Internet Governance: ensuring a safe internet for all

The Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) in partnership with the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (MISA), took part in the Internet Governance Conference held in Harare at Cresta Oasis Hotel, on the 23rd of November 2018.

In attendance were members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Parliamentary portfolio on ICT, Parliamentary portfolio on Media and several Parliamentary portfolio members. Also present were several Honorable (Hon) members of Parliament, media practitioners, editors, ICT’s practitioners and members from the police.

Hon Charlton Hwende delivered a keynote address in his capacity as the ICT Chair of the Parliamentary portfolio on ICT.

Mr. Hwende alluded that the committee is eager to grasp perspectives of citizens towards the protection of privacy and a sustainable digital Zimbabwe. He noted that the committee is also interested in knowing the needs of the people of Zimbabwe including rural and remote people.

“High cost of data is a cause of concern, ensuring a safe place online, guiding against cyber bullying especially against women are causes for concern for the committee of ICT” said Mr. Hwende. He added that “there is need for robust engagement and stakeholder participation to ensure a safe internet community”.

The ICT Committee intends to hold wide consultative meetings and massive engagements in regards to the Cyber and Security Bill, which will be brought to Parliament soon. This will be done for the purposes of  soliciting input towards a new Bill that seeks to govern the digital space and how people interact online.

Dr. Tsabora (CALR Researcher) elaborated to great lengths about internet governance and the enjoyment of constitutional rights, privacy, access to information and freedom of expression. Internet governance has widened the scope of the enjoyment of freedom of expression.

The Internet has enabled for the enjoyment of basic human rights but, there is still a need to ensure that these rights do not infringe on the rights of other individuals.

Dr. Tsabora emphasized the nexus between Internet Governance and Human Rights. He explained how freedom of expression may inflict or infringe on privacy.

In his presentation, Dr.Tsabora noted that the key aspects of Internet Governance include regulation, shared responsibility, multi-stakeholderism and as a behavioral instrument.

He added  that Internet Governance requires a collective effort from all stakeholders to ensure a free and safe internet of all.

In regards to Internet Governance, there are three important sectors that must collectively work and engage, these are; the government, private sector and civil sector.

Topics discussed included the need to safeguard rights of children on the internet.

“… there is need to protect children from exploitation through online tools,” said Alfred Ncube who works at Childline Zimbabwe.

The Police were also present at the conference. A cyber-crime unit has since been created by the police. Supt. A. Tavaziva heads the department, during the conference He elaborated on cyber-crimes. He stated that cyber-crimes include; crimes committed through online tools and using online tools, the crimes include and are not limited to : identity theft, cyber bullying, password hacking and the police hope that the cyber bill will enhance their work. The police allude that a cyber-crime unit was set to fight crime and that it will not be used as a tool to infringe on the rights of individuals.

Stakeholders hinted on how Africa’s digital space faces challenges as most digital laws are created to stifle and control opposing voices, the laws are more for regulating than for promoting individual rights.

It was raised during the Internet Governance Conference that there is a need to clarify about regulation or non-regulation, in Africa regulation usually narrows down to controlling of the digital space, said Nhlanhla Ngwenya of the Open Society for Southern Africa (OSISA).

Stakeholders hinted on a need to have a safe and secure internet for all.

The workshop was also used as a platform to give input that will be passed on the proposed draft Cybercrime and Security bill.