Grace Githaiga, CEO of KICTANet, highlighted the Internet’s role in empowering the young generation which later came to be identified as the Gen Z protests.

Social media platforms facilitated rapid communication, coordination, and information dissemination during the protests that began on Tuesday, June 18. Youth in remote areas like Turkana County, north rift of Kenya were finally included in the conversation, bridging the digital divide. However, challenges like censorship, misinformation, and digital security remain.

According to Dr Grace, youth need to share information through forums, mailing lists, and writing to raise awareness besides advocating for internet freedom to maintain Kenya’s reputation as a tech hub.

Robert Alai – Nairobi Member of County Assembly, Kileleshwa

Government’s Role

Mr Robert Alai, a former tech blogger turned politician, and member County Assembly representing Kileleshwa emphasized the need for digitization in government affairs. He criticized the reliance on outdated systems like Excel spreadsheets, advocating for transparency through digitalization across all levels of government. This could create job opportunities for youth in the tech sector and diversify the tax base beyond white-collar jobs.

Challenges and Action Points

  • Illiteracy (digital and traditional): Raise digital literacy awareness and cater to those unfamiliar with technology.
  • Lack of local platforms: Advocate for Kenyan-developed platforms that cater to local languages and needs.
  • Exploitation by external platforms: Push back against unfair treatment by external platforms promoting unfavourable policies.
  • Misinformation: Hold all stakeholders accountable for accurate information dissemination.

Action Points for Local Governments

  • Partner with local youth in the tech space to drive change.
  • Focus on digitizing local wards before national levels.
  • Include informal sectors in the digital transformation.

Children and the Future of the Internet

Ms Lilian Kariuki, of Watoto Watch Network, emphasized including children in discussions about the internet they will inherit. She noted that the 2024 children IGF expressed desires for a safe, stable internet with age-appropriate apps, spam protection, and parental controls.

Opportunities for Global Youth Engagement

Anja Gengo, Associate Programme Expert / National and Regional IGF Initiatives Focal Point, highlighted opportunities for youth to participate in the global IGF process, including leadership panels, remote hubs, and session proposals.

The upcoming Global Youth IGF will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Roundtable Discussions

  • Cybersecurity and Trust: The conversation focused on balancing privacy with security, using strong passwords and VPNs, and being mindful of digital footprints.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Ethics: The forum explored the potential of AI to address African challenges while acknowledging ethical concerns and the need for regulation. The discussion emphasized the importance of developing data sets and instructions in local languages.
  • Data Ethics and Governance: Data collection ethics were addressed, including user consent, password encryption, privacy by design, and ethical hacking. Bug bounties were proposed as a way to identify and address system vulnerabilities.

The 2024 Kenya Youth IGF served as a platform to advocate for a digital future that is inclusive, secure, and empowers positive change. The forum emphasized the need for collaboration between stakeholders – government, youth, civil society, and the private sector – to ensure a thriving digital future for Kenya.

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