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Who is ICANN? - Fouad Bajwa | 02 Jun 11

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My name is Fouad Riaz Bajwa and I’m from Lahore, in Punjab, Pakistan. I’m a computer science and information technology graduate.

My work now is really interesting because in 2004 I left the government. I was working for the Treasury, I was a State Webmaster. And later on, my entrepreneur spirit was always bugging me to explore another venture. And once I sorted that, I felt the impact of the recession, in terms of skill recession, brain drain, that I used to acquire so much business from abroad but I did not have the skill, manpower to do it. And this skill was more like common sense and the way you service the international market.

So then, with some like-minded friends, I joined the Punjab University and I started educating all the graduating bachelors, undergrad and post grad, into how they could work online and generate income. But at the same time I was also making inroads into the Open Source movement. I took on like, introducing Ubuntu Linux into Pakistan and then running mass awareness campaigns with the help of the Pakistan's ... Board, the Ministry of ID, the Lawyer Department, UNDP, and other institutions. And we ended up training like ten thousand people in four days, using public infrastructure and just less than $2,000, on Linux and understanding intellectual property rights, why people shouldn't use pirated software to connect to the Internet. And, because of that, my time in Pakistan has been busy, consulting people, institutions, nonprofit organizations in the adoption of Open Source software.

You ask things and you speak up. When you are first time, generally, you feel a bit shy and you think that “Okay, if I’m going to ask something..."

I’m still a baby within the ICANN engagement model because my first fellowship was in Seoul, 2009, in South Korea. And the second fellowship was after three months in Nairobi, Kenya. And from there I got involved with the At-Large community and currently within the Asian-Pacific Regional At-Large Organization I’m a co-vice chair. So, which has been really interesting because I’m called a graduating fellow, but I ended up in, like, a very important position, which brings a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders to bring the Internet users’ voice into ICANN.

If you’re willing to dive in and get acquainted with the issues and think about how the policies that we create here are affecting users in your country, that’s a really critical role that you comply.

With the Fellowship Program, makes you part of a community, it educates you, it equips you with all the knowledge you require to engage with the constituencies and build your own opinions about certain issues. And to find spaces where you think that people like me, coming from developing countries or low income countries, like Pakistan, I can find those spaces within ICANN and I can engage with them.

The language in which all the knowledge about ICANN is shared in general may be complex, but once you come to the Fellowship Program, the interesting thing is ICANN comes to you. Every morning you have ICANN staff, specialists, experts from the community, volunteers from the community, from every process, literally every constituency, organization, to the Nominating Committee for the Board and the positions on ICANN Board, they're all there. You get a first-hand opportunity to interact with the people who would otherwise not even have the time to actually get out of those meetings and engage with you and create that network where these people continues to give support to you.

At any point in time, what I learned was that I could walk up to any ICANN staff member, I could walk up to any person from these constituencies, and, what are the constituencies? You have like 120 plus government members in the GAC. Some of them are ambassadors, some are ministers, right? There's a whole diversity of people in there. You walk up to them and ask what their countries interest is in something. Your own government representative might be sitting on the GAC. You can engage with them at the very lowest level, you'll meet the individual Internet users. You'll see them in the ALAC, you will see them in, if ... to the gTLDs, you'll see them in the Non-Commercial User Constituency. You will bump into really technical people. I heard that someone from the Interpol was also hanging around these meetings this time, right? So that's how important it is. It's a critical Internet infrastructure.

If you're walking in the town where the venue of the meeting is, people stop and ask you "Where are you from?" "How come you are like, this huge group, and everyone looks different like, you know, they're not from the same part of the world?" And obviously we always have our badge with us and it has our country's name written in it. And people get fascinated and then they ask us about ICANN. So the same person who came to get knowledge at ICANN from a developing world country and to find his space in the public Internet policy arena, he ends up within those days telling other people about what ICANN is. So that's how strong the ICANN Fellowship Program is.

It educates you, it makes you aware, it makes you understand what issues you might want to bring up. And the most interesting part is, from the President to the Chair of the Board, from the Board members to the ICANN staff, from people who are like, heads and owners of these large corporations across the world within the Internet space, they're all here willing to answer what you have in mind. You find people from your own countries, you get an update on what's happening over there. So this is what I call the Macro View of the Internet. Not that micro view, from where you look from underneath to the sky and you see this huge sky, but it's the other way around. That you get the opportunity to sit in the sky and look on the ground and see what's needed to be done and how things have to ... And the Fellowship Program is the first step.

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Duration: 6 minutes and 41 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: icann on May 29, 2013

Who is ICANN? - Fouad Bajwa | 02 Jun 11

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