By Yolanda Mlonzi

Like with all events, planning the Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC) outreachevent, which took place in Johannesburg, consisted of many sleepless nights and long skype calls. The most rewarding part of what we do is that we are all very passionate about the internet and protecting the interests and rights of noncommercial users. So, that kept us going, for the most part! The outreach was a two day event, taking place at the Tshimolong Digital Innovation Precinct which was very fitting as we were at the heart of where young minds meet to use technology and the internet to develop and uplift their communities.

Outreach turned to capacity building, enthusiastic participants! 

Day 1 of the outreach started off with fun ice breakers, where attendees got to know each other through a speed dating exercise. This was followed by a spectrogram game where everyone shared their understanding of the domain name system. These sessions were such a success that a participant from Nigeria, Benjamin Akinmoyeje, said that he felt he was getting more than he expected as it felt like a capacity building initiative!

The rest of Day 1 was about covering all the basic, where we deep dived into:

  • What DNS is and why it should matter to everyone.
  • What NCUC is about and how ICANN works
  • Why ordinary internet users should be interested in these structures.

Local participants expressed a sense of excitement with the knowledge sharing, and were convinced that they need to take seats in internet policy meetings so that they can also shape the agenda to their benefit! Following this, we mapped out the internet governance landscape in Africa, where we focused on the role that DNS can/plays in the lives of Africans. Topics covered were around:

  • DNS for Identity – unlocking the view that names hold meaning and weight to varying people and these must be open and free for all.
  • The case of internet shutdowns – unpacking whether NCUC/ICANN structures can aid in this persistent culture
  • DNS for development – sharing perspectives, where we learnt that DNS has value & has a role in developing Africa and our hope for a thriving digital economy!

Free use of words, like ‘life’, should remain open to all!

With the outreach successfully kicking off well the previous day, day 2 was started off a high! We kicked off day 2 with a game where participants came up with domain names that they would like to use. Enrio Calandro came up with “”, he was quickly corrected by other participants who said that he could not use “life” because it was owned by Time Warner. Many newcomers were taken aback as they could not understand how a word, especially the word life, could be owned by a particular group. This lead to an interesting debate around the free use of words in the domain name system. This tied in well with the theme of the day, where we buckled down on issues around human rights and the ecosystem of the internet in Africa. Anriette Esterhuysen from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) led this discussion, with Niels Ten Oever who spoke particularly on human rights within ICANN. Anriette spoke about the importance of privacy and the protection of user information, she reflected on her personal story where she was attacked by a guerrilla warfare group from the Congo, who found her personal information on WHOIS. A chilling story which further echoed Stephanie Perrin’s remarks about the importance of privacy within ICANN for end users.

What does my digital future look like with the rise internet regulation?

Yolanda Mlonzi from Emerging Leaders in Internet Governance South Africa (ELIG-SA) & ISOC Gauteng, spoke about Internet Regulation in Africa from an end user and youth perspective. She grappled with the increased efforts from governments wanting to regulate the internet. She stressed that in order to shape internet policy, internet users should have a seat at the table of crucial internet policy making processes and debates, in order to ensure that regulations are fair and conducive.

Enrico Calandro from Research ICT Africa spoke about the cost barriers that affect many Africans from accessing the internet. He touched on stringent and opaque information communications technology (ICT) regulatory frameworks within Africa that make it difficult for internet to be widely adopted and used for social good & development. This tied in well with local debates currently happening in South Africa around high costs of internet data bundles.

NCUC and ICANN – your way around, with a supportive community

The outreach proved to be very information, especially with people like Avri Dori, David Cake & Stephanie Perrin who knew the ins and outs of the NCUC and broader ICANN structure. Many participants felt overwhelmed by the complexity of ICANN with questions like:

  • Where does one start to participate?
  • Will I even follow the conversations with all the acronyms flying around?
  • Will my voice be even heard?

All three individuals assured newcomers that within the NCUC there is a lot of support for people wanting to join. Stephanie Perrin  welcomed newcomers saying that she is willing and open to mentoring interested individuals.

Be on the lookout for an NCUC outreach near you

Hopefully, we will see you in the next NCUC outreach in your country!

If you would like to be part of NCUC join here!

A hearty South Africa goodbye, Sala kakuhle!



Comments are closed