Playing motherland to over 50 economies, Africa is rich and diverse in its many cultures, colours, beliefs and tongues that shape the uniqueness of each country while retaining a sense of similarity that can be unmistakably identified as African. The beat of our music, our delectable cuisines, and of course the gusto in African fashion, the list is as long and as vibrant as the river Nile itself.
The African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) works towards achieving its vision of “A secure and accessible Internet for sustainable digital growth in Africa”. This has been done through facilitating open, all-inclusive arenas where people from different origins and different backgrounds come together in technical workshops, policy discussions as well as public meetings and mailing lists.
It is without a doubt that the Internet is increasingly becoming the backbone that brings Africa closer in all spheres of life. Creating a space that fosters sharing, collaborating and co-creation so that individuals can find their peers and come together regardless of religion, gender, creed, culture and geographical distances to form a “community”.
Despite all the technological advances that Africa has seen over recent years, there are still a large number of Africans who have no access to this transformational technology, resulting in what is commonly known as a digital divide. However, the digital divide reflects not only access to technology but also diversity in building and developing the Internet. Tech spaces that started as “old boys clubs” that were and in some cases still are “male-dominated” are now seeing more and more programs aimed at getting female contributors.
During AFRINIC meetings, the place of inclusion and diversity is created through a number of programs such as fellowships programs, that aid fellows financially to attend the open free of charge meetings AFRINIC holds bi-annually. Newcomers at an AFRINIC event are taken through a newcomers induction session that helps walk them through the different aspects of the meeting and the policy process all in an effort to inject new blood into our community allowing for the growth and movement to continue for generations to come.
AFRINIC realises that not everyone can travel to these meetings due to the high cost of travel around the continent, another obstacle to inclusion and technical development in Africa. In an effort to ensure that none of the African stakeholders is left behind, AFRINIC introduced online workshops and training courses that Africans can join and participate in from the comfort of their own offices or homes. We have a number of courses in the AFRINIC Academy that are free and in English and French.
Diversity and more women inclusion and empowerment have also been goals AFRINIC has been striving to achieve for years. AFRINIC has over the years supported the women in the ICT programme like the AfChix programme, which is a network of women in Technology who consider gender diversity in the Computer Science & ICT industry very critical for increased creativity and innovative performance of the industry.
English is the official business language in AFRINIC, however, supporting a single language for the whole African continent is a hurdle for many of the AFRINIC members. As such, AFRINIC is taking measures to ensure the inclusivity of our rich diversity of languages in Africa. AFRINIC has instituted its content localisation programme to have information available in several languages on The AFRINIC Website. At the moment, AFRINIC has started supporting Arabic and French the website with more languages lined up. You can read more on our Blog.
AFRINIC has also been working with a few of the Network Operator Groups it sponsors in the region to help localise the technical content and material in the local languages. Working with NOGs such as the Sudan Network Operator Group (SdNOG) and Angola Network Operators Group (AONOG) has resulted in some fruitful translation collaborations.
It is key that AFRINIC while bridging all of these efforts and collaboration initiatives, ensure that all the volunteers and participants feel safe and respect the diverse perspectives and core values of the others. It is not uncommon that cultural and communications slips occur regularly when dealing with a diverse group. In real life, such slips or faux pas emotional intelligence usually kicks and usually verbal and non-verbal cues help guide the participants in such interactions. However, in a completely virtual setting, these non-verbal cues disappear making it harder to read the intent behind the words communicated. Even some of the most honest and sincere feedback could be taken as assault or harassment if not dealt with in a manner that makes the recipient feel comfortable.
It is therefore important to create open, equitable, fair and productive platforms where community members feel respected irrespective of their differences. AFRINIC firmly discourages disrespect, personal attacks and harassment. This is why the AFRINIC Community has formalised its code of conduct and netiquette documents for the mailing list and its members. This is to level the playing field and ensure discussions are relevant, inclusive and also to discourage bullying.
In situations where community members prefer to place an anonymous report in confidence, AFRINIC has retained the services of a third-party whistleblowing platform hosted by an independent provider, EthicsPoint. The information provided is totally confidential and anonymous.
AFRINIC is also conducting a cleanup exercise on our mailing lists to safeguard the Community members from personal attacks. In order to benefit from the potential strength, we need to collectively create a welcoming and all-inclusive environment that engages in constructive dialogues where people exercise their right to freely and openly express their thoughts and critics while respecting their colleagues and their right not to be publicly attacked or insulted.
Our journey towards embracing all of the diversity this continent has to offer is still long. We rely on the efforts of the AFRINIC Community to guide us on more ways to be more inclusive. We, therefore, call for more ideas on how we do more to ensure our community is involved.
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