About Kitaw

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, MBA in Management of Technology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Prospects of PhD in Governance and Policy Analysis. International Civil Servant in a United Nations specialized agency in Geneva.

Read more about Kitaw

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog and extracts of research work are solely those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the official position of his employer and the academic institutions he is affiliated with.

About Amharic in 80 words

Selam (ሰላም)! – This is how you say ‘hello’ or ‘peace’ in Amharic (አማርኛ). Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia and is widely used as a lingua franca in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic, with close to 60 million people speaking it as their first or second language. Amharic has a unique script called Ge’ez, which has been in use for over 2000 years. The alphabet has 33 basic characters, each of which has seven forms depending on which vowel is pronounced. Each syllable is represented by a character. Written from left to right, the Ge’ez script is also used to write other languages in Ethiopia.

The language has a rich literary tradition, dating back to the 13th century. Many of these works are religious in nature, and Amharic is one of the languages used in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church‘s liturgy. Amharic has a complex grammatical structure, with unique poetic expressions built of two semantic layers (Qene). In 1999, Ethiopic was added to Unicode (1200–137F), an international encoding standard for different languages and scripts, which boosted Amharic’s use in the digital world.

Amharic is a fascinating language with a long history. It is an important language in Ethiopia and is also gaining popularity among non-Ethiopians. Whether you are interested in Ethiopian culture, history, or simply want to learn a new language and an innovative alphabet, Amharic is a language that is worth exploring.

Selam (ሰላም) ! – C’est ainsi que l’on dit « bonjour » ou « paix » en amharique (አማርኛ). Amharique est la langue officielle de l’Éthiopie et est largement utilisée comme lingua franca dans la Corne de l’Afrique. C’est la deuxième langue sémitique la plus parlée au monde après l’arabe, avec près de 60 millions de personnes qui la parlent comme première ou deuxième langue. L’amharique a un caractère unique script appelé Ge’ez, utilisé depuis plus de 2000 ans. L’alphabet a 33 caractères de base, dont chacun a sept formes selon la voyelle prononcée. Chaque syllabe est représentée par un caractère. Écrit de gauche à droite, le script Ge’ez est également utilisé pour écrire d’autres langues en Éthiopie.

La langue a une riche tradition littéraire, remontant au XIIIe siècle. Beaucoup de ces œuvres sont de nature religieuse, et l’amharique est l’une des langues utilisées dans la liturgie de l’Église orthodoxe éthiopienne. L’amharique a une structure grammaticale complexe, avec des expressions poétiques uniques construites de deux couches sémantiques (Qène). En 1999, éthiopien a été ajouté à Unicode (1200–137F), une norme d’encodage internationale pour différentes langues et écritures, qui a stimulé l’utilisation de l’amharique dans le monde numérique.

L’amharique est une langue fascinante avec une longue histoire. C’est une langue importante en Éthiopie et gagne également en popularité parmi les non-Éthiopiens. Que vous soyez intéressé par la culture éthiopienne, l’histoire, ou que vous vouliez simplement apprendre une nouvelle langue et un alphabet innovant, l’amharique est une langue qui vaut la peine d’être explorée.

The role of the Internet in pathways to democratization: A Critical Survey of the Literature

by Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW (Yayeh KITAW)
PhD Fellow in Governance and Policy Analysis

Introduction: The debate around the Internet and Democratization

Since the late nineties, scholars, policymakers, media professionals have strived to untangle the puzzle of the relationship between the use of the Internet and democratization. Relying on statistical as well as qualitative methods, these scholarly endeavours investigating how the use of the Internet and democratization interrelate have failed to yield consistent and conclusive results. Indeed, new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) present both opportunities and threats for democracy (Horrocks and Pratchett, 1995). In particular, the Internet, following its global growth over the last two decades, has been increasingly expected to become a liberating technology as well as a threat for autocratic regimes (Hellmeier, 2016; Howard and Parks, 2012; Diamond 2010; Groshek 2009).

Since the globalization of the Internet, researchers have been puzzled about its effects on political institutions and their operation as well as on democratic values and processes (Best & Wade, 2009; Howard, 2010; Groshek, 2011; Meier, 2012). This bewilderment has led to a burgeoning literature on the probable effects of emerging ICTs on democratic processes (Weare, 2002) and an understanding that democracy and democratization can no longer be effectively studied without some attention paid to the role of digital information technologies as they are bound to be used for good or ill (Lidén, 2015; Meier, 2012).

Amidst the debate concerning the liberalizing or repressive effect of the Internet, present-day research shows that the Internet’s impact on the democratization of authoritarian regimes is at best limited (Rød and Weidmann, 2015). Among the reasons forwarded is that autocratic governments take control and actively censor online content (Greitens, 2013; Hellmeier, 2016), prosecute dissident online activists, use the Internet for the purpose of spreading propaganda (Kalathil and Boas, 2003; Morozov, 2011), and strengthen their authoritarianism by promoting Digital Government while censoring the Internet (World Bank Development Report, 2016)

Following Groshek (2010) who notes that “Technological developments, especially communicative ones, have long been romanticized as powerful instruments of democracy, Kalathil and Boas (2010:10) assert that the Internet has helped authoritarian regimes rather than harmed them. Kalathil and Boas (2010) further argue that the Internet’s net impact on authoritarian rule has often been obscured by the conventional wisdom that the Internet is inherently of a democratic nature and inexorably undermines authoritarian regimes.

Furthermore, when carefully examining the full range of Internet use under eight authoritarian regimes, Kalathil and Boas (2010) justify their choices of a regional approach to the selection of cases from Southeast Asia and the Middle East mentioning the lack of data and underdevelopment of the Internet for cases in Africa. They note, however, that a large concentration of authoritarian regimes is in Africa and Central Asia and that as more data becomes available, research examining such cases would emerge and fill the gap.

More at Academia.edu

Vous souvenez-vous d’Adoua? Do you remember #Adwa126?

English Version at the end

Emperor Menelik II à la bataille d’Adoua

L’Éthiopie ne célèbre pas de jour de l’indépendance mais le jour de la victoire d’Adoua, nom d’une ville située dans le nord de l’Éthiopie. Il y a 126 ans, le 1er mars 1896 vit la victoire de l’Empereur Ménélik II d’#Éthiopie sur l’armée italienne colonisatrice. Les Éthiopiens de toutes les régions ont uni leurs forces pour sauvegarder leur souveraineté et résister à la colonisation.

L’impératrice Taytu Betul, épouse de Menelik II

L’impératrice Taytu Betul, épouse de Menelik II, faisait partie des forces éthiopiennes qui ont vaincu les soldats colonisateurs le 1er mars 1896 à Adwa.

Le président du Conseil des ministres italien Francesco Crispi a été déposé avec son gouvernement peu après la bataille d’Adoua, une bataille qui a ébranlé les fondements de l’impérialisme européen.

Depuis l’année dernière, l’#Éthiopie, animé par la même ferveur, mène une autre bataille pour sauvegarder la souveraineté du pays, luttant contre les fausses représentations dans les médias grand public et les réseaux sociaux concernant la situation au Tigré. En dépit de ces défis, les programmes de réforme sous la direction du Premier ministre Abiy se poursuivent.

Célébrant le 126e anniversaire de #Adwa126, Munit Mesfin nous enchante avec son ‘Vous souvenez-vous d’Adoua?” dans une mélodie unique de style Ethio-Jazz.

Bonne détente!

Do you remember #Adwa126?

Ethiopia does not celebrate an Independence Day but the Adwa Victory Day. 126 years ago, the 1st of March 1896 saw the Victory of Emperor Menelik II of #Ethiopia over the colonizing Italian army. Ethiopians from all regions in #UnityForEthiopia joined forces to safeguard their sovereignty and resist colonization.

Continue reading “Vous souvenez-vous d’Adoua? Do you remember #Adwa126?”

Deuxième remplissage – un autre pas en avant pour commencer d’en finir avec l’équation inéquitable (86%=0%) du Nil pour l’Éthiopie

Was the visit in 1965 by Hailé Sélassié of the Grande Dixence dam in Switzerland decisive in the development of a similar project on the Blue Nile? Was the emperor hoping to get insights from the neutral alpin country when all others were unwilling to help?
A lot seem to indicate to the affirmative.

The main (unofficial) reason of his stay in Switzerland in 1965 appears to have been the visit the Dixence dam which was just inaugurated in 1961.

La visite en 1965 par Hailé Sélassié du barrage de la Grande Dixence en Suisse a-t-elle été déterminante dans le développement d’un projet similaire sur le Nil Bleu ?
L’empereur espérait-il obtenir des conseils d’experts helvètes du pays alpin neutre alors que tous les autres alliés lui tournaient le dos?

Tout semble indiquer l’affirmative. La principale raison (non officielle) de son séjour en Suisse en 1965 semble avoir été la visite du barrage de la Dixence qui venait alors d’être inauguré en 1961.

Quelles pouvaient être les pensées du roi des rois, Hailé Sélassié, à la vue du barrage de la Grande Dixence en Suisse”, relate un article de la Radio Télévision de la Suisse Romande (RTS) daté du 2 novembre 1965. Plus d’un demi-siècle plus tard, en juillet 2021, les petits enfants du souverain, déterminés à mettre fin à une injustice séculaire sur les droits de l’Éthiopie sur le Nil, ont débuté le deuxième remplissage du réservoir du Grand barrage éthiopien de la Renaissance (GERD) sur le Nil bleu sans grand dam à l’Égypte et du Soudan.

En effet, ce 6 juillet 2021, l’Éthiopie a annoncé le début du deuxième remplissage du réservoir du GERD. Le barrage est un symbole de renaissance et de fierté pour les éthiopiens, la réalisation d’un rêve ancestral de toute une nation, ancré dans l’esprit de tous les souverains de l’Éthiopie dont Hailé Sélassié qui avait visité en 1965 le barrage de la Grande Dixence en Suisse.

Ce deuxième remplissage s’effectue alors que l’Éthiopie subit d’énormes préssions injustifiées de la communauté internationale alors qu’elle entreprend un projet pour de developmement pour sa population dont les 60% n’ont pas accès à l’électricité. L’année dernière en 2020, après avoir mêlé le gouvernement des États-Unis dans les négociations, puis saisi le conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, l’Égypte s’était enfin mis d’accord sur la proposition de l’Éthiopie de régler ce problème africain sous l’égide de l’Union Africaine. Cette année, le gouvernement d’Abdel Fattah al-Sissi tente à nouveau de saisir le conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, cette fois avec l’appui de la ligue arabe. Le GERD est un projet de développement et de coopération régional et n’a ni lieu et place dans l’agenda de la plus haute instance onusienne traitant de paix et sécurité.

Alors que la presse internationale y compris les médias francophones continue des récits évoquant le GERD comme le barrage de la discorde, de la guerre de l’eau, le barrage avance à toute allure et l’Éthiopie continue à souligner les nombreux bénéfices pour l’Égypte et le Soudan de ce projet de développement et de coopération régional, entièrement financé par des fonds public éthiopien.

Toujours est-il, les éthiopiens restent déterminés à fin à l’injustice séculaire sur l’utilisation des eaux du Nil et corriger l’équation inéquitable 86%=%0 sous le principe d’utilisation équitable et raisonnable.

Lire l’article intitulé “86% = 0% : pour commencer d’en finir avec l’équation inéquitable du Nil pour l’Éthiopie” de juillet 2020 par Kitaw Yayehyirad Kitaw

Photo : deuxième remplissage du réservoir du Grand barrage de la Renaissance en Ethiopie (GERD)

Digital Public Diplomacy – when Politics and Technology Intersect

I first heard the word ‘Digital Diplomacy‘ in a training at DiploFoundation in Geneva in 2008. The concept was not new per se but there was a general skepticism about its potential to complement or transform conventional diplomacy as we knew it.

Digital diplomacy, also referred to as Digiplomacy and eDiplomacy, has been defined as the use of the Internet and new information communication technologies to help achieve diplomatic objectives. The definition focuses on the interplay between internet and diplomacy, ranging from Internet driven-changes in the environment in which diplomacy is conducted to the emergence of new topics on diplomatic agendas such as cybersecurity, privacy but also a country’s image building or redressing. Clearly, Digital Diplomacy offers opportunities while also bringing new challenges.

In this article, I compare and contrast recent uses of Digital Diplomacy by two countries (Ethiopia and Switzerland) for different purposes. Despite being at different ends of the democratic, development and connectivity continuum, both countries have strived to make effective use of digital tools for Public Diplomacy ends. By examining the Swiss Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–2024 and Ethiopian Government’s responses to counter series of misinformation and disinformation campaign during and after the operations in the Northern Region of the country.

Reflections on the pandemic effect on Internet Use and Democracy

by Yayeh KITAW (Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW)

Published on CircledID

Last year, around the same time, the release on the same day of two flagship reports on ‘the Internet’ had prompted me to write an article on CircleID entitled ‘Connecting the Next 46 Percent: Time to Pick the Good From the Bad and the Ugly‘. I was then prudently asking whether ‘the more we connect the world, the less free it becomes?‘.

Who would have known that a pandemic would erupt few months later unveiling different perspectives in assessing that very same question?

Sadly, even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, democracy and democratization were on decline worldwide as evidenced by data from Freedom House and V-Dem. While the pandemic has certainly created more demand for Connectivity, it is unlikely to alleviate calls for more democratic governance.

The conventional wisdom of the late 90s that the Internet is inherently of a democratic nature is nowadays less and less obscuring the net impact of Internet Use on democracy, and this, in almost all countries across the democracy and development continuum. Even the US will likely rate lower this year, affected by the toxic polarization effect of Social Media (concept captured by V-Dem indices).

SMART or not, regulation seems unavoidable but what might that look like?

Experts and researchers are exploring concrete options.

A lasting peace taking root in the Horn of Africa after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s operation to uphold rule of law in Ethiopia

A lot of disinformation has been spread on the legitimate law enforcement operation by the Ethiopian Government as it is now making efforts to facilitate humanitarian access, restore telecom services and infrastructure that has been deliberately disrupted and damaged by the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) as evidenced by recent press briefings.

Amidst massive misrepresentation campaigns particularly on social media, often missing or distorting the underlying reasons for the obligation to conduct the operations in Northern Ethiopia, the informative press conference at the Geneva Press Club provides clarification from well-grounded sources, shading lights on the situation in Ethiopia to international media and the international community in Geneva.

Humbled to have done my part!

Key takeaways from the press conference have been summarized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.

Watch full press conference.

What is going on in Northern Ethiopia?

For those who are having questions on the (now completed) law enforcement operation in Northern Ethiopia, here is an article by Lawrence Freeman, a highly respected researcher and writer on topics concerning Africa, giving insights on the origins of the current situation. The government of Ethiopia has announced that, as of end of November, the military aspect of the operation is fully concluded.

The author explains “Notwithstanding criticisms by some spectators, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was obligated to respond with force to safeguard the sovereignty of Ethiopia, in a similar manner to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s all-out war to preserve the Union”.

If the Nobel Peace Prize existed at the time of President Abraham Lincoln, he would certainly have been a laureate just like PM Abiy of Ethiopia was in 2019.

For the government, the priority now, in the Northern Region, is to guarantee humanitarian access, re-establish the delivery of public services, and apprehend criminals and bring them to justice.

Ethiopia needs the restoration of a lasting peace and continue with full steam on the reform agenda initiated by PM Abiy towards a homegrown economic development and democratization.

#ethiopia #lawenforcement #ruleoflaw

ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

by Yayeh KITAW (Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW)
Photos from publicly shared sources on Twitter and LinkedIn

Last year, in February 2019, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin met in Addis Abeba with H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia to discuss Ethiopia’s expression of interest in hosting the World Telecommunication Development Forum (WTDC-21) in Addis Ababa for the first time on African soil.

Last year, in June 2019, Ethiopia’s invitation to host the 2021 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21), presented by H.E Getahun Mekuria, the then Minister of Innovation and Technology of Ethiopia, was received with thankful messages and unanimous support by ITU Council Member States in the presence of Ambassador Zenebe Kebede. The newly appointed Minister H.E Abrham Belay followed up on Ethiopia’s commitment making the opening remarks of Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG) in June 2020.

Last week, in October 2020, the organizing team of ITU and the Government of Ethiopia conducted a fruitful meeting in the presence of State Minister H.E. Ahmedhin Mohammed, to make the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21) a truly African and development focused one.

As Addis Ababa (New Flower in Amharic), capital city of Ethiopia, African “hub” of opportunities, is preparing to host this important conference from 8th to 19th November 2021, ITU member states and all stakeholders are organizing Regional Preparatory Meetings for WTDC-21 to effectively and efficiently provide future direction and guidance to the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D).

This important conference comes

as Ethiopia,

  • member of the League of Nations in 1923
  • founding member of the United Nations in 1945;
  • first sub-Saharan country to join the International Telecommunication Union in 1932;
  • home to the Economic Commission for Africa since 1958 and the African Union since 1963 and to ITU’s Africa Regional Office since 1992;

is undergoing a profound transformation, placing Digital Connectivity through its strategy at DigitalEthiopia.info in a wider framework of socio economic objectives of its homegrown economic reform agenda under the government led by H.E. Prime Minister Abiy, whose efforts were recognized through the award of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

has promisingly started to liberalize the telecommunications sector, creating a new regulator and continuing plans to partially privatize Ethio Telecom, one of the world’s largest state-owned monopoly in the second most populous African Country.

as Africa, is striving to implement the African Union Commission’s comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, which was developed in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Smart Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, Regional Economic Communities, the African Development Bank, Africa Telecommunications Union, Africa Capacity Building Foundation, International Telecommunication Union and the World Bank.

as the World, has all eyes rived on the Covid-19 pandemic’s second wave and exploring how Connectivity can help in recovering and building back better,

as the World marks the start of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, endeavouring to use digital technologies and Internet connectivity to accelerate efforts to achieve each of the 17 SDGs.

as the World with 46% of its unconnected inhabitants, needs US$ 428 billion to connect the remaining 3 billion (nearly half of the global population) by 2030 as estimated by ITU’s ‘Connecting Humanity’,

as the World is shifting from analog to digital faster than ever before, further exposing us to the vast promise and peril of new technologies as outlined in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

as ITU, its Telecommunication Development Sector and Advisory Body, the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG) are discussing reforms of the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2021 to be a solutions-based conference that addresses the real challenges in the development of telecommunications/ICTs and make it a landmark conference.

WTDC-21 offers an invaluable opportunity for all stakeholders including ITU member states, private sector members of ITU-D, regional development banks and telecom organizations to work together in this unprecedented era and provide direction to the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) through an Addis Action plan 2022-2025.

As we prepare to conduct a virtual signing ceremony of host country agreement with Ethiopia on the 9th of November 2020, we remain hopeful that the pandemic situation will allow a physical WTDC-21, on the land of 13th Months of Sunshine (Ethiopia) , from 8th to 19th November 2021 as planned! 

Digital Cooperation – Action Today for Future Generations

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU with H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia

On the 23rd of September 2020, in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, UNICEF, the International Telecommunication Union, UNDP, and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, on Digital Cooperation, working together with other UN partners convened a High-Level Digital Cooperation event, focused on concrete actions to safeguard the technological era for future generations. It is our global shared responsibility to find a path forward and to build back better digitally.

The panel included H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia, H.E. Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT & Innovation, on behalf of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web and was moderated by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU

“Ethiopia places Digital Connectivity in a wider context of socio economic objectives of its homegrown economic reform agenda”

“At the multilateral level, we need to identify mechanisms to ensure that digital technologies are used in a way that optimally shows their promising, bright and positive applications”

H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia at the High Level Meeting organized by UNICEF, the International Telecommunication Union, UNDP, and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations.

My Notes on the Roundtable discussion on “The Future of Internet Governance in Geneva”

With the launch of the report “Geneva and Internet Governance”, the Geneva Foundation and the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration (The Graduate Institute, Geneva) have organized a roundtable discussion with’ a panel of experts including. The objective was to discuss the issues and challenges of Internet governance and the role that Geneva could play in this area.

Here are some of my takeaways for recollection purpuses.

From “Tech for Good” to “Good in Tech” – Marie-Laure Salles , Director, The Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Continue reading “My Notes on the Roundtable discussion on “The Future of Internet Governance in Geneva””

The pandemic effect on Freedom whilst 46% of the World is still offline

Back in November 2019, the release on the same day of two flagship reports on the Internet had prompted me to write an article under the title ‘Connecting the next 46%: Time to pick the Good from the Bad and the Ugly”. I was then prudently asking whether ‘the more we connect the world, the less free it becomes?‘.

Who would have known that a pandemic would erupt few months later unveiling different perspectives in assessing that very same question?

Continue reading “The pandemic effect on Freedom whilst 46% of the World is still offline”

86% = 0% : pour commencer d’en finir avec l’équation inéquitable du Nil pour l’Éthiopie

Par Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW

Alors que le monde a les yeux rivés sur la pandémie Covid-19, ce juillet 2020 annonce le début de la fin d’une injustice séculaire sur l’utilisation des eaux du Nil. Ce fleuve légendaire, souvent cité comme nourricier des grandes civilisations du delta, a manqué de récits mentionnant l’Éthiopie, pourtant source de 86% des eaux du Nil dont elle utilise 0%. L’Éthiopie, à l’aube du nouveau millénaire selon son calendrier, s’est enfin attelé avec détermination à faire usage de ces eaux pour son développement, sous le principe d’utilisation équitable et raisonnable. Les éthiopiens, d’ici et d’ailleurs, se mobilisent dans une campagne de sensibilisation à l’égard du droit de l’Éthiopie sur le Nil sous le hashtag #NileForEthiopia alors que leur pays a commencé le remplissage du réservoir du Grand barrage de la Renaissance sous le gouvernement mené par le Premier ministre Abiy, lauréat du prix Nobel de la paix de 2019

L’Éthiopie, véritable château d’eau du Nil, fournit 86% du débit avec le Nil bleu (Abbay), l’Atbara et une partie du Sobat, le reste provenant des huit autres pays riverains et le Soudan
Continue reading “86% = 0% : pour commencer d’en finir avec l’équation inéquitable du Nil pour l’Éthiopie”

Connecting the next 46 per cent: Time to pick the Good from the Bad and the Ugly

By Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW (Yayeh KITAW) –  7 November 2019
PhD Fellow in Governance and Policy Analysis

This blog note has also been published on CircleID in January 2020.

Digital Development and Freedom on the Net

On the 5th of November 2019, the release of the first of ITU’s Measuring Digital Development series coincided with Freedom House’s unveiling of its Freedom on Net 2019 report. This serendipity prompted me to write this blog note after carefully examining both reports.

On one hand, ITU’s analytical publication, with its new friendly format, emphasizes that Internet use continues to spread, warning however that the digital gender gap is widening. The estimated 4.1 billion people using the Internet in 2019 reflect a 5.3 per cent increase, confirming the trend of slowing global growth rates. More men than women use the Internet in every region of the world except the Americas, which has near-parity and 97​ per cent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal, reveals the report, offering interesting snapshots of other important ICT indicators. With its global and regional perspectives, ITU’s Facts and Figures 2019 also recalls that most of the offline population (46 per cent of the world population) lives in least developed countries, Europe and Africa having the highest and lowest Internet usage rates, respectively.

On the other hand, the Freedom on the Net 2019 focusing on ‘the Crisis of Social Media’ comments that the Internet, once a liberating technology, has opened new conduits for surveillance and electoral manipulation. Internet Freedom Declines outnumber gains for the ninth consecutive year with Ethiopia recording the largest gains in 2019 following the election of a new Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, who loosened restrictions on the Internet and unblocked 260 websites. “Digital platforms are the new battleground for democracy and Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism” notes the report recalling that of the 65 countries assessed, 33 have been on an overall decline since June 2018. The future of Internet freedom rests on our ability to fix social media, predicts the report offering series of recommendations to ‘fairly’ regulate a technology now pervasive in business, politics and personal lives.

The more we connect the World, the less free it becomes?

Continue reading “Connecting the next 46 per cent: Time to pick the Good from the Bad and the Ugly”

Ethiopia recorded the biggest improvement worldwide in the 2019 Internet Freedom scores

By Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW (Yayeh KITAW)
Founder and Director CyberEthiopia.com
PhD Fellow in Governance and Policy Analysis

Ethiopia saw an 11 point improvement in its internet freedom score recording the biggest improvement this year in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net Index.

The April 2018 appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led to an ambitious reform agenda that loosened restrictions on the internet. Abiy’s government unblocked 260 websites, including many known to report on critical political issues.

CyberEthiopia.com was one of first blocked websites in the initial wave of censorship in 2006 and unblocked in 2018 after 12 years of restriction.

Continue reading “Ethiopia recorded the biggest improvement worldwide in the 2019 Internet Freedom scores”

My notes during the public lecture on ‘Digital Cooperation: Can Geneva Make It a Win-Win?’

Insightful and thought provoking discussions among distinguished panel members:

  • Brad Smith, president of Microsoft;
  • Doris Leuthard, former president of the Swiss Confederation;
  • Amandeep Singh Gill, former co-executive director of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Secretariat;
  • Jovan Kurbalija, head of the Geneva Internet Platform and former Co-Executive Director, Secretariat of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation

Amidst the conversations on the role of Geneva in Digital Cooperation, it was mentioned that:

  • the Swiss Digital Initiative (including GAFAM) to promote ethics in the digital world will to be officially launched on World Economic Forum 2020
  • Geneva is where ‘Technology meets Humanity’ referring to the early technologies, the birth of the Red Cross
  • ‘De-ideologizing’ the issue of data which ranges from private data, scientific data, business data and that emphasis on those specificities is important when discussing regulation on data
  • Inclusiveness is one of the most pressing challenge in view of ‘not missing out on opportunities’
  • only 5% of articles about Africa on Wikipedia are written by Africans yet optimism was echoed about Africa’s growth and digital transformation

Interestingly, alluding to the Cloud Act (a United States federal law enacted in 2018) and bilateral agreements, @Jovan Kurbalija referred to the creation of the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) in 1865 after bilateral agreements could not properly address issues relating to Telegraph Exchanges. The International Telegraph Convention was indeed a precursor of multilateralism, many decades before the creation of the League of Nations.

The recording can be found here .

Y. Kitaw
PhD Fellow in Governance and Policy Analysis at UNU-MERIT Maastricht University
Personal website: kitaw.info | LinkedIn  | Twitter