NCUC at AIS: Towards a broader engagement in Africa
I had the pleasure to be selected to the ICANN CROP Program (Community Regional Outreach Program) to represent the Non Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) at the Africa Internet Summit(AIS) 2018, in Dakar, Senegal. The AIS is an annual, regional, multi-stakeholder ICT conference, hosted by Africa’s Regional Internet Registry (Afrinic). The event takes 3 weeks with the first two weeks for training, and the third is left for Afrinic policy discussions. This is where policies issues on the management of IP addresses, Afrinic operations and leadership are discussed and voted on. The attendees of this event usually include Afrinic members, who are majorly the service providers who buy IP addresses from Afrinic, ICANN community members from the region, members of the AF* organizations, African government representatives, and others interested in the development of Internet Infrastructure in Africa. It is one event that has very little participation of the Non Commercial Internet Users, yet, the policies developed at Afrinic affects all internet users in the region and are directly related to ICANN’s work..
I had prepared a proposal for a session with the members of the NCUC and submitted it in response to the AIS call for proposals. The proposed session was on capacity building. It targeted the Afrinic community members from the Civil Society, and the local AIS participants who were not part of the NCUC, or were part of it, but were not that active. Civil society organizations play a vital role in holding governance entities accountable. They are best positioned to act as a communication bridge between ICANN, Afrinic and the public as they are able to understand complex issues of public interest and shape the Domain Name System (DNS) language in a way that the public can understand. However, not enough civil society organizations and individuals are involved in the region or make substantial contributions to technical Internet Governance issues. And this poses a threat to the ICANN policy development ecosystem as there is an increasing need for continuity in community input and in bringing new and divergent voices into the processes.
Given that ICANN usually has a full day workshop in the policy week, Afrinic and GSE team saw it would be better for NCUC to participate at ICANN day, instead of having a separate workshop. Other ICANN constituencies like Afralo and the ISP community in ICANN were already active in this space.
I presented on the NCUC processes, highlighting how newcomers can join and start taking part in NCUC’s work. I talked about the mentorship program, NCUC policy course and the opportunities for engagement, such as penholding for reviews and policy contributions on the mailing list. In attendance, were ICANN community members, local civil society groups and students. Some of the questions that arose included the steps that NCUC took to build more capacity in Africa and concerns on the low participation of Africa civic organizations in the region, especially from the francophone countries. Together with the audience I explained issues on perception of the civil society on ICT and also specifically on the perception of issues on the Internet Architecture being too technical for non-techies.
Because of time, event participants took other opportunities to network also outside the panel engagement to ask about the NCUC, how to join and who to contact as their regional representatives.
I also worked with the GSE and Edem Kobla at the ICANN booth, where talked to civic organizations and civil society groups about the works of NCUC and directed them to the NCUC’s page and recordings for the NCUC Policy Writing Course. NCUC participation in this year’s AIS was important, mostly because it managed to bring in African Francophone participants who are few, compared to the anglophone. This fulfilled the diverse membership recruitment objective. NCUC regularly addresses their francophone members database through tweets, translated materials and members calls.
The Community Regional Pilot Programme(CROP) is now one of the core ICANN programmes that seek to build ICANN regional awareness, recruit community members and reactivate previously active members. Each ICANN community is usually given 5 slots for CROP every year. At NCUC, a member can apply for this program through proposals for outreach to the executive committee and to the NCUC members. Please read more about the program here.
More detail about the AIS https://www.internetsummit.africa/.