The Historic City of Sana'a
During the week of August 17-21, I had the privilege; along with my colleague from RIPE NCC Mr. Hisham Ibrahim, to travel to Sana'a; the capital of Yemen, to do some outreach activities; educating the local stakeholders on what our respective organizations do, as well as introducing them to Internet Governance and the role of our respective organizations in the Internet ecosystem. This visit was initiated by an invitation from the ISOC Yemen Chapter, who was also our generous host for the duration of our visit.
Yemen; like many other Arab countries, went through an Arab spring, and is still recovering from its consequences. It has a poor Internet infrastructure with extremely low bandwidth rates, suffers from continuous power outages, and lacks any form of e-commerce. Nevertheless, they have a vibrant Youth community that is both ready and eager to be part of their country's development and move forward. This current wave of energetic youth, is getting the sense of the Multistakeholder model, and is getting more involved in the process. In the video interview next, Mr. Walid Al-Saqaf; President of ISOC Yemen, gives his insights on ICANN, the Multi-Stakeholder Model, Internet Governance, and the role of the Arab Community in staying involved and engaged in the regional and global Internet Governance debate
With very few Yemeni stakeholders already understanding the Multi-Stakeholder Model and its advantages to improve the Internet ecosystem in the country, one of my key messages was to educate stakeholders on this model and have them understand their important role in this model, thus being involved in the development of their country's Internet ecosystem.
In fact, it is the youth's belief that the Internet is a key driver in lifting the country's weak economy, which brought about the creation of the ISOC Yemen Chapter in August 2013. And it so happened, that our visit coincided with the one year anniversary of the ISOC Yemen Chapter.
Our 5-day agenda was populated with lots of activities. And while we had developed our stakeholder engagement agenda, the ISOC Yemen Chapter kindly arranged for our meetings and accompanied us during our visits, making everything that much smoother. Our general program was to conduct two visits to two different entities per day, and in the evenings educate stakeholders about Internet Governance, educate Law Enforcement Agencies on the Internet ecosystem, engage with civil society members, or even conduct interviews with the local media.
We kick started our visit with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, where we had the honor of being welcomed by the Minister himself, who also wears the hat of the Deputy Prime Minister of Yemen; H.E. Dr. Ahmed Obaid Bin Dagher. Recognizing the need for capacity building and development, we discussed ways to further our expert support in areas needed in the country.
In this part of the world, ISPs and Mobile Operators are key players in the IG ecosystem, and so we paid a visit to the 2 ISPs of the country (YemenNet and TeleYemen), as well as the four mobile operators (Yemen Mobile, MTN Yemen, Sabafon, and Y-GSM). During these meetings, I covered four main topics of current importance 1) Introduction to Internet Governance, 2) Introduction to ICANN, 3) The Arab IGF, and 4) ICANN's Strategy in the Middle East.
Different educational sessions were delivered to the business community, students and academics, and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Each session would deliver different messages depending on the audience. The business community was educated on the business opportunities found in the domain name industry. Students and academics were introduced to IG, its key pillars, the I* organizations, and their role in this rather vast ecosystem. LEAs were educated on ICANN, the domain name industry, and the various dispute resolution mechanisms and trademark protection mechanisms available.
And as our visit came to an end, we had the pleasure of being invited to the "Introductory Gathering on Internet Governance"; a gathering of local stakeholders, with goal of setting the scene for the inaugural Yemeni IGF taking place at some point next year. During the meeting, I delivered a short presentation explaining what ICANN does and its role in the IG ecosystem. The ISOC Yemen Chapter also seized the opportunity to explain their mandate to the audience and their plans for the coming months. In the evening of the same day, we attended a TEDxSanaa session where we were panelists on a panel on security and privacy.
The overall feeling from the diverse meetings we had was positive, which we felt was a good step forward, in a country that is recognizing the economic development and business opportunities to be had via an accessible, open and global Internet. As stated by the President of ISOC Yemen Chapter "This is a historical moment in the history of Yemen".