Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 18 February 2015

Expanding avenues to the internet for Sudanese users

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By Ambassador Jerry Lanier

On February 17, my government announced that, effective February 18, Sudanese sanctions regulations are amended to authorize the exportation and re-exportation to Sudan of certain personal communications hardware and software, as well as related services from the United States or by U.S. persons. These amendments are designed to make it easier for Sudanese to access smart phones, satellite phones, security updates, and anti-virus software.

This step comes after careful study and debate, including consultations with a wide range of Sudanese civil society organizations, in particular business groups such as the Sudanese Young Businessmen’s Association and the U.S.-Sudan Business Council, and representatives of the people of Sudan in the form of religious leaders and local leaders. They made it clear that the Sudanese people were suffering from a lack of free flow of information.

The recent decision of the Sudanese government to stifle the press by seizing the full print run of 15 different newspapers also made it clear that the people of Sudan need more freedom to access information.

We believe the Internet should be an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and communicate. As President Obama has said, “We will fight hard to make sure that the Internet remains the open forum for everybody – from those who are expressing an idea to those who want to start a business.”

Before this change, companies that wanted to export these goods, software, or services to Sudan had to seek a specific license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and authorization from the Department of Commerce. This is no longer required for hardware, software, or services covered by the terms of this general license and license exception.

This general license alerts banks, companies, and private citizens that the export and re-export of these items is now permissible under U.S. law. These changes are consistent with our commitment to promote freedom of expression through access to communication tools. These changes also support our aim to help Sudanese citizens integrate into the global digital community, which is an increasingly necessary step to ending poverty in this world.

The United States remains a committed partner to the people of Sudan, and similar to previous general licenses which authorized the exportation of agricultural commodities and equipment, food, medicine, and medical supplies, this week’s amendments reaffirm that commitment.

We have a long history of direct people-to-people exchanges between our citizens, and as the 2013 general license facilitated cultural, academic, and professional exchanges which allowed more of us to meet face-to-face, this new general license will promote greater communication among our people and the global community.

I believe these amendments will give Sudanese students, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, journalists, civic leaders, and others better access to the telecommunications tools they need to study, create, grow, and serve their communities. It will ease some of the difficulties in daily life faced by Sudanese people, and in a way that enhances their communications and relationship with the American people.

Sudanese and U.S. private companies and NGOs that develop this technology and work on Internet freedom have long expressed an interest in a general license for personal communications technology. Now that this initiative is public and the regulations have changed, we can address inquiries from companies and other groups that may have questions about what is now allowed.

I welcome this opportunity for improved relations between the people of Sudan and the United States.

Ambassador Jerry Lanier is the Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Sudan



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