The second Online Freedom Coalition Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2012 and marked a fundamental step in bringing access onto the Coalition’s agenda.
As a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition and an African leader in the field of ICT, the Kenyan government discussed the role of an open and free Internet not only as a prerequisite for respecting human rights, but also as a provider of tremendous opportunity for development and economic growth. The conference was attended by 450 participants of 42 nationalities, 19 of which representing African countries.
The conference was a unique opportunity to share with many African countries best practices, ideas and resources on how make the Internet a positive tool for their citizens. Thanks to its organizing work and being the host of the conference, Kenya gained a clear-cut leadership in the regional debate on the issue. Whilst noting the gains that come with an open and free Internet, the conference also pointed at the shortcomings. This triggered significant debate on the link between freedom and economic development and social progress. Corporate social responsibility in the ICT sector also garnered delegates’ interest owing to the ever changing and cross cutting effects on the freedom of expression.
Day two of the conference centered on three focal areas:
- ICT, entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility, particularly in regards mobile entrepreneurship, which needs accessible, fast and open Internet to thrive,
- Censorship versus freedom of expression, assembly and association,
- Access to the Internet and its challenges and opportunity, including the need to develop regulation, infrastructure and innovation.
In the conference closing declaration, the participants called on all governments to narrow the digital divide, to desist from any form of suppression of the use of the Internet, and to adopt appropriate legislation that will safeguard from any form of censorship and inaccessibility as well as from irresponsible use of the Internet. They called on partners and donors to develop communication and public education strategies, to empower country offices and embassies to recognize and support Freedom Online actors and activities, to press ahead with the harmonization of regulatory legislation and to provide adequate funding to increase the uptake of e-commerce especially in rural areas.
Moreover, the participating states also committed to financially support the creation of a conducive environment for technology related start-ups among the youth; to lobby for the recognition and reward of business, and to seek funding for ventures promoting Internet growth as an economic driver.
As one of the main positive outcomes, the conferences launched the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) fund. The DDP supports innovative solutions for the protection of bloggers and online activists in danger and provides quick support in response to a range of emerging threats to Internet freedom.