Islands to ICANN

By on 25 Jan 2017

Category: Community

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Last year, I was fortunate enough to get a fellowship to attend ICANN 57 in Hyderabad, India.

To help prepare for my first ICANN meeting, I read stories from previous ICANN fellows. The information they provided on the kinds of opportunities and the what to expect at an ICANN conference proved invaluable before and during the conference.

But well before I even started reading these stories and coming to terms with what I was going to experience, the most frequent question I was asked from those around me – primarily people from small island developing states (SIDS) in the Pacific – was, “How did you manage to get the fellowship?”

It was then I realized that although there is a lot of information about experiences from past fellows, there is a small gap in the resources available about the steps needed to get an ICANN fellowship, not just for people in the Pacific, but those in other parts of the world too.

In this post, I’d like to share how I believe I managed to get an ICANN fellowship in the hope it can provide some insight for those looking to get their first ICANN fellowship and become involved in the community.

Joining the community and learning more

I’m currently an academic with the University of Papua New Guinea.

My interest in the Internet began as an end user frustrated with the state of the Internet in my country. Accessibility, infrastructure, cost and availability were some of the major barriers to accessing information when I was a research student. This was when I was directed to the Pacific Island Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) by my research supervisor, where I found many similar-minded people who cared about access to information.

PICISOC is an ICANN At-Large structure and served as a good introduction to the Internet community for me. The community was welcoming and it was where I first found out about ICANN’s roles and objectives, even though I was an avid Internet user and had done work writing code and in web development. Many people may be in a similar situation – even though we work a lot with the Internet and want to contribute more, finding out about such communities is an important first step.

My first step was by word of mouth and a chance stumbling across a few postings on a mailing list that interested me. Given my experience, I have attempted to include key Internet infrastructure, governance, and key organizations in a formal curriculum in my university to help improve awareness.

Apply (and keep applying)

ICANN holds three meetings each year, and fellowship applications are open well in advance of each meeting.

I first saw the application for the fellowship in the PICISOC mailing list where someone posted it.

The application was a learning process for myself. I didn’t get the fellowship the first time I applied but there are many opportunities available within the Internet space, and the ICANN application put me in a good position to take advantage of some of these.

I applied for a NetHui (New Zealand Internet Governance Forum) fellowship and was privileged to be offered a fellowship during which I learned even more about ICANN and the surrounding community. This also included the numbers community and the role of organizations such as the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).

I then later applied for and received a fellowship to attend APNIC 40 in Jakarta in September 2015. The coaching and immersive approach of the APNIC fellowship program helped broaden my horizons and I was able to make many more connections within the Internet community.

The next time I applied for an ICANN fellowship, I was at least more familiar with the terminology and the ecosystem and could make a more informed submission.

A good tip would be to save the questions and your answers when filling out your online application for future reference and to learn more about certain aspects whilst awaiting the next opening.

Factors that may affect your selection

Let’s say, for example, you are in a position (like I was) where you have learned more about ICANN and how you can fit in, and you have applied a couple of times but you have yet to receive a fellowship. First, don’t be discouraged as there are a few factors involved in the selection.

I do not know the exact criteria but the following things may be considered:

  1. It is very competitive – there are many people applying for only a small number of fellowships. Even if you have only just missed out, you can always improve and add weight to your application before the next opening.
  2. Geography – ICANN meetings move around by region. The hosting region often has more participants. You should always look to put in a strong application when your region is hosting.

You should always look to improve your application and most importantly keep applying. It was not until my third attempt that I got my first ICANN fellowship. One thing that you can do to boost your application is to get involved with your community and begin contributing.

Increase your visibility

I did this by getting more involved with the Regional At-Large Organization (RALO). My RALO was the Asia-Pacific RALO, APRALO.

I began joining monthly calls and involving myself in discussions. This helped me make connections and improve my visibility within the community. Most importantly, it gave me a better understanding of current issues being discussed, which allowed me to put in a strong application.

On my third attempt at applying, my first since increasing participation in the community, I was privileged to be granted a fellowship. I therefore believe that the best thing to do is to get involved because there is no such thing as a perfect time to start your involvement and there is no better way to learn.

Finally, the program itself

The fellowship program takes a bit of effort from participants but it’s completely rewarding. It broadens your horizons on the Internet ecosystem and the ICANN organization and community.

There is a lot to learn and the meeting itself has a lot going on. For fellows, however, there is a set program that helps you begin your journey in ICANN. Established members of the ICANN organization and community also present a walk-through of various constituencies they are involved in that was very useful.

With so much going on during the meeting, I found it challenging to digest it all during the week. However, since I’ve had time to look back through the meeting and materials provided, I’ve absorbed a lot more.

That was my journey to my first ICANN fellowship and I hope it helps you in your quest for your first fellowship.

Kasek Galgal is a Lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea. His work is focused on cybersecurity, free and open source software and network development.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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