Learning to Lead in the IG Arena: MEAC-SIG – Empowering Future Leaders of the Internet

The governing dynamics for better lives transition amicably over the course of time. With such a connotation it wouldn’t be as preposterous to appreciate that, better lives as a whole for a group can intrinsically be accounted for by at least one common denominator which is, the realm of “Internet”.

The Internet has turned the world into a global village today. Inter-connectivity, however, is a basic instinct which man-kind has perused from Stone Age to the cyber age. The creations of the wheel to the creation of language and scriptures all have their roots tied into the necessity for communication and interaction over distance and over time. The interlude from Stone Age to cyber age has seen the definition of interconnection and communication; leap many echelons, and today it stands at an age and an era where cities and countries are defined by their level of inter-connectivity and Internet availability.

The governance of the Internet, however, has been an increasingly important and at the same time intricate debate for quite some time now. Ensuring that the Internet remains secure, stable and resilient, different stakeholders work together all at national, regional and global scale in the Internet governance space. To this end, a number of capacity building initiatives in the area of Internet governance have emerged over the past few years which include but are not limited to the national and regional schools on IG. Coordinated by the regional GSE – Global Stakeholder Engagement team at ICANN, The Middle East & Adjoining School on Internet Governance (MEAC-SIG) is one such initiative aimed at IG capacity building in the Middle East and Adjoining Countries – MEAC region.

Over the past four years, MEAC-SIG has been developing an alumni network of very active professionals who are engaged in ICANN, ISOC, NOGs, IGF, as well as national and regional Internet Governance (IG) initiatives among others.

Over the past four years, MEAC-SIG has been developing an alumni network of very active professionals who are engaged in ICANN, ISOC, NOGs, IGF, as well as national and regional Internet Governance (IG) initiatives among others. MEAC-SIG aims to strengthen the representation of the Middle East and Adjoining Countries (MEAC) region in the global Internet governance arena. The School also aims to create a space for capacity building of the next generation of professionals that participate actively in the Internet governance and related spheres.

Organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) together with its partners, the 4th edition of MEAC-SIG generously hosted by NIC.tr at the Middle East Technical University (METU) successfully concluded on August 11, 2017 Ankara – Turkey. Effective this year, the future editions will be organized by ICANN in partnership with Arab World Internet Institute (AWII) – a non-profit, non-governmental regional organization committed to conduct programs that help develop Internet in the region.

Since its inception in 2014, MEAC-SIG has been serving as a vibrant platform for understanding, outlining, and highlighting the key aspects of Internet governance in the global as well as regional landscape. The School aims to help participants better understand the global, regional, and national Internet governance issues, initiatives and processes while gaining access to wide-ranging and organized knowledge on the various aspects of Internet governance, policy and the actors revolving around it.

Participants from thirteen different countries from within the region were selected to attend the School. This makeup of the participant facilitated nuanced discussions of technical, legal, and socioeconomic arcs that would not have been possible otherwise.

MEAC-SIG 2017 blended coursework, lectures, interactive discussions, and mentorship to help prepare professionals from across the MEAC region to become the next generation leaders in the area of Internet governance. Just like the previous editions, MEAC-SIG 2017 offered the participant with a super amazing experience for they had the opportunity to be part of a diverse environment; all in terms of faculty and participants, there was not only a wide geographical diversity, but also diverse professional backgrounds (government, international organizations, business, civil society, academia and media). This composition of the School’s participants definitely served as a vibrant environment for exchange of knowledge and experience. This year, participants from thirteen different countries from within the region were selected to attend the School. This makeup of the participant facilitated nuanced discussions of technical, legal, and socioeconomic arcs that would not have been possible otherwise.

The class brought together such a unique cross-section of professionals and having these very unique perspectives in the class made for fascinating discussions and pushed all the participants to think through problems from new and different angles.

Lectures during this year’s MEAC-SIG included but were not limited to the following:

  • The Evolution of Internet Governance Debate
  • Stakeholder Groups in the IG Ecosystem and their Respective Roles
  • Introduction to ICANN, ISOC, IGF and RIRs
  • Understanding Domain Names
  • Internet Governance and Sustainable Development Goals
  • Cybersecurity, Cybercrimes and International Treaties
  • The Digital Economy
  • Challenges of The Future of the Internet

There also was a very useful and informative lecture on “Evolution of Internet in Turkey” by Dr. Atilla Ozgit – the internet pioneer who played a major role in the first connection and the development of internet in Turkey. Participants of MEAC-SIG 2017 were also lucky, for the School this year had Prof. Dr. Milton Mueller as faculty member. Professor at Georgia Tech – School of Public Policy, Dr. Mueller is the co-founder and co-director of the Internet Governance Project (IGP), a policy analysis center for global Internet governance. He has participated in proceedings and policy development activities of ICANN, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) among others.

During the 5-day extensive learning experience, participant had the opportunity to discuss and highlight local issues related to Internet Governance, DNS, ccTLDs, Cybersecurity, and Internet policy among others.

During the 5-day extensive learning experience, participant had the opportunity to discuss and highlight local issues related to Internet Governance, DNS, ccTLDs, Cybersecurity, and Internet policy among others. MEAC-SIG is not about lectures and sessions going in all the day, but greatest learning and networking moments occurred outside the classrooms— over a coffee, at lunches, during the gala dinner, and even during the evening expeditions.

Overall, the School is highly recommended and imperative for any student, professional and researcher interested in Internet governance and the assorted visions, power conundrum and the multistakeholder model regarding the Internet. MEAC-SIG, without any doubt, will continue to help develop the future leaders of Internet governance in the region. Initiatives like these are unique opportunities for participants to grasp the moment, start their own journey within the Internet governance ecosystem and change the world forever. If not now, then when?

Post written and posted originally by Zakir Syed on LinkedIn. Zakir is a technology strategy, policy and research expert and has been covering the MENA and South Asia region in terms of digitization, ICTs, and Internet governance.