Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Challenges before Beckstrom @ ICANN

Sustaining the tempo of the current Internet governance through multi-stakeholder involvement, especially in developing world tops challenges before the newly appointed chief executive officer, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Mr. Rod Beckstrom, reports REMMY NWEKE.


The search for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN) ended on Friday, June 26, following the outcome of the board meeting held in Sydney, Australia same day as part of the ICANN international public meetings, which saw Mr. Rod Beckstrom endorsed as the new CEO.

Beckstrom would soon take over from the incumbent, Dr. Paul Twomey, before the end of this year. The position became vacant at the ICANN meeting in Mexico City in March this year, when the current President, Dr. Twomey, announced that he would not seek renewal of his contract, which ends this year.

Ever since then, the board has been engaged in the process of recruiting a new CEO for the global internet coordinating body, which began with the hiring of Egon Zehnder International to conduct a world-wide search for the next CEO.

ITRealms Online notes that Egon Zehnder received over 100 applications in response to the ICANN notice, reviewed approximately 1000 possible candidates on their databases, and from these lists approached over 300 potential candidates. There was significant diversity of gender, nationality and country of residence amongst the candidates.

Thus giving birth to the approval by the board, for a Board Search Committee (BSC) consisting chairman, Board Governance Committee, Mr. Dennis Jennings, his counterpart in the Board of Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA), Mr. Harald Alvestrand, chairman, Board Finance Committee, Mr. Rajasekhar Ramaraj, chairperson of Board Audit Committee, Ms Rita Rodin Johnston and chairman, Board Compensation Committee and who also presides over ICANN’s Board of Trustees, Mr. Peter Dengate-Thrush.

The BSC reviewed the resumes of candidates recommended by Egon Zehnder and conducted interviews of a short list of eight (8) candidates via video conference, based on five broad areas, namely leadership, political, technical board and management skills respectively.

It was gathered that on the leadership, the committee looked at the demonstrated leadership skills, strategic thinking capability, demonstrated capacity to build trust and on political aspect, they examined diplomacy skills at an international level with heads of state among international expertise and experience - sensitivity to multiple cultures, work experience in several countries, Internet community credibility - sense of history of Internet – and an ability to listen to and appreciate different points of view, as well as working with the diverse stakeholder groups within ICANN, that is the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), Address Supporting Organisation (ASO), At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC), Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to name a few.

Equally, the search committee examined the technical understanding of candidates based on their abilities to listen and interact with the Internet technical community, presentation skills, making it possible to give interviews, speeches and so on as well as on highly complex topics such as International Domain Names (IDN) like the Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), policy development skills - ability to motivate and support ICANN volunteer organisations and build consensus around a plan despite obstacles, whereas applicants’ skills were engaged on dealing with a large and diverse board.

Additional areas were management skills, which encompassed their ability to manage staff, planning and budgeting, team building, and experience of managing a global not-for-profit, for-profit, or governmental organisation of approximately the present size of ICANN.

Particularly, the search board was contented to hear from Egon Zehnder that several candidates from within the ICANN community had applied for the role, and that these candidates had great strengths in several of the criteria considered above thereof.

Therefore, it was not absolutely surprising for the greater number of ICANN community when the global entrepreneur, analyst and author, Mr. Beckstrom, was declared as potential replacement for Twomey, when his tenure expires later in the year. Thereby attracting applauds from the Internet community worldwide.

Proclaiming the decision of the board in Sydney, at the conclusion of ICANN’s 35th international, the BOT chairman for the internet coordinating bureau, Mr. Thrush, said the appointment was apt. “Rod Beckstrom has exactly the sort of strong personal and technical background that ICANN needs, as we enter a period of unprecedented growth and change for the Internet. In addition to his cyber security expertise, he has been a successful CEO of a global enterprise, done NGO work and volunteer work and a bestselling author. It’s an extreme understatement to say we are enthused.”

Beckstrom was the immediate past Director, United States’ National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), where he formed an effective working group of leaders from the nation’s top six cybersecurity centers spanning the civilian, military and intelligence communities. He has been an active participant in the non-profit arena, as board members of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Jamii Bora Trust, a micro-lending group based in Nairobi, Kenya with more than 210,000 members. Whereas his recent out of the four books in the market, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, details how diverse and untraditional organizations, can become virtually self-perpetuating, regardless of the status of their respective leadership.

Reacting to his appointment, Beckstrom asserted: “The importance of the Internet as a free flowing source of information is being underscored right now by the events in Iran. It shows the power of human expression through a free and open Net.”

Expressing optimism that the Internet has changed the way the world communicates and conducts commerce, and in no small way, this multi-stakeholder, bottom-up organization has been and will continue to be at the core of the Internet’s on-going evolution. “Quite simply, the proof that ICANN works, is that the Internet works.”

Responding to the latest appointment, Google chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Eric Schmidt, noted that Mr. Beckstrom has extensive technical and commercial expertise, describing it as world class; “And I can think of no one better positioned to lead ICANN’s critical mission as the Internet’s role in society continues to increase in scope and importance.”

In his views, the man considered the ‘Father’ of the Internet, Mr. Vint Cerf, said, Rod Beckstrom is strikingly well-prepared to undertake a new role as CEO of ICANN, as his experience in industry and government equipped him for this global and very challenging job. While the Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the U.S. House of
Representatives Homeland Security Committee, saw the appointment as equally pleasing. “As ICANN elected Rod Beckstrom to serve as its next CEO, I look forward to working with him in the years to come. He is an intelligent and thoughtful individual who will provide the right kind of leadership for the organization.”

In her response, the Director, nnenna.org, an Information and Communications Technology and Events for Development consultancy firm, Ms Nnenna Nwakanma, told ITRealms Online that the choice of someone with Beckstrom’s background is the result of a long, large, deep and hard work done by the ICANN board.

“On listening to Beckstrom’s press conference, I must say that his recalling the fundamental of ICANN as a multi-stakeholder organisation is important to his success,” she said. Stressing that it is important to wait and see if Beckstrom could manage that fragile balance “between people and principles, pressure and consensus, security and privacy, openness and caucusing, diversity and upward mobility.”

For the Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Mr. Marc Rotenberg, the appointment of Rod Beckstrom is an outstanding choice to head ICANN.

“He understands people, institutions, and technology. He can bring constituencies together and has inspired important collaborations around the world. He recognizes both the potential and the challenges for ICANN and has stood up for the civil liberties of Internet users with courage and foresight.”

Also commenting, the United States’ Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) said “I’d liked to extend my congratulations to Mr. Beckstrom for his appointment as President and CEO of ICANN. His background as an Internet entrepreneur and in cyber security will be an asset for ICANN as it continues to promote competition and enhance the stability and security of the global Internet. I look forward to working with him, as we continue our efforts to make ICANN a more stable, accountable, transparent, and most importantly, fully independent global organization.”

What is now being waited for is the smooth transition from Twomey to Beckstrom, yet, what would be the role of Africans under the new dispensation is still very vague; but developing countries of the world like in Africa are waiting for Beckstrom agenda, which is expected to be rolled out at resumption in the last quarter of this year.

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