Internet Society held conference in Addis focusing on Ethiopia

The Internet Society, the international institution that supports and promotes the development of the Internet as a global technical infrastructure, held its conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today.

It is for the first time for Ethiopia, the country known for blocking the Internet, to host the global multi-stakeholder event. The Conference, which is expected to be concluded on Thursday aims to prepare Ethiopia for the new era of liberalized telecom sector and start developing the Internet ecosystem for the benefit of citizens and businesses alike, the organizers of the event said.

Among the topics to be covered during the Conference labeled as, Ethiopia Internet Development Conference, are: addressing the main issues and challenges the country is facing in relation to the quality and penetration of Internet service and technology.

It is also expected to explore different technical options to improve the local internet infrastructure and to make better use of the regional and global internet infrastructure.Looking into the potential and future obstacles, threats regarding Internet technology expansion in the Ethiopia and discussing potential solutions and recommendations are also expected from the three days conference.

Internet penetration in Ethiopia is currently 18.6% which is less than half the African average. Considering the country is one of the fastest growing economies in the region, holding a strategic geographic location and having a young population of over 105 million – more than 60% of whom are under the age of 30– connecting and expanding Internet access is a key part of Ethiopia’s Government Strategy to tackle a number of its acute problems such as youth unemployment.

While Internet penetration increasing about 45 percent annually, it has yet to catch up with its peer nations in Africa. The gaps in Ethiopia exist in large pockets of no network zones in rural areas and 4G is only available in the capital. Moreover, Ethiopians are not yet benefiting from the many Internet-related services that other countries have to develop their economies as well as to improve the lives their people.

The conference aims to create awareness among policy makers, regulators, businesses, technologists and potential entrepreneurs about the Internet model and technology and create the foundation for a robust Internet ecosystem in Ethiopia in this new post-monopoly era.

Commenting about the event a few days ago, Dawit Bekele, Regional Vice President for Africa, Internet Society, said “With less than 20% of the population connected, Ethiopia has a tremendous opportunity to expand Internet access and to use it to improve the lives of its people.”

“As one of the oldest nonprofit organizations dedicated to the Internet, we have a long history of working with governments and other partners to help bring connectivity and its benefits to countries around the world. We appreciate the support of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in this event and look forward to working with them to help expand Internet access in Ethiopia for the benefit of its population, whether they are in big cities or in remote areas,” he said.

New Internet Society Chapter in Ethiopia
The Internet Society (ISOC) also chartered the Ethiopian Internet Society chapter, a national non-profit organization under establishment under the Ethiopia laws. The chapter shares the vision of the Internet Society that is:The Internet is for Everyone. Their mission is to promote the development and use of the Internet as a resource to enrich people’s life.

Speaking about ISOC, Adugna Necho, President of the Internet Society Ethiopia Chapter says, “The Internet Society Ethiopia Chapter (ISOC) is ready to work with all the stakeholders to ensure an open, secure, trustworthy and affordable internet for everyone in Ethiopia and we welcome individuals from technical and non-technical backgrounds to join our membership and work towards supporting our objectives”.

There are a variety of ways that one can participate as an individual member of the chapter through sharing expertise, capacity building, and working in teams on a community-level project. The chapter also welcomes organizations and partners to contribute to its works and activities by supporting local initiatives that aims to bring the Internet advancing the lives of Ethiopians.

Some of the goals of new Internet Society Ethiopia chapter:
– Promote Internet as the means to bring about all-round social, economic and cultural development in Ethiopia.

– Provide workshops, special training, and seminars on Internet and Internet Governance.

– Support the current Government’s policy to liberalize the Telecommunication sector through providing complementary and devising alternative policies.

– Engage in R&D to devise alternative policies on new and emerging issues of the Internet and Internet governance for policy and decision makers.

– Introduce and Promote the Internet Society’s vision and mission in Ethiopia.

– Advocate and mobilize for the development and expansion of an open, secure, trustworthy and affordable internet access to all in the country.