The Department of Communications together with the University of Pretoria hosted a third Africa Network on Information Ethics Conference from 3-7 September 2012, at the Kievitz Kroon Complex in Pretoria. This followed the cooperation by both parties in establishment of an African Centre of Excellence on Information Ethics based at the University. The Centre is used as a research hub on Ethical Dimensions of Information Society through applied research.
The conference was attended by delegates from twelve participating Universities across the African continent, US and Ireland, to discuss Information Ethics and Social Media in Africa, amongst these were Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana and others.
The theme of the conference is: Cheetah Generation's fast track towards Social Media and Information Ethics. The Communications Department's Deputy Director -General for Information and communications technology (ICT) Policy, Mr Themba Phiri officially opened the African Network on Information Ethics (ANIE) Conference, which was preceded by a two days of pre-conference which focussed on the teaching of Information Ethics. In his statement he said "We acknowledge the importance of ethics in for the information society, which should foster justice, the dignity, and worth of the human person.
The use of ICTs and content creation should respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, including personal privacy, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in conformity with relevant international instruments".
Furthermore WSIS call upon governments and relevant stakeholders to take appropriate actions and preventive measures, against the abusive use of ICTs such as acts motivated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerant, hatred, violence and all forms of child abuse.
"We have committed over R7.4 million for three years starting in 2011. This funding is meant to support the University of Pretoria towards the establishment of Africa Centre of Excellence on Information Ethics, to which we were happy with the progress that has been achieved. We also support the fact that this centre will work to support other African Universities within ANIE to move towards a similar direction, either through curriculum development and support, and/or teaching where possible"
Phiri further indicated that Information Ethics research was even more important today in informing policies to curve the perpetual abuse of ICTs, hence government's decision to support the establishment of an Africa Centre of Excellence in Information Ethics.
Amongst notable speakers was Professor Stephen Mutula of the University of KwaZulu-Natal who delivered Professor Rafael Capurro's keynote address which he themed: Social Media and Information Ethics in Africa. Prof Capurro the founding member of the African Network on Information Ethics hails from Germany.
The official launch was later followed by a prestigious Gala Awards Dinner, one of the distinguished speakers was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, Professor Cheryl de la Rey who also delivered an inspired address where she offered an input on how ICTs and social media have evolved our lives and how private matters have become public through the use of social media as new phenomena.
Rosey Sekese the Director-General of the Department of Communications gave the keynote address, where she emphasised and appreciated the importance of a relationship with the academia and the private sector in ensuring the department's commitment to the WSIS outcomes, and a continuation to join hands in support of the establishment of an African Centre on Information Ethics based at University of Pretoria.
Ms Sekese affirmed that the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Pretoria was a commitment that the department was appreciative of seeing the results that have been achieved and including the establishment of the Centre of Excellence.
The best achievers awards for commitment to Information Ethics went to two individuals. The awards categories were the Mokwining Nhlapho Government Official award bestowed to Ms Nozipho Mashiyi, Director of e-education and the ANIE Academic Award bestowed to Professor Stephen Mutula.
"As a government we promote the positive use of ICTs especially for Information and knowledge, for education and health care provision, and for improving service delivery by government and relevant bodies. ICTs have the potential to enhance economic activity through amongst others, the facilitation of electronic services provision, including e-transactions".
Through social media, we can change and build social capital where integration of various communities can be possible, especially where misconceptions and stereotype exists. By defining some broad principles of Information Ethics, we can give effect to the reform and harmonisation of cyber related legislations in our countries" concluded Phiri.