ICANN meeting opens in Nairobi

After a series of board meetings on whether to cancel or not due to security issues, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting kicked off in Nairobi.


After a series of board meetings on whether to cancel or not due to security issues, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting kicked off in Nairobi.

The meeting was overshadowed by security concerns and some ICANN members reportedly boycotted the meeting, choosing to hold parallel sessions in New York and Washington DC, instead of risking coming to Nairobi.

By Monday morning, local organisers had registered 800 participants compared to the usual 1,000. The last few weeks have been dominated by security concerns and hotel cancellations, credited to threats issued by the Al Shabab terrorist group based in Somalia.

"Security is a concern for every country but Kenya has its own security issues to sort out," said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN president and CEO.

Beckstrom insisted that ICANN has not sanctioned any parallel meetings, saying that the meetings in the US were merely online participation forums for people who could not attend the meeting.

This week, observers will be examining ICANN's commitment to its dispute resolution mechanisms after an Independent Review Panel ruled that ICANN was unfair and discriminatory in its treatment of proposals for an .xxx top level domain for sites with sexually explicit content. ICM Registry had proposed the .xxx TLD, but the idea was ultimately rejected.

"The bylaws require the ICANN board to consider the findings by the Independent Review Panel. In this case, our accountability mechanism has been tested and this will be discussed at the board meeting on Friday," said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN board chair.

The meeting is also expected to discuss issues surrounding the Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) and probably shed more light on why the application by China for the fast track process failed, even though China is one of the biggest beneficiaries. Russia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are in the fast track process.

The debate on new generic Top Level Domains is expected to gain momentum especially regarding trade mark protection and whether registered trademarks will have to buy all new gTLDs in order to protect their trademarks.

In the opening keynote, Beckstrom paid tribute to the strides made by African governments in ensuring Internet access. He also urged Africa to participate more in the Government Advisory Committee, where ICANN reviews the relationship between its policies and government.

However, Beckstrom made it clear that ICANN will not open an office in Africa, saying that 90 percent of its revenue comes from North America and that is why there are three offices there and none in Africa. Africa still suffers from elementary issues such as redelegation of country code Top Level Domains, which for many countries in ICANN was done more than a decade ago.

"The country code Name Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) handles all the policies and there are African TLDs participating there; if there are any redelegation issues, then they are handled by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority," said Beckstrom.

Apart from discussions, ICANN will also hold technical training on security for registry operators participating in the meeting.

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