Why the Open Knowledge International should join ICANN

First, let me quickly tell you what kind of an organisation is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), for I feel that albeit its burgeoning global importance, most people are still not at all familiar with it.

In a nutshell, ICANN governs the domain names and addresses of the internet. Today, it does so with a multi stakeholder model, that involves all the interested parties in deciding over the rules and protocols that are needed to keep the internet free and safe for its users. Such interest groups include the technical community, registries and registrars of internet domains, the civil society, commerce and the governments.

If you want to know more about the fascinating history of ICANN, you’re in luck, for just a few days ago, the Washington Post had an excellent glance at the history, in an informative and entertaining form.

So, why do I want the Open Knowledge International to join ICANN? I find these reasons to be sufficient:

  1. First and foremost, the timing couldn’t be better. ICANN is right now in the progress of updating and reviewing its internal bylaws and this process is called workstream 2, or WS2. The bylaws are used to control the decision making process within the quasi-private oversight group, that is ICANN. I probably don’t need to elaborate on the speed of massively growing Internet to this audience, but I’ll do it anyway; Apparently, we created more data in 2013-2014, than all the previous years put together, and it seems we’re still very much in the accelerating growth phase of the Internet.
  2. As it is, the access to the data that the governance of the Internet creates, is almost non-existent. I think there could be a treasure trove of information to be used for the improvement of the global Internet community, as well for scientific research. ICANN holds the keys to a central point of communications like no other entity in the world. Likewise, the culture of transparency could be massively improved and that is the name of an actual subgroup within the WS2-process, that was kicked off in the ICANN56 in Helsinki this June. My suggestion is for the OKI to join ICANN’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group and contribute in formulating the transparency bylaws with other members of the NCSG.
  3. The size and breadth of OKI makes us a valuable member to ICANN. Their triannual conferences take place all over the world, rotating in turns to different continents. This would give a global organisation like ours, the chance to participate live almost every time with minimum expenses. The conferences themselves are free with food and drinks.
  4. The networking possibilities are simply too impressive to ignore. If we can contribute in the work of ICANN, I am sure we can grow our own network of  member countries and individual participants as well.
  5. As a large organisation (over 500 members) we would get two organisational votes instead of one.

WS 2 Sub-Issues on transparency, which is the area I feel we should focus on:

  1. Increased Transparency at ICANN
  2. Reform of Document Information Disclosure Policy (DIDP)
  3. Board deliberations
  4. Culture of transparency at ICANN
  5. Discussions with governments and lobbying
  6. Improvements to ICANN’s “whistle-blower” policy
These are the other headings discussed in the WS2, some of them less intuitive than others, but I won’t go to more detail on them now:

1.   Create a Framework of Interpretation for ICANN’s New Commitment to Respect Human Rights
2.  Influence of ICANN’s jurisdiction on operational policies and accountability mechanisms
3.  Staff Accountability
4.  SO / AC Accountability
5.  Reform of Ombudsman’s Office
6.  “Diversity” at ICANN
7.  Reviewing the Cooperative Engagement Process (CEP), 1st step to filing an Independent Review
– Panel matter
8.  Guidelines for ICANN Board “standard of conduct”
– RE: removal of board members

I am convinced of our mutual benefits with being a contributing member in ICANN and I hope I’ve managed to pass my enthusiasm on to you. Please do not hesitate to ask for elaborations on specifics, and I will promise to, at the very least, look for the answer or point you in the right direction, best to my ability.
Sincerely yours,

Raoul Plommer
Board member, OKFI