Saturday, October 1, 2011

ICANN 42 Dakar: Interview-Sébastien Bachollet Explains Challenges for Africa and other Global Internet Issues

After South Africa, Ghana and Kenya, ICANN will be holding its 42nd conference in Sub-Saharan Africa in Dakar, Senegal (23-28 October 2011). Charged, among other things, to allocate space for Internet Protocol (IP) and manage the domain name system, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private sector, non-profit corporation with staff and participants from all over the world.

In this interview with RTN, Sébastien Bachollet, elected to the ICANN Board of Directors in 2010 as the  ICANN At-Large  Board Member by representatives of individual internet users, explains the challenges for the conference in Africa and the global issues related to Internet.

Sébastien Bachollet
RTN: Senegal will host the 42nd Global ICANN Conference in October 2011. What are the major issues of this conference for Africa?
Sébastien Bachollet:  The challenges are many for Africa in that the conference is held on the continent once every two years. Senegal therefore has an important challenge. The first is that of participation. The last ICANN meeting in Africa was held in Nairobi (Kenya). There had been difficulties related to participation because of perceived security issues. This year, we hope this will be a success especially since this is the first time in the history of ICANN that we organize a conference in the French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many policy issues corresponding to the evolution and functioning of the Internet will be discussed. These will include, among other things, the program of the new gTLDs which consists within the framework of the management of generic top level domain names. It is expected to be a significant development in 2012.  Indeed, ICANN introduced seven new gTLDs in 2000: . Aero,. Biz,. Coop,. Info,. Museum. Name and. Pro. Then from 2005:. Travel. Job,. Mobi,. Such. Post. Asia,. Cat and recently. Xxx (for adult content).

After the decision in Singapore on June 20, 2011, the application process for new gTLDs will open on 12/10/2012. The ICANN community is currently exploring the possibilities of helping the realization of certain new gTLD projects in developing countries that do not have the means.

Preceding the ICANN meeting, in September, there will be the Internet Governance Forum  to be held in Nairobi. Notice that in the last quarter of this year, Africa will host two important international meetings related to Internet governance.

RTN: This calls into question the authority of the United States on the Internet and ICANN is an organization under American law. Do you think these issues will be discussed at the 42nd conference in Dakar?

SB: The question does not arise in those terms. There are people who have long dreamed of a transfer of governance to organizations like the UN. We should be well aware that no intergovernmental structure can replace ICANN. In the structure of ICANN, governments and international treaty organizations work in partnership with businesses, associations, users (business and individual) and technical specialists. They help build and maintain the global Internet. ICANN is run by a board of international representation that oversees the process of policy development and with an international team of permanent staff who ensure that  ICANN meets its operational commitments in relation to the Internet community and allow a real commitment of volunteers. ICANN opens the door to all countries. It would be a step backwards to think that intergovernmental structure within the UN can deal with the management of domain names and IP addresses worldwide.

RTN: Is Africa sufficiently represented?

SB: Nobody is ever represented enough! Africa is a continent that contributes immensley at ICANN, especially in the part of the representatives of individual users (At-Large / ALAC) and also governments (GAC).

RTN: How do you analyze the evolution of the Internet in Africa, in the context in which the continent of Africa is perceived as the latecomer?

SB: Far from it, Africa is a continent on the fringe of developments related to Internet. If we judge the new innovative uses around the mobile Internet, Africa has much to teach the rest of the world. There are real uses that emerge with the mobile Internet from Africa. And with the arrival of these submarine cables, the fiber optic belt of Africa on the western and the eastern coastal rims, these innovative uses will continue to accelerate in the coming years with increasing bandwidth. All these current projects are very encouraging but Africa itself will have to manage its own resources at the local level.

RTN: In the new cases of ICANN, there is also the arrival of IPv6. What are the issues related to the deployment of this protocol?

SB: There is no direct impact on the end user, fortunately. With IPv6, we hope to see innovative uses appear at the level of individual users. Internationally, distribution of blocks of IPv4 addresses will nolonger be possible even in the Asia Pacific. As for Africa, it will be a little longer because demand is lower than in other regions. Africa must take advantage of this opportunity to organize a smooth transition between IPv4 and IPv6, but it needs attention now. It is also one of the questions we will discuss at the ICANN meeting in Dakar.

RTN: Can we regulate the Internet? Should we regulate the Internet?
SB: There are certainly interventions to be made such as when a vendor disappears. We will have to continue serving these customers. When moving from IPv4 to IPv6, there are obviously regulatory elements that come into play. It is the same when it comes to the new domain name extensions or program not to mention the IDN new gTLDs (Internationalized Domain Names). ICANN plays a very important role in this system.

To strengthen its position, Africa should be more organized. The whole domain distribution chain should be developed in Africa. Currently, there are only two ICANN Accredited Registrars available in Africa (in South Africa and Senegal) out of the 53 countries that make up the continent. They are just next to domain name resellers. In comparison, there are about 900 ICANN Accredited registrars in the world. The United States alone has 502 registrars against 11 for Latin America.

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