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Here’s what to expect from the upcoming MISA Internet Governance Forum

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The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is holding an Internet Governance Conference under the theme “Supporting Free & Secure Online Expression and Access to Information in Zimbabwe”  on the 21st of August (tomorrow) at the Jameson Hotel in Harare.

Some areas which the meeting will dwell on are internet ecosystem reach, sustainability and Governance and content creation and dissemination. The Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira  is expected to make a presentation.

The meeting is a follow-up to the regulator(POTRAZ)/Government led initiative for a wide consultation that incorporates Private Sector, Civil Society, Academia and Technical Communities in drawing up an internet governance charter.

A multi-stakeholder coordinating team (MCT) set up for this is currently chaired by ICT Academic Dr Hapanyengwi was selected to spearhead the discussions towards coming up with an IGF charter.

MISA is a Non-Governmental Organisation that focuses on the need to promote free, independent and diverse pluralistic media. In holding the first meeting in a series of consultations by the MCT, they have taken a step towards influencing the final framework that will be the law on the use of the internet in Zimbabwe.

This looks like it will be an engaging discussion, considering the nature of the organisation is one that will dwell on the freedom and accessibility of the internet.

This is freedom in terms of the frameworks surrounding self-generated content and censorship, the place of media in social media as a major channel through which to distribute news and discussions. It is all in the context that censorship or controlled access to the broader consumers has an impact on the liberties of the media as well as general consumers.

In terms of access to the internet, topics that could be dwelt on could include regulations in terms of net neutrality as the subject has implications on how the media will be able to distribute content where the technical partners (mobile operators, Internet Providers etc) have largely determined without check who they can afford such privileges for both generation and consumption of media content.

As was the case with the Econet /Tengai issue, a mobile operator may one day decide its own media house will get zero rating, thus influencing consumer choice.

It is also prudent to note that even discussions to do with financial aspects such as the cost of internet access, sale of internet content or internet tax have a place in the broader framework where consumers may in fact at one point be taxed for accessing the internet.

Whether you are a distributor such as an online blogger or a startup offering VOD such as PO Box or a consumer getting feed from Engadget or video channels via YouTube, or you just want stiffer penalties on hate porn distributed via WhatsApp, the broader internet governance discussion is one that you cannot afford to be left out of.

Who knows, because of social outcry we may end up having a policy that virtually bans social media sites like Facebook, for reasons like “we are a conservative community” or some foreign news channels will be disallowed because they “spread anti-nationalistic ideas”.

image credit: MISA Zimbabwe


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