Representing the Nation as an ICANN Fellow

Chuma Akana (LL.M.) represents AUWCL and the U.S. at ICANN78 Annual General Meeting in Hamburg, Germany

Chuma Akana LL.M. '23 was selected as one of the 40 fellows from a pool of 400 applicants to attend the ICANN78 Annual General Meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

Embarking on a transformative journey, Chuma Akana LL.M '23 traveled to Hamburg, Germany for the prestigious ICANN78 Annual General Meeting. Handpicked as an ICANN fellow among a distinguished cohort of 39 individuals from 32 different countries, Akana's selection stood out from the pool of approximately 400 original applicants. Rooted in a deep-seated admiration for the legal profession since his youth, Akana's trajectory was influenced by the eminent legal legacy of his uncle in Nigeria.

Hailing from Nigeria, Akana's passion for law led him to secure a Bachelor of Law degree (LL.B) from Obafemi Awolowo University specializing in Commercial and International Law. With a burgeoning career as a practicing attorney specializing in privacy and IP law in his homeland, Akana's commitment to the field compelled him to advance his legal education at AUWCL.

During a discussion on "Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy" in Professor Christina Farley's Trademarks class, he first learned about the ICANN fellowship opportunity. The topic resonated with him because of his prior experience with it in Nigeria.

"I worked with domain name dispute resolution in Nigeria," he said. "If two people have the same domain name, you need to go through a legal process called the uniform dispute resolution policy which I had now learned in class was put together by ICANN. This sparked a larger conversation about ICANN, their body of work and ways to be involved in it."

The experience was a learning one according to Akana. 

"We had to do a lot of training and meetings before being at the meeting in Hamburg," he said. "We realized there is a lot we do not know. It was a massive gathering of people from different areas, and it was interesting because for instance- my interest is privacy CS and IP. There were about 4-5 different organizations in ICANN that dealt with these issues. They were all talking about the same thing but saying it in different perspectives."

For Akana, experiences like this, along with insights gained in the classroom, are what he hopes to leverage with him in Nigeria to empower technological policy and regulations. He hopes to bridge these gaps between outdated laws and fast-developing technology.

"Parts of Africa missed parts of the industrial revolution. Technology has provided an opportunity for Africa to bridge those gaps," he explained. "The world is a global village. It is imperative that we begin to find technological solutions to indigenous problems. This also means the law must catch up to it."

Akana chose AUWCL to expand his legal education because of its high-ranking IP and Tech programs as well as its proximity to power. 

Chuma Akana
Akana in the Pence Library

"What stands out to me about AUWCL is the approach to learning. It is vastly different from my previous legal background," Akana said. "This approach to learning is more practical, personal, and interactive and enables every student to be part of the program deeply. The learning environment has been extremely helpful. The professors are always willing to take more time to help you if you need something."

Akana has previously drafted papers focusing on harmful online content, data protection and digital retail lending, and financial technology/virtual currency regulatory framework.  He is a student member of the American Bar Association and a member of the International Bar Association. He is also the Founder of the Innovation and Technology Lawyers Network (ITELAN), a network of lawyers and creatives/tech founders with the mission to bridge the law and technology gap in Africa. Once he earns his LL.M. in December 2023, he plans to take the New York State Bar Exam. His hope is to be able to drive Nigerian government policy around cyber security, privacy, and artificial intelligence. 

~Story by Hasini Jayawardena.