by Fahd A. Batayneh — Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator, Middle East
I had the pleasure of visiting the Kingdom of Bahrain during the period April 27-30, 2014 to focus only on engaging with stakeholders there away from events and conferences. This was the first visit of its kind for me since joining ICANN. In addition to the fact that such a focused stakeholder visit is part of the Middle East Strategy outcomes, it was suggested by one of the esteemed ICANN community members from Bahrain who is also a member of the Middle East Strategy. I worked on the agenda for the visit with both the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Bahrain and ISOC Bahrain.
During the four days, I engaged with all stakeholders; i.e. the Government, Civil Society, Private Sector, and Academia. Next is a summary of my visits.
The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Bahrain (TRA Bahrain)
The TRA of Bahrain is the .bh ccTLD Registry, and has a member on ICANN’s GAC. In addition, they have members on the Middle East Strategy Working Group (MESWG), the Task Force on Arabic Script IDNs (TF-AIDN), and the Task Force on Capacity Building and Awareness (TF-CBA). The meeting involved folks from various departments who had some form of interest in ICANN’s work, and so the discussions were fruitful and productive. The TRA also updated me on their projects around the .bh ccTLD as well as their planned active engagement in the Middle East Strategy and ICANN meetings.
At a later day, I delivered a 1-hour lecture on the very basics of Internet Governance (IG 101). I used the same slide-deck I used to lecture academic students on the same subject. Please refer to the section on “Academia” engagement below.
All Bahraini Telecom Operators as well as the Kingdom’s largest WiMAX Provider
Bahrain has 3 telecom operators (Batelco, Zain Bahrain, and Viva Bahrain), a major WiMAX operator (MENA Telecom), and a good number of ISPs. While the population of Bahrain is around the 1 million mark (both citizens and expats), mobile penetration is around 200%, and Internet penetration is more than 80% making it one of the highest penetrated countries in both mobile and Internet in the world.
I used the same discussion points with all mentioned here; i.e. Introduction to IG, Introduction to ICANN, Introduction to the Arab IGF 1, the NTIA Announcement, and ICANN’s Engagement in the Middle East.
Bahrain Internet Society (ISOC Bahrain)
ISOC Bahrain is one of the new At-Large Structures (ALS) to be on-boarded. They have an active community member in the discussions of the ALAC and At-Large. ISOC Bahrain is active in local events related to the Internet and its ecosystem. They welcomed my visit to Bahrain, and trust that such engagement with all stakeholders would benefit more active engagement with the local community and with the support of other key players such as the TRA and the telecom operators.
Gulf Future Business (GFB)
I met with the CEO of GFB who is a very influential businessman in Bahrain and the GCC. This visit was arranged for by ISOC Bahrain. Since part of GFB’s mandate is incubation and SME support, my presentation focused on business opportunities found in the domain name industry, and then zoomed in on the opportunities that are best suited for SMEs.
Academia (Polytechnic Bahrain and University of Bahrain)
The purpose here was to lecture the basics of Internet Governance to students, academics, and university staff members alike. While the attendance was low, some interaction took place. The presentation covered the following topics:
- Definition of IG;
- The main themes of IG (Access, Openness, Diversity, CIR, Privacy and Human Rights, and Security);
- The I* Organizations;
- Regional and Local IGFs;
- The Arab IGF;
- Schools on Internet Governance; and
- The need to be more engaged in such processes.
During my visit to all stakeholders, I distributed some handouts explaining ICANN. Overall, some showed interest in being more engaged with ICANN, others showed interest in supporting the Arab IGF process, while others showed interest in hosting an L-root instance.
I was personally very happy with the visit, and there were discussions on having a follow-up visit at a later stage in an effort to engage with more stakeholders and try to push some of the interest shown forward.
I am looking forward to my next such visit to another country within the region!
1 My introduction to the Arab IGF was part of my promise to the Arab IGF MAG; whom I am a member of, to market the Arab IGF, its MAG, and its mandate to have more players onboard its process.