December 4th, 2004

ICANN At-Large


I seldom talk about anything else other then IDN at ICANN meeting. But after several discussion over the week with various people, and prompting by Alan Levin, I decided to do so despite knowingly I am going to offend quite a few friends.

The topic I talked at the open mike during the public forum is on the progress with At-Large (ALAC). I was a long time critic of general public participations after witnessing how General Assembly attracted “colourful characters” like Jeff William. This remain so until Stuart Lynn, former president of ICANN who initiated the ICANN reformed, convienced me with one statement two years back: “Without ALAC, how are you going to contribute to ICANN as an individual?”

Fast forward two years to today, I believe something is fundamentally wrong with ALAC now. Not that I don’t believe at ALAC anymore but I am concerned with the approach ALAC has taken to gain community participation.I understand the difficulties in getting new activities started and I think ALAC is making some good progress with its At-Large Structure.

However, I am not sure if ALAC has attract the right audience. IMHO, what we need in At-Large are individuals who can make useful contributions, technical, policies, business, economics, evangelism etc, to ICANN and its mission, like myself. And I am sure there are many people out there, who is friendly with ICANN and sincerely like to see ICANN succeed, but unfortunately, does not have as much visibility as I do. Yet, I never see ALAC did anything to include people like them, giving them a voice at ICANN, and neither did I ever feel really part of ALAC.

The second problem is ALAC lacks form. Other then an at-large mailing list, it isn’t clear how an individual can make contributions or provides inputs to ICANN. Every organization needs rules & procedure for its participation. In IETF, we have Working Groups, Internet Drafts and RFCs (see RFC 2026). Where is the equivalent of RFC 2026 for ALAC? I am not saying we use RFC 2026 for ALAC – I know we need something different. But whatever it is, where is it? And I dont see ALAC working on this problem.

Lastly, I am concerned when ALAC continue to ask more budget from ICANN for its outreach programmes – flying all around the world, setting up “outreach” meetings, talking about ICANN etc. And I questions if we are really getting a bang for the buck! Can we do the outreach with less money? Have we ever measure the success of such programmes? What’s our “return on investment”?

Particularly, I am surprised at the lack of internet tools used by ALAC to faciliate participation – social software like Web Forum, Wiki, Blog are not used at all! I am a great admirer of collobrative blog like CircleID and I think CircleID gave more community voice then At-Large today, IMHO. Something is obviously wrong with this picture.

ICANN is in this critical junction: with WSIS Tunsia in less then a year, with a proposed independence from US DoC. Over the next 12 to 18 months, ICANN must demostrate itself as not only as a viable independent organization that government can trust but also one that Internet community feels they can trust. ALAC is important and it’s not time to fool around.

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