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My personal highlights of 2016 for the Asia-Pacific Bureau and what’s coming up in 2017

The year 2016 was indeed a successful year for the Internet Society (ISOC) Asia-Pacific (APAC) Team. We were able to leverage many opportunities throughout the year across the region, and together with our members, chapters and partners, we worked towards ensuring that the Internet kept growing and evolving.

For me personally, there were a couple of things that stood out. One was InterCommunity 2016 where we had 11 nodes located throughout the region engaged in robust intra-regional discussions on topical issues.

Another was ISOC’s first Regional Internet and Development Dialogue that brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss Internet development issues. At the event, we were able to bring the gender perspective into discussions, and the regional gender and ICT workshop we convened just prior was a valuable initiative that helped shape some of the outcomes.

In November, Kathy and I had the opportunity to visit one of the Wireless for Communities (W4C) sites in Tilonia, India. We observed first-hand the transformative nature of the Internet and what it can do for people at the local community level. The visit was a very fulfilling experience that left us even more committed to connect the unconnected.

So here we are, well into 2017, and its certainly shaping up to be a busy year regionally and globally.

On the policy front, we have WTDC scheduled in Argentina in Q4 that will consider a range of development-related issues as they apply to Telecom/ICTs and the Internet. Linked to that will be a number of regional preparatory meetings that we will be closely following in APAC. The first of these took place in Papua New Guinea in February, and the ITU Regional Preparatory Meeting was held in Bali late last month.

Also in Q4, India will host the next edition of the Global Conference on Cyberspace. The Asia-Pacific Regional IGF (APrIGF) will be held in Bangkok in July, and there will be a sprinkling of regional inter-governmental meetings throughout the year organised by APT and others covering cybersecurity, access, development and ICT-related issues.

On the technical front, APRICOT was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam in late February, and we are happy to have again supported its fellowship programme. This year we further reinforced our focus on gender, with two-thirds of ISOC fellows at the event being women from developing countries. You can read more about our activities in and around APRICOT in this blog post.

In November, Singapore will host the 100th meeting of the IETF, and we hope that can be further encouragement for participation from Southeast Asia in the IETF. Our IETF Outreach initiative in 2016 was focused on Southeast Asia, and this year we are focusing on South Asia with the programme already underway in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Towards the end of 2016, we added a new team member in APAC focused on technical engagement – Aftab Siddiqui. He will be working on deepening our engagement with the regional technical community. In March, we held a very useful bilateral meeting with APNIC so that we can better coordinate and collaborate on technical activities in the region.

In line with ISOC’s 2017 Action Plan, our regional programmes this year will focus on Trust- and Access-related issues that enable economic, social and human development. The year 2017 is also our 25th anniversary, and we intend to highlight this milestone throughout the year. You can read more about some of the planned activities here.

The fourth edition of our regional policy survey, which will close today, has thus far elicited close to 2,100 responses from participants in 39 economies across the region. Please consider responding to that and share your views on regional Internet issues. You can read the findings from the 2016 survey here and participate in the 2017 survey here.

We are looking at convening a series of workshops on online privacy issues and how that impacts on trust and confidence in the Internet; as well as a couple on digital accessibility following our work in Pakistan on the topic in 2016. The first accessibility workshop was held in Sri Lanka last month, and the first privacy workshop is scheduled for Vanuatu in May.

We also expect to organise a couple of editions of our highly regarded Asia Internet Symposium series that have helped provide a forum to discuss Internet issues of local importance.

InterCommunity 2017 is scheduled for the 19th of September, and will include the presentation of a new class of Internet Hall of Fame inductees and the 25 under 25 who are using the Internet to make a significant impact on society. We hope you can be part of one of our regional nodes – or join us online – as we celebrate 25 years of the Internet Society.

We are also pleased to present our ‘2016: The Year That Was Report‘ that provides a snapshot of what we did over the course of 2016. The report includes some activities as reported by our chapters in the region.

To keep up-to-date with where we are and what we are doing throughout the year, please follow us on Twitter @ISOCapac, connect with us on Facebook and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


ISOC Asia-Pacific Bureau: Building engagements in Pakistan

Home to around 180 million people, Pakistan is an important economy in the South Asian region. The country is witnessing an exponential growth in terms of Internet usage, especially for the mobile broadband segment, reporting over 600% increase in data usage during the last quarter. It may be noted that 3G and 4G LTE services only made their entry last year in Pakistan offering a new dimension to the overall Internet growth.

Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau is building engagements with local stakeholders; the team was recently in Islamabad and Lahore on an engagement trip.

In partnership with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, mobile operators and Samsung Pakistan, the Bureau spearheaded the first-ever ‘Pakistan Mobile Apps Award’  aimed at encouraging young innovators and entrepreneurs to develop innovative mobile applications. It received over 100 entries, and an awards ceremony was held in Islamabad to recognize the winners of the competition. The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry, industry, academia and media.

The Bureau was invited for to give a talk on ‘Network Neutrality’ at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). It was great to observe the attention of the participants and how the young generation in Pakistan is mindful of Internet issues.

The Bureau team also visited LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship founded in summer 2014. Since then, 13 startups have graduated from the center in two cohorts. The third cohort of 16 startups is currently being mentored and groomed to become high-growth businesses of tomorrow. The center has already created over 60 jobs, generated over $200K in annualized revenue and raised close to $600K of investments.

The Bureau team also held meetings with the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the CEO of the Comsats Internet Services  and the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter.

A number of potential areas for partnership was identified with the office of the regulator and industry players; the Bureau looks forward to further strengthening its work and engagements in Pakistan.