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[atlarge-discuss] my comments about the working papers

I just sent a brief personal comment about the Working Papers to the
Reform Committee - I am posting it here for your review. (Again,
thanks to those who brought up the existance of the Debian voting
system - it is a good proof that some concepts can actually be

Introduction of a general ICANN membership 
and possible relationships with a Nominating Committee

Vittorio Bertola
May 16, 2002

This document contains a short set of personal comments about the
"Working Paper on the ICANN Structure and the Nominating Committee
Concept", and marginally about the other Working Papers published by
the Reform and Evolution Committee.

A structure in which five Board members are selected by the technical
committees, while other ten are representative of the public at large,
could meet requirements of accountability to the public. Moreover, the
idea that representation of different interests has to be moved from
the Board to the Nominating Committee has some merits, as it is true
that a Board made of representatives is by definition a place where
interests clash; and a Board composed of people selected for their
diversity and open-mindedness would possibly take better decisions
more easily. However, diversity (especially in social terms, more than
in geographical ones) and open-mindedness are exactly what the ICANN
Board has been claimed to be lacking in the last years. So much would
depend on internal procedures for determining the composition and
operation of the NomCom, and on the enlightenment of the NomCom
choices; and it is hardly acceptable to base the correct functioning
of such a vital resource for the world on the fact that a very small
set of persons, however chosen, will make enlightened choices.

There are only two possible choices about formation of the NomCom:
either the NomCom members are elected by the general public, and this
would then bring back the same problems that are claimed to exist when
talking of At Large elections for Board members, or they are not, in
which case the result would be a closed group of NomCom members
selecting a closed group of Board members, completely failing in
bringing to the process openness, accountability and responsiveness to
changes. This would be true even if the NomCom members were not named
by the Board, but ex officio representatives of international
organizations or institutions (ie, just to name some random ones, ITU,
ISOC, WIPO...), as it would be impossible to include all organizations
representing affected stakeholders, and there would not be any easy
principle through which select which organizations deserve a seat in
the NomCom.

So, if the purpose of the ten "At Large" Board members would be
representing the general public, and having (agreeably) discarded the
option of direct involvement of governments, a public election among a
membership made of verified and active individuals would be much

Said this, another option that deserves some investigation would be
having a NomCom propose the ten Directors, and a membership ratify
them. Ratification by Board members should be discarded for evident
reasons, as it would allow the current Board to select its successors.
So the only other option is to accept individual members after proper
identity verification, and to have them ratify the Board. To be
honest, the better option would be to have them *elect* the board, as
it happens in most non-profit organizations, but, as a fallback
option, at least ratification should be achieved. Proposed Board
members should be subject to the ratification vote one by one and, if
rejected, it should not be allowed to nominate them again for two
years. And from the current Board's point of view, ratification -
rather than direct election - would allow the NomCom to prevent the
selection of unsuitable candidates; even if, in my view, this is the
main reason why even the ratification system is unacceptable, it could
in the end be a decent compromise for everyone, especially if good
part of the NomCom were in turn elected by the membership.
This brings us back to the problem of reasonable and implementable
proposals for the creation of an effective ICANN membership. First of
all, it must be noted that it would not be even strictly necessary for
ICANN to build such membership directly; it could be enough to
establish a written agreement with one or more organizations wishing
to act in this role and meeting a set of basic requirements, such as
implementing mechanisms for reasonable verification of the identity of
their members and granting openness and non-discrimination in allowing
people to join them. Such organizations (that, for the sake of clarity
and according to the ALSC's work, will be collectively called as
ALSOs) could supply individual members to a general membership that
would either elect a certain number of Board members or ratify those
proposed by the NomCom.

There should not be any other requirements than identity verification
to be allowed in the membership, and for the purpose of verifying
identity many possible instruments exist:
*	Payment of a nominal membership fee (ie 2) with a credit card
(example: Opendemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net/ )
*	Introduction by an already verified member (example: Debian
Linux voting process, http://www.debian.org/devel/join/nm-step2 )
*	Ownership of a domain name (as suggested by ALSC, perhaps with
some additional checks to avoid potential frauds by malicious
registries or registrars)
*	Proof of identity through transmission of electronic images of
official ID documents (example: Debian Linux voting process,
http://www.debian.org/devel/join/nm-step2 )
*	Proof of identity in person through an affiliated physical
verification point
*	Proof of identity through a Certification Authority recognized
by the law (already available in many countries)
*	Membership of an organization which has an agreement with the
ALSO for membership exchange

The last system is particularly interesting; it has been said that
systems for global online elections that cannot be easily cheated are
very costly. Even if this might be true, it can be overcome by
delegating identity verification to smaller local entities, up to the
point of the local amateur club in which every member knows the others
personally, and establishing proper systems for sample verifications
and punishment of potential frauds, which will however be less
important the biggest the number of participating individuals and
organizations is. Also the Certification Authority instrument is
interesting, as there is a clear trend towards the establishment of
certified online identities for a number of purposes, such as online
interaction with public administration bodies, online signing of
documents, secure e-commerce; ICANN should definitely accept to
exploit this trend, if not to lead it.

However, ICANN should not select or impose any single method from the
above list, but accept all of them, provided that they are implemented
in a way that meets minimum criteria of safety. It should only state
which level of verification is necessary, not how to achieve it.

Funding of such an organization could come from a per-domain quote, as
funding of ICANN itself, and from the membership fees, which could
however be waived for developing countries and other particular types
of users; by building a network of local organizations, rather than a
monolithic top-down organization, also costs can be highly reduced and
distributed. The central ALSOs should only have a very limited
mission: to maintain online resources for its members and to organize
the elections.

So my warm recommendation to the Committee is to include a public
membership, open to any interested individual, among the structural
elements of the reformed ICANN, in the form of one or more At Large
Organizations external to ICANN, and to use the At Large Organizing
Committee project to develop a set of minimal requirements and a
related Memorandum of Understanding that should be used by ICANN to
accept one of more At Large Organizations as providers and managers of
such membership. (In fact, "membership" is not even the correct term
for this approach - it would be more like an "external public review

There are a number of other possible observations on the practicality
of building an ALSO; however, it must be noticed that the concept of
one or more At Large Organizations seems to be completely missing from
the Committee's Working Papers. It would be nice to understand whether
the Committee has already considered this option and discarded it,
whether it is going to consider it before the end of its term, or
whether it is not going to consider it at all. As the Committee
recognized in its Interim Progress Report, there are some credible
efforts underway to build organizations that could be good candidates
for such roles, as suggested by the Accra resolutions of the Board. I
personally think that the option of including a general membership in
the map with an actual role and powers would be a giant step forward
in preserving ICANN's position, credibility and effectiveness in
meeting the general needs of the Internet.
.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo vb.
Vittorio Bertola     <vb@vitaminic.net>    Ph. +39 011 23381220
Vitaminic [The Music Evolution] - Vice President for Technology

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