"It's a New Season at ICANN": Chehadé to Focus on Public Interest, Internationalization, and Operational Efficiency

"It's a New Season at ICANN": Chehadé to Focus on Public Interest, Internationalization, and Operational Efficiency

Canada, the public interest, internationalization and operational efficiency were the overarching themes at the ICANN 45 Opening Ceremonies and President’s Opening Session on Monday.

New ICANN President & CEOFadi Chehadéunveiled a new online tool for stakeholder engagement along with his strategy and goals for what he called the “new season” of ICANN.  Officials Steve CrockerByron Holland and Tony Clement were also on hand to welcome delegates both to the conference and Toronto.

What is ICANN?

Very simply, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is part of an “ecosystem” of organizations that collectively work to provide governance to the Internet.

Like the Internet itself, this ecosystem is decentralized and international.  No one person or organization governs the Internet.  Instead, governance is performed by a multi-stakeholder network of interconnected groups which draw from civil society, the private sector, governments, academic and research communities, and national and international organizations. Other major organizations that are part of this ecosystem include IABISO3166ISOCIETF, the five RIRsIGFW3CIRTF, andWGIG.

Together, these organizations aim to work cooperatively within their respective roles to create shared policies and standards that maintain the Internet’s global interoperability for the public good.

Within this ecosystem, ICANN is responsible for coordinating the Internet's systems of unique identifiers and “ensuring the systems’ stable and secure operation”.  In this role, it contributes to global Internet Policies which are the shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and programmes that shape the evolution of the Internet.  It also influences global Internet Standards which enable the interoperability of systems on the Internet by defining protocolsmessage formatsschemas, and languages.

Like many internet governance organizations, ICANN takes a community- and consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder approach to its internal operations and seeks to maintain a broad representation of the global online community.

What is ICANN 45?

ICANN45 is the third of three ICANN meetings held in 2012.  ICANN has generally held three meetings each year since 1999.  Attendance is open to the public and free to all registrants.  The purpose of these meetings is to provide an opportunity for “an internationally diverse group of individuals and organizations to come together and discuss and develop policies for the Internet’s naming systems”.  Remote participation is also available and also free to the public.

Re-Cap of The ICANN 45 Welcome Ceremony

Dr. Steve Crocker, chairman of the ICANN board of directors, was the first to welcome attendees to Toronto.  In his opening remarks he praised Canada’s contribution to the evolution of global communication.  He cited Canadian innovations such as Anik (the world’s first domestic satellite), Archie (the world’s first Internet search engine), and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the world's first public broadcaster to go online) as examples of Canadian contribution to global communication.  Crocker also paid homage to University of Toronto’s Dr. Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrases “global village” and “the medium is the message” in the 1960s.  Two concepts, Crocker said, that continue to shape the way the online community thinks and talks about the Internet.

Crocker also provided an update on the activity of the board of directors, listing the renewal of the dot com registry in Prague and the passage of the budget as some recent milestones that were passed.

Byron HollandCIRA president and CEO, was the second to welcome attendees to Toronto.  He briefly introduced ICANN President & CEO and highlighted the importance of the items on the agenda this week.

Tony Clement, president of the Canadian Treasury Board, was the last to welcome the members of ICANN to Toronto.  Speaking on behalf of the Canadian government, he gave a passionate endorsement of ICANN's multi-stakeholder model.  He also outlined some of the steps the Canadian government has done to embrace online innovation in the public sector such as the government’s Open Data Portal Pilot Project, a project that aims to make large amounts of government data available online, allowing citizens and researchers to analyze and combine data for various purposes.

Re-Cap of The President’s Opening Session: A Bold New Vision

Fadi Chehadé, current President & CEO of ICANN, then took the stage to run a one-hour working session on the objectives and goals for his three year term.  With the sudden departure of his predecessor, many in the online community have been waiting to get a sense of the man who will be taking the helm of one of the web’s largest policy and standards organizations.

In his opening remarks, Chehadé drew attention to Malala Yousufzai, the Pakastani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban earlier this week presumably for her online activity promoting education for girls in Pakistan.

“I ask us all to keep her in our thoughts.  I, for sure, will offer my week, my successes, my failures, everything that happens this week, for her to be better and to get well.  But let’s not forget that this is why we do this.  At the end of the day this is why we do this.”

Chehadé then got down to business, unveiling 4 objectives of the ICANN executive team, drawing attention to ICANN’s 2012-2015 Strategic Plan. He then outlined 16 specific goals the executive team has set to help achieve those objectives.  The objectives and goals are as follows:

  1. To continue to affirm the purpose of ICANN
    1. Deliver core Internet functions
    2. Act as steward of public interest
    3. Engage in the Internet Governance ecosystem
    4. Deepen partnerships with Internet-organizations
  2. To Continue to improve operations of ICANN
    1. Institutionalize management disciplines
    2. Embrace mature organization support functions
    3. Optimize R&R services
    4. Plan for scale, security, and continuity
  3. To Continue to Internationalize ICANN
    1. Engage all stakeholders globally
    2. Communicate clearly & locally
    3. Integrate global/regional responsibility
    4. Evolve government relationships
  4. To Continue To Model Evolution
    1. Optimize policy develop process
    2. Increase/ improve participation
    3. Evolve supporting organization/advisory committee structures
    4. Promote ethics & transparency
This clearly articulated vision comes just in time for an organization that has been criticized for its unbalanced democratic structure that heavily favors commercial entities and for a track record of unveiling plans that lacked details.  While some believe that Chehadé may have bitten off more than he can chew, others are hopeful that this new vision will ensure that ICANN will properly manage one of the largest single changes to the DNS in its history.

Release of MyICANN.org

Chehadé then unveiled MyICANN, a new online tool designed to provide better access to the ICANN community and its operation systems. MyICANN will be deployed in phases. The first phase will comprise mainly of the informational portal offering personal delivery of topical and timely information. Later phases will include the new community collaboration tools for working groups and operations systems, such as trouble tickets or compliance scorecards. The next beta will be released next year at ICANN 46 in Beijing.

Canadian Significance

In this seminal work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Dr. McLuhan wrote that “each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message” (Understanding Media, NY, 1964, p8).   Certainly ICANN, minder of the Internet's unique identifiers, is no stranger to this concept. As has already been pointed out by others on this blog, the introduction gTLDs as a medium is as significant as the content of the websites that will be using them.

So as the leaves turn red in Toronto, the online community will be watching to see what this new season at ICANN will bring.

Beatrice Sze is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.