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Experiencing ICANN53 as a NextGen member

2 August 2015
By Mark Datysgeld

The NextGen@ICANN program hasn't been around for a long time, having begun in Singapore's ICANN 49. In that sense, it was a surprise to see applications were open for ICANN53, which was to be held close to Brazil, in chilly Buenos Aires. I applied without having a clear sense of what was expected of me, seeing as information available on the program wasn't very plentiful at the time. All that was clear was that it was an unique opportunity for young people from the region to get involved in the proceedings of the meeting. For somebody pursuing a Master's degree focused on the Internet such as myself, that was reason enough to apply.

Official sources (https://www.icann.org/news/blog/meet-the-nextgen-icann-53-buenos-aires-members) relay that there were over 200 applicants, of which 17 were chosen. It felt exciting to be picked from what I'm sure was a pool of very bright and talented people. Being part of the group was very important to a lot of us, as it's quite expensive for a student or starter-level employee to attend to an international meeting, even if it's regional. Airfare and accommodation costs put together with several other smaller expenses add up to a prohibitive sum, thus excluding most young and almost all less well-to-do people from the process.

This is something that I feel should be seen as the core of the NextGen program. It celebrates two important concepts: first, bringing in younger people that will possibly play important roles in the institution in the future, or at the very least help spread much-needed awareness about ICANN. Second, this sends out a message that ICANN does acknowledge that it has a social role to play, and one of the ways it can do so is by empowering people with good ideas that wouldn't really have the same level of access to the process as peers with more financial resources. This goes a long way in terms of proving the validity of the program.

Here I should stress the importance of attending an ICANN meeting in person. There are very interesting and useful ways to participate remotely, and this is something that indeed should be noted. However, actually being immersed in the environment provides insights that are hard to gather remotely. Having read a substantial amount of material regarding the institution before attending the meeting, I can say with confidence that it does not amount to the same results as actually being there.

It could be said that ICANN's multistakeholder model is better experienced than studied. There are many layers of interaction going on in a simultaneous manner, and in some way all of them communicate with each other. This is as fascinating as it is confusing, and the relative insularity of the ICANN community makes it so that just appreciating this from afar does not feel like it is enough.

Mentioning insularity in the same paragraph as I mention the multistakeholder model may seem provocative, but it isn't. The community as a whole was very welcoming of us, with very few exceptions. What it felt like though was that it doesn't yet know many ways to reach out to the world outside. There are esoteric processes that go on in ICANN that are not documented or explained well, and I feel it is important to take this in consideration moving forward. In time, the environment should be more and more welcoming of newcomers, not only in terms of attitude, but also in terms of easier access to information.

On that subject, it was truly exceptional to be able to interact with such a varied community. The horizontality of the interactions that go on in an ICANN meeting feel invigorating, and being a part of the NextGen program brought us quite a few perks – though on the other hand we did have to put on a stressful (but valuable) presentation. We had the opportunity to be briefed and helped by the nice people of the Development and Public Responsibility Department, who guided us through much of the experience. We also had the benefit of having lunch with some notable stakeholders that provided us the chance to ask them questions directly, which was very elucidating.

Coming out of the meeting, there are many ideas in my head. I'm making a serious attempt at establishing a short-term Internet Governance course in Brazil run by NextGen members, so that we can share our knowledge and help spread information about ICANN's multistakeholder model.  This is the sort of result that I feel the community can expect from the NextGen, and if you continue to give us the opportunity to prove our worth, I'm sure you won't regret it.

Development and Public Responsibility Department (DPRD)

The Development and Public Responsibility Department (DPRD), works to streamline and formalize ICANN's development and public responsibility efforts in collaboration with regional teams, other ICANN Departments, and external organizations so that ICANN may better serve and broaden the community, and facilitate participation through specific and measureable tracks. The DPRD's current areas of focus include: Participation in Global Internet Cooperation and Development, Supporting the Next Generation, and Supporting Education and Academic Outreach. For more information on the DPRD, please visit: https://www.icann.org/development-and-public-responsibility or contact dprd@icann.org.

Fellowship Program

The Fellowship Program, which is a part of the Development and Public Responsibility Department's (DPRD) efforts to support the next generation, aims to create a broader and more regionally diverse base of knowledgeable constituents by reaching out to less developed regions of the world in order to build capacity within the ICANN Multistakeholder Model. The program facilitates a "fast track" engagement experience for selected fellows at ICANN Meetings to promote understanding of the many pieces and parts of ICANN while providing opportunities to network and interact with staff and community leaders. More information on the Fellowship Program and how to apply can be found at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/fellowships-2012-02-25-en or by contacting dprd@icann.org.


The NextGen@ICANN Program, which is a part of the Development and Public Responsibility Department's (DPRD) efforts to support the next generation, aims to raise awareness and inform university and graduate students, ages 18-30 from the region of each ICANN Meeting, on the role of ICANN, the multistakeholder model, and the Internet ecosystem. Selected student applicants are invited to attend and participate in a regional ICANN Meeting, facilitated through small groups with targeted programming. NextGen participants are also invited to present a past or current project related to ICANN's work in an event attended by ICANN community and staff. To apply for the NextGen@ICANN Program, please visit https://www.icann.org/development-and-public-responsibility/nextgen or contact nextgen@icann.org for more information.

Newcomer Orientation

The Development and Public Responsibility Department (DPRD) organizes a special day-long interactive orientation session at each ICANN Meeting to welcome newcomers, as well as to introduce and orient new participants, and returning ones, both to ICANN as a whole and to topics and sessions of that particular Meeting. The orientation program pays particular attention to both region and sector, to facilitate the participation of ICANN's diverse stakeholders and introduce them to relevant constituency groups. The ICANN Information Booth is also available as a central information point at each ICANN Meeting, where attendees can receive one-on-one support and guidance, including advice on relevant sessions of interest during the ICANN Meeting week. Additionally, new participants are encouraged to join Fellowship Morning Sessions daily throughout the meeting week for an opportunity to interact and ask questions with community and staff in a smaller setting.  Visit https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/newcomers-2012-06-18-en for more information.

Online Learning Platform ICANN Learn

The Online Learning Platform ICANN Learn is an online education platform established by the Development and Public Responsibility Department (DPRD) as part of its efforts to support education and academic outreach. ICANN Learn is a free educational tool that aims to support a well-informed multistakeholder global Internet community, by building capacity and providing access to information in all UN languages to ICANN's diverse constituents. Courses on ICANN Learn can be requested or created by anyone, and aim to orient newcomers to ICANN and the community, as well as provide information and trainings to community and staff on various topics relevant to ICANN and the Internet ecosystem. To take courses on ICANN Learn or for more information, please visit http://learn.icann.org/ or email Jeffrey.dunn@icann.org.


Mark Datysgeld