In August, we published a special report called Celebrating Four Years of Supporting the Asia Pacific Region. I recently wrote a blog about that report, reflecting on the Asia Pacific (APAC) community’s presence in ICANN today.
A key focus for our regional office in Singapore is facilitating the APAC community’s participation in ICANN. This can be an uphill task. The first challenge is helping stakeholders understand what ICANN is and the role ICANN plays in the Internet ecosystem.
As the technical coordinator of the Internet’s unique identifiers working with other technical partners, ICANN is part of an ecosystem responsible for setting and implementing the rules related to the Domain Name System (DNS). More specifically, the development of rules related to domain names is known as policy development at ICANN.
Policy development at ICANN has a significant impact on the global Internet. For example, the New Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program has brought about the largest expansion of the DNS, with the launch of over 1,200 new top-level domains. This program also made available top-level domains in local scripts such as Chinese and Arabic – known as Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). The ability to access websites entirely in local scripts has an impact on how people access the Internet, particularly entirely communities that do not use English or the Latin script.
And it was stakeholders like you who decided to launch these programs.
Whether as individuals or as businesses, we all use domain names to access websites. That makes every Internet user – you and me – a stakeholder in the DNS. How the DNS will continue to evolve depends on the stakeholders here in ICANN. In other words, your participation matters.
There are a couple of key statistics that underscore how important it is for the APAC community to get involved in ICANN:
- Half of the world’s Internet users live in the APAC region.
- Of the top 10 countries with the most Internet users, 5 countries are in the APAC region: China (#1), India (#2), Indonesia (#5), Japan (#6), and Bangladesh (#10).
Given these statistics, in proportion to the size of our region’s Internet community, the APAC community is underrepresented in ICANN.
Now that we know why we must participate, the next challenge is to understand the participation model in ICANN.
The Multistakeholder Model
The ICANN ecosystem is structured based on the multistakeholder model. This term is associated closely with Internet governance, coming out of the 2005 Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. In fact, many technical bodies in the Internet ecosystem have adopted the multistakeholder model, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Regional Internet Registries (APNIC for our region).
In my interactions with our wider APAC community, I noticed that multistakeholder can be an unfamiliar and confusing term. Typically, in the APAC region (pardon me for generalizing), governance is understood to mean policies, and the organizers of policymaking discussions in the public space are typically governments.
In the case of Internet governance, what isn’t always clear is that the responsibility for adopting the multistakeholder approach lies not only with governments. In the ecosystem of the Internet’s unique identifiers, the multistakeholder model is applied from the bottom up, not the top down.
In my next blog, I will illustrate this point using a platform closer to home as an example – the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF). Please watch for it.
In the Meantime… We Want to Hear from You!
Come join us and shape the future of the DNS! At the APAC regional office, our focus is on facilitating your participation in ICANN. If you are interested but don’t know how to start, email us at email@example.com.
I look forward to meeting you either in person or remotely at the upcoming ICANN60 meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 28 October to 3 November 2017. Check out the ICANN60 website for more details.