The ECOWAS Commission and its partners virtually convened the 13th edition of the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) with various stakeholder groups involved in the internet ecosystem from Member States of the region and beyond to discuss and engage in issues surrounding the Internet and its usage in response to COVID-19.
The three-day virtual forum with the guiding theme ‘Digital Inclusion and Access for a Resilient West Africa’ was held from 28 to 30 July 2021 with a view to putting forward some concrete and actionable recommendations to aid the region as it bounces back from the effects of COVID-19.
Delivering the keynote address to the forum, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure of the Republic of The Gambia, Hon. Ebrima Sillah, indicated the importance of the internet in our daily lives in this COVID-19 era and highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholders since the inception of the first Internet Governance Forum in Athens in 2006, established after deliberations at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005. He noted the significance and link of the WAIGF to the overall attainment of the ECOWAS Regional Infrastructure Masterplan and emphasized the importance of connecting citizens to broadband internet. The Hon Minister rounded off by encouraging the forum to share ideas and come up with a communique that will advise Member States on ways to bring down the cost of Internet connectivity and make accessibility more possible for the region’s rural dwellers.
Addressing the forum on behalf of the Commission, the Ag. Director, Digital Economy & Post, Dr. Raphael Kouame Koffi spoke on the impact the Coronavirus had in varying degrees across the region on areas such as internet connectivity, inclusion, cost, and accessibility. He noted that the estimated 55.67% internet penetration rate across the region at the end of 2020 highlights how the pandemic also illuminated conversations on the need to use and develop Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) across the region so as to accelerate digital transformation process. He reiterated the Commission’s unwavering commitment to ensure the continued facilitation of a favorable environment that ensures accessibility and inclusion for the people of the region.
The 4th West Africa School on Internet Governance (WASIG) to build a multidisciplinary cadre of expertise in Internet Governance in West Africa through the participation of current and emerging leaders drawn from government, youth, academia, and civil society preceded the forum.
The ensuing communique from the forum will be presented at the next ECOWAS Ministers in charge of the Telecommunication/ICT meeting.