My journey to Internet governance began in 2018 when I became aware of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The more I learned, the greater my interest grew. I have since learned about many organizations and forums engaged in growing Internet leaders by building technical knowledge through training, online courses, and fellowship opportunities. The goal of these organizations is to inform and empower stakeholders from across the region so they can meaningfully contribute to discussions on Internet governance as it contributes to capacity building.
In 2019, I attained an APNIC 48 Fellowship in the Professional category. This gave me the opportunity to learn about the technical aspects of the Internet in hands-on sessions and hear from global experts. I was also able to participate in mock policy discussions and the Policy Special Interest Group (Policy SIG) to understand the community-led APNIC Policy Development Process (PDP) as it relates to Internet number resources.
APNIC 48 was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and 52 fellows from 23 economies were provided an opportunity to attend the event. The fellows were welcomed and orientated at a newcomer’s session. The workshop content was useful with real-world examples and hands-on sessions that covered topics including IPv6, SDN, BGP, and network security.
Another interesting session conducted that year was the Women in ICT lunch. As a Bangladeshi woman in ICT, I was able to share the difficulties I had faced and how I had overcome barriers to reach my goals in the industry. This session was a special moment in my journey.
To me, the APNIC Fellowship experience was educational and fun.
I have been working as an Assistant Manager at a large Bangladeshi telco called Summit Communication Limited for nine years. I’ve used the knowledge and connections made through my APNIC fellowship to help with Internet development across Bangladesh. The APNIC fellowship inspired me to attend many events such as the South Asian Network Operators Group (SANOG), Bangladesh School of Internet Governance (bdSIG), Bangladesh Network Operators Group (bdNOG), Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), and Asia Pacific School on Internet Governance (APSIG), sharing information on Internet governance policies, especially to the youth and women in attendance.
I was awarded fellowships from SANOG and bdSIG in 2019. In 2020, I was awarded two more international fellowships in technical categories from APrIGF and APSIG.
In 2021, I was nominated and selected to be a member of bdSIG’s Fellowship Selection Committee for my engagement work in Internet governance. bdSIG 2021 was a very successful event and working with the team and organization leaders was a fabulous experience. Together, we selected many worthy fellows from different sectors of Bangladesh.
I returned as a fellow to APSIG 2021 in the technical category.
Since then, I have been elected as a Chairperson of the Bangladesh Youth Internet Governance Forum (YIGF). This role is a huge honour and allows me to work in the service of Bangladeshi youth.
Being a telecom engineer is challenging in Bangladesh and requires motivation and tenacity. Similarly, I believe there is no single best way to be an effective leader. The way I’ve approached it is to work hard to understand the culture and needs of our youth, especially women. I believe that without having a working knowledge of the technicalities of the Internet, it will be difficult to maintain global connectivity. Therefore, I encourage youth to attend international fellowship programs, and share my technical experience at monthly meetings.
Youth Internet Governance Forum Bangladesh
YIGF Bangladesh is an initiative of the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum (BIGF) in conjunction with the United Nation’s IGF. The vision of YIGF is to encourage Bangladeshi youth to contribute to regional, national, and international Internet governance and increase youth participation in the Internet ecosystem. It is a multistakeholder and highly inclusive platform that values cooperation, collaboration, and mutual understanding between the Bangladeshi youth community and stakeholders. Its goal is to empower youth to rise to the challenges of emerging Internet technologies and innovation, and to reduce digital discrimination.
YIGF 2021 was the first time the program was organized independently here in Bangladesh — it was wholly organized by youth, comprised youth speakers, and hosted content specifically for youth. It was hard work building the event. There were almost daily committee meetings to organize everything from website and advertising design, through to reviewing proposals, the program, and hiring staff. I consider YIGF 2021 the biggest success of my career; it has inspired a new generation of Bangladeshi youth to feel engaged and empowered while working towards a sustainable future in Internet governance.
At YIGF 2021, there were four different committees declared: Advisory Committee, Steering Committee, International Advisory Committee, and Influencer Hunt Committee. These committees have different responsibilities each with the same objective — to make this large event effective in meetings its objectives. We categorized our program into three parts: YIFG Ambassador, Call for Session, and Influencer Hunt.
For the YIGF Ambassador, we requested various stakeholders and ambassadors from around Bangladesh to share their successful policies, knowledge, and best practices relating to the Internet and technology. For the Call for Session, we approached national and international experts to submit proposals for talks during the event. Influencer Hunt was a program to select contributors who would actively participate by sharing and spreading the event information among our fellows, friends, colleagues, and the youth community through their networks and social media. Five influencers were selected.
When the program was set, there were 10 sessions each day with speakers from ICANN, Google, Facebook, APNIC, APSIG, and many more. There were many highlights.
Mr Mohammad Abdul Haque Anu, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum discussed how in previous years, the YIGF discussed their issues in just a single session but now those same youth are capable enough to play a vital role in Internet governance programs, which inspired the first fully Youth IGF.
Mr AHM Bazlur Rahman-S21BR, Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, discussed in his keynote presentation how BIGF has been working with the government to accelerate activities with the government and international stakeholders for knowledge creation, preservation, and dissemination.
Guest of honour Sunny Chendi, APNIC’s Senior Advisor Policy and Community Development, demonstrated how APNIC is committed to developing youth and strengthening Internet governance forums at national, regional, and global levels.
Nick Bauer, Public Policy Manager at Google, also spoke as a guest of honour and shared how Google is been working with Bangladesh on policy issues and their commitment to youth development in Bangladesh.
Mr Hasanul Haq Inu, Chairperson of the Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum and Minster for Information, highlighted the need to reduce the digital divide and discrimination with an holistic approach to governance.
Tashnuva Anan Shishir, actress and news anchor for Boishakhi Television, spoke as a special guest and highlighted the importance of YIGF for marginalized youth, such as transgender.
The biggest success of the first YIGF Bangladesh was enabling equal representation and supporting participation from all communities. This created a platform from which all groups could discuss the barriers to inclusion and an awareness of a safe and affordable Internet. Input from marginalized and minority groups such as persons with disabilities and remote communities were well represented during the conference, helping the broader community to understand and prioritize the needs of individual groups.
YIGF Bangladesh highlighted the Youth Ambassador Program. The Youth Ambassador promotes youth membership, diplomacy, volunteerism, and community services as key aspects of next-generation leadership to improve ICT access, empower diverse voices, influence power, and create an awareness for a trusted Internet.
It was challenging work made even more so by working virtually due to the pandemic, but hard work always pays off. In this case, the payoff was the event’s huge success. I am grateful be a part of that success and thank all members of YIGF Bangladesh and the sponsors. I’m also thankful for the guidance of BIGF. Together, we made history. From now on, YIGF Bangladesh will be held every year.
For me personally, YIGF Bangladesh and APNIC 48 are milestones along my journey of Internet governance. My goal with Internet governance has always been to share the lessons I’ve learned for the benefit of the community and, importantly, the mantra of where there’s a will there’s a way.
Sayda Kamrun Jahan Ripa is an Assistant Manager at Summit Communication Ltd, Chairperson for YIGF Bangladesh 2021, member of the bdSIG Fellowship Selection Committee 2021, and APNIC Fellow.
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.