For newcomers, their introduction to ICANN can be overwhelming. Our structures and processes can appear incomprehensible; our website information difficult to decipher; our annual meetings a maze of complex issues; our community constituencies might look impenetrable.
Many have taken advantage of ICANN's Newcomer and Fellowship programs to ease their entry into this unique world. And if you are a first timer, uncertain whether you can handle the challenge, understand that all of us were new to ICANN at some point.
But Arun Sukumar has taken that challenge a step further.
Arun is a lawyer and a senior fellow at the Centre for Communications Governance at the National Law University in Dehli, India. He had never been to an ICANN meeting until ICANN 52 in Singapore in February. He described his experience as "a voice in the wilderness". "Personally, I have found that it takes a whole lot of warming up to", Arun said. But he wasn't discouraged.
I met Arun in Istanbul in March, at the two-day meeting of the Cross Community Working Group tasked with developing proposals to enhance ICANN's Accountability - a necessary process running parallel to the IANA Stewardship Transition work. When the processes began and ICANN encouraged broad participation from beyond the traditional ICANN communities, Arun accepted that challenge as well and joined the CCWG Accountability as one of 135 participants. The Istanbul meeting was the first time he had met face to face with the other members and participants of the CCWG.
During one of the work breaks, Arun agreed to sit down and talk with me on camera. He explained that the National Law University in Dehli supports his travel for participation in ICANN. His job is to report back to those stakeholders in India who can't afford to attend ICANN meetings, to make them broadly aware of what ICANN is all about. Arun said there is great interest in India in the role ICANN plays in Internet governance, and particularly in the IANA stewardship transition and ICANN accountability processes.
Before attending the meeting in Istanbul, Arun participated in the CCWG discussions online. He raised questions about the role of the independent advisors in the CCWG, about ICANN's Mission Statement and Core Values.
But Arun admitted, his entry into ICANN hasn't been easy.
"To be frank, it has been an uphill task to be part of the institutional culture of ICANN, to be an active participant in ICANN discussions, because I have found that there are some concerns about diversity that ICANN has to address immediately, especially around the context of the IANA transition".
But Arun also said he had established a rapport with several CCWG members and participants online and that during the face to face meeting in Istanbul he found it easy to communicate ideas with the group "even though they may not be entirely acceptable to people sitting across the table".
When the Istanbul meeting ended on that second day and most members and participants had left the room, I noticed Arun had not. He was standing with two others from the group, listening for the most part, as they offered suggestions on community constituencies that might interest him and how he could further ease his entry into ICANN, reminding him that they too once were newcomers.
The full video interview with Arun Sukumar can be found here.