ICANN Empowers Youths to Expand their Commitment

The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in its quest to reach out to larger segments of internet users and populations has chosen youth as major mouth-pieces to spread the organization’s activities on the continent. Programs tailored for youth have been initiated where the next generation of leaders is groomed to play greater roles.

Yaovi Atohoum, Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager- Africa talks, in an interview with The North Africa Post, about the programs and the ICANN’s collaboration with youth.

The Interview was conducted by Kamailoudini Tagba, in Lome.

– What can you tell us about ICANN? Do you think ICANN is quite known in Africa?

Few years ago, we can say that ICANN was not well known but we started in 2012 by talking about Africa Strategy for ICANN. So since the year 2013, we have started the implementation of a strategy; we call it ICANN African Strategy. Now, we can say that ICANN is better known in Africa. We see more ICANN activities in Africa and more Africans participating in ICANN activities. So, ICANN is quite known in Africa today.

– How do you see youth involvement with the use of internet now?

The youth are the next generation of internet users who will benefit from business opportunities offered by internet and also will be affected by cyber tricks posed by internet. According to the African Union, 65 per cent of Africans are below the age of 35 and the World Economic Forum states that the 10 youngest populations of the world are all in Africa. It is imperative that we put youth at the center of our regional agenda, associated by our regional strategy. In the past two years, our focus was to work with national and regional institutions and then engaging with youth. We held workshops and public lectures in various universities whenever our resources allow it. Two years ago, we piloted a program of Youth Community (YouthCom) workshops, an initiative meant to introduce young people under 30 to ICANN and the Internet ecosystem. This program complemented our global ICANN NextGen and Fellowship programs.

The YouthCom program aims to strengthen these existing programs by creating local youth networks that will benefit from ICANN’s leadership through trainings, in partnership with local Internet stakeholders such as governments, private sector, and civil society.

This program has made a good number of alumni in Africa, active in their respective communities. They work regularly with our team to deliver public lectures, put together workshops, set up national internet governance forums contributing to inclusive dialogue on internet issue. In addition, more institutions, universities expressed their willingness to structure memorandum with ICANN, streamline and materialize our partnership.

– Tell us more about NextGen and Fellowship programs

ICANN through this program provides coaching and travel assistance to students to the region where ICANN meeting is taking place. We have three ICANN meetings every year. The latest one took place in Porto Rico in March.

Through the NextGen program, ICANN provides coaching and travel assistance to students from the regions where the ICANN meeting is taking place. Those between 18 and 30, with an interest in Internet Governance, the future of the Internet, and other topics covered at ICANN meetings, can apply.
As for the fellowship, those above 30 can apply to receive coaching and travel assistance to attend an ICANN Public Meeting.
Through these opportunities and developments, it is possible to envision a future in which the youth of Africa can fully participate in the Internet ecosystem. And this progress will only happen if we all work together. It is our sincere hope that alumni of the NextGen, Fellowship programs, and YouthCom will actively seek to localize the multistakeholder Internet dialogue at the national level.

– How do you see youth? Are they feeling concerned about activities in Africa or are they feeling to be part of ICANN?

Sure, they are feeling to be part of ICANN. Any time we organize a YouthCom workshop, youth are very excited and we can see this through their active participation in the event. And after benefiting from this YouthCom workshop, you see some of them try to replicate the same thing at the national level, giving lectures in some universities or sharing the information with other youth in the community. So, youth are very involved now. Youth who participate in these ICANN programs present their projects, their visions, what they think they can do, how they think they can use internet for development in Africa.

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