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How ICANN could help out after Türkiye earthquake

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2023, Domain Policy

A new ICANN program could see funds directed to Türkiye and Syria after Monday’s devastating earthquakes.

Interim CEO Sally Costerton last month said that the Org has created an Emergency Assistance Program, which emerged out of the $1 million it pledged towards the crisis in Ukraine almost a year ago.

The initial donation saw money go to the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a network of humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, charities and private companies that provides connectivity to disaster zones.

ETC said this week that a coordinator is on the ground in Türkiye to assess the need for its services. It has been in Syria for many years due to the ongoing bloody civil war.

While ICANN’s donation to ETC was a one-off, it intends to open an expressions of interest process soon for global organizations that provide communications during disasters. Contributions up to $1 million will be considered.

Much like the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were calls this week for Elon Musk to make his Starlink satellites available over Türkiye to help coordinate emergency relief, but his subsequent offer was reportedly declined by the government.

There have also been reports today that the Turkish government has blocked access to Twitter in the country, after receiving criticism over its handling of rescue efforts.

While ICANN’s funds will of course not be available during the current phase of the crisis, they could if connectivity issues persist. The Turkish government has declared a three-month state of emergency.

The earthquake hit close to home for ICANN, which has several staff at its satellite office in Istanbul, more than a thousand kilometers from the quake’s epicenter.