Fadi Chehade, President and CEO of ICANN, at the Arab Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Meeting held at Radisson Royal, Dubai. Image Credit: Naushad K. Cherrayil/Staff Reporter

Dubai: Icann — the Los Angeles-based non-profit organisation that manages the internet’s naming system — is setting up new hubs outside the US in bid to become a more global organisation.

“We are not taking Icann out of the US,” Fadi Chehade, president and CEO of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), told Gulf News. “We will distribute it around the US. The plan is to take all of our core operations and divide it into three global hubs based on time zones.”

The organisation is opening hubs in Singapore to look after Asia, Istanbul in Turkey to look after operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and Los Angeles for North and South America.

“We met ministers in Ankara and my view is to have all the hubs in place by middle of this year. First will be in Istanbul,” Chehade said.

The Icann chief is attending the Arab Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Meeting hosted by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE.

“These hubs are our global operations and I will be alive around the world and I am moving my executives to Istanbul. Change has to come from inside. We cannot just let people go and open offices, and they become loudspeakers for what we do back here,” he said. “We have to change the way we function and bring people inside the structure. When we do that we become a different organisation. How do we know what people in other parts of the world need by sitting in the US. It is impossible.”

Apart from these global hubs, Icann is also planning to create engagement offices. The body is planning to have local people inside the engagement offices to know more about each region.

The intent is good but the “execution is more important. My board is supporting the globalisation of Icann. But it is how we execute it. I needed to be deep, inside out and global,” he said.

Icann was flayed for being too US-centric and is involved in an image-building exercise. The governance of the internet is a global debate, which has been going on for years. At the recent World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, many countries were against a move to bring internet under the ITU and did not sign the treaty.

“At the WCIT, who was representing the countries?” Chehade said. “It was the governments. What about the businesses and civil societies that are investing billions on infrastructure? They were not at the table. The internet cannot only be governed by governments. It cannot be governed without governments. The internet has to be managed by its nature. It is designed to be managed by all the players.”

Chehade was impressed by what Osman Sultan, CEO of du, said. Sultan said that the biggest producer of content is YouTube. Users are creating more content than movies and music and that this is going to expand exponentially. The equation is changing.

The strategy for Icann in the Arab world is being built now by a group of around 16 people representing governments, academics, businesses and civil societies.

“I will have the input and their strategies by May,” Chehade said. “My job is to implement the strategies. You [Arabs] need to do your part. Arabs need to involve more and there is no escape. They can’t say again that Icann is not doing anything. I changed all of that. Now the onus is on the region to rise and take this opportunity.”

He said a new group will be created by the recommendation of Mohammad Al Ganem, Director General of TRA in UAE, that will look into the creation of a new Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for the Arabic-speaking community. That is “big news”.

“We came up with six working groups,” Chehade said. “Today, I saw some senior people come and say it is time to act together. This is our opportunity. It is a new season. We are here and ready, but we need the map from you [Arab world]. We have all the resources ready. We just need the map and have the commitment.

“All you need is to come together to make it a success,” he said.