CYBER-FEDERALIST No. 4 August 8, 2000
An ANALYSIS of the
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
The ICANN Nominating Committee recently announced its nominees for the At Large elections. Here I offer some analysis of the nominees' backgrounds and assess their qualifications to represent Internet users.
In what follows I consider the following issues:
Let me first offer the conclusions: based on the limited information
available to date, it seems that most of ICANN's proposed candidates reinforce
the perspectives already present on the Board. Most come from the
Internet supply industry, the intellectual property community, and the
R&D community. Individuals from these groups possess impressive
qualifications -- but not to represent Internet users. Only seven
of ICANN's nominees seem appropriate to represent users, i.e. they offer
perspectives that complement today's Supporting Organization directors.
Some regions, most notably Europe, have *no* nominees with a clear user
perspective. Therefore, it will be important to develop additional
Board candidates through the Member Nomination process (which closes on
I. Nominees' Technical Expertise
Of eighteen nominees, twelve have strong computer science and networking
skills, often based on advanced degrees and careers in information technology.
In this group are:
Of the remaining six nominees, two have technical training, but not
in information technology:
Three candidates have no technical degrees:
One nominee's educational field is unknown:
A lack of technical training and experience must be considered a weakness
in a candidate's qualifications. It should be noted, however, that
three of the four candidates listing no technical training do work in the
area of information policy and so presumably possess knowledge of the technology
(Katoh, Lessig, and Harris).
II. Nominees' Qualifications to Represent Users
ICANN's candidates can also be categorized according to their professional backgrounds, perspectives, and likely values. Here the big question is how well their backgrounds qualify them to represent users (which is what At Large Directors are supposed to do.)
Interestingly, what it means to "represent users" is nowhere defined. Yet the by-laws do define two different kinds of representatives and presumably for a reason: they would seem to represent different knowledge, interests, and values.
At Large directors could possess a "user perspective" based on a concern for accessibility, affordability, and balanced rights of speech, privacy, and property. At minimum, At Large directors should *complement* today's directors, bringing new values to the Board. The user perspective should not simply reinforce that which exists.
By examining today's directors we can get a sense of what views already exist (and, therefore, do not need to be reinforced.) The SO-elected directors represent three groups: the supply industry, the networking R&D community, and trademark and intellectual property interests.
First, three SO directors have ties to the corporations that supply Internet goods and services -- companies with strong financial interests in technical coordination. Directors from the supply industry are: Pindar Wong (Chairman of an association that describes itself as promoting the business interests of the Internet service industry), Cerf (MCI Worldcom), and Phil Davidson (BT/British Telecom).
Second, four SO Directors represent the R&D community in computer networking. These directors often have ties to organizations that operate academic or research networks. They are: Pisanty (Director of Computing Academic Services at Mexico's UNAM), Jean-Francois Abramatic (Chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium), Robert Blokzijl (registry operations and research networking), and Ken Fockler (who worked for companies like IBM supplying networking services, often to universities).
Finally, two directors have expertise in or formal ties to intellectual property, often in business law. These directors are: Cohen (a practicing intellectual property lawyer) and Abril i Abril (a professor of law in business competition and contracts and a consultant to e-commerce firms).
Let there be no doubt: these are nine outstanding individuals who deserve praise for their accomplishments. Some have additional ties to non-profit organizations as well. However, in the main they represent the perspectives of the supply industry, the R&D community, and intellectual property.
If the incoming At Large directors are to represent users, then at minimum they should differ from today's directors. Based on information available to date, however, it seems that fully eleven of ICANN's eighteen nominees reinforce the existing perspectives.
Six of the nominees have ties to the supply industry. These are:
Intuitively, it makes sense to question these candidates' qualifications to represent users. Is a large telecommunications corporation the appropriate representative of users? That seems unlikely (although ICANN's Nominating Committee apparently found them appropriate.)
Continuing through the list, we find two candidates with strong ties
to the intellectual property (IP) community:
True, an IP expert does have a valid claim to represent users. After all, intellectual property is a public policy issue that concerns many users, and DNS management is inextricably intertwined with this area of public policy. However, this perspective is already well-represented. Indeed, ICANN has effectively made public policy in this area, which has led to hundreds of domain names being reassigned. Nominees with an IP perspective do not complement today's directors.
Finally, another four nominees come from the R&D community. These
In total, then, eleven of ICANN's eighteen nominees reinforce perspectives already present on the Board.
That leaves just seven of the eighteen as potential user representatives. These seven can be categorized into three groups: small business/economic development, non-commercial users, and public interest advocates.
Five candidates have backgrounds related to networking and small business
in developing countries. Most have entrepreneurship and policy experience.
One candidate holds a policy position for a large non-commercial institution.
One candidate is a law professor who has performed advocacy for consumers
and for civil liberties.
All seven of these candidates would complement the existing SO directors. It is worth noting that most of these nominees still have a business and technical perspective. However, small businesses often share concerns with individual users about the potential for excessive influence by suppliers and trademark interests. A university system chancellor is also likely to have different perspective than industry. Only one candidate is distinguished as an advocate for communication and consumer rights: Lessig. He is the only candidate with an explicit countervailing policy orientation to that of the intellectual property candidates.
All seven of these candidates seem qualified to represent users.
Depending on how you look at it, "the glass is one-third full or two-thirds
empty." ICANN has offered eleven candidates with only limited appeal
for Internet users. On the other hand, there are seven with relevant
III. Regional Breakdown
Since voting will occur in five regions, it is useful to see where the qualified user candidates will stand for election.
AFRICA: both nominees seem to posses user qualifications (Levin, Quaynor)
ASIA: only one nominee seems an appropriate user representative (Chiang).
EUROPE: not a single one of the five nominees seems appropriate to represent users. (Popov of Macedonia appears to be the closest candidate.)
N. AMERICA: two candidates seem appropriate (Langenberg, Lessig).
LATIN AMERICA: Echeberria and Mouros Campos seem qualified. (Poblete
may have qualifications as well.)
Further, it may be worth considering what kinds of candidates are needed in which regions.
Small business perspective: candidates with these qualifications are missing in Europe and N. America.
Non-commercial institution perspective: candidates with these credentials are missing in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America (i.e. all regions but N. America.)
Consumer and civil liberties advocate: candidates with these credentials are missing in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America (i.e. all regions but N. America.)
Arguably, every region should have a consumer and civil liberties candidate representing privacy, speech, and access. This is needed to balance the property rights perspective in today's ICANN. Communication rights candidates can shape the terms of the election debates, ensuring that important issues come to the attention of the voting public. Issues of affordability, access, parody, critique, and privacy are unlikely to arise in a debate between, say, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, and the International Chamber of Commerce. Today, only North America has a communications rights candidate.
ICANN's Member Nomination process offers the opportunity to develop candidates offering user-relevant perspectives. Potential candidates have until August 14 to put their name forward. (They will then have until August 31 to qualify as a candidate by getting endorsements by 2% of voters in their region, subject to a limit of seven candidates per region. See: http://members.icann.org/nom.html ) This analysis may help potential candidates identify whether they can fill a gap in their region.
In summary, ICANN's nominees largely reinforce and repeat the limited
set of perspectives already on the Board. A supply industry association
can always limit user voices by asserting technical expertise as the criterion
for participation. Automakers know more about exhaust gases than
urban residents, pharmaceutical manufacturers understand their products
better than hospital patients, and the nuclear power industry understands
fission better than people living near a plant. The same holds true for
Internet naming and addressing technology, which is best understood by
the packet-switched communications industry and the associated networking
R&D community. Yet other technology-based industries have allowed non-technical
stakeholders a voice in decisions that affect them all. Today, Internet
users deserve representation in policy-making for the name space.
Most of ICANN's nominees are technical experts or interested parties with
limited claim to represent users. The challenge of the coming weeks will
be to nominate user representatives as candidates for the ICANN Board.
In the interest of fairness ICANN has offered little information about
the candidates, because the official election period has not yet begun.
Thus this analysis is based on information from only two sources:
Candidates and readers are welcome to post comments to this analysis:
The comments page currently features feedback from Mr. Paul Garrin and
Ms. Esther Dyson.
CYBER-FEDERALIST is a regularly-published series of analyses and
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