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ICANN CEO says UAE is leading ‘digital transformation’ in the Middle East

ICANN President and CEO, Goran Marby has praised the UAE for being at the forefront of 'digital transformation' in the Middle East region at ICANN60 held in Abu Dhabi. He also highlighted how the country was a leader in infrastructure development and the growth of digital services.

ICANN60 represented the first-ever ICANN public meeting in the Gulf Region, and a large attendance gathered in the capital of the United Arab Emirates to hear from the organization's leadership. ICANN is seen as the safety valve for the internet, but the event also provided ICANN with the ability to showcase some of the projects and initiatives it's embarking on, and the fundamental role it plays in the internet's governance ecosystem.

The ICANN CEO said, "The UAE is at the forefront of digital transformation in the UAE, and is also a leader in infrastructure and the rapid growth of digital services in the GCC. The UAE is also one of the region's most advanced country code top level domains. One thing that is very important for me and my organization is that transparency creates accountability. We've recently launched a program we've entitled the 'Accountability Indicators' which replaces the KPI dashboard that we had before. It's a better system for us to showcase our progress on how we work on strategic and operational plans."

Marby also disclosed how ICANN is introducing a documentation management system with a new interface. He conceded that whilst it will take several years to implement due to the fact that it already has more than 120,000 documents in its system, he stressed that it increases the mobility for people to find documentation in other languages. ICANN's CEO then stressed the importance of his organization and the role it plays in the internet governance ecosystem. However, he did concede they face many challenges, and touched on the draconian measures some governments have proposed in relation to internet controls.

Marby said, "ICANN is a fantastic organization and nobody has ever done what we've done before. Together, you have created what is the user interface to the internet for many users around the world. That makes you important, that makes this meeting important. However, we're not without challenges. In many places around the world there are legislative proposals that can have a direct effect on our possibility to make policies. We don't judge them, many of them have the very best of intentions, but sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Marby concluded his keynote address by paying tribute to outgoing ICANN Board Chair Stephen Crocker. The ICANN CEO spoke of the profound impact Crocker had on him, and that his departure would be a huge blow to the organization. He also named Crocker as the recipient of the 2017 Leadership Award.

Marby said, "As you know, one of the reasons we're also here is to say goodbye to a dear friend, he's someone that has influenced me a lot, especially in the last eighteen months. He's someone we're going to miss so much, and he really is a pillar of our community. Every year the ICANN Leadership Award is given to an outstanding member in our community that demonstrates extraordinary commitment to ICANN. It's awarded to people that remain true to the communities core values chosen by the ICANN executive team. This year, there is no other choice; the winner is our chair and my friend Stephen Crocker."