The second edition of the annual online training programme on Internet Governance (IG) is now in full swing. Thirty-eight participants (17 women, 21 men) from 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) were selected to participate in this customized programme. The countries of origin of the selected participants are: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Hivos received over 250 applications from 37 countries, attracting interest from all over the MENA region, as well as some applicants from outside the MENA region, who unfortunately could not be considered for this programme due to its regional focus.
In partnership with DiploFoundation, this eight-week programme provides participants with the knowledge and tools required to understand IG concepts, processes, and related issues. Specific attention is given to the IG situation in the MENA countries in order for participants to be able to be involved in IG processes in their own countries.
"This experience is unique because it values peer learning among participants," explained IGMENA Manager Hanane Boujemi. On October 13th, the course was launched with introductions and an orientation session for participants to meet one another and familiarize themselves with the online learning platform.
During these initial weeks, participants have focused on the three first modules of the programme:
- Internet Governance history
- How the Internet functions
- Human rights and Internet Governance
Rafik Dammak, a DiploFoundation tutor for this training programme, commented that the particpants have engaged in lively, asyncronistic discussions and are well-prepared for the real-time chat sessions. He offered a glimpse into the learning process, giving examples of some of topics discussed in the course:
- The course participants learned about several examples of MENA countries' infrastructures and the challenges regarding access, pricing, security, and privacy due the weak competition and governmental control.
- They debated how governments tend to tightly control the infrastructure and the market by giving licenses to some companies and preventing other form entering, or imposing policies for policing the content and surveilling the traffic and to make the internet paradoxically centralised.
- Regarding infrastructure, the course covered access issues in many countries like Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen from different perspectives, including: spread of broadband technology and its affordability; dependance on wireless networks and its quality of service; moving to 4G; the submarine connections of MENA countries; and even the issue of optical fibre cuts for political protest in Yemen!
- The course has explored the relationship between content and infrastructure, and the need to move to the next stage.
- There were some positive notes, like evolution in Tunisia with the role played by ATI and moving toward more peering via Internet Exchange Points—a model which is still not replicated enough within the region.
- There have also been questions about security: how to ensure secure communication, and discussion about privacy and anonymity, especially in countries where the governments monitor the traffic.
- We also briefly touched on DNS, domain names, IPv6, and even Internet of Things.
The programme also encourages the involvement of participants in IG processes at regional and global levels. With this goal, a selected group from the training programme will have the opportunity of attending and actively participating in the next Arab Internet Governance Forum
, to be held in Beirut, 26-27 November 2014.
For the second time, Hivos will be supporting the participation of a large group of civil society actors from the MENA region at Arab IGF, an important meeting that gathers key actors in the field of Internet policies. The selected fellows will be able to be participate in the discussions, exchange information with experts, and be part of the development of the Arab perspective to support the Arab role in shaping IG policies. The fellows will be sharing their reflections on the discussions through blogs posts that will be published on IGMENA website.