[At-Large] Trip to Caucasus - conclusions and recommendations
roberto_gaetano at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 10 17:45:46 UTC 2013
I would like to conclude this sequence of messages with some final
consideration and proposals for action. As usual, separate messages for
There is wide unhappiness in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia) about being considered in the Asia-Pacific-Australasia region, they
would rather be included in the European region.
I have included some of the rationale in my previous messages, but just to
summarize, it is about preferential partnership with Europe for Internet
projects, long term plans to join the European Union, being already
considered part of Europe in other cases related to music and sport, the
proximity to Europe more than to the Pacific rim, and, last but not least,
that for IP addresses and ccTLDs often these countries are members of the
European regional organizations (RIPE and CENTR).
There is an ongoing activity to rethink the ICANN regions. These
considerations should be brought forward in that context (actually, I
believe that this is the case already, but I would like to bring this item
to the attention of the whole ALAC community).
I have noted only mild interest about IDNs in my discussions with the local
community. This was a surprise to me, in particular considering that two
countries have a different script and the third one has several special
characters added to the latin script.
Is this a matter of fact, i.e. IDNs will not bring much to the local
internet community, neither in terms of business opportunities nor in terms
of ease of use by the community, or does this show a lack of promotion and
advertisement of the IDNs by ICANN and its stakeholders? I think that this
is a serious question: are we spending a lot of resources for something that
is only of mild interest, or are we jeopardizing huge efforts by not
advertising enough to our community?
Also, I have an additional question. This is the feedback I have from the
South Caucasus region, but what is the situation in other parts of the
world? Does anybody have other types of info? I guess that the deployment of
the first IDNs will give a partial answer to this question, but do we really
need to wait more to take appropriate marketing steps for what is one of the
major innovations in the DNS, and one of ICANN's success stories?
Outreach - 1
In my report from Armenia I spoke about the "blank spot" on the ICANN
penetration map. Without any doubt, we have much to do in relation to
At-Large outreach in the former Soviet Union.
ALAC is present with ALSes in very few of these countries, and completely
absent in all the "stans". This is related to the situation about human
rights, government control, freedom of press, and so on. However, aren't we
in a vicious circle? In other words, which is the cause and which is the
effect? Had we some active users organizations, wouldn't these be able to
influence the government? I think that people living in that reality can
contribute more to this debate than somebody like me, who only was there
visiting, but unless the local community in the CIS (Community of
Independent States) tell me loud and clear that there's nothing we can do to
change the situation, I will continue thinking that developing At-Large
community and structures must be one of our priorities. If we believe in the
multi-stakeholder model, we must be committed to develop this model where it
is not fully implemented.
I would recommend to have a meeting of the Outreach WG in Durban. I know it
is late in the game, but I don't think we need a large room and a long time,
if it is not possible to have an "official" meeting I would at least hope
that the members of the WG can get together at the bar to have a chat. But
of course a meeting with staff support, minutes, and a clear action list as
a result would be better. Incidentally, I hope that Veni will be in Durban,
because his contribution is essential.
I learned that there is already sub-regional collaboration for technical
issues related to the internet, and that the internet technical community of
the former Soviet Union countries already meets regularly. Shall we seek to
have a couple of (Russian-speaking) ALAC members participating, to explore
collaboration opportunities? About 10 years ago I went to a CENTR meeting to
promote links between the ccTLDs and the forming ALAC. Nothing came out of
it, but in time we had some developments, including ccTLD operators joining
At-Large. But if we never start, we will never get anywhere.
Outreach - 2
Besides outreach to specific geographical areas, it seems that we need
outreach plans for specific stakeholder groups.
First of all, I had confirmation of something we all had observed over the
years: the lack of interest by the scientific and research community in
ICANN activities. Is this a matter of fact, i.e. there is no reason why the
internet scientific and research community should participate in Internet
Governance activities, or do we have here another case of lack of marketing
of ICANN's role? The key question is what can ICANN, and ALAC, offer to this
community so that we can establish collaboration? If we establish
collaboration on specific projects, we will naturally see a higher interest
in participation by them.
Again, there is probably one simple way: to participate, as observers, to
some of the activities that the internet scientific and research community
is performing. We need a couple of ALAC members that are technically
competent, to be respected by the other participants, that can understand
and report what are the needs and priorities, and then we can analyse the
implications for the user community and propose contributions.
Also, we need to take into account the more general question: "What can
ICANN do for the user community?". I am under the impression that, although
ALAC has grown in size and importance, the core of our group is still
composed by idealists who debate matters of principle. Matters of principle
are surely important, but we need also to address some practical needs. For
instance, what do we do in support of registrants, to make them better aware
of their rights and to help them when they get in trouble with their
suppliers? The development of the new TLD programme might make this aspect
even more critical. Can we think of training activities, done by ALSes in
collaboration with other bodies? I am sure that some ALSes do already this,
for instance ISOC chapters are involved in user training, but how much are
these experiences shared within ALAC, and used as example for building new
activities? For instance, at the ISOC Armenia meeting I spoke with Narine
Khachatryan (Media Education Center), who told me about a "train the
trainer" programme, an experience that could be interesting to other ALSes.
Should we include in the ATLAS II programme some time for sharing these
There are discussions already going on in terms of budget, I do not want to
interfere here with the official bodies that are making decisions now, but I
strongly believe that ALAC, as a grown-up adult, should be entitled to
manage a part of the budget for initiatives that can be decided when the
opportunity comes, without having to go for a long and cumbersome approval
cycle. If this is done, we should have a budget item earmarked for
"Outreach" where we can decide activities that we will perform with the
objective of improving our penetration in the wide At-Large community
Last but not least, when we talk about "Digital Divide" we often think in
terms of developing countries vs. industrialized world. However, there are
other divides within each country. The experience in the South Caucasus made
me aware of the divide between cities and countryside, the problems of
scarcely populated areas (I believe we already have an example of ALS
operating in Canada in this type of environment), the divide between the
digital natives and the others (Tijani might remember a discussion we had in
Tunisia years ago about the effort in doing something to help elderly
people). I think these are things we need to start thinking about if we want
to go to the next step in ALAC's life, which is to be more relevant in the
internet community's everyday life, and I am sure that this will bring new
people, new organizations, new ideas, and will drive the multi-stakeholder
model to a higher level of implementation.
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