Global Talk

Earlier this month, ICANN Vice President Low Jia Rong (CS’07) spearheaded a global internet governance summit in India. The former diplomat and multilinguist shares the thrills of working in the international circuit.

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By his own admission, Low Jia Rong was always talking in class.  

He recalled how Senior Lecturer Mark Cenite would jokingly question how he achieved an A in Media Law despite his constant chatter during lessons.

But Low’s gift of the gab has served him well in his working years, where he was first a diplomat for five years and now, vice president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, overseeing global stakeholder engagement.

Stationed in Singapore, the 34-year-old is also managing director of the company’s Asia Pacific Hub. ICANN is a non-profit organisation that aims to ensure a secure and stable Internet. Their work, for example, includes ensuring that there is no duplication of websites.

“I see my role as a global public servant, facilitating for key stakeholders in the world, particularly from our region, to shape the future of the Internet.”

Low Jia Rong

In early November, Low and his team spearheaded a global summit in Hyderabad, India, where stakeholders discussed new internet governance policies. The summit took about four months of preparation and saw some 2,000 attendees.

In the lead up to the summit, Low stepped up as a “relationship manager” of sorts, as he was expected to actively engage various stakeholders such as governments, businesses and civil societies across Asia-Pacific to participate in discussions about internet policies.

“Every meeting is different because the conversations are about the Internet, which evolves quickly. I see my role as a global public servant, facilitating for key stakeholders in the world, particularly from our region, to shape the future of the Internet,” he said during an interview in September.

Low recalled the challenges he faced when he first stepped into the scene of Internet governance in the early 2000s.

“Back then, nobody knew such an organisation like ICANN existed,” he said of the organisation that was founded in 1998.  

“But today, the Internet is so powerful — it’s the bread and butter for many people and they are only starting to realise there is such a platform that makes such policies.”

His background as a former diplomat — Low’s first job after graduation — also equipped him with the necessary interpersonal skills he frequently uses in his work at ICANN.

In 2009, when he was posted to the Singapore embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam as political secretary while working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Low found himself pushed out of his comfort zone.

Not only did he have to pick up the language, Low also had to “park himself in the local scene” during his three years there, conversing with the Vietnamese — economists, bankers, businessmen —  on top of his diplomatic exchanges with fellow diplomats.

“It was fun, but also frustrating at times because culture can be so different and confusing. But that’s what I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate more, because you realise that there is always a different view and you might not always be right,” said Low, who has also picked up Arabic on his own over the years.  

His time as a diplomat has also taught him the “art of negotiation.”

“Negotiation always sounds like a compromise, where everyone is unhappy. But as a diplomat, negotiation is finding the common ground where collaboration brings about benefit for both parties, even if one has a greater advantage.”

Reflecting fondly on his time at WKWSCI, Low shared that the school has had “a certain influence on my (his) worldview now.”

“We were constantly told to think critically. We also do a lot of hands on work, which forced us to apply and adapt theories to real life. This is something that has become essential in my management work,” said Low, who is now married and expecting his first child in February.

“But more importantly, the school has taught me to always think outside of the box, and to always learn.”