Insights into Editorial: ICANN57 – A Backgrounder
Configured as a private US based multistakeholder association, the ICANN has become an exceedingly important pivot in the ongoing debate regarding governmental control, multistakeholderism and the transnational approach to Cyberspace. ICANN forms a part of the foundation of a peaceful Cybersecurity architecture.
- In September, the US relinquished its control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and transferred it to the ICANN, in what appears to be an ‘unprecedented surrender of government control’.
What is the ICANN?
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non profit organization that was set up in 1998 to oversee the administration of domain names.
- ICANN coordinates and ensures the smooth and secure functioning of the cybernetic framework.
What it does?
The global nature of the Web today means that there are constantly increasing numbers of Domain Names, Host Names, IP addresses and web sites that are emerging on a daily basis. ICANN oversees this interconnected network and ensures that computers across the internet can find one another through defined unique pathways and identifiers.
- It is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and methodologies of several databases, with unique identifiers, related to the namespaces of the Internet – and thereby, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.
- ICANN is governed by an internationally diverse Board of Directors overseeing the policy development process.
- ICANN’s President directs an international staff, working from three continents, who ensure that ICANN meets its operational commitment to the Internet community.
- ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet.
ICANN performs four major functions namely:
- Approval of companies that can become accredited registrars for domain names.
- Decision making regarding the addition of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) to the Root system.
- Coordinating technical parameters to maintain universal connectivity.
- Creating a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) for competing domain names.
Issues and limitations of the ICANN:
- The ICANN functions as a non profit group with a license from the US Department of Commerce. Given the inescapable conundrum of its hierarchical structure, the ICANN has frequently been criticised for an alleged lack of accountability and opaque decision making.
- The ICANN claims that it aims to share control between a wide range of interests including technical experts, academics, representatives of civil society and governments without giving control to any of them”. However this claim is yet to be fulfilled given the nascent state of the transfer and the unpredictability of the outcome.
- The lack of diversity in its theorising body is also a major cause for concern. As a body aiming to represent individual stakeholders across the world or the “Global internet consumer”, the predominance of North American representation and first world academic rhetoric within the policy making body is suspicious to say the least.
- The bureaucratic structure of the body is another major cause for concern among theorists. As the Economist states, “ICANN’s “multi-stakeholderism”, which means that everybody has some say, sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare. Yet it may be the best hope for finding common solutions to the global problems created by the internet.”
Why should India be interested in this issue?
As an emerging global power with an ever increasing populace, the database of internet users in India is constantly on the rise.
- Therefore, India has a larger role to play in global governance of the Internet and this is evinced by its inclusion in the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) as well as the decision to host the upcoming 58th meeting of the ICANN in Hyderabad.
- This meeting will be the first meeting post the IANA transition and needs to be watched with interest. The discussion will examine the immediate effects of the transition, and possible hurdles that might emerge in the future.
- The meeting in Hyderabad provides a tremendous platform for raising issues and concerns as well as seeking partnerships across borders to create an inclusive and access equal Cyberspace.
Despite being an American invention, the Internet has now become a global architecture that forms an integral part of daily functioning world over. The need of the hour is a globalized diverse peaceful cybernetic architecture built on transnational collaboration. The internet of today needs to be a diverse space inclusive of race gender, ethnicity, and class.
- Despite the various limitations of the ICANN and the issues with its hierarchical structure, currently it remains a key multistakeholder private body in internet governance. The meeting in Hyderabad is the perfect platform to increase India’s role in global internet governance.
- Given the changing demographic of internet usage and the proliferation of technology, it is essential to reconfigure the internet into a more inclusive mould reflective of the globalized world order we inhabit today. Creating an accessible Cybernetic discourse is the first step towards building a secure and smooth functioning Internet architecture.
- There is still hope since the ICANN “is largely independent of national governments.” The board is elected by outside organizations composed of businesses, non-profits, and Internet users from around the world. And those organizations can recall individual board members, or the entire board. While the ICANN has addressed some of these claims and issues, the path ahead remains convoluted.
Technological advancement is not merely an individual asset, but a double edged sword that serves as a threat to as well as a weapon of State Functioning. As Information and Communication Technology (ICT) frameworks are increasingly integrated with daily life, examining the fundamental blocks that ensure the smooth functioning of this virtual simulacrum is the need of the hour.