My First ICANN Fellowship Experience
As with all things in life, there is always a first time for everything. This write up is more emotional for me because the experience transcended and transformed my view to things in this world and the place of supernatural forces influencing the positive direction of every living being.
The beginning of the year has been very interesting and it started on a little bit of rough note for me. Then I woke up on this particular day and decided to check my email without much hope for what the day holds only to find out that I had a message with a subject matter written in capital letter telling me I have been selected by as an ICANN Fellow from Siranush. At first I could not contain how I felt and didn’t even read the complete message (Just the first few lines) before I started jumping, dancing and screaming all over the house letting out the excitement I had deep within me. it took a while after the euphoria died down so I went back to my email and I read the complete information from the ICANN fellowship coordinator.
So that was the excitement that greeted my fellowship application selection because I had applied for the same fellowship for some time now without having an opportunity to be selected not once or even getting an information that I am actually on the waiting list .
I proceeded to follow the instructions on the email fill out the contact form as well as the fellowship stipend forms. Then I got a great help from the FCM travel agent that I was allocated to. Joseph de Jesus was super helpful behind the scene. At first the choice of my ticket was sorted out before the visa issues which saw me going back and forth with different emails to the FCM guys in the travel agency. and when all of this was sorted out I packed my bags and decided to have a three hour road trip from my house in Ibadan down to the Airport in Lagos Nigeria.
Deep within me, i was excited over and over again and closely thought… What can I say? Having been lucky enough to attend the African Internet Summit and AFNOG meetings since 2011 and also participated in several internet policy discussions actively within my local and continental internet community and NOGs where I got a good introduction to the world of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and what they do. Thanks to Seun Ojedeji for his brief introduction during a NOG meeting. During this event I also learned about the ICANN Fellowship programme. This programme seeks to create a broader and more diverse base of knowledgeable participants, with priority given to candidates living in underserved and underrepresented communities around the world; those who represent diversity of gender, sector, region, experience and expertise. Working for the University and living in Nigeria, I never thought I would be successful in my application. Out of several applications there were few places i thought.
These hundreds of applications are from intelligent, inspired people, wanting to contribute to keeping the Internet the free, resilient and open Internet that we know today. I did not envy the selection committee at all. I was soon to realize the application process was just the beginning of a huge amount of learning, discussion and involvement in the ICANN community.
During the run-up to the event, all the fellows were splited into smaller groups and assigned a coach. I was fortunate to have been assigned such an open, welcoming and friendly coach in the form of Abdeldjalil Bachar Bong a fellowship alumni from Chad and a founding member of ISOC Chad Chapter. During weekly conference calls, we all discussed what topics interested us, what we should expect, what to plan for and how to make the best of our time at the meeting. Having an experienced attendee available to answer any questions or doubts we had proved invaluable. Infact when we met for the first time in Abu Dhabi, he was all over me trying to introduce me to the major stakeholders and the creme-de-la-creme of the ICANN community. That experience alone will be a blog session for another day. He was a true African brother from another mother.
Opppsss i almost forgot this nice part… So during the course of preparing for the ICANN meeting, i got elected as the Programme Secretary of the ISOC Nigerian Chapter which saw me getting involved in local politics of campaign and manifesto writing.
I also took courses from the ICANN elearning portal which also aided my ability to learn more about ICANN activities and the many…… acronyms.
With the help of the whatsapp group which was created for the ICANN Fellows, i was able participate and interact with other fellows before the meeting. These interactions on Facebook and Whatsapp was crucial to our pre departure and meeting experience.
COACH ABDELDJALIL BACHAR BONG
Coach Abdeldjalil Bachar Bong was way so nice that he gave us lots of online resources to catch up and have so much information at our disposal with the micro managed whatsapp group and skype sessions we had to interact with him. Abdeldjalil Bachar Bong paid lots of attention to details and even had a pre-meeting skype session with us. He was open, welcoming and friendly coach. Chenia who was the other fellow in our group was also very interactive and made funny jokes about her experience. I learnt some coaching skills from it and hope to put it to use in my first coaching experience.
SPECIAL TRIBUTE AND RECOGNITION TO SIRANUSH.
Speaking of someone who has the heart of a mother who teaches, mold and scold you with love when you need to be pointed in the right direction is Siranush. Few lessons i learnt in her style of coordinating the fellowship programme is her attention to details via her very long emails. Little wonder we all had a smooth ride with her and she encouraged and inspired us with her own story of how she transited from been an ICANN fellow to a staff member.
Before the meeting, i imagined she was a tough lady given that i read her Bio that she was once a university professor. However, all of that changed when i interacted with her in Abu Dhabi. She made all of us feel so special and her personal interaction with me made me feel highly of her with more respect for her leadership and coordinating skills.
Without sounding flattering, she is the best programme manager i have ever come across with her planning skills for international meeting such as ICANN which was top notch and way out of this world.
Day One: Newcomers sessions
We all assembled in the room four for the first session of the day. Several thoughts flew through my mind and I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous walking into my first session. Walking into a room of eighty or more people involved in the fellowship programme could have been a very daunting prospect, but being greeted by Siranush warm smile, my nervousness and anxiety quickly disappeared. Over 60 nationalities were represented with the new indigenous fellows who joined the programme for the first time — something that quickly made me realise just how important the Internet is worldwide. In a respected manner Siranush gave us the Housekeeping rules we must follow throughout the event. After which we were told to introduce ourselves and what we do. Trust me, i brought the controversial Jollof Rice delicacy rivalry issues jokes into my introduction which i know will bring some further conversation from my AFRALO community members and spark some interest in the fellowship. Berran Gillen and Peterking Quaye were the the first set of persons to challenge me that there countries makes the best Jollof Rice delicacy so we started our friendship with others and bonded on that conversation without recognizing it was the first time we were all meeting.
During the first fellowship session, we were made to understand the ICANN Multistakholder model and Supporting organizations.
After this session i attend the NCUC / NPOC stakeholders group meetings where new comers were welcomed and introduced to what they do.
The Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency (NPOC) is a new constituency within the Generic Names Supporting Organization’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG). NPOC represents the interests of domain name registrants who belong to non-profit and non-government organizations (NGO’s — Civil Society). NPOC participates in ICANN community discussions on policy issues related to the Internet and Domain Name System (DNS), as such issues have a significant impact on the operations of these organizations and their delivery of services that are beneficial to various communities.
I was also made to understand the key differences between NPOC and NCUC.
My key takeaway was to register myself and help register the ISOC Nigerian Chapter under the NCUC and NPOC.
I also attended the ALAC meetings where we had discussions on what the end user perceive of ICANN’s activities.
ICANN60 Fellowship Participants Meet and Greet was mandatory for all ICANN60 Fellows where we interacted with Managers from different outreach engagement managers that are ICANN staff. For the first time i met Bob Ochieng who is the Stakeholder Engagement manager for Africa through him, later that same day i met Pierre Dandjinou VP Stakeholders Engagement for Africa and Prof. Nii Quanor the Father of Internet in Africa.
We had folks from GAC,ICANN Wiki gave us some talks for the day after which i attended the NCUC sessions.
I also attended the ICANN wikithon sessions and the fellowship special sessions. We also had a talks which saw Alan GreenBerg the ALAC sessions, attended the APRALO meeting and got a talk from Farzaneh Badii the NCUC chair.I asked a question if there was an overlap of the ALAC and NCUC functions and i was made to understand the ALAC is advisory while the NCUC is policy making structure.
As a techie, i’m always inquisitive and like to know how the internet i use works in that particular environment so i made enquires to where the Network Operating Centre of ICANN was and paid a visit. I learnt about some of the softwares that ICANN staff also use to power the meeting.
I attended and NCUC session that saw Farzaneh Badii educating us on the values, policies of NCUC.
I later attended the Fellowship special session where we had talks from Chair and Members of NOMCOM, ASOC AC, GAC and we were made to understand their roles.
This saw me attending the fellowship sessions which had us receiving the routine lectures from different stakeholder groups from the ICANN community such as the Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers Constituency (ISPCP), Wolf-Ulrich Knoben, Chair, Non-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency (NPOC), Joan Kerr, Chair, Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC), Naveed Bin Rais, Caucus member, Fellow Alumni, Business Constituency (BC), Andrew Mack, Chair and Jimson Olufuye, Vice Chair as well as the the joint NCSG and ICANN board meeting. Few takeaway from that session was the question i asked on the operational concerns i had on the GDPR issues for African digital economy as well as the issues of jurisdiction. I also attended the ICANN booth sessions where we had distinguished members of the community come to give some talks. I enjoyed Marilyn Cade’s moment at the booth as well.
This also had the routine visit and routine lectures from different stakeholder groups members and chair from the ICANN community. Key for me during the fellowship sessions was the question i asked the GNSO chair on the whois abuse and data privacy issues and how to participate in a working group. We also had a session from the SSAC chair who gave us a clear information of what the role of SSAC is in the community structure.I also used the rest of the day to assist in the ICANN booth so i could learn new things.
As i put to a close this report, it became emotional for me when writing this section because it was the final day where i have met with friends i will said good byes to. Like they say, we meet to part and part to meet.
After participating at the ICANN fellowship booth, i proceeded to the fellowship session where we had a close sessions with on of my ICANN favourite ICANN board member Rinalia Abdul Rahim who has championed diversity and represented gender and age balance.
The Final Session had us interacting with the funny yet interactive Göran Marby who discussed generally with the fellows.
The major side attraction for me was the fact that i took lots of pictures of fellows which made them super happy. I was glad i brought my camera along and was able to volunteer and thanks to the inspirations i encouragement i got from Glenn McKnight to create memories for my community.
The second one was the GEMs band that i wished i could participate by playing the musical instrument since i play the Piano, Bass Guitar and Saxophone but could not since i was not officially introduced to the band and not rehearsed with them before. The band members rock and played so nice that i got to the dancing floor.
The opening Ceremony had so much glamor and the Sand Art lady who drew ICANN’s philosophy in sand art made it so classic.
More importantly for me was witnessing the historic moments in the history of the ICANN community which was the special tribute and retirement recognition of Steve Crocker . I have read so much about him but never thought i will have the opportunity of coming close to him, let alone taking a picture with him.
Another lesson i learnt which i want to share is the open ICANN Board meeting which had a seamless transition and transparency. This is a leadership lesson for me and i hope to seen young and talented members of the community rise to such high level community leadership positions.
The ISOC side meeting was very engaging and i had the oppurtunity of engaging George Sadowsky (Board Member)and Tarek (VP ICANN government relations and adviser)
Me also participating in the Open Session with the ICANN executive where i asked the question on Implication of GDPR to ICANN and its effect on African Digital economy had me summoning all the boldness and courage in me during the open mic sessions.
The visit to the Grand Emirate’s Palace for the Gala night was spectacular in it’s own right. I did the local dance with the Arabian Entertainers of the night. Trust me i had fun…
Care to see more pictures, visit this URL below:
ICANN fellowship can consider merging coach and fellows with the same or similar time zones region. It helps to fuster more coordinated meeting time for pre-fellowship activities.
ICANN FCM travel may wish to consider bringing in Fellows much earlier as the Fatigue from the trip and time differences affects fellows and they are tired on the first day on the session as they need to adjust due to different time zones which affect thier sleep patterns.
POST FELLOWSHIP NEXT ACTION
Already joined the NPOC/NCUC and NCSG and actively participating as my membership and that of my organization was approved.
Renewed my membership of the ALAC capacity working group.
I will be hosting an event on December 4–5 on the implication GDPR and how it affects ICANN and the African digital economy with panel session and a representative of ICANN from the African Bureau to be likely present.
Already joined the AFRALO and also participating in community discussions. My membership has also been approved.
I’m currently mentoring some Nextgen age group in my University Community to take challenge of getting interested in the ICANN activities and also applying for fellowships and getting involved online via mailing list. Two of them already applied and enrolled in the ICAN elearning portal. My ICANN story motivated them.
I hope to participate as a band member in the next ICANN meeting and I have emailed a member of the GEM band to link me up with the band leader and i hope to get a feedback soon.
My sincere and deepest appreciation goes to all Fellowship staff and members for their kind and unconditional supports. Specially, to the beautiful yet classy Siranush and the indefatigable Joseph de Jesus who worked tirelessly behind the scene to make our travel itinerary seamless. Siranush, for all the work you have done to make our stay memorable and your inspiring story of growth within the community, i sincerely appreciate you and hope someday i will make you and the ICANN community so proud of me.
To the NoMCom fellowship selection committee members, thank you for believing in me and my dreams to participate in the fellowship.
To you reading this story/ report of my first ICANN meeting thank you all for reading this personal story of mine and i hope it inspires you to want to participate in the ICANN multistakeholder community.