The explosive growth of ICT technologies on the African continent in the last decade characterized by the connectivity of subsea cables, GPS satellites, social media, and mobile phones demonstrates the appetite for change sweeping across the continent. At the beginning of the decade, there were fewer than 20 million land line phones all over Africa, and this was what had accumulated slowly over a century. In the year 2000, there was a landline penetration rate of just over 2 percent, and phones could only be found in business offices and the wealthiest households. The coming of the mobile phone transformed ICT access. By 2012, there were almost 650 million mobile subscriptions in Africa. This was more than in the US or the EU, thus making Africa the fastest growing region in the world. Very few anticipated that there was such a demand, let alone one that could be met affordably. Connectivity combined with access to data and access to markets has transformed (is transforming?) the north of Africa politically. Phones, data, computers, GPS, and websites are powerful technologies, but it is individuals, communities, and firms that are driving change. One question remains – driving change towards what? While the growth has been explosive, the governance has struggled and lagged.
2011 was the first year that national governments issued real policy positions on cyberspace openness. Some supportive statements were also issued by key NGOs and intergovernmental bodies. A few of the key ones are:
- United States Cyber Strategy (May 2011) (which followed with an April 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) latest Cyber Strategy)
- United Kingdom Cyber Strategy (February 2011); (which was last updated in 2016)
- The G8 issued a "Commitment to openness, protection of individual rights and security" (May 2011); (updated as a G7 statement in 2016)
- The OECD followed with an initial principles on Internet openness statement (June 2011);
- The OSCE issued the following "Access to the Internet should be a human right" (July 2011);
- UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression: Report on internet (May 2011);
- The EU issued restrictions of dual-use technologies that had been used to abuse populations (Egypt for example) (September 2011); and,
- NATO issued the "Policy on Cyber Defense" (June 2011). (updated online in 2017)
New additions are being made to the body of both national and international policy. This continues to be a constantly evolving dialogue.
These are all reflections of Western ideas of openness and democracy. Do they reflect a cultural bias? Should the West expect the rest of the globe to follow our example?
Reminder - Complete all of the Lesson 4 tasks!
You have reached the end of Lesson 4! Double-check the to-do list on the Lesson 4 Overview page to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin Lesson 5.