The 2015 Online Internet Governance Course Kicks Off  

The IGMENA & DiploFoundation online course on Internet governance is underway! 82 talented participants from 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa are learning and sharing ideas about how laws, policies, processes, and technical standards related to the Internet relate free expression, privacy, transparency, accountability, and access to information in the MENA region. Thanks to our excellent team of tutors and event organizers for all of your hard work in making this course a great experience.
Through materials and case studies custom-tailored to the region, this 8 week foundational course gives emerging Internet governance leaders the knowledge they need to influence processes and institutions at the local, regional, and global level. The online course gives participants an opportunity to interact by commenting on the course readings, blogging about course topics, and engaging in weekly chat sessions with instructors and classmates.
One topic that generated significant discussion in the classrooms last week was Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). International domain names allow website owners and web users to utilize domain names in their own language or script. Classroom discussion drew on the case study of generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) DotMawqe (.موقع) that debuted in 2013. Participants saw both advantages and disadvantages associated with TLDs in Arabic script.
One major advantage that the group identified is the fact that IDNs promote the development of local and regional content and support cultural and geographical identity online. IDNs not only allow websites to reach more people, they also allow website owners to more effectively develop brand identity. Some participants felt that more needed to be done to raise awareness about IDNs and promote their use in order to increase the rate of adoption and improve trust. 
Other participants felt that it is more important to invest in promoting Arabic language content and that domain names are less critical. Participants identified a number of existing barriers to using Arabic IDNs, including complexities in representing Arabic language and grammar in domain names and the fact that many connected devices do not fully support Arabic script. Finally, some comments focused on concerns about fragmenting the naming system of the Internet, making it difficult for people who don’t know the language to reach an address.
Issues of human rights related to Internet governance came up frequently in course discussions, especially as participants examined specific policies and practices in different countries. This week, groups will focus exclusively on the issue of human rights and Internet governance with targeted case studies and readings on the topic. The final weeks of the course will cover cybersecurity, government surveillance, and policy advocacy in greater depth.

For comments or questions about the online course, contact us at [email protected].