Good news. In now my 15th ICANN meeting or so it's clear that the internet governance community is finally taking some real note of the rest of the world — including the over 50% of humankind that doesn't use Latin script characters to communicate.
In fact, talk of emerging markets is everywhere at the San Francisco ICANN meeting this week. The ICANN Board and Government Advisory Committee (or GAC, a group of government representatives that advise the Board) are talking about the needs of developing countries. They're discussing the recommendations of the Joint Applicant Support Working Group (of which I'm a member) that is designed to help applicants from needy markets and communities participate in the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) process.
There are even a slightly larger than normal smattering of representatives from countries like Nigeria, Congo and the like.
Still, while the Board and the GAC talked and talked yesterday it was clear that we still have some way to go. By the time issues pertaining to developing countries came up — item 10 of 10, the last part of a grueling 3 hour meeting — two thirds of the attendees had left the room. Katim Touray, the ever-positive Gambian Board member made a passionate appeal for a special session on the needs of emerging markets at the next meeting. And there was some nodding, and some support — happily — from the Business Constituency… and then we went off for drinks.
So perhaps it's time for a very simple proposal. Next time we meet and discuss the new gTLDs and other big issues of the day, why not begin with the discussion of how this affects emerging markets? It would be more than just welcome symbolism. It would be a recognition of what everyone knows — that the next billion internet users will be coming from the fast-growing countries of Africa, Asia and South America, not the OECD. And that we don't know enough about what they will need.
Tenth out of ten is too late in the day. It's high time to move the developing country agenda forward. The rest of the world has been waiting in the queue long enough.
By Andrew Mack, Principal at AMGlobal Consulting
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