Search My Blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My ICANN Journey

1.The Beginnings

ICANN - When I first received the invitation to attend the ICANN 47 Durban conference as a Newcomer my first thought on the acronym ICANN was that it meant "I CAN" in its literal sense, meaning "You can do it". I then looked it up and found that the acronym stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and after reading further, I realised that my initial translation of the acronym was not very far from what ICANN does, "getting everyone involved in internet policy making process using the Multi-Stakeholder Approach Model", meaning everyone "CAN" get involved in the process, and I could also be part of this model. My interest in this Organisation that gives people the chance to get involved was further heightened prior to my attending the Durban 47 meeting as I was also passionate about bringing something meaningful to the internet, the journey I had started after attended the Wikipedia Train the Trainer workshop where I learnt  that I could also contribute content to Wikipedia.

2.The Durban 47 Meeting - July 2013

The Durban meeting started on a high note, I began with the morning fellowship meetings, which then where more like in Greek for me as there was a lot to learn especially with the acronyms that are used in the ICANN World. I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the Newcomers who had to share their experience as internet users, which I delivered to the satisfaction of the organisers. Part of my speech is documented on the ICANN blog  During the Durban meeting I managed to attend various meetings mainly for AFRALO and ALAC as per our leader’s recommendations. I remember in some meetings I asked myself as to whether I was in the right place as there was a lot of jargon and acronyms that I felt was too much for me to comprehend due to the fact that I was still new to the Organisation but my passion to learn made me sit through these meetings. My Blackberry phone also came in handy as it helped me with my research on the acronyms and various other aspects on internet governance and policy making whilst the meetings were ongoing. During the meeting I also did an interview with Ms Lynn Lipinski the ICANN Publications Manager on my ongoing experience as an ICANN Newcomer. The video below details my interview at the Durban 47 meeting


3. The ICANN Mentorship Program

At the beginning of March I received an email from the from Ms Heidi Ullrich the Senior Director for At-Large saying that I had been appointed as one of the participants for the ICANN pilot mentorship program which was to run for 3 months beginning with the ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore in March 2014 and ending with the ICANN 50 meeting to be held in London at the end of July. The Pilot Mentor program is aimed at: 
  • Developing the capacity of the ICANN Civil Society community through hands on experience and a better understanding of ICANN’s mandate and the Multi-stakeholder Internet  Governance model;
  • Utilizing the proven method of fast track immersion into ICANN that the Fellowship Program already provides; and 
  • Strengthening the future effective engagement of these representatives within ICANN by increasing their knowledge and understanding of the key issues confronting ICANN;
Under this program three senior AFRALO members Mr Tijani Ben Jemaa, Mr  Philip Fomba Johnson and Mr Aziz Hilali members were appointed as my mentors. I couldn't believe the opportunity that had been presented to me through this program as I felt I needed more to strengthen my knowledge on ICANN and what better way could this be done other than through a program such as this one. Most of the mentoring program was to be done online with the guidance of the mentors.

3.1 ICANN 49 Singapore meeting

The Singapore meeting came and I felt so privileged to again attend another ICANN meeting. At the meeting I had an opportunity to meet face to face with the ALAC Chair  Mr Olivier Crépin-Leblond and the other leaders of the Program Ms Heidi Heidi Ullrich, Ms Janice Douma Lange, Ms Gusella Gruber. I also got an opportunity to meet my mentors and the expectations of the mentorship program were further reiterated to me.  I also interacted with the other two members who were appointed for the mentorship program Mr Anthony Niiganii from Canada and Ms Gunela Astbrink from Australia. The photo shows myself and the other mentees in the ICANN pilot mentorship program at the Singapore meeting.

 Lessons Learnt in Singapore

Besides the main events such as the Opening Event, Public Forum, IANA Transition meeting etc., in Singapore I attended mainly the morning and afternoon fellowship meetings and the ALAC meetings as per the recommendations of the mentorship program organizers.  Coming from a non for profit organization, I felt ALAC was the best place for me to be. Since this was my second ICANN meeting and the fact that I had also done some research on ICANN and mastered some of the Acronyms I understood some of the discussions without much difficulty and had to refer to the Internet for further reading when I failed to understand anything that was being discussed during the meetings.
The notable moments were mainly the Newcomer fellowship meetings managed and coordinated by Ms Janice Douma Lange, where we got a chance to meet the leaders of the various ICANN groups e.g. ALAC, NRO, ccNSO, GAC, GNSO, SSAC etc. What I liked most with the Newcomers fellowship meetings was that these meetings were a bit open and flexible. I felt I was more at the same level with the other participants who were at these meetings. Aspects on the different groups were explained in simpler terms and everyone was free to ask questions without a feeling of intimidation that is sometimes experienced during the actual committee meetings were you are surrounded by a group of individuals who are mainly experts in the various fields. The photo below shows the fellows who attended the fellowship meeting in Singapore and the photo was taken on the last fellowship meeting.

I also took interest in the ALAC meetings though I was still not clear with some aspects discussed during some of the meetings, my level of understanding had significantly developed from the time I attended my first ICANN meeting in Durban. In the ALAC meetings that I attended I developed a special interest in the Internet Accessibility Taskforce meeting. Coming from Africa and with my experience as a Trainer in Sub-Saharan Africa, I have seen that internet access is still a major challenge in many developing nations. During the meeting the taskforce presented 3 main objectives that were aimed at addressing the access barriers. The 3 main objectives discussed were:
a)  Building a culture of accessibility
b)  Increasing web accessibility; and
c)  Ensuring minimal barriers to participation and engagement with ICANN processes and  practices

All three objectives touched on the issue of increasing internet accessibility to people with disabilities, an issue that is being neglected by many organizations worldwide. I guess this is so because when you don't have an inability of any nature, you sometimes develop a perfect world scenario in your mind whilst overlooking some factors that need special attention by those who are not as quite privileged as you are.

Beside the disabled, the developing nations are also lagging behind on internet access due to a lot of barriers such as poor infrastructure, power outages, cost of internet access, low bandwidth, lack of basic ICT  skills etc. The information gap between the Developed and Developing nations continue to widen. In his speech at the during the opening ceremony of the ICANN 49 Singapore meeting, the Singapore Minister of Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, reported that about “84% of Singapore’s households have access to broadband, mobile penetration rates stand at 156 percent. A majority of these mobile subscribers have at least a 3G connection, and 24 percent are already on to a 4G connection. In terms of business use of the Internet, 80 percent of enterprises in Singapore have broadband connectivity, with about 46 percent having a web presence”. Whilst this is the state for developing countries, for the developing countries it is quite the opposite.

I also took special interest in the ALAC meeting with the ICANN Board. The agenda Item that captured my attention most was the question on the globalization or should I say IANA transition. The At Large community wanted to know the next steps in the transition process. The body's answer to this question was that it was going to create working groups to study this function.

I also took part in the ALAC capacity building group. Coming from a developed nation and being an ICT capacity building trainer myself, I have really seen the benefits of capacity building. A lot of people have got resources such as the internet, computers, databases, mobile phones etc. at their disposal but for them to realize the value of these resources they need to have the capacity to use them, hence the importance of capacity building. I was quite thrilled with the fact that the ALAC Capacity Building working group was going to launch training Webinars to train people on the various aspects on ICANN.

I also took special interest in the AFRALO/AfrICANN joint meeting. During the meeting a strategy to support the new initiatives taken by ICANN to involve all stakeholders was presented by the African community. The strategy presented involved two main initiatives namely:

Support for ICANN outreach

This will be done through publicizing the MyICANN ( page and ICANN labs and also the pledge by the AFRALO/AfrICANN to participate in debates centered on Internet Governance and in shaping the institutions that will manage Global communications in future

Support the ICANN’s Africa strategy

This was going to be done through four main ways i.e. flagship projects, communication, outreach activities and sponsoring of events. The Singapore meeting ended on the 28th of March but still my ICANN Journey continues.

3.3 NETmundial Meeting - The Future of Internet Governance‎ 23 - 24 April 2014

I did not get the chance to physically attend the NETmundial meeting in Brazil but I followed the proceedings online and also went through the Multi-stakeholder statement available on I took special interest in the speech by Getachew Engida, the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO who touched on four main initiatives in the UNESCO Mandate for guiding the  future  decision on internet governance. The issues are access to  information  and  knowledge, freedom  of  expression, privacy and the  ethical dimensions of the Information Society. These are really important issues to consider in internet Governance and they are also covered in part one of the meeting’s multistakeholder statement. When dealing with information it is important to consider these issues since the internet has opened up information resources that were previously not available to society thus increasing access to a wide range of information and knowledge from all over the world, and allowed society to express their view freely especially with the introduction of Web 2.0 tools that allows anyone to publish on the internet. Though the internet has opened up vast amounts of information and made it possible for users to express their thoughts the issues of privacy and ethics still apply therefore making it critical for UNESCO to include these issues in their mandate on the future decisions on internet governance.
The Multistakeholder statement touched on two main issues namely
  • Internet Governance Principles, and
  • Roadmap for the future evolution of the Internet Governance Ecosystem
The internet Government principles included important values that are intended at making a contribution for an inclusive, multi-stakeholder, effective, legitimate, and evolving Internet governance framework. They can be summarized as:
  • HUMAN RIGHTS – These include Freedom of expression, Freedom of association, Privacy, Accessibility, Freedom of information and access to information and Development
  • INTERNET GOVERNANCE PROCESS principles include Multistakeholderism, Open, Participative, Consensus Driven Governance, Transparent, Accountability, Inclusive and Equitable, Distributed, Collaborative, Enabling Meaningful Participation, Accessibility And Low Barriers and Agility: and
The objective of this proposed roadmap for the future evolution of Internet governance is to outline possible steps forward in the process of continuously improving the existing Internet governance framework ensuring the full involvement of all stakeholders. The Internet governance framework is a distributed and coordinated ecosystem involving various organizations and fora. It must be inclusive, transparent and accountable, and its structures and operations must follow an approach that enables the participation of all stakeholders in order to address the interests of all those who benefit from the Internet.

3.4 Report on online learning experience

In the 21st century Online learning is the order of the day given its convenience and cost effectiveness Vs the traditional face to face learning. It is therefore important that priority be given to content development so that the online learner can benefit as much as the face to face learner. I managed to conduct online learning on ICANN via the Pre-ATLAS II Capacity Building Webinars and the ICANN learning platform, the ICANN Website, wiki, AFRICAN page and the ATLARGE Wiki page.  I must commend the presenters of the webinars as their content was quite straight forward and simple to understand and they also tackled questions with a high level of intelligence. Through the Webinars I managed to extend my knowledge on the policy development process, the future of internet governance, security and stability, policy procedure among many other things. I also learnt a lot through the ICANN learn platform though I felt some tutorials were not quite as interactive as what one would expect from a learning platform. In some instances it felt like some content had just been dumped on the learning platform which was not quite different from information presented on the websites. Some content available on the platform is outdated with some modules having been last updated in the year 2012 something that came as a surprise to me given the fact that ICANN is the Organisation at the helm of Internet Governance, one would expect updated and relevant content from any platform managed by such an Organisation. Updated content increase the level of confidence in the Organisation

3.5    ICANN 50 Meeting London

The ICANN 50 London meeting had an attendance of over 3300 delegates.  Amongst helping with some logistical arrangements during the ATLAS II meetings, I also attended other meetings such as the Opening Ceremony but my main focus was the Atlas II  meetings which I attended most of the times.

My main highlights during the opening Ceremony was the speech by Honorable Edward Vaizey’s and ICANN President Fedi Chehade. In his speech honourable Vaizey mentioned that the internet economy in Britain represented 8% of the country’s GDP. This statement highlighted one of the major importance of the internet in today’s society just like farming was regarded in the agriculture era, machinery and labour were regarded in the industrial era so is the internet regarded in the information and knowledge era. Besides making every major aspect of our life easier e.g. education, health, livelihoods, the internet is also a possible form of wealthy creation and should other countries appreciate this fact they would one day be accounting a certain percentage of their GDP towards the internet. ICANN President Fedi Chehade touched on five main accomplishments by ICANN since the Singapore ICANN 49 meeting. The accomplishments were IANA Stewardship and transition, ICANN globalization and hardening of operations,  the Global Domains Division and an update from the division on the New gTLD program, Internet governance and ICANN's core values. In his speech Fedi stressed the transparency of ICANN to its community and the importance of the bottom – up approach. Personally I believe this approach works better than the top - bottom approach because people at the bottom are always well informed than those at the top as they are more in touch and familiar with the situation on the ground e.g. the internet users’ perspective on various policies about the internet.

The Theme for the ATLAS II meeting was "Global Internet: The User Perspective”. The meeting was built upon activities from ATLAS I meeting which was held in Mexico in 2009. More than 160 ALSs participated in this meeting. Without the user then the internet and all its components are useless. ICANN fully support the contribution of the user in the development of internet governance policies through its multi-stakeholder model. Besides the input of businesses, governments, civil society technical community etc. the input of the user is also of utmost importance as it is he/she that consumes the end product. Businesses that overlook the concerns of the users are usually bound to fail. On the 22nd of June the ATLAS II meeting broke into five different working groups and each participant was asked to select a working group that they will work with. The 5 thematic groups were:
o    Thematic Group 1: The future of multi-stakeholder models
o    Thematic Group 2: The Globalization of ICANN
o    Thematic Group 3: Global Internet: The User Perspective
o    Thematic Group 4: ICANN Transparency and Accountability
o    Thematic Group 5: At-Large Community Engagement in ICANN

I took part in the deliberations by Group 3, the group looked at the main theme of the ATLAS II meeting “Global Internet: The User Perspective”. My choice to be in this group was made from both an individual and organisation represented perspective. Personally I use the internet every-day for my personal, study and leisure needs, and from my Organisation (Non for Profit), we use the internet to train the end users on the best ways of accessing online electronic information resources. The group intended to address 3 main questions namely:

a)    Facing the recent announcements from some governments aimed to the fragmentation of Internet based on the argument to avoid mechanisms of surveillance, can we affirm that Internet End Users will continue to enjoy of the "Global Internet" as we know until today? 
-    Can the Internet Users collaborate in the elaboration of regulatory frameworks and policies that are developed on surveillance of communications that include their own interests?
b)    Taking into account the Internet differences between developed and developing countries in relation to: infrastructure, access  (especially access to the bandwidth), accessibility, costs and quality of services, commercial agreements between access and content providers and local governments, how do these differences affect the interest, the activities, the possibility of creation of local content and innovation, the development, the training and the growth of Internet End Users from these regions?
-    Can we use Internet as a powerful tool to reach out the integration of developed and developing countries?
c)    In many multi-stakeholder spaces / forums for discussion and decision-making related to Internet governance, especially after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the following are listed as stakeholders involved in these processes: governments, private sector, civil society and technical and academic community. We note that the Internet End Users are not considered as a particular stakeholder and different from other stakeholders. Some people consider that these users should be included within civil society, others within the technical community; others say Internet End Users cannot be included within civil society because civil society represents more diffuse and general interests. What is the place of Internet End Users in Internet Governance? Do they need to be involved in it? Should they be considered as a new and different stakeholder in the Internet Governance ecosystem?
To address the questions the group came up with the following recommendations:

a)    The place of the internet users in internet governance – the group recommended that the end user be considered as a separate component of the  multi-stakeholder model as referred to in the NETmundial Multi-stakeholder Statement – meaning that the end-user’s contribution should be considered separately from the other stakeholders’ such as governments, businesses, civil society, technical community etc.
b)    Growth of Internet end-users in both Emerged and Emerging Economies – This issue looked mainly at how the internet end user can benefit from the internet and in summary on this issue the group made the following recommendations
o    Support universal Internet access (availability,  affordability, improved bandwidth, accessibility for disadvantaged people, metrics for measuring access and infrastructure to ensure high service quality)
o    Increased focus on education - digital literacy and empowerment
o    Establishment of end-user di¬gital rights
o    Re-establish trust in the Internet
o    Ensure that individuals or organizations use secure, efficient, easy to use interoperable identity credentials
o    Creation of local substantial content beyond infotainment
o    Ensure access to valid information and knowledge to everyone
o    Empower and support end-users to take part in policy development
o    Strive for compatibility between user rights and the terms of service of private companies serving the Internet community
o    Demand the effective implementation throughout the world of user rights to privacy and truthful information including ”the right to be forgotten”
o    In full respect to human rights, communications must be protected from arbitrary and unlawful surveillance activities, collection, treatment, handling and use of personal data in full respect.
c)    Methods for Internet end-users to collaborate in the development of regulatory frameworks and policies so that the end user’s interests are included. The following recommendations were agreed on by the group:
o    Make known at all levels the demands, expectations, and rights of all Internet users
o    Promote digital inclusion
o    Demand openness and transparency of each country’s ccTLD operator
o    Increase support for the end-user in ICANN policy development and within the broader Internet community
o    Ensure minimal barriers to participation and engagement with ICANN processes and practices
o    Input the user perspective wherever necessary, in matters advancing accountability, transparency and policy development within ICANN
o    Require web standards such as XML and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for use on websites with the active participation of the impacted community

I also took special interest in the AFRALO general assembly though the meeting could not address all issues on the agenda due to the time allocation which proved very short caused given the reduction of the meeting time from 1hr 30mins to 1 hour.  The Agenda covered the following issues though some of the topics were not discussed fully due to the issue of time and internet connectivity as some of the reporters were participating remotely:
1.    Welcome and Aim of Meeting
2.    Information issues
a)    ICANN Africa Strategy
b)    Activity report From Dakar to London
3.    Topics for Discussion
a)    Community Regional Outreach Pilot Project
b)          Review of the AFRALO Operating Principles
c)         Challenges for AFRALO: How to improve the participation of ALS’s within AFRALO
d)      ICANN Pilot Mentor Project
e)       Debate

In his speech on the ICANN Africa Strategy Pierre Dandjinou highlighted the importance of increasing Africa participation and presence in all stakes of ICANN including the DNS business. He also stressed the importance of measuring impact and developing sustainability measures on the projects in place to promote this endeavour. Further he highlighted the importance of having data for Africa e.g. the number of registered ccTLDs and registrants in Africa, data that was not currently available. Though there was an African strategy working group already in place he felt the need for the steering committee to oversee all the engagements that were taking place. Aziz also emphasised on the increased participation of Africans in ICANN and said he was quite pleased with the number of ALSs joining and the rise in the participation during the monthly teleconferences but highlighted that more needs to be done to get more participation

3.6 Recommendations for future fellowship and Mentorship programs

Having attended three ICANN meetings and the 3 months mentorship program I recommend the following for the ICANN fellowship and mentorship programs
  • The ICANN Mentorship program be launched fully just like the fellowship program to enable other participants to take part in the program as it proved to me to be a good and worthwhile learning model.
  • ICANN newcomers receive the Newcomers Guide at least a month before attending an ICANN meeting for them to be able to familiarize themselves with ICANN before  the meeting
  • Funds allowing ICANN Newcomers come at least 2 days before the main meeting so they can get acquainted with ICANN before the ICANN main meetings as the morning and afternoon fellowship meetings sometimes clash with the other meetings that one may be interested in attending
  • The ICANN learn platform should be updated constantly
  • Promote The ICANN learn platform through various ways e.g. ICANN website, ICANN Blog, ICANN twitter account, ATLAS II Facebook page, ICANN fellowship Facebook page etc.
  • Get the other Committees in ICANN e.g. GAC, SSAC, etc. to start mentorship programs for newcomers who are interested in the different committees
  • The Capacity building webinars be an ongoing process after the realization that there is a lot to learn about ICANN

4. Next steps

Having extended my knowledge on ICANN through the mentorship program, capacity building webinars, ICANN Learning platform, my mentors and attending three ICANN meetings, I feel am ready to face the Internet Governance World head-on. My learning journey continues as the IT World is always revolving so in order to keep up to date one needs to engage in lifelong learning. I intend to further my learning experience through the following ways.
  • Engage in more learning through the ICANN Learn platform, ICANN Quizlet, AFRALO.
  • Participate fully in AFRALO and also take part in the AFRALO monthly calls
  • Following the developments happening in ICANN and Internet governance through the ICANN website, AFRICANN website,  ICANN Blog, ICANN twitter handle, AT LARGE Wiki,  amongst many other sites
  • Engage more people from my community (Sub Saharan Africa) in ICANN. Whenever I facilitate on a training workshop or attend a conference, I will make it a point to inform the people I meet on ICANN so as to get more people involved
  • Continue updating my blog on my experience and encounters on ICANN and Internet Governance Issues
  • Continue watching this blog for future actions.

5.    Conclusions

I would like to thank ICANN and the ALAC community for giving me the chance to take part in the mentorship program. Special thank you goes to the ALAC Chair Olivier Crepin, the ALAC staff members who supported me throughout my journey Heidi Ullrich, Janice Douma Lange and Gisella Gruber. Last but not least I would like to thank the AFRALO leadership Tijani Ben Jemaa, Aziz Hilali and Philip Fomba Johnson for recommending me for the program and mentoring me. Hopefully more people will also get the chance to take part in the program.


  1. wow!your report is so informativeI felt like I took part in ICANN.You Truly inspire me Ms.Moyo.I am so proud of you. 'life-Long learning" phrase will be my Slogan :)

    1. Thank you Lebo, glad you found this post informative and hopefully you will also engage in ICANN