CYBER-FEDERALIST No. 15 25 October 2002
The User Voice in Internet Governance -- ICANNatlarge.org
The Internet Democracy Project
ICANN has been a bold experiment in many areas, not least of which is giving users a role in Internet policy-making. However, user representation on ICANN's board has been vigorously contested, and ICANN's current board seems likely to eliminate it. Nonetheless, even if users are excluded from ICANN, their collective voice will persist.
Today, the collective voice of the user in ICANN exists in the organization named ICANNatlarge.org. ICANNatlarge.org is a mass membership organization founded in early 2002 to unite users in Internet governance, most notably in ICANN. With over 1000 members, a web site and mailing lists, and an elected governing panel, ICANNatlarge.org provides a framework for continued user participation in policy making.
The creation of an institutional framework for users is important. ICANNatlarge.org demonstrates that a global user community really exists, and it gives that community a vehicle by which to express its views and its interests. It facilitates the difficult tasks of creating a general forum, aggregating interests for users from around the world, and developing a collective voice. With members from over 72 countries, the organization possesses a legitimacy that a closed, top-down organization cannot. It is global, participatory, and transparent.
At this meeting ICANNatlarge.org will not offer any statements on behalf of all users. That seems an unlikely role for such an inclusive organization that hosts such a diversity of views. Rather, ICANNatlarge.org will serve as a forum within which groups can articulate their own views. The organization's role may be more to facilitate than to lead.
Three Voices of Users
The second type of organization claiming to speak for users is a top-down entity, much like a company union. As ICANN eliminates user representation from its board, it is likely to create a compliant user organization. The board will soon decide whether to create an "At Large Advisory Committee" (ALAC) to replace the nine At Large Directors. Much like a company union, the ALAC will represent those user views that are acceptable to the board.
The third type of organization is ICANNatlarge.org. It is open and inclusive, but unlike the company union model it will not conform to externally-imposed parameters. Although more likely to serve as a forum than as a united voice, it can facilitate the process whereby users work out a collective voice.
Culmination of Effort
A second attempt at a users organization was ICANNmembers.org, which was led by the Interim Coordinating Committee (ICC). That organization made its appearance at the ICANN Annual Meeting in Marina del Rey in October 2000. The ICC brought together many of the leading candidates from the At Large elections. However, it lost momentum as many of its members dedicated their energies to the NGO and Academic Internet Study (NAIS).
A third attempt to create a user voice in 2002 was more along the lines of a company union. Some participants of the ICANN-commissioned At Large Study Committee (ALSC, led by Sweden's Karl Bildt) attempted to launch a new user organization called "ICANNatlarge.com." This top-down effort failed to assemble a compliant membership, and eventually the founders left to start a new effort. ICANNatlarge.com evolved into today's ICANNatlarge.org.
ICANNatlarge.org is an authentic bottom-up organization. It is still solidifying its internal organization and finalizing a mission statement and bylaws. It is also improving its ability to make closure on discussions and to reach collective decisions. At Shanghai it is proving its ability to serve a vital purpose: to host a general users forum. It makes the voice of the user a reality.
[Note: the author currently serves as "Acting Chair" of ICANNatlarge.org. However, the views expressed here are solely his own.]
ICANNatlarge.org can also be accessed via www.icannatlarge.com
CYBER-FEDERALIST is a series of analyses and commentaries
The author of the CYBER-FEDERALIST is Hans Klein.
Subscribe to the CYBER-FEDERALIST!
Created before October 2004