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Google, ISGPP to Evolve New Policies For Africa’s Digital Space

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By: Adeola Oladele, Ibadan

Google in Africa and the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) have engaged some Africa’s intellectual minds to evolve new policies and regulatory environment that will support innovations in the digital sector in the country.

Academics in relevant disciplines drawn across Africa are presently gathered at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan for the three-day conference, which ends on Thursday, May 5.

While speaking at the conference, tagged: “2017 Africa Academic Network on Internet Policy,” organized by ISGPP and Google in Africa, the  Public Policy and Public Affairs Lead, Google in Africa, Mrs Titi Akinsanya-Bolarinwa, said that the gathering was an opportunity to bring Africa’s Intellectual minds together to identify the gaps in the digital sector and to evolve plans to address them.

She said that the effort was aimed at working with the government on policies that directly have impact on the technology sector because of its critical nature.

“Technology will always move faster than we can make policies as human beings due to less restriction. But, this does not mean that we should not make or do enough to ensure we have the right policy and regulatory environment that will support innovation, particularly the digital sector.”

“As we all know that Nigeria right now is working with its economic recovery plan that has very specific aspects from its doing business to economic diversification, and to addressing the skills gap in the country,” She said.

Mrs. Akinsanya-Bolarinwa further hinted that the conference was an avenue to interrogate and look at it in a sound manner, key issues around accessing infrastructure, adding that “If we are moving forward with digital economy, we have to support it with innovation and for that to happen, we have to support it and invest intellectual work.

“For you to be able to make the right policies, it has to be informed by intellectually sound research. That is, the gap we have increasingly seen must be better occupied by African academics.’’

She said that the conference should be able to look around copyright and intellectual protection because, pointing out to the new innovations that emerge from the market.

Akinsanya-Bolarinwa said that knowledge and capacity building would also be considered at the round table discussion,while expressing optimism of a better outcome.

“We recognize that we are multinational in Google and we are putting this in motion not to serve our particular needs but to ensure that the space we are doing business is ripe for innovation.”

“Google is going to be 20 years soon and we have continued to support academic narratives wherever we are, be it Europe, America , Asia and now Africa”.

“We have 80 percent representation at this conference and we have ensured that there is representation from the Southern, Eastern, Western and Northern Africa,’’ She said.

Earlier in his address, the Executive Vice-Chairman of ISGPP, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, said that the key objective of the gathering was to lay the foundation on the status of Africa, considering the way internet was evolving.

Olaopa, a former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service, said the objective was to ensure that policy is not stagnant, saying they would leverage on the IGSPP network with government.

“Nigeria is said to have 93 million internet users, which is the largest in Africa. Frankly speaking, it is not enough to have a large presence on the internet. The issue is, what is policy doing to leverage on the advantage as a significant vision to drive the economy? This then becomes a research problem to be understood theoretically as a basis for design, adding that,” there is need to start-up a thinking process that explores the deeper capacity the internet possesses to transform Africa as a formidable digital economy.

Addressing the gathering, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of ISGPP, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, expressed happiness for the collaboration to investigate emerging problems with global expansion and unfettered use of the internet.

According to him: “It is remarkable that as of 2002 when the world held the conference on Sustainable Development in South Africa, the tele-density of most African countries including Nigeria was hardly up to 1 per 100,000 of the inhabitants.”

“Today, the situation has changed dramatically. Most countries in Africa are now part of the global revolution in information technology and Nigeria can boast of over 160 million subscribers to the mobile phone system with enormous capacity for accessing internet,” He said.

Mabogunje said that the far-reaching impact of the revolution on human productive and reproductive activities is no longer issues in doubt, saying  that the internet is quintessentially the product of research and human intellectual creativity.

“I believe we have assembled in this audience some of those who can have a good shot at this challenge of strengthening internet policy through theoretically grounded research in Africa,” He said.

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