Talking Strategy with Panel Chairs at ICANN 48

Moderators: Fadi Chehadé, Theresa Swineheart 

Panel Chairs: Vint Cerf, Paul Mockapetris, Beth Noveck, Nii Quaynor

Members of The GovLab team are in Buenos Aires, Argentina this week for ICANN 48 – an international meeting bringing together the ICANN board, staff, community members and Internet stakeholders to discuss and develop policies for the Internet‘s naming systems. The GovLab is taking part in connection with its supporting role to the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation, which The GovLab Director, Professor Beth Simone Noveck chairs.

On Monday, Professor Noveck joined together with all ICANN Strategy Panel chairs to introduce themselves and the work of their respective panels to the ICANN community. The Chairs also opened the floor to an initial round of community, staff, and Board input and questions related to the four areas the panels represent: the future of identifier technologies, the future of Internet governance, multistakeholder innovation and ICANN’s public responsibility framework. yeswe

Each Chair stressed that the Panels are advisory in nature, and that their outputs would serve as inputs to be considered by the ICANN Board and community. As Panel Chair Vint Cerf described, the panels are meant to “convene, confer, consult, advise, and expire.”

Leading off the discussion, Paul Mockapetris noted that he and his panel members are working on the “technology roadmap” for the next decade of identifier-technologies (e.g., the DNS and IP). He noted that his panel has started its work by identifying key topics in the identifier space that require attention, e.g., ensuring more consistency in the name space, but also he stressed that his panel will address more practical issues, such as whether ICANN’s structure is best for managing the root-database. He emphasized that he will spend this week talking with the ICANN community and making sure his panel’s issue list is comprehensive.

Discussing the future of ICANN’s role in the Internet governance ecosystem, Vint Cerf went next, suggesting that in light of the many changes to the Internet that have taken place over the course of ICANN’s 15-year long existence, ICANN will need to evolve and globalize its transnational multi-stakeholder model. His panel plans to share some of its core findings on what role ICANN plays in this evolving landscape on a wiki, which will be divided into two pages: one for the items people agree on, and one for the items subject to further negotiation.

The GovLab’s Director Professor Beth Noveck spoke next and gave a quick scan of institutional and governance innovations across the world – such as the Vatican’s use of crowdsourcing to get ideas for Catholic doctrine; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s use of Vivo to build an expert network; the city of Chicago’s use of real-time data to track cars and trucks in traffic to improve delivery services; Lahore’s collection of information on where mosquitos are to reduce dengue fever incidents; and Burkina Faso’s efforts to put mining contracts online to enhance transparency and enable more participation in compliance reviews.

According to Professor Noveck, the commonality across all of these examples is that they are strategies of “open governance” – often (but not always) further enabled by technology. These governance techniques allow for increased participation and provide inspiring models when it comes to making governance more accountable and more legitimate – and also making governance better and more effective. At ICANN, this participatory model is called multi-stakeholder governance.

Professor Noveck stressed that the Multistakeholder Innovation Panel’s work aims to identify how we can build online practices within ICANN to reach more people, the right people, and different kinds of experts and stakeholders at various stages of the policy-development process. As an example, Professor Noveck noted that while the spirit of the ICANN President’s call for a new procurement system and process at ICANN makes sense – community members should be able to understand and influence the process by which funds are spent – great attention and opportunity exists for looking at new and innovative ways to handle procurement that don’t result in establishment of yet another “procurement bureaucracy.”

Even with the depth of experience and expertise of the panel members, Professor Noveck noted that they do not have the monopoly on all of the best ideas for evolving ICANN’s multistakeholder model. Hence the panel will act as the steward of this conversation, presenting outputs for the community, the Board, the staff, and the CEO to look at and consider. The panel is looking for concrete implementable proposals – not just principles but practical suggestions. The goal is not to decide for ICANN; it is to inform and to bring a wide array of voices to the table.

Nii Quaynor spoke next, introducing the Panel on the Public Responsibility Framework. Noting that public responsibility requires deep involvement and balance throughout the community for it to be successful, Nii explained that the panel will propose rules to help ICANN embrace and promote the global public interest. The Public Responsibility Panel must help build capacity within the ICANN community to embrace participation from those unable to play a more active role at present.

Notably, ICANN President Fadi Chehandé emphasized that this panel should not just give ICANN a framework for developing its public responsibility, but also a framework to guide review of all of ICANN’s decisions and decision-making processes from the public interest perspective.

During the question and answer session of the presentation, members of the community and the panel chairs highlighted a few additional key themes to be addressed or considered by the various panels, including:

  • Building an understanding for how Panel outputs will fit into the ICANN operating plan and budget;
  • The value of experimentation as a tool to help test the best approaches for innovating within ICANN;
  • How to harness community expertise in order to relate recommendations and frameworks developed by the Panels to the day-to-day operations of ICANN;
  • Analyzing closely what legitimacy means for ICANN depending on which core function or role ICANN is playing at any given moment (e.g., contract negotiations vs. contract regulation); and
  • ICANN’s unique enforcement capability compared to the models deployed across other standards-development bodies.

Want to Learn More?

  • See all tweets from yesterday’s “Strategy Panel – An Introduction Session” here.
  • Click here for the slide materials from the session and here for the full transcript.

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