The second day at the freedom online conference started on a high note with Dr.Bitange Ndemo, expressing that Kenya is keen on building infrastructure to support internet access with all public universities being connected to high speed internet at a subsidised cost.
The morning discussion brought participants to note that Governments around the world fear expression and assembly both offline and online. In some countries such as Zimbabwe, the government views the internet as a ‘tool for regime change,’ one speaker said. In others such as Nigeria, there are bills pending in parliament, concerning the internet use, some of which since 2004.About Nigeria, it also emerged that the government appreciates the use of new media and the internet.
One Russian speaker shared that in Russia, three online activists have been killed in the last one year yet no arrests have been made concerning the killings.
The afternoon sessions saw participants go to different panel discussions, one of which was the women’s agenda. This began by the guest speaker, Dr.Wanjiru Rutenberg, ask, ‘What fundamental change can women bring online?’
She added that the women’s agenda is about access, security and freedom. That it’s not just about statistics about the women using the internet, but of what they are doing online and about those that are left out. She also challenged women to find ways of using the web to change what wrongs are happening in the society. Also mentioned was that the web must be safe for women,as violence online translates to violence offline. Women were cautioned to be wary of personal information they put online
Njeri Rionge,founder,Ignite consulting,was also amongst the women’s agenda panelists She reminded women that ICT was an enabler, a means to an end and that women needed to take initiative to self-train in order to achieve their goals.
Through statistics from research done by Dr.Shikoh Gitau of google,it emerged that 7% of the population in Africa had access to the internet, and out of these, only 33% was women.
Naomi Mutua,@akenyangirl,spoke on freedom of expression- online – and it importance. She pointed out that many people and organisations were using the internet to do good and gave an example of Kenya Red Cross as one of such organizations. She also reminded women that they have a role to play as custodians of their culture, a huge responsibility.
Other speakers in the panel included Jane Mwangi, the territory hardware sales,Oracle,Kenya and Judith from Akirachix.
The conference was deemed successful with 17 coalition members represented, 450 delegates in attendance and 17 African countries represented. Delegates and all stakeholders were urged to be proactive in engaging their governments to improve access to the internet.
The next conference will be hosted by Tunisia, the newest African signatory to the coalition.