ICANN wants more APAC voices to step up

The Internet administrator says global policy setting meetings are under-represented by Asia-Pacific interests, and is calling for current voices to be louder and new blood to participate.

SINGAPORE--Asia-Pacific voices are not being heard enough in meetings over Internet structure planning, according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It explained that besides not being enough of them, there were also language and localization barriers to overcome.

Kuek Yu-Chuang, managing director of ICANN's newly set up Singapore Hub office. (credit: ICANN)

"You go to any typical meeting you get the usual Yahoo, Microsoft, Google there. I'm hoping to get the NTT Docomos, the Navers, the Daums, the SingTels, to come onboard and we really shouldn't be just looking at the big boys but also the SMBs as well," said Kuek Yu-Chuang, managing director of ICANN's newly set up Singapore Hub office.

Part of Kuek's job since coming onboard in August this year has been to attract new blood to discussions and convince companies on the value of taking part in discussions. A key challenge is that companies only think of public policy after they reach a certain size, explained Kuek, who is also ICANN's vice president for global stakeholder engagement.

"There are issues that are important to ICANN such as security that we are looking to hear more from the APAC community, DNS Security deployment for example," added Kuek. He pointed out every country had its own nuances and unique constraints, so it was important for Asian stakeholders to be part of process in shaping the policies which would ultimately affect them.

Asian voices not loud enough

Besides selling the idea to potential participants, ICANN also has to overcome cultural hurdles to attract more Asian voices.

"The microphone and the way that these meetings happen, isn't always a good cultural fit in particular for some of these Asian countries."

Sally Costerton,
senior advisor to ICANN president

"When we engage them on a one to one level we get a lot of feedback but when you put them in a larger setting we get less of their voices coming out," said Kuek.

Agreeing in the same interview, Sally Costerton, senior advisor to ICANN's president, pointed out current meeting formats were typically “invented in America” and had an "American feel" even for Europeans.

"The microphone and the way that these meetings happen, isn't always a good cultural fit in particular for some of these Asian countries," she said. Costerton added new formats were being studied to engage Asian participants and make them feel more comfortable so that they can contribute.

Language and localization challenges

ICANN will be making a big push in its efforts to localize and translate its materials, which has long been a barrier to entry for some participants.

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"Language localization, a lot of the ICANN materials can be complicated and if they are not translated into the local language it really makes access a hard issue, so let's not even talk about getting them into a meeting sitting in front of a square donut table," said Kuek.

Some of the major themes being brought up in the region include capacity building, according the to the managing director. This has prompted plans by ICANN to roll out a program with the Asia-Pacific Told Level Domain Association (APTLD) to help all country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) level the playing field, such as in terms of doing DNS security deployment.

He pointed out the strong interest seen in China since setting up ICANN's Beijing engagement office , which has received over 200 phone queries in the two months that it has been set up. Many of the queries were in Mandarin and included questions about application processes and contract technicalities.

ICANN's other presence in Asia includes a DNS Security center of excellence in India. The Singapore Hub is one of three around the world apart from Istanbul and Los Angeles, and is part of plans to decentralize ICANN’s previously U.S.-centric operations . The Singapore office now has six staff, and is set to double the headcount in six months’ time. ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade is set to relocate to Singapore early next year.