As 2017 is almost over, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on our engagement journey with the youth and academic communities in Africa.
One of our fundamental objectives has been to create awareness that will lead to meaningful participation of the African community in ICANN and in the wider Internet governance ecosystem. According to the Africa Union, 65 percent of Africans are below the age of 35. The World Economic Forum states that the 10 youngest populations of the world are all in Africa. This reality makes it imperative that we put youth at the center of our regional engagement agenda.
Africa, home to hundreds of higher education institutions in 54 countries, is also diverse, which makes effective engagement a challenge. So far, we have focused on regional platforms such as national and regional educational networks (NRENs) and the Association of African Universities (AAU), to bring together administrators, students, and faculty. Additionally, we have organized multiple workshops and public lectures directly with universities whenever our resources were sufficient. This blog describes some of our outreach efforts during the year.
Two years ago, we piloted the youth community workshops, an initiative targeted at introducing young people under thirty to ICANN and the Internet ecosystem. This program complemented our global ICANN NextGen and Fellowship programs. The first workshop of this series took place in April 2016 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, followed by two others – in Kenya in May and in Benin in December. In 2017, we have continued our academic outreach efforts with a number of events.
14th AAU General Conference
- In June, ICANN hosted a workshop and participated in thematic panels geared toward academics and students at the AAU General Conference in Accra, Ghana. We also collaborated with Ghana ICANN Fellowship alumni, who organized an ICANN exhibition booth at the conference.
African Regional Conferences
- In March, our team gathered the academic community at West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) Annual Conference in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Participants learned from the leadership role that Addis-Ababa University has taken in defining Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) label generation rules for the Ethiopic script.
- In November, we participated at UbuntuNet-Connect, the annual meeting of the Ubuntu Alliance, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We presented Domain Name Security Extensions (DNSSEC) and the key signing key (KSK) rollover to attending academics.
Direct University Outreach
- In late May, on the periphery of the Africa Internet Summit Summit'17 (AIS2017) held in Nairobi, Kenya, we participated in a public lecture and panel session at the Multimedia University of Kenya. Over 50 engineering and computer science students attended the session that they later called "eye opening." Interest in ICANN was evident, and students were encouraged to reach out – to collaborate on research ideas and efforts.
- In September, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization Annual General Meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique, we visited Edwardo Mondlane University. There, we gave a lecture on ICANN and Internet governance to 25 students, members of the faculty, and .mz registrars.
- Matogoro Jabera, an ICANN Fellowship alumnus, was inspired by his experience attending an ICANN Public Meeting as a Fellow. He shared his experience by organizing a workshop on Internet governance for his students. Held in September, this third successful school of Internet governance was supported by the leadership of the University of Dodoma in Tanzania and other Fellowship alumni like Bonface Witaba. ICANN, ICANNwiki, and the .za Central Registry (ZACR) also supported and participated in this workshop.
These efforts have yielded encouraging outcomes. A good number of ICANN alumni, whether from Namibia, Malawi, Benin or the Congo DRC are now active in their communities. They are working regularly with our team to deliver in-class public lectures, put together workshops and set up inaugural National IGFs to further national inclusive dialogues on Internet issues. In addition, multiple institutions of higher learning and universities have expressed their willingness for structured Memoranda with ICANN to streamline and institutionalize our partnerships.
Through these developments, it is possible to envision a future in which the youth of Africa can fully participate in the Internet ecosystem. And this progress will only happen if we all work together. It is our sincere hope that our alumni, from both the NextGen and Fellowship programs would actively seek to localize the multistakeholder Internet dialogue at the national level!
We want to thank all our partners and participants in these events. As ICANN, we remain committed to organizing programs that tap into the overwhelming potential of the youth and academic communities in Africa.