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TMCNet:  Introducing Internet governance to Yemen [Yemen Times]

[August 27, 2014]

Introducing Internet governance to Yemen [Yemen Times]

(Yemen Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Ahmed Ubaid Bin Daghr, minister of telecommunications and information technology, in a meeting with the Internet Society-Yemen and a delegation from ICANN and RIPE.

For a long time, the citizens of Yemen have battled with a lack of accessible communications. Last Thursday saw an unprecedented step forward, with the Internet Society of Yemen (ISOC Yemen) holding a meeting on Internet governance in Sana'a. It was the first time the concept was discussed in Yemen, since its first presentation at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003.    The mission of ISOC's Yemeni branch, which was registered as an NGO in 2013, "is the same as that of the global Internet Society (ISOC), whose goal is to promote an open development, evolution and beneficial use of the Internet," said Walid Al-Saqaf, head of ISOC Yemen.


In spite of its young age, ISOC Yemen has actively participated in global events organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE), and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Its members have won several grants and fellowships, allowing them to attend global training events and launch various projects, including a series of e-commerce workshops, according to Al-Saqaf.

Membership of ISOC Yemen spans across a variety of demographics and locations, including women and representatives from several Yemeni governorates.

"While we focus on Yemen… we also aim at contributing to the Internet's open development and beneficial use on the global level," Al-Saqaf explained.

"[ISOC Yemen] can bring domestic stakeholders and international actors together to discuss and brainstorm in order to identify problems and come up with solutions. Thereafter, the society can help monitor and evaluate progress in implementing those solutions," he said.

On Thursday, ISOC Yemen brought Internet stakeholders together to educate them about Internet governance in an attempt to develop solutions and standards for more efficient, open, and fair Internet usage in the country.

Internet governance is a broad term that was defined in 2005 at an international UN meeting as "the development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet." Expanding Internet services throughout the country constituted one of the key issues raised during the meeting of ISOC Yemen. A large part of Yemen's population lives in rural areas that continue to lack internet access.

"The Internet service and access is extremely poor even when compared to countries that are unstable like Syria and Somalia," said Al-Saqaf.

"The telecommunication infrastructure that the Internet relies on and the Internet installations and services need massive and drastic improvements on multiple levels…this can't happen unless a multi-stakeholder approach is adopted and the monopoly of the Internet sector is put to an end," added Al-Saqaf.

Sadeq Muslih, the general manager of the state-run Public Telecommunications Corporation (PTC), which is the only Internet provider in Yemen, announced in a speech held during the meeting on Thursday that the PTC works to engage both the government and the private sector in the provision of internet, the state-run Saba News Agency reported.

In addition, the Ministry of Telecommunication is currently preparing a document outlining a two-year transition from Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPV4) to Internet Protocol Version (IPV6). Those changes, according to Muslih, will increase Internet capacity and speed in Yemen and adapt to latest technological advances in the IT sector, with many new computers using IPV6.

The internet speed provided by the existing infrastructure in Yemen is 32 GB. To increase internet speed, Yemen and 16 other countries signed a contract with a Chinese company in February, agreeing on the construction of a new submarine internet line to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.

Over the next two years, Yemen aims to connect to this new Internet line in Aden, which links the country to the submarine cable in the Arabian Sea.

The new speed of the planned Internet infrastructure is two terabytes—equivalent to 2048 GB—according to Ali Al-Mawri, head of the Internet Department at the PTC.

In an attempt to increase Internet access nationwide, the government established a project last year called the "one million-landline phones and ADSL project." In implementing that project, the PTC has so far installed 100,000 new landline phones in areas with existing landline phone services nationwide, according Al-Mawri.

Another 292,000 new phone lines will be established in service-providing areas, he adds. Breaking the government's Internet monopoly One of the main challenges in terms of internet service and access in Yemen is Internet monopoly.

"We can encourage decision makers to end the monopoly. We do this by showcasing examples of other countries, which serve as convincing evidence that using tactics of the past cannot work in the future. We are urging the government to open up [Internet services] as it is only then that the country will be able to improve the Internet sector," Al-Saqaf said.

The censorship of online content used to be very strict under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. While it has decreased dramatically in the course of Yemen's political transition, the possibility and risk of re-establishing online censorship remains.

Al-Saqaf believes that "allowing the establishment of multiple internet service providers and implementing clear guidelines as to when and how websites violate the law will be needed to prevent the return of online censorship." "The government already appears convinced that it has to improve internet access in remote areas. But perhaps it needs guidance and help in understanding how to go about it," Al-Saqaf explained.

"That's where we need to push for a change in mindsets on the governmental level to abandon the monopoly and rigid control of the past and embrace a multi-stakeholder approach," he said.

"Only then can we provide robust and affordable Internet to all citizens across Yemen." (c) 2014 Yemen Times. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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