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Business Engagement Guest Blogger Series: Leonard Obonyo

23 May 2016

Leonard Obonyo

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A Newcomer's Experience at ICANN55 in Marrakech

Attending an ICANN Public Meeting for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Going into ICANN55, I was lucky to have colleagues, ICANN staff and fellow community members guide me. My colleague Fiona Asonga, a long-time ICANN community member, advised me to begin with the Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers (ISPCP) Constituency. It was a good starting point – TESPOK, my organization, is a member of ISPCP.

To learn more about ICANN as a whole, I attended the Sunday welcome lunch for business stakeholders, a networking event organized by the ICANN Stakeholder Engagement team. I attended different introductory sessions, which helped me understand how the ISPCP and other interest groups fit within ICANN's multistakeholder model. I also wanted to interact with representatives from different organizations.

Having found an interesting and relevant constituency, my first objective was to learn as much as possible about how the ISPCP works. At the ISPCP meeting, Wolf-Ulrich Knoben, ISPCP Deputy Chair, spoke about the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Stewardship Transition and ICANN accountability. Being new, I was eager to hear positions on this matter from members of the ISPCP and the Generic Names Supporting Organization. At the same meeting, I participated in informative discussions on issues surrounding the expansion of Internet connectivity and common barriers to Internet access, hot topics in Africa.

I was particularly interested in another presentation on the work of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG). After listening to the discussion of the group's activities, I can see how the ISPCP constituency can play a major role in the UASG's mission. Working together, the two groups can ensure that the world's systems can update, accept, validate, store, process and display all top-level domains. Universal Acceptance is not a common topic in Africa, but I hope to increase awareness by working with the UASG.

For me, the most impressive presentation came from the Japan Internet Service Providers. They provided great insights into how Internet traffic in Asia compares with that of my home country of Kenya and East Africa at large. I learned about the drivers of Internet traffic in Japan, and how TESPOK can use its research role to determine similar drivers in my region.

ICANN55 Marrakech was a good forum to meet and engage with ISPCP participants from all corners of the globe. Despite our geographical and cultural differences, I found shared understanding and clear communication. My newfound colleagues will benefit my work with operators and end users in my country. I returned from ICANN55 with viewpoints that can help TESPOK'S core mission of addressing ISPCP issues in my region.

Attending ICANN55 exceeded my expectations. I was overwhelmed at first, but by the end of the meeting, I was participating confidently in multistakeholder policy discussions. Going forward, I am ready to support ICANN's work and to be involved in ISPCP activities in Kenya and the African region.

Leonard Obonyo