What were the main digital policy regional updates in Africa? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
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Curated by Foncham Denis Doh
Twitter backlash after Ethiopia’s PM threatens Internet shutdown
1 Aug 2019 | Freedom of expression, Other human rights, Access, Cybercrime
On 1 August, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the Internet and social media could be blocked at any time to preserve national security.
Responding to an assassination attempt which took place on 22 July and caused a nationwide Internet shutdown, Ahmed said that the ‘Internet is not water, Internet is not air’ although it is important.
Other Internet shutdowns in the country include those that take place during national exams, to prevent cheating.
The threat received an adverse reaction from Twitter users, who stressed the need for the government to protect online users and respect their digital rights.
Agency seeks to empower persons with disabilities
3 Aug 2019 | Rights of persons with disabilities, Capacity development
On 3 August, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa organised a workshop on the usage of ICT by disabled persons in Nairobi, Kenya. During the workshop, the government was urged to develop favourable ICT policies for persons with disabilities.
Victor Kopiyo, advocate of the High Court and researcher, said that there are more and more persons with disabilities using ICT and that their rights must be protected. Furthermore, blind people should be assisted in using ICT devices and in browsing the Internet.
Idea to harmonise digital policies in Africa
5 Aug 2019 | Development - other, Jurisdiction
On 5 August, African leaders in the ICT sector met at the India – Africa ICT Summit and Expo in Kigali and suggested harmonising digital policies in order to hasten digital transformation.
Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, said that inclusive policies are necessary to provide equal opportunities for all Africans with different levels of development, resources, and skills.
While the leaders agreed that policy making institutions should be proactive in order to reap the benefits of digital technologies, Malawi’s Minister of Information, Civic Education, and Communications Technology, Mark Botomani, insisted on the need for good leadership.
South Africa TV white space gets US funding
6 Aug 2019 | Access, Digital divide
The US Trade and Development Agency has funded the deployment of a TV white space (TVWS) in South Africa by the Wireless Access Providers Association. TVWS uses sections of the spectrum that is reserved for terrestrial broadcasting but not used to broadcast channels, but rather, to create a broadband network.
The pilot project is to be led by the US Company, Adaptrum, and includes Microsoft and IDC. It aims to provide affordable Internet access to rural and semi-rural areas, thereby helping to bridge the digital divide.
Internetwork issues disrupt Nigeria’s telecom sector
7 Aug 2019 | Telecommunications infrastructure, Economic - other issues, Taxation, Consumer protection
Nigeria's telecoms internetwork connectivity was affected by regulatory and financial issues and the National Communications Commission (NCC) had to intervene. MTN disconnected calls from Globacom due to a total interconnection debt of USD$ 12.1 million, with only USD$ 1.3 million having been paid.
The Executive Vice Chair of NCC, Umar Danbatta, said that although MTN’s requests to disconnect debtors were granted, debtors networks were now restricted to critical services in one direction.
All operators were requested to settle their debts to avoid revenue and customer loss due to competitors.
Angola Cables to launch first live gaming portal
7 Aug 2019 | Telecommunications infrastructure, Online education, Content policy
On 7 August, Angola Cables, a telecommunications company, announced their intention to create a Live Gaming portal in Angola through their submarine cable. This comes as a result of the partnership between esport and the gaming specialist, Quatti esport.
The gaming portal will be open to all African esports and gaming communities at high speed. The portal will connect users worldwide who will be able to share their knowledge.
According to the Product Manager at Angola Cables, Crisostomo Mbundu, the new SACS cable with data centres at the ends can provide fast connection to events worldwide.
Continental coast to coast optic fiber link
8 Aug 2019 | Access, Telecommunications infrastructure, Digital divide
The African telecommunications group, Paratus, announced the deployment of a fibre network from southern Africa’s west coast to the east coast, covering a distance of 5000 km.
The Trans-Kalahari Fibre network (TKF) which extends 4160 km from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) in Swakopmund, to the EASSY cable in Tanzania, is under one single Autonomous System Number (ASN), and is connected to selected operators for reliability and management.
The Paratus group’s Chief Operating Officer, Shalk Eramus, said that the project is part of Africa’s aggressive infrastructure expansion strategy which will enable land-locked countries to benefit from WACS’ capacity.
A newly discovered hacking group is targeting energy and telecom companies
8 Aug 2019 | Cybercrime, Critical infrastructure
On 8 August, the Industrial Security Company, Dragos, announced the discovery of a new hacking group called ‘Hexane’ which targets telecommunications and energy companies in Africa and the Middle East, and differs from other hacking groups in its behaviour, tools, and targets.
Casey Brooks, senior adversary hunter at Dragos, said that telecommunications firms are targeted in order to gain access to refining or production operations through cellular networks. Although Hexane might not be able to disrupt the operations of critical infrastructure, it can access industrial control networks through telecommunications networks.
Website in Tanzania reveals marital status of men
13 Aug 2019 | Gender rights online, Privacy and data protection
In a press conference, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Paul Makonda, said that the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania will soon publish names of all married men on a state owned website in order to protect single women from dishonest men.
Makonda said that many young women have complained about men promising them marriage and then leaving them. Many of these men are already married. Laws to protect women who have been deceived will soon be enforced. All Dar es Salaam residents are to register their marital status at the regional database agency, where women can verify whether the men they are dating are single.
Intelsat and Stratosat soon in Central Africa
15 Aug 2019 | Telecommunications infrastructure, Access, Economic - other issues, Convergence
Intelsat S.A partners with Stratosat Datacom to provide broadband services in Central Africa. Markets without reliable communication services will be able to enjoy the Internet and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
The Stratosat NextGen managed services can be rapidly deployed and will improve the reach and performance of networks for small, medium, and large sized enterprises in the region, including schools, hospitals, financial firms, mining, and agriculture companies, thus stimulating economic growth. Greater network speed, coverage and security enable access to applications not supported by traditional networks.
Intelsat Regional Vice President for Africa, Brian Jakins, said that connectivity is necessary to support the growth of local and regional economies, and they are determined to make that possible in Africa.
Africa Code Week equips teachers in Ghana with digital skills
20 Aug 2019 | Capacity development, Development - other
About 700 teachers undertook digital skills training in August, supported by Africa Code Week and its partner DreamOval Foundation. The training was in preparation for the SAP Africa Code Week whose objective is to initiate 1.5 million young Africans to digital coding skills in 2019.
According to Africa Code Week Global Lead, Claire Gillissen-Duval, ‘the great strides Ghana has made toward improving access to education for all and achieving universal enrolment has not made it immune to the continent-wide teaching skills shortage.’ The workshop will promote digital literacy in the country.
Since 2015, 50 000 teachers have been trained and 4.1 million youths engaged in 37 countries.
The African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) 2019 starts in Balaclava Mauritius
20 Aug 2019 | Content policy, Capacity development, Telecommunications infrastructure
Balaclava, Mauritius hosted AfPIF 2019 on 20-22 August. The annual meeting, which started in Kenya in 2010, brings together stakeholders working towards the growth of the Internet in Africa.
While noting that AfPIF has increased traffic exchange in Africa, President and CEO of Internet Society, Andrew Sullivan, underlined the importance of the meeting in building a community that promotes Internet growth in Africa, identifies challenges, and spreads understanding.
AfPIF’s goal is to increase the level of local content exchanged in Africa to 80% by 2020 and to involve all African countries and service providers.