Last week, the Arab Internet community came together to discuss Internet governance issues and priorities related to the region. The Arab Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance meeting took place in Dubai as part of the Arab IGF open consultations. The meeting, hosted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates brought together over 100 participants representing different stakeholders, including high-level participation by heads of telecom regulators, CEO’s of telecom operators, ISPs, ccTLD operators, ICANN accredited registrars, ISOC Chapters, as well we leaders of Internet organizations.
Over the course of a day and a half the meeting discussed issues of interest to the region, and came up with a number of action items to be undertaken by various related parties. Participants engaged in constructive and open discussions around a range of issues including Internet governance multi-stakeholder model, DNS industry development, ICANN Middle East engagement strategy, and capacity building in related Internet governance areas.
Participants shared views on fostering multi-stakeholder Internet governance mechanisms in the region, and agreed that all stakeholders should be involved. It was noted that stakeholders’ roles should be complementary rather than competitive. Leaders of Internet organizations who were present at the meeting talked to the distinctive roles of their organizations in the global governance ecosystem, and highlighted the community bottom-up participation in the relevant processes. Participants noted that engagement in global policy fora should be two-way as community members have a role to play, and so are the relevant global and regional bodies such as ICANN, ISOC, IETF and the RIRs. Participants also emphasized the importance of capacity building in stimulating engagement and talked to several different activities in that regard.
The meeting was an opportunity for discussing ICANN engagement strategy in the Middle East. A working group of community members was put together early this year to develop a 3-year strategy. Representatives of the working group presented a draft strategy highlighting the overall goals and the strategic focus areas, along with more specific objectives and actions suggested under each area. Strategic areas identified for the Middle East included DNS security and stability, DNS industry development, and Internet Governance ecosystem. The draft strategy document should be available for public comments before end of March, and final strategy should be finalized by May.
Developing domain name markets in the Arab world was another topic on the agenda. Statistics showed that the region was far lagging behind in this sector in comparison to other parts of the world. The meeting noted the slow uptake in IDNs despite the deployment of IDN ccTLDs in almost a dozen countries. Participants shared insights regarding the challenges in this sector and highlighted issues pertaining to awareness, cost, policy and legal frameworks, infrastructure and hosting services, lack of localized content as the main barriers to entry. Participants agreed that stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship is one key pillar for success in this industry.
In the closing session, participants wrapped up discussions that had taken place throughout the course of the meeting, and agreed on a number of actions to be taken forward.
Regarding the Arab IGF, it was agreed that the Arab IGF should play a key role in stimulating multi-stakeholder Internet governance mechanisms at national and regional levels, through working with various stakeholders from governments, business, academia, as well as ISOC chapters. Participants noted that the Arab IGF should have a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure stability and continuity. Internet organizations together with UN ESCWA reiterated their commitment to support the Arab IGF.
ICANN emphasized its commitment to work with Arab Internet stakeholders, and confirmed that issues addressed during the meeting in relation to DNS industry and IDNs will take priority in the ICANN Middle East strategy. ICANN also sought partnership of Internet organizations and stakeholders from the region in the implementation of the strategy. Likewise, TRA UAE confirmed its commitment to work with ICANN and Internet organizations.
ISOC, RIPE NCC and AfriNIC reiterated that they would continue to promote capacity building in the region through workshops and support of activities such as MENOG and the building of IXPs.
Participants acknowledged that engaging in Internet policy development processes requires efforts by all parties involved. They commended that this meeting had brought all stakeholders around the table, and agreed that they would come back later this year at the Arab IGF meeting to report on progress made and follow up on takeaways from this meeting.
Event pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/icann/sets/72157632937238878/