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Kenya hosts global internet forum

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 27 –As the internet becomes a critical resource in development work, governance of the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) tool remains a major issue for governments and relevant stakeholders alike.

Convening at the sixth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, on Tuesday, over 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries will examine cross-border Internet governance challenges, in efforts to chart a way forward.

“Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between penetration of internet and the growth levels of countries. There is also a positive correlation between the penetration of mobile telephony and growth levels,” Ministry of Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said during a press briefing.

He added that it was a trend becoming evident across the developing world, with the growth of mobile phone use, now at over 60 percent in Kenya.

With 4.7 million Internet subscribers in Kenya primarily via mobile devices, issues surrounding strengthening internet governance in the areas of security, affordable access to the internet and privacy emerge.

“Kenya has done very well with availability and access to broadband. We are trying to find better strategies of lowering the cost. We are looking at how we can access cheaper equipment so that everybody can access it,” Ndemo said.

With social media quickly becoming the mainstay of communication for young internet users, largely viewed as the catalyst of the recent Arab spring uprisings, issues of openness and privacy are expected to be tackled.

More specifically the forum will address the issue of social media from a policy perspective discussing data protection, rules applicable to user-generated content, freedom of expression and illegal content.

“In Britain they found out that actually engaging the youth through the social networks was much better than shutting them down. So from our side in Kenya we’re not going to interfere with the internet under any circumstances because of the lessons we’ve learned. We’d rather engage the people than shut them out,” the PS said.

Delegates and stakeholders will have to determine whether content available through social media is ushering in a better-informed society and facilitating transparency.

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United Nations Assistant Secretary General Thomas Steltzer  said he hopes the debate in Nairobi will continue to refine understanding of the appropriate local and international institutional arrangements.

“The potential of the Internet rests, in part, on the availability and use of critical Internet resources and, hence, one of the key issues to be discussed will be the adoption and diffusion of IPv6.  The debates on access and diversity will also lead delegates to think in terms of ensuring the Internet as a meaningful tool for development, freedoms and innovations,” he said.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who opened the conference, further stressed the importance of cyber security urging all stakeholders to come up with innovative ways of protecting children online and addressing other forms of attacks against the integrity of the infrastructure, networks and services of the internet.

The Vice President lauded initiatives like the Open Data Portal highlighting its role in encouraging public participation in translating government data and information into a reservoir of development ideas.

The Nairobi meeting of the IGF is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa and will be running into the end of the week under the theme: “The Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation.”

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