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Covering the Internet Governance Forum

The father of the Internet , Vint Cerf, and Nasser Kettani
- Microsoft's regional Chief of Technology for Africa,
Middle East and Europe (AMEA) in Nairobi for the IGF
At times I get tired of blogging, given that I spend most of the week covering events and trying to write something about the same events. The past week was no exception, with the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)coming to Nairobi. The Internet Governance Forum is a gathering of the world's Internet Policy makers, guys who decide to what limits the Internet can be used and offer guidance about the same. The IGF in Nairobi was the sixth annual event of it's kind, and the biggest ever, attracting over 2,000 participants, about 800 of them foreign. The participants ranged from small fish to big fish, like the father of the Internet, Dr. Vint Cerf, and a few other key players in Gloabl ICT firms like Facebook and Microsoft.

The Ministry of Information and the Kenya IGF needs several pats on their back for pulling the IGF off. See , they brought key Internet players in the country, and managed to impress them that the country was way ahead when it came to the Internet, or at least Nairobi was.

The guests were even impressed by the tricks that Nairobi pulled out of their sleeves - like matters of the stomach. See, the previous IGF was hosted in Lithuania, who were kind enough to ask the guests to pay for their own meals, including drinking water. In Nairobi, despite us suffering from the largest drought in 60 years, we are still kind enough to serve you meals, and drinks, and tea. After all, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, was quick to remind participants that the mobile phone had made such an impact here that we no longer relied on donor countries to raise Aid for the drought, but that we were able to mobilise the money from ourselves, well past the target.


Even the father of Internet, Vint Cerf, was impressed that this was the first IGF ever where remote particpants and those in the sessions could view live transcribing of the on-goings. It was no mean fact, the Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) technical team , through the leadership of their Chief Technical Officer, Michuki Mwangi,  had trasncribers in New York listening in and transcribing almost instantly. Of course there were a few set backs, most of them courtesy of Kenya Power. I always find it strange that Kenya Power manage to have multiple blackouts hit when a high powered ICT delegation is visiting, I can't remember any large ICT gathering that hasn't seen its fair of blackouts.

My Challenges covering the IGF

I also had challenges of my own covering the IGF. First and worse of all, I was quite unlucky to bump into some guy from home, who is a friend of my cousin and a relative of the husband of another cousin.  The guy insisted that we stick together and that we converse in kikamba - my native language, and one that I can barely speak fluently due to cross cultural upbringing. It took the whole of day one to shake the guy off, he must have been equipped with smell sensors, given that he had no trouble spotting me in a crowd of a thousand, despite his challenge in height. See, I have no problem hanging out with him, but I need various stories and perspectives by the end of the day, which he was deficient in.

Challenge number two was lullabies, in the form of speech laden powerpoint slides. See after a lavish lunch, I have no idea why several speakers decided to speak into the microphone with low voices. This meant that despite sitting at the edge of your seat, and craning your neck, all you accomplish is resembling a tortoise's head off it shelf and little of what the speaker is saying.

There are those who decided that reading lengthy speeches read off powerpoint slides in a monotone was the way to go. To summarise the situation, emergency services had to be kept on stand by as I was in danger of almost falling off my seat several times while dozing off. The lavish lunches were a mitigating factor.

Another challenge was the public relations firms, who advised their clients to host other ICT events parallel to the IGF. I felt it was an insult, that we are discussing the world's most disruptive communication medium, yet we can't postpone related business for the week, at least to give uninterrupted focus to the IGF.

And of course the other challenge was that it now takes at least 2 hours to travel across the city, thanks to the failure of the City council to come up with a traffic control system, other than the cops. Trust me people, Nairobi is small, but our problem is that we clog the arteries that supply the city, with mismanagement and buildings.

As for the IGF, we discussed a lot, but there were no outcomes. The IGF does not pass recommendations, and here is why. 

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