The ICANN47 fellowship started with morning session on Sunday 14th July 2013 at 8.00am at the Durban Albert Nkosi Luthuli International Conference Center. Most of the fellows where still dazed by the organisation and beauty of Durban, “the warmest place to be”, as cold and windy as it was. “Is this Africa?” they asked. I was frustrated finding out that South African power plugs are a vestige of the old British Empire, with a 3-prong behemoth used only in rural Ireland but rejoiced at finding the standard multi-prong power strips in the conference centre. Well done ICANN.
Attending ICANN47 as a fellow, having been a registrar knowledgeable in several terms like ccTLD, CCNSO, GNSO, gTLD, and GAC, I was sure I would skate through unscathed, be the know it all. Shock on me. After 6 amazing days, I was reborn. Most of the ICANN community leaders I met were at the deep of all things Internet. They were pioneers in the foundation and growth of internet standards be it DNSSEC or NextGen WHOIS. However, the part I loved most was diversity integration, and getting to be comfortable with people of different races, culture, and geographic backgrounds. Our host Janice Douma Lange ensured we were all comfortable and welcomed by her constant smiles, approving eyes and warm hugs.
Participating and getting involved in writing strategy for the largest multistakeholder organisation in the world was also a priceless experience.
The openness of most of the processes was visible. At the ccNSO council meeting, Rwanda was admitted as the 138th member unanimously. The councils were voting publicly, and all deliberations were public. GAC also welcomed Madagascar, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Swaziland, and Zambia to the GAC as members.
Future participation will ground me and help me get a home across the diverse Supporting Organisations (SO), Advisory Committees (AC), and Technical Advisory Bodies. Currently; I’m levitating towards ALAC, CCNSO , and GAC.
Networking with whoiswho in ICANN at Hilton, the amazing giant aquariums at Ushaka marine world, morning fellowships meetings with different organs of ICANN, a beautiful seafront hotel, participating in the new ICANN strategy, fellows’ dinner, and the golf day was incredible. I cannot substitute these experiences with anything.
Topics that had an impact on me were replacing WHOIS, Next Gen Directory Services, newTLDs, and DNSSEC
On day three there were presentations at the fellowship meeting. Business constituency Chair. Alisa Cooper got me thinking, when she stated that businesses have to pay membership fees to belong to the club. It had never occurred to me that businesses need representation at ICANN. It is apparent that businesses have diverse interests including security, trademark protection, and quality of service.
ICANN’s Role in Internet Governance
In the newcomers section, different staff at ICANN presented ICANN roles to us. We learned that ICANN is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and ensuring it’s stable and secure. ICANN’s role includes coordination of the Internet Protocol address spaces, and assignment of address blocks to regional Internet registries, for maintaining registries of Internet protocol identifiers, and for the management of the top-level domain name space, autonomous system numbers, and port numbers at the transport layer :). My CCNA helped me not to float. ICANN is now more involved with DNS policy development.
ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, multistakeholder consensus-based processes.
There was a heated debate on why Africa did not apply for the new gTLDs. Reasons floated was prohibitive cost. But surely, Funding was there. And why do developing worlds need funding for the newtlds while they can raise capital like the west? Other reasons floated was difficult and complex process including a guidebook that was hard to decipher. My answer would be most developing worlds did not see the value of newgtlds since their ccTLDS are not doing good either. As an African, I don’t think we need any babysitting. If we don’t see the value, only sensitization can help. In response to a questions from GAC, ICANN CEO Fadi noted that $2M was set aside to help developing countries in new gTLD application, and in the next round of applications, an assessment of how this round went will be conducted.
Well if there will be a remedial round of applications for only developing countries, I will surely make an application for a geoTLD of my region and ride the experience. 🙂
One point that caught my attention was the opportunities available to develop products for DNSSec. This is a window that anybody with an entrepreneurial mindset can capitalise on. I also grasped the concept of IDNs which have been bothering me for a while since my previous Internet Governance classes.
ICANN47 was officially opened by ICANN Chairman Dr Stephen Crocker and the President Fadi Chahade on the third day. In ICANN’s effort for multistakeholder engagement, ISOC and IETF had their CEO and Chair respectively represented. The ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré connected through a Webex video link and stated that they share “the goal of working together by cultivating a relationship based on collaboration and cooperation”. From Dr Touré ‘s speech, you could sense the frosty relationship between his organisation and ICANN, dating from when UN through ITU was said to want to take control of the internet. But Dr. Touré was reconciliatory; “Could I therefore suggest that the time may be right to move our relationship onto a stronger footing – perhaps through a more formal partnership between our two organizations, focused on greater collaboration and cooperation, while clearly respecting our distinct roles and mandates.”
By reading in between the lines, I concluded that the cold war and frosty relationship between ITU/UN and ICANN is all about control of internet resources. Everybody wants a piece of the cake.
Mr Likonga from BongoHive had his moment of fame after a short but entertaining presentation on their incubation hub that is transforming the lives of young people in Lusaka Zambia by giving them opportunity to develop software and be useful to society.
The Registrar Accreditation and Registry Agreements were signed by representatives of different registrar/registry together with the ICANN President.
CEO Fadi announced the formation of ICANN strategy Panels that will serve as an integral part of a framework for cross-community dialogue on strategic matters with the chair of the panels selected by Fadi.The panels are:
- Identifier Technology Innovation chaired by Paul V. Mockapetris
- ICANN’s Role in the Internet Organizations’ Ecosystem chaired by Vinton G. Cerf
- ICANN Multistakeholder Innovation chaired by Beth Simone Noveck
- Public Responsibility Framework chaired Dr. Nii Quaynor
- Role of ICANN in the Future of Internet Governance
Each panel will have staff and young research fellows from UCLA and MIT. Each also has a secretariat, and executive sponsor, who ensures the work done at that panel is tightly integrated, and fed into the operating planning processes.
The Doodle artist that translated all spoken words at the conference to art was unbelievable. That is now pure talent. (How comes I don’t have a photo of that magic?)
After the opening ceremony, I attended the ICANN 5-year strategic planning meeting where I was the rapporteur for my group where we covered issues of Internationalisation and Regional Development, and Security and Stability.
In the Hilton fellowship social event, I got a very different perspective of why people attend ICANN. They all have different interests they are advancing. Each attendee is there for a different reason, with different agendas, different attitudes and different experiences. Some are there as idealistic participants in the multi-stakeholder process; others are hardened cynics. Some are there to participate in Internet Governance; others are there to get things done for clients. Some are veterans; others are newbies. Some are there because their business depends on it; others are there to keep ICANN from being solely a vehicle for domain name businesses. Some have multiple agendas; others have hidden agendas
GAC meeting with ICANN board
On day four, The ICANN Board was faced with fire breathing GAC representatives where they had to answer questions ranging from Dotless domain, Geographic domains, RA and RAA and laws that ICANN should follow given it’s distribution across autonomous borders, Budgeting and transparency of usage of funds, and countries representation especially in new gTLDs.
The fellowship session on day five started by a presentation from Trademark Clearing House (TCH). TCH was formed to enable trademark owners to protect their rights during the DNS expansion. The benefits of TCH are obvious, but the downside in my view is the cost trademark owners will incur in hiring lawyers, and trademark experts where there are disputes across regions, and also the cost of reserving their trademarks for multiple years across hundreds of new gTLDs. There are very few registrations in the TMCH – barely more than 6,000. Obviously, this is a small fraction of all the registered trademarks in the world. Whatever the reason, brandowners need to register any marks that they would hope to acquire as domain names in a Sunrise application period.
Engaging the Global Community
Engaging the Global Community – An interactive approach to outreach session was fulfilling where I participated as the secretary and presenter for my group. Our task was to outline tools for engagement for the ICANN labs process. Our input was that ICANN content can be accessed through:
- Visuals format (Skits, videos, cartoons)
- Offline participation, access to content through mobile apps
- Social media, chat, e.t.c where community can pose questions and help each other find relevant information
- Document management, wiki format.
- An app to navigate the meeting especially in different languages.
The Golf day at Durban Country Club
We capped a very successful and fulfilling week by attending the golf day arranged by .zacr and .zadna. Memories are made of this.
My Outcomes of ICANN 47
One reason for applying for the fellowship was to understand better the different ICANN processes. In the meeting, and during the evening networking session, I realised that my country Kenya does not have any representation in Afralo (https://community.icann.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=2266075). Kenya does not have representation in the At-Large, meaning the voice of the local internet users is not being heard at ICANN. I have now initiated the process of registering the local ISOC community as an At-Large member through Afralo. That is a big milestone for me, and a key deliverable from the meeting.
I’m struggling to run a registrar business back in Kenya. With the new developments in ICANN including a new strategy for Africa, and the willingness of ICANN to facilitate expanding the number of ICANN accredited registrars in Africa from 6 to a less embarrassing number, my company can benefit from the networks and the effort. Well, the $70,000 needed to be an ICANN accredited registrar is beyond the reach of many. I managed to get crucial contacts to plug into .zacr and start registering .za domain at a more reasonable price of $3.5 compared to the $25 the Kenya ccTLD manager KENIC charges for .ke domains.
I count Durban as a success based on what I personally hoped to learn and accomplish on the trip.
For the fellowship to be less cryptic and more meaningful, probably we can have a fast-track syllabus where fellows study material online, and post comments about the content a week before the meeting. This way, the fellows will be better equipped when attending the actual ICANN meeting. A hypertext tool for collaboration and group comments on the learning material can be developed. Such a tool is available at http://learn.diplomacy.edu/ screenshot below
Example tool at learn.diplomact.edu with hypertext markups by students
- Africa DNS forum
- New comers welcome and Info session
- All morning and afternoon fellowship sessions
- Fellowship social event at The Hilton Polo Lounge
- Welcome ceremony and President’s opening session
- Creating a new ICANN 5-Year strategic plan
- Replacing WHOIS – The next generation directory services
- Business Networking at The Hilton
- GAC plenary
- GAC meeting with ccNSO and
- GAC meeting with ICANN Board
- DNSSEC for everybody – A beginners’ guide
- ccNSO celebrating 10 years cocktail at Coastlands Hotel Umhlanga
- Music night at Southern Sun Elangemi hotel
- AFRALO / AFRICANN joint meeting
- CCNSO council meeting
- Domain Name Association and CEO taskforce updates
- Gala night at Ushaka Marine world
- Engaging the Global Community – An interactive approach to outreach
- ICANN public forum
- Fellowship goodbye dinner
- Golf day at Durban Country Club
If the abbreviations are more than you can handle, see http://www.andalucia.com/icann/