Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category
After an amazing dance performance to open its Nairobi meeting this morning, ICANN’s CEO and President Rod Beckstrom threw down the gauntlet to African governments. In his opening speech, Beckstrom got quickly through the usual platitudes about the Internet’s potential to speed up economic development. He instead highlighted successes in development led by using a more bottom-up approach (the ‘Internet approach’) and identified Kenya as a leader. But despite all this good work, Beckstrom noted, there are still a billion people in Africa that need to be connected. What should be done for them?
Beckstrom invited east African heads of state from the IGAD meeting in this building tomorrow to come over to the ICANN meeting, taking ‘a few small steps for them and making a big leap for the Internet in Africa’. Then he told us how he really feels…
Beckstrom threw down the gauntlet to all African governments, asking them to:*
- Shatter telecoms monopolies. He asked ‘how can the poorest people on earth pay the highest internet prices?’ and called out high connectivity costs as an impediment to development.
- Dispel the untrue stories about the Internet circulating in Africa, specifically the myth that there aren’t enough IPv6 addresses for African countries. He said Afrinic, the regional Internet registry for Africa, is one of the finest RIRs in the world and has over a trillion addresses to give out already. Globally, IPv6 create enough addresses to give a million each to every man woman and child in the world. Beckstrom called on African leaders to hold their ministers responsible and dispel those dishonest scarcity stories. He went so far as to say that people who spread dishonest stories cannot be trusted to make policy.
- Get more involved in Internet policy making. 19 African countries are represented on ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, but over 30 are missing. If these countries don’t have a seat at the table, how can they shape the future of the Internet?
- Look at the Internet not just as a part of critical industrial structure, but as a platform for the future and for development.
Stopping just short of calling unnamed government people liars, Beckstrom unleashed some bold rhetoric about IPv6 and how, implicitly, untruths about the numbers available are being used to further a political agenda that is emphatically not bottom-up, not multi-stakeholder and not in the interests of anyone who wants an innovative, open and end to end network. It was a brave speech which, by some accounts, had already been toned down to better meet the political sensitivities of the region. Many thought it still went too far. (more…)
Although I no longer work for ICANN, I’d planned on attending its meeting in Nairobi next month to meet old friends and drum up some work for my new consulting business. The Nairobi meeting is scheduled to run from 7-12 March. The biggest issue on the table is a crucial stage in the addition of new top level domains; the vote by the Board on how to handle expressions of interest. But in the last 24 hours, ICANN’s COO, Doug Brent, has published a security warning that may result in the meeting being cancelled.
If this happens, it will be a real blow for the Kenyan Internet community. A previously planned meeting in Nairobi was cancelled because of security concerns prompted by election violence a couple of years ago. I thought this was the wrong call at the time, as election violence tends to die down and our meeting wasn’t till several months later. But I didn’t question and don’t envy the people who have to make that decision.
An ICANN meeting brings about 1200 people from around the world to a country chosen from host applications about a year in advance. It’s a mix between a trade show and a party conference, with endless parallel sessions, soap-boxing, hallway deal-making and late night drinking. Probably two thirds of the participants are regulars, and there’s always a ‘back to school’ feeling on the first day as you greet people you’ve not seen in months with an enthusiasm that wears off in about a nanosecond. The dominance of the regulars causes ongoing criticism that the whole travelling circus doesn’t work to get more and different people to take part, and should halt its global peregrinations and stay put in L.A., Frankfurt or Singapore. (more…)