Middle East DNS Forum Tunis 2016: Exposing Reality and Possible Prospects

By Ines Hfaiedh

From 04 to 05 May 2016, The Middle East DNS Forum was held in Tunis, Tunisia. The forum was an opportunity to meet and network with the DNS industry’s key players and experts in the field. Participants from ICANN, ISOC, Registries, Registrars/Resellers, Registrants, ccTLDs, new gTLD Applicants, service providers, brand owners, legal firms, took part in the event in order to share experiences and best practices at the global and regional level.

Co-organised by ICANN and the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), the conference welcomed many notable guests, among whom was the Minister of Technologies and Digital Economy, Mr. Noomane Fehri.

In his opening speech, the minister pointed to the Tunisian youth’s valuable presence at international meetings related to Internet Governance and stressed his wish to see those young people active in international organizations like ICANN and ISOC, adding that “if ICANN and Internet multi-stakeholders stop working, the world stops working. This is a serious matter.”

Noomane Fehri, talked about “a tsunami” that will eradicate two-thirds of the traditional economy. The current decision-makers must therefore pave the way for them by preparing an ecosystem of startups to flourish. “We are looking forward to something similar to Silicon Valley, which we might call ‘Tunisia Valley’ or the ‘Mediterranean Valley”, Mr. Noomene Fehri said.

Mr. Fehri urged building the pillars of “Tunisia 2.0,” so that Tunisia can stand in front of the “tsunami” he described. The first pillar, he says, is connecting everyone by the year 2020. The second pillar is making sure that those connected maximize the use of this connectivity, through virtual schools that will use ICTs to create equality of opportunity among students within Tunisia and between Tunisian students and their counterparts all over the world. The third pillar is getting rid of paperwork and obstacles in bureaucracy by having a one hundred percent paper-free government by 2020. The fourth pillar is maintaining a free and secure Internet by making new digital codes which will ensure freedom of expression and rule of law.

Fear, also added that the government has adopted connecting every single family by 2020 in the ministerial gathering that took place the same morning of the meeting. They will be sending the “Tunisia Development Plan” to parliament for adoption in a few days, and working on a “Startup Business Pack” and a “Startup Business Act”. The minister likewise urged to become active in the GAC within ICANN and participating in the IANA transition.

Last but not least, Minister Noomane Fehri, announced his full support of Moez Chakchouk, CEO of the Tunisian Post, in his candidacy in AFNOG.

On the first session, titled “The MENA Region Online: Trends in Internet Usage”, Mr. Baher Esmat, Vice President, Stakeholder Engagement – Middle East in ICANN, talked about the diversity of the MENA region in terms of economies , population, level of education, connectivity, and internet penetration. He explained how this diversity diversifies in its turn the priorities of each country. The challenge, he added, is “How to integrate the Internet to all sorts of economies?”

Esmat, gave some numbers such as the MENA population which is half a billion among which 35 per cent is online and how this number is not far from the global average. Mr. Esmat, also pointed that the region is rather a mobile region as almost 90 percent access the internet via mobile and tablets and that the usage is for social activities rather than business (only one third).

Besides, Mr. Baher Esmat talked how ICANN commissioned BCG to study the factors that hinder countries from making the transition to digital economy. They sorted out main factors such as Infrastructure, Industry, Individual (education, skills), Information (information available online from commerce, e-gov and freedom of information etc).

Mr. Esmat, concluded by recommending “we must work on infrastructure and affordability”.

Mr. Moez Chakchouk, CEO of Tunisian Post, intervened in the panel to say that “at the level of AFRINIC Tunisia should be a role model, i.e., from one model to an open model or from centralization to decentralization.

He added, “We should adopt new technologies and facilitate the life of youth who have problems paying online because we spend too much time discussing policies but in terms of practice there are problems”.

Chakchouk, pointed to the texts and regulations that should be changed or developed and how we should start really early to educate our children on the internet.

Douha Ben Youssef, a Civil Society activist, explained how freedom is at the heart of innovation and if we can’t express an idea, it is lost. Ben Youssef also mentioned the fight against DAECH saying, “surveillance destroys the relation between the end-user and the government, and the different actors in the internet”.

Ben Youssef, shed light on the issue of Freedom of expression, which is, in her opinion, as important as security. She called on protecting the right to personal life and personal data.

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