Multistakeholderism: why the Caribbean should become more involved in shaping the future stewardship of the Internet
A question and answer session with Albert H. Daniels of ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement team on the implications to the Caribbean of the US’ announcement to relinquish oversight of IANA.
A week ago, 14 March, the United States (US) Government announced that it was ready to transfer its stewardship of the important Internet technical functions to the global Internet community (Source: Internet Commerce Association). Historically the US has played a critical role in developing and overseeing the medium we know as the Internet. A number of agencies have been established to address one or more aspects of the Internet, with the US having oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a part of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which deals primarily with addressing system for the Internet. However, the US intends to relinquish that responsibility when the current contract expires at the end of September 2015 (Source: Internet Commerce Association).
Globally, the US’ announcement has been greeted with positive reaction and excitement for imminent change, and ICANN is looking forward to leading a multi-stakeholder consultation process on the way forward (Source: ICANN). However, from a Caribbean perspective, it might not be entirely clear what the implications of these new developments might be, and how best to position ourselves.
To begin to shed some light on this matter, we posed a few questions at Albert H. Daniels, a member of the Global Stakeholder Engagement Team at ICANN, who is based in Saint Lucia. As a member of that team, Albert’s responsibilities include developing and executing the organisation’s strategic and tactical objectives in the region.
ICT Pulse: Albert, what role has the United States been playing in overseeing the Internet?
Albert H. Daniels: The U.S. Government’s current responsibilities to be transitioned include the procedural role of administering changes to the Domain Name System’s (DNS) authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as serving as the historic steward of the unique identifiers registries for domain names, IP addresses, and protocol parameters.
As administrator of the IANA Functions since 1998, ICANN has been responsible for coordinating unique Internet identifiers – names, IP numbers, and protocol parameters – through a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
ICTP: In the United States deciding to relinquish that stewardship, what does that mean? How will Internet users be affected?
AHD: The U.S. Government is announcing its intention to transfer its stewardship of IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community and is requesting a proposal from ICANN on how to achieve the transition.
This announcement does not affect Internet users and their use of the Internet. However, all Internet users have a stake in how the Internet is run, and it is therefore important to get involved: https://learn.icann.org/
It is particularly important that users from the Caribbean take an interest in these developments, understand the mechanisms by which their voices can be heard in the global debate and then step forward as Caribbean nations and as a Caribbean region to make an input to the processes of dialogue and policy development.
ICANN will continue to administer the IANA Functions in coordination and cooperation with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). For nearly sixteen years, ICANN has performed the IANA Functions with increasing autonomy, demonstrating in the process both operational excellence and maturity in organization – as illustrated by the findings of the IANA Functions Satisfaction Survey of December 2013.
ICTP: Is it a good or bad thing that the United States is relinquishing stewardship of the Internet?
AHD: The transition from the U.S. government has been envisioned since 1997 as reflected in “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce” and the subsequent “Statement of Policy” in 1998. The US government always envisioned its role as transitional and this is the next step in the concept of globalization of the IANA Functions that was called for and begun sixteen years ago.
The concept of globalizing ICANN is not new – it dates to the very origins of ICANN. Since its first conceptualization in the Green Paper in early 1981, it was always intended that ICANN would be a global entity independent of the US government. Since the first framing of ICANN, it has been positioning itself for an independent international future. In addition, over the last sixteen years ICANN has engaged its community to address various globalization issues through strategic planning initiatives and committees and consistently disseminated its staff, functions and services globally.
ICTP: What are some of the concerns or issues of which we (in the Caribbean) should be mindful, in light of the change of control that will be occurring?
AHD: The most important issue for the Caribbean during this transition is to ensure that all Caribbean territories participate in national and regional dialogues on this issue so that the Caribbean perspective on the multistakeholder stewardship of the IANA function is brought to the global debate, and features in the ICANN proposal to the US Government.
ICANN anticipates that the transition process of the U.S. government’s stewardship of the IANA Functions will be determined by a proposal developed by the multistakeholder community and will not be replaced with an intergovernmental solution. The process will meet the following criteria:
- Supports and enhances the multistakeholder model
- Maintains the security, stability and resiliency of the DNS
- Meets the expectations of affected parties
- Maintains the openness of the Internet
The Caribbean needs to participate actively at each stage of the upcoming processes as the final outcomes will impact a resource that is widely used in the region and pivotal to economic and social development.
ICTP: Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on what the Caribbean should be doing to manage this situation, since work towards transitioning from the status quo will soon commence?
AHD: The Caribbean should be organising national multistakeholder dialogues in every territory to thoroughly discuss the issue of the IANA transition, the characteristics of the multistakeholder model and how best it can work for the Caribbean, and feeding the outcomes of these discussions into a regional position.
The multistakeholder-designed process that is consensus-driven, participatory, open, and transparent will launch at the ICANN 49 Meeting in Singapore in March 2014. Subsequent to this meeting, input from the community discussions will be compiled and put out for public comment and community feedback. The feedback from the community will inform the process going forward.
Input from the community discussions will be compiled into materials for posting subsequent to the ICANN 49 Meeting for public comments.
- The process will be open, global, and transparent, and will ensure:
- Full engagement with all stakeholders and interested or affected parties, including discussions at respective meetings.
- Global reach, including translation of relevant materials.