ICANN delays decision on governance reforms

International

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) failed to reach a conclusion on proposed governance reforms at its quarterly meeting, held in Ghana last month. Instead, the board has created a Committee on ICANN Evolution and Reform, which is to report its recommendations to the board by the end of May for consideration at a meeting in Bucharest in June. The committee is seeking input from interested parties via the ICANN website, where comments from other contributors can also be viewed.

ICANN agreed that internet users should be given the opportunity to participate in ICANN policymaking and that the general public interest should be represented. However, the board's preliminary report declined to make a decision on President Stuart Lynn's proposal that direct elections should be abolished in favour of a board comprised of government and business representatives, along with a nominated special committee (see ICANN president proposes controversial governance reforms).

Presently, there are five directly elected board members. Anyone over the age of 16 with an email account could register to vote during special registration periods. However, ICANN is concerned that the process is expensive, vulnerable to fraud and only represents a self-selecting group of voters. A formal resolution provides that the board is "not persuaded that global elections are the only or the best means of achieving meaningful public representation or the informed participation of internet users."

ICANN has been dogged with problems over its structure and the scope of its responsibilities since its formation. Critics and civil liberties groups believe that it favours corporate interests over those of individuals, and there have been accusations of a lack of accountability and transparency. The public infighting among board members and the recent proposals have done little to quell these fears.

Lynn hopes that his proposals can stabilize ICANN and increase its operational efficiency, but whether this can be achieved remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome of the committee report, the debate over the appropriate method of securing public input looks set to run and run.

Rowena Davis, Taylor Joynson Garrett, London

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