ICANN accused of losing touch with its roots

A spokesman for ICANN's "at-large" advisory committee has accused the organisation publicly of having lost touch with its philosophical "roots".

The ALAC committee deals with relationships between ICANN and that part of the user population which is neither business nor government - the section often called "civil society".

The relevance of this sector was clearly spelt out in the white paper inspired by the Clinton government that was ICANN's founding document, according to Siavash Shahshahani, of Iran, speaking at an introductory session of ICANN's Wellington meeting.

He invited delegates to compare this with the statement of ICANN's "core values" in its most recent strategic plan formulated in November 2004.

"While remaining rooted in the private sector, [ICANN recognises] that governments and public authorities are responsible for public policy and duly [takes] into account governments' or public authorities' recommendations," says core value Number 11. Reference to the large constituency beyond government and "the private sector", predominantly business, is missing, Shahshahani says.

People in the civil society sector have made a huge contribution to the foundation of the internet, he said, but they risk being submerged under a structure which "sees democracy in a different way", as a matter of voting blocs rather than input by all individuals. ICANN is now "disenfranchising the little guy", Shahshahani says. "I see part of my role as to remind ICANN of its roots."

Shashani sees governments taking a larger role in the affairs of ICANN following the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the parallel working group on internet governance (WGIG) set up by the UN. A the same time, the controversy over ICANN's granting US company Verisign continued authority over the .com domain had put the focus on the private business constituency, he says.

ICANN is a "multi-stakeholder partnership" and a way must be found of accounting for the needs of all stakeholders.

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