Finally got a chance to sit down and write down my ICANN57 Fellows Program experience 🙂

ICANN57 Hyderabad Logo

Given the privilege of attending ICANN57 mega-event in November, 2016 at Hyderabad as a fellow from India, I am sharing my amazing experience where I made a lot of new connections and wonderful friends from different parts of the world. I had the opportunity to learn different things along with gaining enough knowledge about the working of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Trust me, had quite a bit of fun experiencing this whole new world and documenting it for others to benefit.

The ICANN57 Fellows program experience article contains four main segments:

  • Introduction to ICANN
  • Introduction to ICANN Fellows Program
  • Fellows Daily Activities During ICANN57
  • ICANN57 Learnings

Manmeet Pal Singh at ICANN57I was awarded ICANN57 fellowship for the first time by Development and Public Responsibility Dept. within ICANN to attend and represent India at Hyderabad, India from 3-9 November 2016. As a member of ICANN’s Fellows Program, ICANN provides (almost full) financial support for you in order for you to prepare and attend the 57th International public ICANN meeting.

I have mentioned “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ and “ICANN” quite a few times already in this article and I am sure, most of you wouldn’t even know about the organization and its mission. So without wasting much time, lets get started about this wonderful experience with a small introduction to the ICANN world.

Introduction to ICANN

For those who are not aware of ICANN and what it does, here is a short excerpt from Wikipedia:

ICANN Logo The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces (domain names) of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.

ICANN was founded on September 18, 1998 by Jon Postel; about 18 years ago and incorporated on September 30, 1998 in the U.S. state of California under Esther Dyson as founding chairwoman. ICANN operates and lives by the slogan, “One World. One Internet.” The current key positions are held by Göran Marby (CEO and President, ICANN) and Steve Crocker (Chairman of the ICANN Board). It is headquartered in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles.

ICANN Community Multistakeholder Model

ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

Introduction to ICANN Fellows Program

The ICANN Fellows program is how ICANN’s Development and Public Responsibility Department supports and encourages new people from the community to participate and engage in the work of corporation.

ICANN Fellows Program

This program intends to create a broader and more diverse base of knowledgeable participants in order to continue building upon its mission to build capacity within the ICANN Multistakeholder Model. High priority under this program is given to candidates currently living in underserved and underrepresented communities around the world, those who represent diversity of gender, sector, region, experience, and expertise, and/or have established financial need. Participation in the program at an ICANN Meeting is a “fast track” experience of engagement into that community model, with presentations designed to facilitate understanding of the many pieces and parts of ICANN while providing opportunities to network and promoting interaction with ICANN Community and Staff.

Each candidate selected into the program through the online application and assessment process is provided a grant of support that covers the cost of economy class airfare, hotel and a stipend. Fellowship recipients are expected to engage prior to, during and after the ICANN meeting with the ICANN Fellowship office, Program Alumni, Newcomer Coaches and their selected peers, as well as begin to actively contribute to ICANN processes upon completion of the Program.

Read in detail about ICANN Fellows Program here.

Fellows Daily Activities During ICANN57

I arrived at the Oakwood Residence Kapil – Hyderabad in the wee hours, early morning of 3rd November 2016 where all fellows were staying for the ICANN57 meeting. I got some sleep and freshen-up early to get to Hyderabad International Convention Centre, Novotel & HICC Complex where ICANN57 was scheduled from 4th till 9th November, 2016. Got my registration done early, received a badge and welcome kit. I was quite curious, excited and well interested to follow everything from the day zero without missing anything.

ICANN57 Thursday 3rd November

Since it was day zero (Thursday, 3rd November) and there was nothing yet for us Newcomers/Fellows to do, I decided to attend couple of interesting sessions starting at 10:30 AM (HALL 4) – GAC WG to examine GAC’s participation in the NomCom meeting. Being an active member of NomCom 2 Working Party, this one in particular and few other related sessions were of high interest to me. This meeting of the working group discussed different scenarios for GAC participation in NomCom while focusing on which criteria could the GAC perhaps send to the NomCom as a first step towards increasing or improving their participation in the NomCom for those selected candidates by NomCom. Olga Cavalli mentioned the fact that GAC hasnt been sending a nonvoting participant to the NomCom. She also mentioned that there is proposed change in the structure of NomCom since Los Angeles meeting in 2014, however that is yet to be implemented. For example; Five members for the ALAC, four for the GNSO. This is a change for the GNSO. Five for the ccNSO, five for the ASO, one for the IAB, IETF. And they propose that the GAC could have up to three voting members, depending on what the GAC decides. Could be one, two, or three. And members from the SSAC, RSSAC, and IETF. And also the nonvoting chair, the nonvoting chair elect, and the nonvoting associate chair. The proposed change in the structure is to try and bring more balance in relation with the representation of  the different SOs and ACs.

Next one, GNSO – New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group Face-to-Face Meeting was of high interest to me which started at around 13:45 PM. The New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group has been tasked with calling upon the community’s collective experiences from the 2012 New gTLD Program round to determine what, if any changes may need to be made to the existing introduction of New gTLD policy recommendations from 8th August, 2007. I had walked up to the microphone and inquired from the working group on whether there still is a need for introduction of second round of gTLDs when we compare their adoption with legacy TLDs? I am yet to get a satisfactory answer to my question 🙂

GNSO at ICANN57 Thursday 3rd November

The real deal for ICANN57 Fellows started at 08:30 AM on Friday 4th November, 2016 with an early morning Meet & Greet. The ICANN57 Fellows Program was lead by Siranush Vardanyan, Fellowship Coordinator from Development and Public Responsibility Dept., ICANN.

ICANN57 Fellows and NetGen Friday 4th November

Post meet & greet breakfast, almost full day session started by Jeannie Ellers (GSE Support Sr Manager, ICANN) and Deborah Escalera (Next Generation Coordinator, ICANN) at around 11:00 AM and continued till 16:45 PM for Newcomers in Hall 2 where we were introduced to ICANN and multistakeholder model functioning by several speakers starting from Asia-Pacific region. First up was Samiran Gupta (Head of India, ICANN) introducing ICANN to all of us newcomers followed by Kelvin Wong (Head of Outreach & Public Responsibility for Asia Pacific, ICANN), Jia Rong Low (Vice President GSE And Managing Director – APAC Hub, ICANN) and Joyce Chen (GSE Strategy & Development Senior Manager, ICANN). This is where I chimed in with a question about slide number 12 that was being showcased by Kelvin and team. The question was, “Slide number 12, I saw something. There’s a last point which says government representatives request or advice has a special status. Could you elaborate a little on this special status? Are they given some sort of a special treatment or the advice coming from the government gets approved somehow or private sector or the other sectors are not looked into — or they are looked into but they’re not given a special status. I am just looking for a little clarity on the special status part. Thank you.”

My question was promptly answered by Jia Rong Low (Vice President GSE And Managing Director – APAC Hub, ICANN) who said, “GAC advice. All GAC advice must be considered by the Board so if the Board does not take GAC advice, they also must write and explain why they do not take on the GAC advice. In other words, this is why it’s a special status because the Board has to actually explain. If they do not take on the Government Advisory Committee’s advice, then they have to explain it. Now, 99% of all Government Advisory Committee advice is accepted by the Board but the few minority that is not, the Board must explain why and this is the reason why it has a special status behind it. Just a related point to this is because some people like to criticize that governments coming to ICANN and it’s just an advisory role. But you say ICANN says that every different stakeholder group has a voice and each voice is equal so why is this that way. So the reason why is structurally the Government Advisory Committee because is structured this way it can vet all the policies that’s being created so every policy comes up from the Supporting Organizations — the Generic Names Supporting Organization or the Country Codes Name Supporting Organization. Every policy that comes up from there has to go through the Advisory Committee so it allows the governments to be able to look at all the policies that come up. This is one way that helps in terms of structure and that provides the ability for governments to look at all the policies. The special status in this regard, as I explained, and it’s important not to discount the role of governance but at the same time, any role, whichever Stakeholder Group you are from, do not discount yourself from that. I think it’s important to highlight and my colleagues have mentioned, whether you represent a government, your business, your advocacy group, or even as an end-user yourself, your voice will be heard. What’s important for us as a group here from this region is that we are not used to speaking up and we want to be able to help you facilitate and encourage you to speak up because that’s what we need. Half of our global Internet users are from this region. The next billion majority are coming from this region so we have to participate, we have to get our voices heard, and it’s important for us to understand the issues so that we can participate more activity. This is where I hope to encourage you, to stay engaged with us, we hope to work with you, and to have more people know about the various ICANN issues as ongoing. Thank you very much.”

There was short break for lunch, and post lunch Anne-Rachel Inne (VP, Government Engagement, Geneva) from Government Engagement Group gave an overview of Internet Governance. After Anne-Rachel Inne’s session, Deborah introduced Ayden FĂ©rdeline from Non-Commercial Users Constituency sharing his thoughts on how Civil Society participates at ICANN. From here on Jean-Jacques Sahel (Vice-President – Global Stakeholder Engagement, Europe) took over and shared about how he coordinates ICANN’s engagement with Civil Society worldwide. Riccardo Ruffolo (GSE Specialist, ICANN) continued from there on and shared how he helps with business and private sector engagement around the world. I jumped up to the microphone and asked a question in personal capacity. The question was, “I’ve been a domain name consultant for the last 15 years so I thought when you said business constituency comprises of registries and registrars, does it also comprises of consultants, or it’s just for those two group?” Riccardo answered clarifying, “The stakeholders groups are the registrars and registries. Stakeholder groups, I believe that they’re comprised of accredited registrars and registries specifically. The Business Constituency is for commercial interests broadly, so yeah. The Business Constituency would probably be something that you should look into.” Albert Daniels (Stakeholder Engagement Sr. Manager – The Caribbean, ICANN) and Patrick Jones (Senior Director – Global Stakeholder Engagement, ICANN) also participated by making few points and answering questions about Stakeholder Engagement. More speakers followed suite as Heidi Ullrich and Maureen Hilyard discussed on how end users participate at ICANN. Sherwood Moore (Senior Project Manager – Strategic Communication & Community Engagement, ICANN) appeared to present an overview on ICANN reviews and process involved. Christopher Mondini (VP – Stakeholder Engagement NA & GBE, ICANN) participated to talk about the IANA Transition and where we stand now. Jackie Treiber and Dustin Phillips from ICANN WIKI came to talk about WIKI Edit-A-Thon. Last but not the least, newcomers session concluded with Walid Al-Sawaf and Amrita Choudhury, who came to talk a little bit about the ICANN Information Booth.

The DNSSEC For Everybody: Beginner’s Guide session started at 17:00 PM in Hall 2 which was followed by Fellowship Stipend Handout & Networking event at 18:30 PM in Novotel Lawns. This brought knowledgeable day one to a productive close.

Opening of ICANN57 by Samiran Gupta Head of India at ICANN

The Saturday 5th November, 2016 marked the commencement of ICANN57 by Samiran Gupta (Head of India, ICANN) at 09:00 AM with Opening Ceremony in Hall 3. Samiran introduced all the dignitaries in his welcome speech and some notable ones were the Honorable Union Minister of Law and Justice and Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Honorable Minister for Information Technology of Telangana, KT Rama Rao, Chairman of the ICANN board, Dr. Steve Crocker; President and CEO of ICANN, Göran Marby; and member of the Number Resource Organization’s Executive Council, Paul Wilson.Opening followed by speeches from each of the mentioned dignitaries.

Fellowship Daily Session started at 10:45 AM which included various sessions; one from Alan Greenberg (At-Large Advisory Committee Chair) and Maureen Hilyard (ALAC member, Alumni) at 11:00 AM. There was another one on Introduction to ICANN Reviews session by Sherwood Moore at 11:30 AM. Brad Verd and Tripti Sinha of Root Server System Advisory Committee Co-Chairs came in at 12:00 Noon while Patrik Fältström of Security and Stability Advisory Committee Chair was scheduled to speak at 12:30 PM to conclude daily fellowship sessions.

There was high interest session recommended for fellows on topic of Mitigation Of Abuse In gTLDs scheduled at 13:45 PM at HALL 3, where I participated and took notes on discussions on collaborative abuse related data collection efforts within the community, what are various abuse related blacklist sources, and how registry/registrar are complying on gTLD abuse. I also participated in Public Forum 1 at 17:00 PM in HALL 3 and wanted to ask few questions to Thomas Schneider from the GAC, however could not due to time constraint. I took that discussion offline and had a good half hour question/answer discussion with Thomas Schneider post Public Forum 1. The busy day concluded with ICANN57 Gala Night generously sponsored by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India which started at 19:30 PM and went on till late.

ICANN57 Gala Night

ICANN57 Gala Night

ICANN57 Fellows Program Coordinator Siranush Vardanyan

ICANN57 Fellows Program Coordinator Siranush Vardanyan (second from right)

Sunday 6th November, 2016 started as usual with Fellowship Daily Session starting at 11:00 AM which included various sessions; Dr. Richard Lamb (Sr. Program Manager DNSSEC, ICANN) took us through DNS Abuse and How We can Help Law Enforcement Understand, Why I have Been at ICANN for 10 Years at 11:00 AM followed by a session from Olga Cavalli (GAC Member, ICANN) at 11:30 AM. Greg Shatan (Intellectual Property Constituency Chair, ICANN) came in at 12:00 NOON while Stephane Van Gelder (2016 Nominating Committee Chair, ICANN), Hans Petter Holen (2017 Nominating Committee Chair, ICANN) and Zahid Jamil (2017 Nominating Committee Chair Elect, ICANN) spoke about working of Nominating Committee at 12:30 PM where I participated as well being an active member of NomCom 2 Working Party.

There was recommended session for fellows; Public Interest Session at 15:15 PM in HALL 3 where Olivier Crepin-Leblond (EURALO Chair, ICANN) initiated discussions about engaging the public interest within
ICANN’s remit. He was accompanies by Wolf Ludwig from EURALO who spoke about the historical and political nuances of the concept of the global public interest from European perspective, Rajesh Chharia from the Internet Service Provider Association of India and also a member of the board in APNIC, Jonathan Robinson and Becky Burr (soon to be an ICANN board member) from the GNSO, reaching a shared understanding about the concept of the public interest from ICANN and community perspective, Thomas Schneider from the GAC spoke about how the public interest could be operationalized as the basis of decision-making at ICANN, followed by open microphone for contributions from community.

Manmeet Pal Singh Asking Question at ICANN57

Manmeet Pal Singh Asking Question at ICANN57

Manmeet Pal Singh Asking Question at ICANN57

Manmeet Pal Singh Asking Question at ICANN57

To close the day, we had Fellowship Daily Wrap session at 17:00 PM in Hall 4 where Elizabeth Andrews (Academic Specialist and Sr Research Analyst, ICANN) shared ICANN Learn Presentation and fielded questions on how to improve the platform for others to benefit from it. I had also pitched in with my suggestions on how to better engage outside world and spread awareness by sharing ICANN Learn content on various popular platforms.

Monday 7th November, 2016 started with Fellowship Daily Session starting at 11:00 AM in Hall G 01/02 where first session was conducted by Christopher Wilson (Commercial and Business Users Constituency Chair, ICANN) followed by session from Tapani Tarvainen (Non Commercial Stakeholder Group Chair, ICANN) at 11:30 AM. AT 11:50 AM, Klaus Stoll (Not For Profit Operational Concerns Constituency Chair, ICANN) spoke to Fellows for a brief period of 20 minutes. Rafik Dammak (Non Commercial Users Constituency Chair, ICANN) came in at 12:10 PM while Katrina Sataki (Country Code Name Supporting Organization Chair, ICANN) spoke to us at 12:30 PM about each of their constituencies and related work groups.

Random Session at ICANN57

A high interest topic of Underserved Regions In ICANN at 17:00 PM in HALL 3 was recommended to all the fellows. The session was hosted by Alice Munyua (African Union Commission Co-Chair of GAC Underserved Regions Working Group, ICANN). The panelists of session included Abdalla Omari (ccNSO, African region), Olga Cavalli (GAC Member, ICANN), Pua Hunter (Co-Chair for the Underserved Region), Siranush Vardanyan (Development and Public Responsibility Department, ICANN) and also responsible for fellowship program, Andrew Mack with AMGlobal, Tijani Ben Jemaa (ALAC Vice Chair, ICANN), Cheryl Langdon-Orr (Member APRALO, ICANN), Michele Neylon (Member Registrar Stakeholder Group, ICANN), Rubens Kuhl (Member gTLD Registry and ccTLD Registry, ICANN), Jonathan Zuck (Chair of the Affirmation of Commitments-mandated review on Competition, Consumer Choice, and Consumer Trust). The focus of session was mainly on regions underserved by the DNS industry and on least developed economies and small island nations. I also participated in this session by asking 2 different questions. My first question was for Jonathan Zuck, “Since ICANN’s core mission is to serve the availability and integrity of the names and numbers, do you think giving freehand to the registries or the registrars to basically (high) price their domain names will serve that purpose”? Jonathan gave an interesting answer, “I mean, I guess I don’t know the answer. I don’t know that I see the connection between those two things. I mean, I think you want to give them the ability to price their products because they’re going to try to differentiate them. So if I’m .BANK, for example, and I’m trying to offer a kind of a certification program that says that nobody in this domain is allowed except actual registered financial institutions, I have a higher cost to bringing on new registrants than others do. And I’m going to charge more as a result, but I’m delivering more value as well. And so I think that you’re going to see variations in cost and competition — maybe some competition on cost, but competition may be on service as well. So I think, yes. I think to answer your question, I think letting them choose their own price is the best way to maximize availability.”. My second question followed and that was for GNSO, “Michele mentioned, while I completely agree with what he said, that there’s barely a need for new gTLDs in developed or undeveloped regions. Of course, been in the industry for 15 years. I know there’s only .COM everywhere or ccTLDs. 160 million .COMs compared to about 20-35 or 30 million gTLDs. Still a long way to go. But now that they’re here, what are we actually doing to, you know, bring that awareness into the market so that end users are the consumers who actually cannot get their hands on the name that they want, they get a different gTLD? So it’s basically related to the awareness that we’re trying to bring in the market for gTLDs since they’re already here”. Andrew Muck took charge here and answered my second question, “I can tell you that what has happened to this point has clearly not reached critical mass in the general public, okay? So if your question is about are we reaching the kinds of people who ostensibly we wanted to touch through the new gTLD program, I think it’s a pretty resounding no. We are especially not reaching them in the global south. But I think it’s fair to say we are not reaching them in the global anywhere else in a meaningful way. We talked to a conglomerate head in Pakistan and a couple of people in Thailand and Cambodia who were very concerned that not only were there going to be problems of awareness but also there were conceivably technical problems. And so I think it’s not just a question to get the knowledge out there but also to make sure that people realize that this is, in fact, something that can work technically. But that said, this is going to be a slow build and the newer the region is — the research we did, the newer the region is to active participation in the DNS as a business activity the more time this may take. So to Jonathan’s point, there’s no question that this is not a silver bullet and there is no question that people around the world are not there expecting that a new gTLD is going to revolutionize their personal economy. That said, it is one tool. I would argue that we as the community tasked with looking after this part of the technical world, we should see what we can do to see if it can’t have a positive impact on the global south. And so at whatever point in time, whether the marketplace catches up now, in future, or even never that this at least is an option for people from the global south who wish to pursue it”. Fellows wrapped up our day with Fellowship Program Daily Wrap-Up session concluding at 19:30 PM.

Manmeet Pal Singh Participating at ICANN57

Pretty engaging day and sessions for me, all Thanks for the encouragement and piece of advice’s from my always helpful ICANN57 Fellows Coach; Paul Muchene and support from lovely ICANN57 Fellows Coordinator; Siranush Vardanyan 🙂

Tuesday 8th November, 2016 started with Annual General Board Meeting in Hall 3 at early 08:30 AM, which was of course not necessary for fellows to attend, however recommended as part of Fellows Program. Fellowship Daily Session started at 11:00 AM as usual in Hall 1 where first session was conducted by Anthony Holmes (Internet Service Provider Constituency Chair, ICANN) followed by participating and attending Public Forum 2 in Hall 3 at 11:30 AM which was initiated by Steve Crocker (Chairman of the ICANN Board). Community Recognition Program started at 13:00 PM in Hall 3 where the extraordinary commitment and contributions of 36 leaders from the global multistakeholder community were recognized to the work of ICANN. In between, there was a NextGen session which I skipped and went ahead to be part of Fellowship Program Daily Wrap-Up session at 18:00 PM in Hall 1 followed by ICANN 57 Community Cocktail at 18:30 PM in Novotel Lawn.

Wednesday 9th November, 2016 was the concluding day for almost everyone at ICANN57 and fellows started the day with Fellowship Daily Session at 11:00 AM in Hall G 03/04. Gomes Chuck (Working Group and Review Enthusiast Reps) came to share his views which was followed by Louie Lee (Address Supporting Organization Chair, ICANN) in his cowboy hat at 11:30 AM. fellows also got the opportunity to interact with few ICANN Board Members; Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Asha Hemrajani & Lousewies Vanderlaan at 12:15 PM which is just before lunch. ICANN57 Fellows Program participants got-together to take a group photo shared below.

ICANN57 Fellows Program Wrap Up Group Photo

ICANN57 Learnings

I am going to definitely try and keep this short and sweet. It’s been almost a month ever since I’ve returned from Hyderabad after participating in ICANN 57 as a Fellow and want to take a moment to thank you the whole ICANN staff for making it such a worthwhile experience. I know there are many months involved in planning and executing the event–and it has well-showed. I attended and participated in sessions relevant to my interest and very helpful in professional growth as I have been actively involved in Domain Names industry from last 15+ years. I especially liked the sessions conducted by GNSO (Generic Name Supporting Organization) whose work is focused on policy building and I am already engaged by being on their mailing list. I am also part of the NomCom 2 Working Party and pledge to stay engaged with the various other ICANN supporting organizations in due course of time. I have further committed and registered to participate in ICANN’s 58th Public Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark from 11-16 March 2017.

Last but not the least, Thank you Siranush and Paul for making this a life changing, or better put life-evolving experience.

Photos Source: ICANN Flickr

  1. Hey Manmeet,

    It is an honor to be a part of such event. There is a lot to learn from your experience there. Keep the good work up. Thanks for sharing with us here.

    • Thank you Riyaz for your kind words. I am trying to do my best to share the domain name industry experiences in hope of growth and success for everyone:-)

    • Thank you LG, I am doing my best from time to time.

      I am dedicated to spreading Internet awareness since 2014. Some of the examples are Domain Name Owners Association of India which is not-for-profit organization spreading domain name awareness, DomainX Events dedicated to spreading knowledge through (free or paid) conference/events, BlogX series of events again providing a dedicated platform for bloggers to spread content creation awareness.

  2. Hey Manmeet,
    Glad to meet you. Happy to see that we enjoyed the event with all the last minute Masti we did. Hope to collaborate soon 🙂

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