'Sup people! Nanjira here, ready to chat all things tech policy. Hit me up with Qs below!


Hello folks, Nanjira here. Excited about this AMA, and ready for your questions. As you will have seen, my interest/work is in tech policy, and really curious if/how you consider its significance in your work!

If you haven’t already acquainted with who I be/what I do, check out this roundup by the good folks, our hosts! http://techcabal.com/2017/03/20/this-weeks-ama-is-with-the-web-foundations-nanjira-sambuli/



Hey Nanjira, quick one.

So, I know what your stance is, about connectivity efforts like Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero. The idea of a private company with private interests dictating what a large number of people in developed countries see is a horrible idea, and as you said to me in a Twitter conversation, it’s policy failure. My first question is, does the “open internet” argument still hold up when platforms like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc have become the definition of “the internet” to most people anyway? With or without zero-rating certain services, does Facebook not still control what the vast majority of people consume? Now that we have ruled that zero rating is bad, how do we get the next billion people, and the billion after that, online and internet affordable for them to consume regularly? What’s the incentive for a telco, for example, to invest in infrastructure to provide $5 - 10 per month users with the same quality of service that $100 per month users get in developed markets?


@Nanjira Thanks a lot for doing this! I’m legit multitasking right now, I will return with my real question(s). But in the meantime, what was Mr. Kenyatta thinking when he was dabbing on Twitter?


Hey Nanjira!

Great to have you here.

So, we’ve already established that women in rural Africa are less likely to be online than men and also that online activity is linked to economic empowerment for these women. What specific policies do you think should be formulated to get more women online? And how can startups & individuals alike play a part in getting more African women online?


Hi Nanjira!

Okay, I have three questions:

  1. What exactly is the World Wide Web Foundation, and how would you measure its impact in Africa?
  2. What major problems would you say exist in Africa regarding web/gender equality, and what solutions would you proffer?
  3. What are your thoughts about the African millennial - both online and offline?


Hey Nanjira,

How can we ensure equal internet rights for all as citizen oppression finds a permanent home on the internet (think Cameroon)? What I am asking is, how do we prevent bully governments from deciding who gets access to the internet and who doesn’t?

Also, nice piercings.


Heya Osarumen!

  1. The ‘open Internet’ was envisioned as a default, but increasingly is being challenged. We can’t afford to give up on it in light of dominance by the named companies. In the eyes of the people as you put it, it means that we have more work to do in highlighting the Internet in its vastness, beyond consumption and limited creation on the popular social network platforms.
    I personally am very keenly watching and following the spaces we are carving for ourselves to create alternative media ‘empires’. We have to keep trying, even as the ‘big 5’ encroach on aspects like civic tech (with, eg, FB’s planned roll out of such tools, as per MZ’s manifesto).


2.On connecting the next billion people, right you are, re: zero rating. In fact, some specific research into the impact of zero rating into connecting folks found that it’s not the primary, nor preferred option to get online (esp for first time users). Read more about the interesting findings by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (a Web Foundation initiative) here: http://a4ai.org/is-zero-rating-really-bringing-people-online/

How to connect the next billion? For one, acknowledge that market solutions alone will not get us to the target for universal access by 2020 that our govts endorsed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - target 9c.

  • Make the internet affordable by,
  1. redefining broadband affordability!
    check out the ‘1 for 2’ target that A4AI has been advocating http://a4ai.org/1for2-affordability-target/
    FYI, the Govt of Nigeria has endorsed this target! http://a4ai.org/nigeria-becomes-first-country-to-endorse-a4ais-1-for-2-affordability-target/
  2. investing in public WiFi solutions, as well as effectively deploying the Universal Service and Access Funds that many govts are idly sitting on. (Did a thread yesterday on USAFs here: https://twitter.com/ninanjira/status/844505918314303488)
  • Lower cost of devices (and especially slashing of the luxury taxes imposed on devices in many countries)

More recommendations here: http://a4ai.org/affordability-report/report/2017/#executive_summary

Quite a number of references there, so will stop at that for now, and we can circle back? :slight_smile:

That’s a fab set of questions man! Keep em coming! :muscle:t5:


Fab question, Mobi!

  1. Gender-responsive ICT policies must be a reality. Currently, there’s a ‘genderblind’ fallacious approach to policy - that is only going to cost us more and take us much longer to connect men and women! See this Twitter thread for more on gender-responsive policy:https://twitter.com/ninanjira/status/775993723180183552)
    FYI, the govt of Nigeria emerges as one of the few trailblazers in embedding gender targets in the broadband plans! Onus is on us all to keep them accountable to what they’ve committed to doing, and by when).

  2. On what startups and individuals alike can do: fab question, and one that gets me very excited (is why I do what I do! :-D)

-familiarise ourselves with policy. I know that sounds like a put off at first glance, but I’m taken by this notion that the job of entrepreneurs to just innovate with products and services, and the rest is left to policy wonks to figure out. (I go on and on about this on Twitter hey, see https://twitter.com/ninanjira/status/844548280113606658)
-Why policy? Because even those startups relying on the Internet for the consumption of their products and services are affected by the policies in play to connect people affordably and meaningfully! If your potential customers (esp women who are the most loyal consumer base) remain unconnected, what does that mean for your chances of success?

  • for individuals, the same applies. Knowledge is power, and opportunities abound for advocacy (individual, and creating digital rights advocacy actors in-country!). It takes a wide range of options - from affordable access to cybersecurity!)

Hope that answers the question and more importantly, stimulates some excitement to start/keep engaging and advocating on this front! :slight_smile:


Okay @Nanjira.

I know this might sound like a bougie problem, but what do you think needs to happen for African internet users to stop being treated like second class citizens on the internet? You know, equal access to content, payments infrastructure…It makes no sense to not be able to listen to certain music selections just because I happen to be sitting in Lagos, or have to use convoluted workarounds. Is this just a first world itch or does it speak to a deeper issue of digital freedom and openness and letting content and value cross borders without unnecessary restrictions?


Heya Fird, will give some top-level answers for now, and happy to dig deeper as a follow up :slight_smile:

  1. The Web Foundation (abbreviated name) was founded by Sir Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) to advance the vision of the (open) Internet as a public good and human right. To achieve this, we focus on two fronts: Digital Inclusion , that is, 1) affordable and meaningful access to the Internet, primarily via the Alliance for Affordable Internet - www.a4ai.org and 2) women’s rights online - that is, how women access and use the web. See http://webfoundation.org/our-work/projects/womens-rights-online/).
    The second front of our work is Digital Citizenship, that is, once we are connected, how are our identities, rights, privacy, safety, security shaping up? What’s influencing them? How do we hold to account the actors providing us with the services and products we consume online? What are the gendered implications for all this? A lot of the work here has been on Open Data - why it matters, which govts are abiding by their commitments to avail information in a manner that is
    *Available online so as to accommodate the widest practical range of users and uses.
    *Open-licensed so that anyone has permission to use and reuse the data.
    *Machine-readable so that large datasets can be analysed efficiently.
    *Available in bulk so that it can be downloaded as one dataset and easily analysed by a machine.
    *Free of charge so that anyone can access it no matter their budget.

For more on this, check out http://opendatabarometer.org/3rdEdition/report/#executive_summary


miss nanjira,

  1. do you think internet.org and the mission behind it will help africa given the ulterior motives of the fb? :moneybag: i mean express wi-fi or express cash money into the giant’s bank coffers?
    for ref: “Facebook takes on telcos with low-cost Internet in Nairobi

but if so, what system should local hubs and policy makers have within the context of this?

  1. should there be a concerted effort to use technology to somehow turn the satisfaction of a stoney into digital form so that i can have it all the time with a click of a button. #tangawizilova :heart_eyes:


On the impact of Web Foundation in Africa? I could write a whole missive here, but in sum, a lot of wins for ICT policy reform, notably in Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Liberia - where we have a lot of in-country work on the affordable Internet access front. See http://a4ai.org/a4ais-impacts-in-2016/ for a snapshot.

Additionally, through the work with other initiatives, we’ve been able to amplify the concerns of citizens to policymakers (eg with the Women’s Rights Online research findings, which we’ve been presenting to policymakers and challenging them to do better. See these gender scorecards that we’ve been presenting to them. They show that our countries need to pull up their socks in connecting women and girls and ensuring that they are capable digital citizens: http://webfoundation.org/about/research/digital-gender-gap-audit/


Haha, thanks! (Re: piercings).

I penned some thoughts on what’s at play with the shutdowns, on a political level, check that out here: http://www.htxt.co.za/2017/01/31/the-siege-against-internet-freedom-iron-fist-african-governments-tighten-their-grips/

Basically, the fight for equal Internet rights as you put it, is very much political just as it is economic, social, cultural etc. And we must approach our efforts with this in mind, to especially ensure that we aren’t locked in a loop of just reacting to government actions.

Proactive engagement is something I work on. How to get govt types on the same table with techies, citizens and other interest groups to understand their perspectives? Even with Cameroon right now, that’s the question for me. You can tell govt isn’t opening its iron gates to engage with its people! How do we reverse that? For one, by becoming very creative about how we get them on the table, and keep them coming back. This is particularly so in countries that aren’t as yet as risk of, say, Internet shutdowns.


Internet rights are just another front for the fight to secure the respect and upholding of our inalienable human rights! A luta continua!


(Big sigh! The place of the African - online and offline).

Most of the tech products we consume aren’t designed for our contexts. They, at best are later considerations. So on one hand, that’s where our own entrepreneurs come in. But then, they are introducing solutions to contexts with such a crazy mix of preceding issues - infrastructural, socio-cultural, economic etc.

This struggle is very strongly linked to the ‘offline’ one of securing the dignity of the African - to ourselves and to the external gaze! See for example, how they write about us, and even in tech! See https://medium.com/@ninanjira/on-writing-about-tech-in-africa-c63ffe9f499d#.ev9srgu84 and https://medium.com/@ninanjira/on-writing-about-tech-in-africa-part-2-our-toothbrushes-toilets-and-bulbs-a24b967a180c#.b0aejf7on

So, I don’t see it as a bougie problem at all! It’s linked to what seems a lifelong struggle, and one which each generation of Africans fights back! Awareness of that is the crucial step one, IMO.

When I get to Lagos next month, I’ll tell you about my experience navigating them spaces where these ‘tech thinkers’ congregate. Basically, showing up as a young African (wo)man who knows their sh** is a protest and a riot! :fist:t5:

  1. We have to be very wary of who wants to swoop in and ‘save us from the abyss of unconnectivity, and why’. I’ve written a lot about Free Basics, see http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/blogs/free-internet-freedom-create/620-2975634-2x41cg/index.html

For me, the question is, with all these initiatives, what becomes the role of our governments as policy enablers? We are where we are because of policy failure, not because there aren’t resources to connect us to the open web, meaningfully and affordably!

And, as I mentioned to @SkweiRd above, we’ve found that zero-rated services aren’t the most popular means for connecting first time Internet users! The market strikes back. Not to mention the middle finger that Angolans gave Wikipedia and Facebook Zero! https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/wikipedia-zero-facebook-free-basics-angola-pirates-zero-rating


Hey @Nanjira What’s your take on the continued and ever growing paranoia among state actors in clamping dissent in the name of “national security” through shutting down the internet and mobile money services for protracted periods of time? As part of the Web Foundation, not foregoing the activism of other pro-internet bodies, what do you think are the interventions in the interim and mid and long terms?

Do you think our strongmen would falter and give priority access to the internet economy, and in line to the SDGs, to sound polemical?


You have killed me with that Stoney question. Go and have one, in fact! :joy:


Daniel, hi!

As I mentioned elsewhere, we have to assess all these developments (paranoia) through the prism of political dynamics. The Internet has increasingly become the go-to place for many of us to challenge our govts and political order, and that’s something that bothers them. Hence the response to either shutdown the Internet (partially, totally), or vaguely define national security and the justifications of either invading on our privacy (online and offline) or cut off access. Our understanding and appreciation of this is key to securing effective strategies (carrot vs stick approaches).

We can then appeal to the economic implications of these adverse interventions (eg the cost to business and the market when access is fettered, or when the Internet is made an unsafe and insecure place to conduct business due to adverse laws and regulations).

Longer form arguments about this:

  1. http://www.htxt.co.za/2017/01/31/the-siege-against-internet-freedom-iron-fist-african-governments-tighten-their-grips/
  2. http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/blogs/620-3135898-rsf48o/index.html