Food and discussion begins at 12:30 pm. Everyone invited.
How can policy makers in developing countries craft information technology policies that will drive economic growth? How do mobile phones and the Internet change how citizens participate in democracy and the political process? While a rich and varied discourse has emerged around each of these questions, these discussions has largely excluded Africa, perhaps due to a paucity of evidence. However, this trend is changing as Africa becomes one of the world’s fastest growing markets for information technology. Through the lens of two of my recent research papers, I will discuss the promise the Internet holds for economic and political development in Africa.
Critical Elements of an African Internet Economy (forthcoming), co-authored with Google’s Head of Global Public Policy Andrew McLaughlin, presents public policy components for African governments that recognize that bandwidth is a fundamental input into the information economy. While African governments are in very different stages of developing their Internet economies, each must address a common set of policy issues including fiber infrastructure, spectrum, competition and local content.
The Role of Digital Technology in Kenya’s 2007-08 Presidential Election Crisis, part of Harvard’s Berkman Center Internet and Democracy Case Study Series, illustrates how digital technologies were a catalyst to both predatory behavior, such as ethnic-based mob violence, and civic behavior, such as citizen journalism and human rights campaigns during the recent violence in Kenya. While this paper is a first cut at history, it is also an attempt to bring the African experience into the sociological and political science discourse on the Internet’s effect on democracy.
Joshua Goldstein is a masters candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, studying development economics and information technology policy with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. He currently conducts research with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Google Inc. Before attending the Fletcher School, he worked for USAID in Uganda. Notably, he recently published Embracing ‘Open Access’ in East Africa: A Common Internet Infrastructure Policy Agenda for Human Security and Economic Development” in Princeton’s Journal of Public and International Affairs and Harvard’s Berkman Center Working Paper Series. He blogs at In An African Minute.