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As we countdown to the Southern Africa Regional Dialogue on Internet Access taking place in Johannesburg on the 5th and 6th November 2019, we should start discussing the main subject of this historical conference. The main subject for discussion shall be the Internet Shutdowns that have been experienced around the globe in recent years. 
 
In view of the internet shutdowns happened in Africa since 2016 and, particularly of regional threats to online freedoms, which have manifested in internet shutdowns in recent past, this Dialogue proposes a proactive response to this serious assault on citizens’ online freedoms. The goal of the project is to host a regional dialogue engaging stakeholders - that will include civil society, academics, government representatives, digital techs (Google/Facebook), MNOs and ISPs, among other key actors – to discuss the violation of internet rights in the Southern Africa region.
 
The two days’ dialogue shall be receiving researched presentations and be engaged in dialogue regarding challenges posed by the internet shutdowns in the region and how it affected the societies; issues hindering access to the internet for remote and poor communities; and come up with possible intervention strategies and advocacy processes against these shutdowns.  Issues hindering internet access; such as high cost of data; and unavailability of internet (largely among poor communities) will be discussed. And, the meeting shall also outline key advocacy issues that could be pursued going forward.
 
Internet shutdowns have become one of the defining tools of government repression in the 21st century. Africa has seen over ten such shutdowns in 2019 only. A number of reports on such incidents has been published. Also a vast amount of research and analysis has been done. It has thus been revealed that such shut downs happen during times of civil unrest or political instability. These shutdowns allow officials to stifle the flow of information about government wrongdoing or to stop communication among activists. Governments usually order service providers to cut or slow their customers’ internet access.
 
This week we publish three articles about such reports and research, and we challenge all stakeholders to participate in the discussion of our twitter handler always cited on our weekly newsletter. Such debates and inputs will add to the Regional Dialogue’s debates building up to resolutions toward strategies to lobby and advocate for change towards internet access which is without hindrances globally.

Click here for full information about the Dialogue.
 
Internet shutdowns have become one of the defining tools of government repression in the 21st century not just in Zimbabwe, but in a growing number of countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, that are seeking to quash dissent. The shutdowns do more than stunt the democratic process. They can batter whole economies and individual businesses, as well as drastically disrupt the daily life of ordinary citizens, turning the search for mobile service into a game of cat and mouse with the police and driving people across borders just to send emails for work.
 
“People always had this simplistic view that technology could only be used in one way that it was this great tool for democracy,” said Kuda Hove, a digital rights researcher at the Media Institute of Southern Africa. But after the emergence of the shutdown, he said, “it dawned on them that the government could use technology against the people.”
 
Click here for the full article. 

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Read the e-newsletter here: Issue 678: Countdown to the Southern Africa Regional Dialogue

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