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Who rules the Internet?

The worldwide web is 25 this year, and we take out this time to say hurray to the internet – a world of human genius which has shrunk the world within the click of a mouse; brought limitless and boundless opportunities and means, and made the world truly a virtual global village. Yet, the web came with its bag of headache – scam, identity theft, cyber-terrorism, massive privacy violations, money laundering etc, and has left the world wondering: who rules the internet?

To many, the internet is a ‘no man’s land’ with different association exercising varying control over the web space; the United States wielding ultimate control over the cyberspace courtesy of her technological prowess and ‘big-brother’ attitude. But due to high-level pressure amidst claims of espionage surveillance and privacy violations, the U.S has decided to share its ‘power’ with willing and capable nations of the globe. Now, every nation riding on the back of information technology can decide its fate. It’d be a great disservice to any nation on the planet to shy away from the challenges the internet poses. The internet is a wild beast of freedom; and leveler of boundaries, custodian of knowledge and catalyst agent of globalization; and in truth such digital, over-your-head leviathan deserves to be regulated, tamed, domesticated, and cultured for the universal good of humanity. Perhaps, this disposition propelled. Mrs. Mary Uduma, President of Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) to convene the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (NIGF) in Lagos from 9-10 June 2014; with participants drawn from every sector to have a say through a multistakeholders dialogue in establishing local principles and protocols that would guide the governance of the internet in order to facilitate economic growth in Nigeria. The Forum ended with the resolution that participants should take advantage of the internet to improve, empower and establish themselves and venture by switching to .ng domain name to enable Nigeria control its internet sphere and ‘re-brand’ the world’s perception of the virtual Nigerian and netpreneurs. Issues of privacy, extortive internet access, low broadband penetration, tech skills preparedness, cyber-security and online wealth creation occupied the forum.

Let’s pause here and state that the internet is a wide and endless superhighway, and only heavy trucks and bulldozers can have their way all the time. Nigeria must invest in and develop her IT infrastructure and human capital in order to be a par in such global governance. Although the world in fast moving to an open access society, we must not sacrifice our privacy, identity and national security to the idol of connectivity and trend. There should be a middle-way where privacy right and national security intermingle – mutually benefiting. Certainly, it’d be a plus if Nigeria leverage ICT in her fight against terrorism, insecurity and corruption while basic irreducible rights of the citizenry are not trampled upon in Orwellian fit. Let’s upgrade and fight crime in a tech-savvy fashion – collected, calculative and smart.

Further, our governance of the internet would be more beneficial if we create and produce local contents –’ think local, act global’. The internet gives us access to many knowledge banks and markets; but we must go there not only as consumers but also as producers and sellers. At times, we are tempted to wonder – if our Nigeria-based ‘yahoo-yahoo boys’ could hack, decode and break into ‘systems’ and ‘extract’ money ‘from the air’ then just imagine the creative genius that would be unleashed should they decide to go ‘legit’ in the ecosystem. Jumia, Konga, Irokotv, B.A.U online, and the recent viral app –Ankale Bride Price are few IT services and products that have shown the scalability and profitability of online business in Nigeria. And there’s more coming that could break global brands should we put our house together and encourage innovation and creativity. Let’s not be just ‘buyers and users’ of devices and software; but makers of gadgets and apps – only then will our internet governance bid make sense to the men on the streets.

Elvis-Wura Towulawi

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