Multistakeholderism and Internet governance in Cameroon
Updated on 07 August 2022
As Internet governance (IG) grows increasingly important on international agendas, institutional coordination of the multistakeholder process is emerging as an important factor for successful IG outcomes. As laid out at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Internet governance (IG) is ‘the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet’. While concerns exist over the use of the term governance and the role of states, ISOC for example acknowledged that ‘the multistakeholder approach has grown from the Internet’s own DNA and it is what allows it to thrive’.
However, multistakeholderism could be challenging for countries which have not integrated this form of collaboration. As Ashna Kalemera questions, ‘what is the value for Africans in international Internet governance processes if the approach towards Internet governance on the continent has not fully embraced the multi-stakeholder model?’
Cameroon participates in IG fora and has taken measures to enhance its national IG. The country is also working towards establishing a fully operational digital economy by 2020 and this ambition puts IG at the core of national interests. Nonetheless, a central question is asked, how does existing policy in Cameroon integrate the multistakeholder model and how can policy evolve to fully integrate the model and enable cohesion to optimise IG outcomes?
With respect to existing policy in relation to IG, Cameroon has developed an e-government policy and adopted legal measures through criminal law and specific legislation for cybersecurity. Instruments include; Law n° 2010/012 of 21 December 2010 on cybersecurity and cybercrime in Cameroon. The National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC) is in charge of the national cybersecurity framework and a CERT (Computer Incident Response Team, ‘CIRT’) was established in 2012 within ANTIC. Since 2013, ANTIC has organised national IGFs for Cameroon dubbed ‘IGF.CM’. The national IGF aims to bring together the public and private sectors and civil society. The Internet Society through its Cameroon chapter has also organised related events and has worked towards enabling long distance participation through the creation of a remote hub for different meetings.
In 2009, in recognition of the cross dimensional effects of ICTs, a steering committee made up of representatives of various government structures was set up for the implementation of the national strategy for the deployment of ICTs (Prime Ministerial Order N° 209/CAB/PM of 21 August 2009). Today, evolving challenges are prompting the need for a similar decision with the understanding that IG affects all sectors, and issues range from national security to economic development and fundamental human rights.
The Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) had advised in 2005 that, ‘global Internet governance can only be effective if there is coherence with regional, subregional and national-level policies’. Towards this end WGIG recommended that ‘coordination be established among all stakeholders at the national level and a multi-stakeholder national IG steering committee or similar body be set up’. Similarly, Waudo Siganga argues that ‘national IG committees or similar mechanisms have to be endorsed for developing countries without which meaningful and effective participation in international IG is difficult’,
Accelerated technological innovation and challenges are leading to an understanding that several sectors need to work together. A holistic approach is necessary to get a complete picture of related security and governance needs. While Cameroon has taken important strides by organising annual national IGFs, there is a need to consolidate what has been achieved and to enhance the process. An important step forward would be to implement the WGIG recommendation to create a multistakeholder steering committee or similar body.
A steering committee would facilitate efficient policy initiatives by enabling government institutions to fully integrate the stakes involved in IG, the cross cutting nature of challenges and the vision and solutions of other stakeholders for a comprehensive approach. Intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions are involved in Internet governance to the effect that different actors play important roles through relevant networks and platforms. An institutional structure integrating key government ministries and other stakeholder groups could bring greater coordination benefits, trust and a shared vision for IG. The same actors will not have the same impact or mastery in all spheres, so it is important to understand, integrate and harness this factor to promote national development objectives where different actors could work through different networks towards a common goal.
It also follows from the WSIS framework that although all stakeholders should be involved, policy is essentially tied to sovereignty. This indicates that successful coordination geared towards policy creation should flow from and be the responsibility of government structures. As Jeremy Malcolm explains, prioritising the perspectives of all stakeholders does not involve putting governments in a subordinate role, or treating other stakeholders as equal, ‘… a fully inclusive multistakeholder process necessitates participants who can present the perspectives of all with a significant interest in any policy directed at Internet Governance… not only those who will implement the policy or be affected by its implementation, but also those whose knowledge or resources will be key to solving the problem, and those whose consent or cooperation is needed to clear the way for its effective implementation.’
The Internet is rapidly evolving and the future will be the product of key trends, negotiations, norms, decisions and recommendations which are being discussed on IG platforms. Capacity building is necessary to bring all stakeholders up to date with evolving trends and the points of intersection between different sectors. It is also essential, given the possibility of misunderstandings between various actors over privacy, cybercrime, surveillance, the dual-use nature of technology and information misuse. Capacity building could focus on the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder group as defined in the WSIS Tunis Agenda, and could also include the use of digital tools to facilitate remote participation when countries have to manage limited resources while ensuring that their interests are defended on all important platforms.
Working on the examples of Brazil and Kenya, a national IG steering committee would enable multistakeholder co-operation to be institutional and representative, and enable the country to be more proactive and produce better outcomes in regional and global IG spaces. This is important because, as Carolina Aguerre and Hernan Galperin argue, ‘informal coordination mechanisms are no longer sufficient for national IG initiatives because the bridges between the international and the domestic field will tend to rely on more formally institutionalized spaces as states become more involved with IG’.
Cameroon has through its national agency for ICTs, taken important strides to enable a national IGF which is open to the private sector and civil society. In the perspective that coordination would be enhanced by national institutions and encourage trust and cohesion, it would be worthwhile to integrate the recommendation of the WGIG, to create a national IG Steering Committee comprising representatives from all stakeholders groups. Law n°2010/012 identifies key institutions which play an important role in the IG landscape in Cameroon. To these could be added representatives from the other stakeholder groups. It is also crucial to build awareness at the highest levels of authority about the strategic and growing importance of IG and the need to develop frameworks which are adequate for the needs of the government and citizens at all levels.
Manyi Arrey Orok-Tambe is a foreign affairs officer in the Ministry of External Relations of the Republic of Cameroon. She holds an LL.M. in IT, Media and E-commerce from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, and she is also a DiploFoundation alumna.