P.R. loses another major convention over Zika fears
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) confirmed Tuesday the cancellation of its upcoming convention slated to take place in San Juan, due to concerns related to the Zika virus, Akram Atallah, first president of ICANN’s global domains division, said.
It is the second consecutive event the organization in charge of coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the internet has relocated this year over the mosquito-borne ailment. Earlier this year, ICANN announced it was moving the ICANN56 convention from Panama City, Panama, to Helsinki, Finland.
“Following a great deal of internal debate and discussion, and taking into consideration the continued spread of Zika, we have decided that we will be relocating ICANN57 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Hyderabad, India,” he said.
The event was scheduled for Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 in Puerto Rico, and will now take place Nov. 3-9 across the globe. As of press time, it remained unclear how much of an economic impact the cancellation would have on the island’s economy.
“We did not arrive at this decision easily. We would much rather remain in Puerto Rico – the excellent location we had originally chosen. Moving the meeting venue creates a lot of additional work and challenges, and we understand and recognize that moving an ICANN meeting affects many groups within the community,” he said.
“However, we have come to the conclusion that we must postpone going to Puerto Rico after a lengthy discussion with and feedback from leaders, the Board, and within our management team,” he added.
“This decision was based on available research and information and the fact that Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak,” Atallah said.
“We believe that the Zika virus poses a significant enough threat that we need to postpone going to Puerto Rico for the health and safety of our community and our ICANN team, just as we had to postpone ICANN52 and relocate from Marrakech to Singapore due to the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014,” he said.
While a North American venue was the group’s first choice, the mosquito scare drove the organization to accept an offer by the government of India to host ICANN57, he said.
“We understand how important it is to maintain the global rotation of ICANN meetings, as it allows local and regional communities to attend and participate, and we are committed to returning to Puerto Rico and Panama City as soon as possible, however the welfare of community members and staff is our top priority,” he said.
Javier Rúa-Jovet, president of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Board, which spent more than a year lobbying to host the event, expressed his frustration Tuesday over the ICANN’s cancellation.
“I’m deeply disappointed by this decision. The Puerto Rico team fought hard to win ICANN 57 for San Juan. Thankfully, cooler minds have prevailed for the summer Virtual Educa/OAS and CANTO events, which will be great,” Rúa-Jovet said.