ICANN and the Beijing Fellowship – As I see it

By: Sonny Zulhuda (ICANN Fellow)

Between 7-12 April 2013, I was granted a Fellowship to attend ICANN Global Meeting No. 46 in Beijing, People Republic of China. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a California-based corporation that administer the global Internet.

If you are new to ICANN, learn it more on its official page. For the Fellowship itself, learn about it at its official fellowship page. It is like an internship where a fellow will attend sessions, meetings and be engaged in discussions to learn, understand and exchange views about ICANN and the Internet.

As this was my second Fellowship after Singapore in 2011, I had some pre-existing plans and expectation in my mind before going to the meeting (For my blogs on the Singapore Fellowship, read here). Here are some notes:

Meeting old friends

Senior FellowsSome of my very good friends from the first meeting would also join this Beijing event. That is exciting to say the least. But then I also realised that those friends had before the Beijing meeting participated in at least another ICANN meeting either as Fellow or as a member of certain committees or supporting organisations in ICANN. That is a bonus for me, because I would learn from their experiences how they experienced being part of ICANN communities beyond the fellowship. I noticed some had joined the GAC (like Tracy, Sorina and Saso) while others took a position in their own ccNSO (Alejandra). Nomcom (Siranush) or regional At-Large Organization (like Natali and Naveed). I must say they have provided for us very good example 🙂

Going through Fellowship (early) morning presentation

photo by Jorge Etges <jorge@etges.com>

There are some reasons why I was feeling excited about going through this again. First, this is where Fellows would develop their bonding and togetherness. Second, this would be a place where we would meet in person, sometimes quite close and personal, wtih the ICANN who’s who, including the top people such as the Board Chairman and the CEO.

That is absolutely a great opportunity to hear directly from those people certain things that you cannot hear in public. Well, some inside stories are shared, some personal experiences are told, some future plans are being uncovered, and most special of all, they may entertain our individual questions. This is a special opportunity which non-fellows do not have in the ICANN meetings.


On the ICANN meetings

There are at least ten meetings/sessions each day, which meeting to go?

This time I was more decisive on which sessions I would go. In my first meeting, I would go to a session only to remain in the first ten minutes before looking at other sessions. In Beijing, I shortlisted several sessions that I would go. Most of those focus on the Internet Governance, consumer issues, cyber security or law enforcement. Some of them were unfortunately in the same time thus I had to choose.

Meeting new people

I was grateful to have met new people in fellows and the rest of ICANN people. Some of them were lawyers or came from law education like me. Some others were economist, technical people or part of civil society. I enjoyed chatting with them and always tried to find areas or subject matters where our common concerns meet. I was in particular very glad to attend one session where fellows met ICANN security People (Patrik Falstrom and others). To meet and chat with these highly skilled and experience yet humble and friendly people was so amazing. Issues from cyber-security, law enforcement, hackers, education and so on were explored and discussed. I should thank Janice for arranging such an inspiring meeting.



On Internet Governance

Who governs the Internet2In Singapore meeting in 2011, I met other participant who introduced and recommended me to the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) membership. I had earlier heard about GigaNet who had been convening annual symposiums. But right after that I became a member and immediately joined the rest in mail discussions. That brief introduction had led me to be included in 2012 as the GigaNet Programme Committee member with eight others from all over the world.

As a PC member We were responsible to prepare and convene the 2012 Annual GigaNet Symposium on Internet Governance in Baku, Azerbaijan. This Symposium, like its predecessors was held in the eve of every UN-IGF meeting. I was so excited to be in a group with seasoned and reputable academics like Prof. Mueller and Dr. Bill Drake. As a PC member we discussed, commented and evaluated the papers that would be presented in the Symposium and it was an awesome experience.

I thank ICANN Fellowship for taking me this far among the IG fraternities. That is why in Beijing, I had a special interest on IG issues. I was very glad that here i had met and chatted in person with Prof Muller and Dr. Bill Drake. Bill Drake had in particular encouraged me to join NCUC (Non-commercial User Constituency) of ICANN (which I had signed recently).

Which route in ICANN?

direction1I had been naturally interested with law and security issues on the cyberspace. ICANN Fellowship has indeed opened my eyes and widened my research horizons, by understanding how the Internet really works and how to look at the myriad of issues accordingly. One of those burning issues was Internet Governance (IG). With my latest involvement in the GigaNet, coupled with my research works on relevant issues (such as the Wikileaks issue), I feel that my niche would be on Internet Governance (at least for now). I wanted to digest more on IG, understand better the problems, assess alternative solutions or get involved in more discussions. As an academic, I wish to do more research on IG and in fact I have started to advise/supervise a doctoral student on IG-related research.

As far as ICANN constituencies are concerned, I think joining an At-Large Organisation will be a good option. This engagement requires me to be a member of an existing RALO’s and the fact that I am already a global and Malaysian Internet Society (ISOC) member since 2011 will allow me to get involved further.

Meanwhile, NCUC is my other natural option, because this is where many consumer rights issues will be discussed and pursued. I had also met many people of same background and concerns in the NCUC. For that matter, I had signed up to be a NCUC member but the registration is still pending for now. In sum, for my next move, I will be more actively involved in either or both NCUC and APRALO.



Being a Fellow for the second time, I feel blessed to be in the circle of these amazing dynamic and progressive people who have a common objective of making the world better connected. This is a truly noble perspective and objective, and I can’t think of a better one than that – as far as humanity is concerned!

Fellows in smile

This is an objective that requires an INFRASTRUCTURE. And make no mistake, this infrastructure I am talking about is beyond technical, tangible or even structural. It is even beyond organizational! A multi-stakeholders bottom-up ICANN as an organisation needs not only structural constructions: it requires a soul. And that soul is the value of friendship, togetherness and common goods. And the fellowship does provide a key to that!

I wish to point out also that for the next fellowship, it would be necessary to re-think on how to further enable a returning fellow (those come for a second or third time). Unlike the newcomer who wishes (or should try) to grab as much as possible (though may end up with very little), this repeating fellow would have already had some ideas that need to be reinforced. They can be given some options in the form of “track” depending on their background, current works or interest.

Each track would list meeting sessions that may fit categorically into the theme of that track. So, assuming that there are 30 meetings altogether, and there are three different tracks, each track may have a list of 10 meetings of similar or related subject matter. This will help fellow choose the meeting sessions he/she would go. Then at the end, there should be a special final session for each track where fellows would meet relevant ICANN people to help them conclude and plan for future.

Some words about the ICANN leadership.

Fadi and IFadi Chehade (ICANN President & CEO) has contributed to the excitement of the Fellowship and the meeting as a whole. Being a new leader with reformative ideas (turning ICANN from “fortress” into “oasis” is one of those), he would naturally receive mixed reactions as perspectives, experiences and interests differ from one head to another.

His energy, showed from his relentless and tireless efforts in introducing the reform, had been transformed to the Fellows. Many of them I find are excited or greatly interested in Fadi’s thoughts and approach. I personally (re)learn from him, that few things are essentials: vision, determination, and teamwork. I wish Fadi and all his team the best for the enablement, enhancement and evolution of ICANN and for creating “One World, One Internet”.

My last word in this report for the Fellowship manager Janice D. Lange: keep it up Mama J. You have done great and it will only be greater everytime! You have successfully created, managed, maintained and taken care of the fellows in a very exceptional way — across distance, duration and demographic differences. That is no easy job at all. Your personality, energy, blend of experience across time had made the person you are, which we benefit at most. This family will grow bigger, and you should know that you have made difference to the world, through each Fellow’s unique and different pathway–  the Latin mafia included 😉

And now.. my real last word, and this is for all the Fellows (Latin mafia included, of course!): Let’s get moving guys, you are the soldiers! Not only for ICANN, really, but for the HUMANITY!

— I rest my case —


  1. We, fellows have a role to play and task to be done for bringing ICANN closer to our local communities and we hope we’ll succeed in this.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s