Embracing Internet Freedom in Africa

Friday, September 7, 2012 | 4:04 PM

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Update: Nairobi Freedom Online videos are now online.

Internet Freedom is not just a concern just for the West - it’s an essential issue for the entire world. The Freedom Online coalition now counts 18 governments from all over the world, including two in Africa, and, underlining this global reach, the Kenyan government this week hosted the second Freedom Online Summit in Nairobi. We supported this initiative, which brought together more than 400 stakeholders from governments, business and NGOs.



The Dutch government launched the Freedom Online coalition in the Hague last November. We held a Big Tent at the event, which featured, among other luminaries, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She used the occasion to make a spirited defense of Internet freedom.

Kenya’s decision to hold the second summit demonstrates its role as a tech pacesetter. “I am proud to be the first African country to host this conference which confirms the country's leading role in adoption of information and communication technology in the region," said Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio. More than 17 million Kenyans - a little more than a third of the total population, and the highest figure in sub-Saharan Africa - enjoy Internet access.

At Google, we believe free expression can be a spur for economic and social development. The more a country allows different voices to be heard, on and offline, the more knowledge it encourages citizens to obtain. This knowledge translates into innovation, economic growth, education and other signs of social success. During the conference, we showed some research demonstrating a strong correlation between the highest rankings in Internet freedom index and social and economic success.

The Freedom Online coalition continues to grow. On Friday, the Tunisian government joined. Moez Chakchouk, CEO of the Tunisian Internet Agency, announced the decision and vowed to host the coalition’s next summit in Tunis. We look forward to being present and contributing.

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