The tech industry and internet users collectively made a ruckus, but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still voted to repeal net neutrality regulations. The FCC published its order in the Federal Register on February 22. That means the U.S. Congress now has 60 legislative days to reverse the FCC’s order, starting in the Senate. 50 of 100 Senators have committed to protecting net neutrality. We need your help once again to flip one vote in the Senate and to keep pressure on the House.
If you’re in the U.S., contact your representatives.
Why? As we wrote in December, it’s important:
Net neutrality gives developers the freedom to build and ship software without being potentially blocked, throttled, or tolled by internet service providers. The result has been vast opportunity for developers. It’s crucial that public policy support expands the opportunity to participate in the software revolution. Undermining net neutrality at a time of concern about consolidation and inequality is precisely the wrong move—directly harmful to developers’ ability to launch new products and eroding trust that the internet is a force for innovation and opportunity.
Not in the U.S.? American net neutrality regulations still matter. An end to them could limit your access to U.S. users and could give policymakers in your country cover to limit net neutrality for you—so help us spread the word. Let your U.S.-based collaborators know why they should act. You can also learn more about and get involved in internet policy in your country. If net neutrality isn’t a live issue where you are, it’s certain that other issues pertinent to protecting and expanding access to the open internet are, including:
Of course these all are active issues in the U.S., too. If we sustain net neutrality regulation, getting other open internet policies right will still be necessary. If we fail, these adjacent, pro-competitive, policies will become even more important.
Right now, we still have a chance to sustain net neutrality regulation in the U.S. Let’s make the most of it.
Growing tech communities across Africa will continue to push the continent’s digital revolution forward while powering societal and cultural changes, and a key part of moving this digital revolution forward is increased internet and mobile access across the continent.
In the last decade, mobile access, favorable tech policies, and improved infrastructure and education earned Kenya and South Africa reputations as startup havens. Now, we can add Nigeria—the continent’s largest economy—to the list as its young, growing population and entrepreneurial spirit attract tech investments.
We recently partnered with Ingressive—a Lagos-based tech integration firm with reach across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa’s tech ecosystems—to explore Lagos’s growing tech sector.
Here’s what we learned.
Similar to the rest of the continent, Nigeria has a young population and growing workforce to fuel its technological revolution. Half of the country’s 182 million people are under 30 years old—and the youth population is growing fast.
Nigeria’s young people are enterprising, with 82 percent of them viewing entrepreneurship as a good career. In cities like Lagos and Ibadan, their excitement for software development and tech is clear from packed meetups on the ground.
Developers and entrepreneurs in Nigeria and across Africa are creating a range of projects and contributing to others on GitHub. Check out Tanzanian developer Geofrey Ernest’s utron, a lightweight framework for building fast, scalable and robust database-driven web applications, and Nigerian user interface designer and front-end developer Ire Aderinokun who builds and contributes to tools that make web applications accessible and compatible across devices and web browsers.
While young people in Nigeria are eager to join the tech sector, they also need training. To build their skills, they’re seeking support from a growing number of developer community meetups, conferences, and tech hubs. As of 2016, Nigeria was home to 23 tech hubs—and we should expect to see even more in response to growing demand.
Nigerian startups have grown across industries—including financial technology (fintech), job training, agriculture, travel, and ecommerce—and entrepreneurs are creating products and services that address the challenges of their country’s developing infrastructure. For example, although Nigeria still relies heavily on cash, fintech companies are streamlining banking, payments, and money transfers to help more Nigerians bank digitally and take advantage of the country’s advancing banking system.
Startups like Flutterwave, Paystack, and Paga are a few examples of companies leading the way. From 2015 to 2017, African fintech startups, with the inclusion of Flutterwave and Paystack, raised more than $100 million combined. Flutterwave, a startup that has raised $10 million in funding, and Paystack, the first Nigerian startup accepted into Y Combinator, are not the only Nigerian-centric startups getting attention from foreign investors. Andela, a developer training school that trains African developers for engineering jobs across the globe, has raised $81 million to date and $24 million in 2016 alone from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative—the organization’s first-ever investment. This investment interest is spreading across other African tech ecosystems and reached a record high of about $195 million this year.
The growing attention and investment in Nigerian and African startups will continue to support local tech communities, but government policies are needed to continue their growth.
Through increased investments and partnerships, Nigerian tech communities can transform the country’s economy and impact others far beyond its borders. The Nigerian government’s support and implementation of tech-friendly policies will be critical in making sure the sector keeps growing.
Government officials know they’ll have a key role to play in the success of Nigerian tech. In a recent keynote for Harvard Business School’s “Africa Rising” course (the program’s first of its kind and yet another indicator of growing interest), Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo noted that “Africa Rising” is also about improving standards of governance, among other factors.
The Nigerian government sees technology as crucial to the continent’s future. Pro-innovation lawmakers can help guide key policy issues like broadband access, free expression, privacy, security, and more.
While no one country can represent an entire continent, Nigeria indicates that growing tech communities will be supported by continued investment, partnerships, and policies built specifically for tech ecosystems across Africa.
Yesterday we filed an amicus brief alongside a group of other technology companies supporting San Francisco’s and Santa Clara County’s efforts to permanently block Executive Order 13768, which seeks to deprive sanctuary cities of federal funding. Sanctuary cities are jurisdictions that restrict local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
Nearly all U.S. technology hubs are in sanctuary cities. Sanctuary ordinances help local officials provide a safe environment for all residents, uphold human rights, and are one of a set of inclusive institutions that unlock increased wages across all income levels for both immigrants and non-immigrants in response to increased diversity.
Our amicus brief contributes three basic arguments from a technology and emerging company perspective:
In other words, the order threatens many things that make Silicon Valley and other U.S. technology hubs attractive to the world’s best innovators and entrepreneurs, and undermines our ability to remain globally competitive.
The order is also bad for software developers worldwide, resulting in a net reduction of opportunity to collaborate and create great software—core parts of GitHub’s mission. We support inclusive communities on our platform, but developers live in communities on the ground. We think it’s critical to foster collaboration, empathy, and innovation among all people, regardless of where they may be. Technology’s challenges are increasingly global and interconnected, and so our solutions must be as well.
Join us by supporting organizations that are fighting for inclusive communities like the ACLU.
To learn about human rights and their connection to developer opportunities, take a look at our our brief and the studies linked above—and keep building inclusive communities, both online and wherever you live.
With issues like net neutrality and digital news curation in headlines every day, we’re seeing the effects of the growing role that technology has in our lives more than ever. From how we educate our children about new tools to how we decide to regulate internet service providers, we have a set of vitally important questions in front of us. To answer these questions, we’ll need a meeting of the minds—one that brings together the perspectives of government officials, business owners, developers, and citizens from all over the world. This global discussion is the only way we’ll progress toward appropriate solutions and the right balance in refocusing technology on humans. Here are four trends that will shape that discussion next year and beyond:
Net neutrality and the rise of technology populism
We haven’t seen major changes to internet regulation since 1996, when Congress passed legislation that sought to protect infant internet service providers from perceived risks to a “free internet” like the Communications Decency Act. Twenty years later, we’re seeing—and will continue to see—the pendulum shift from internet company exceptionalism and protectionism to greater control and regulation. In 2017, we saw massive changes to net neutrality, service provider immunities, and increased scrutiny on security and privacy issues. Next year, approximately four billion people will be internet users, many of them so-called “digital natives”, with different and evolving expectations for their online personhood. We should expect digital populism to gain steam alongside traditional party populism and to become a standard feature of mainstream politics, reflecting a broader cultural rise in consumer awareness regarding data privacy, security, and the ubiquitous role of technology in our day-to-day lives.
A new world of platform governance
With a greater push for regulation and increased awareness among consumers about how their data is used, we can expect to see a rise in policy standardization and transparency in how platforms govern themselves and their users. This shift is vital if internet service providers hope to continue to “regulate themselves.” Imagine a world in which there are standard policies companies could
redline diff against. Now imagine as-yet-to-be-founded companies that could displace primary movers in search, social networking, or online retail spaces based on their more consumer-friendly data collection, security, or privacy practices.
Tech policy goes global
Regulators in Europe, China, and elsewhere are increasingly setting the agenda on issues ranging from data protection to cybersecurity and AI. Their decisions will set the tone on where—and how quickly—the U.S. will net out on flipping traditional dynamics on their head. These are some of the most important topics of our time, and we have a moral imperative to keep fighting for net neutrality and other policies that keep the internet open to innovation and competition. The consequences of not doing so could be devastating to the developer ecosystem.
Open source goes local
Expect to see major open source initiatives at the city and municipal level. Not only is this essential to government transparency, but it’s also an important way to recruit engineering talent, which has historically been challenging for local government organizations. This trend has been building for years, especially in Europe, and through collaborations like Code for America. In 2017, the centrality of mayors as leaders for the common good was recognized. In 2018, tech policy will be firmly added to their portfolios. Additionally, look for an increase in public sector investment to incentivize more people to become developers.
However these conversations evolve, we’ll be following along closely and speaking up when they affect our community.
Today is the second Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality this year, and there’s never been a more important time to show your support. GitHub is joining a number of companies, digital rights groups, and nonprofits to continue the fight for net neutrality rules and the rights of internet users around the world. This coordinated effort comes just a couple of days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote on Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal that will likely end a free and open internet for all of us.
We began this week observing that just last year, the United Nation’s Human Rights Council recognized internet access as integral to promoting human rights and called on governments to promote digital literacy, facilitate access, and address digital divides.
Unfortunately, Pai’s proposal will reverse this progress—especially efforts to increase access and decrease divides—for developers and every internet user.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn put it best when she explained that the proposal “threatens innovation at the edge, by allowing broadband providers to charge tolls to access their customers.” While concerns may center on how this affects the sites we rely on daily for searching and streaming, these changes will likely have a much greater impact on software entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way we communicate and get work done right now. The FCC is not considering the developers and small startups that don’t have access to the resources that bigger companies have.
In addition to charging internet users extra fees, broadband providers would be able to use preferential treatment for their own content. Even if developers and startups manage to pay the fees, internet providers could limit or block those services in favor of their own—robbing internet users of newer, more innovative ones.
As EveryoneOn, a U.S. nonprofit committed to creating social and economic opportunity by getting people online, notes “Lack of access to digital opportunity is particularly harmful today because of the role that digital technology plays in everyday tasks.” Its CEO Chike Aguh goes on to explain how net neutrality will have a broader economic impact: “90 percent of people in the United States who have looked for a new job in the last two years used the internet to research jobs, and 84 percent have applied to a job online.” EveryoneOn estimates that the internet results in more than $2 million in additional lifetime earnings for individuals with access.
As the U.S. prepares for another round of net neutrality debates, governing bodies in regions like India and the European Union have come out in support of net neutrality regulations. For instance, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its recommendations on net neutrality this past November. These recommendations stem from TRAI’s acceptance that strong principles of non-discriminatory access will promote future growth and innovation of “internet infrastructure and its applications, content, and services.”
Additionally, the European Union has continued to evangelize its position on net neutrality. Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications Chair, Sebastien Soriano, explained in a recent speech that Europe’s position on net neutrality is established and drew a distinction between Europe and the U.S. by stating, “Even in the U.S., a pioneer country in this area, the issue remains unresolved.”
In jurisdictions that haven’t made a firm commitment to net neutrality, the change in U.S. policy could be used as justification for closed internet policy.
Net neutrality affects everyone, and we only have two more days to “Break the internet”, and let Congress know how we feel.
If you’re not in the U.S., you can still help by spreading the word, and learning about open internet policies in your country.