Monday, August 31, 2015

Next ICANN CEO: Can Nigeria fill-in the gap?

Preamble on search for Fadi’s replacement:
ON June 21, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global body that administers domain names and coordinates the internet identifier announced the search commencement for its new president and chief executive officer by setting up a committee to that effect.

DigitalSENSE Business News recalls that ICANN current president cum Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Fadi ChehadĂ©, had served the ICANN board his intention to move on from ICANN by March 2016. 

To steer this search, ICANN named an 8-man committee chaired George Sadowsky, comprising Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Cherine Chalaby, Steve Crocker, Chris Disspain, Markus Kummer, Ram Mohan and Ray Plzak.

Sadowsky revealed that the committee has opened an electronic mail (email) address for interested parties to make input; in order to collect comments regarding the search, qualifications of candidates, job description, and special characteristics of best applicants.

Healso said that the search comment was open until July 12, 2015, urging for Internet community to freely contribute their views. Reassuring, he promised to revert to the Internet community with the outcome of the updated job description and qualifications statement for the position by mid-July. And living up to this, his committee did release details on this search as promised.

Criteria of ICANN CEO Search Party 2015:
One urgent and clear point of note for any individual wishing to be considered for the position of ICANN’s CEO with anticipation to replace the outgoing Fadi Chehade by March 2016, is the deadline for the submission of application slated for Sunday, September 20, 2015.

Based on the foregoing, ICANN Board of Directors, chaired by Dr. Steve Crocker, established a search committee to plan and execute a strategy to identify CEO candidates for submission to the Board, which entails that all candidate inquiries must be directed to Odgers Berndtson

Must know about ICANN:
It is vital for any applicant to note that ICANN has a global public interest mission to promote stability and security of global Internet through coordination of unique identifiers, comprising its naming and addressing systems; numbers, names, and protocol parameters.

ICANN’s mission avails engagement with a large global community of actively participating stakeholders representing the domain name industry, governments, businesses, academia, NGOs and individuals, dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. ICANN has three meetings a year that gather about 1,500 participants each.

Founded in 1998as a Californian public benefit not-for-profit corporation, ICANN’s current baseline operating expense budget excluding initiatives is estimated at US$113 million, about N22,515,250,000.00, mostly derived from fees levied on domain name registrations.

3 years of global expansion:
The past three years saw ICANN as a global organization with hub offices in Los Angeles, USA; Istanbul, Turkey, and Singapore, and engagement offices in Beijing, Brussels, Geneva, Montevideo, Seoul and Washington, but currently has 325 staff spread across 30 countries.

The globalization of ICANN also saw the advent of new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLDs) Programme, including gTLDs in both Latin and non-Latin scripts such as Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic. Over 1,300 new gTLDs are expected to be delegated in total.

Characteristics of ICANN:
Organisation-wise, ICANN could pass as a unique not-for-profit organization which comprises serving broad, global group of stakeholders from across all sectors that work to develop its policies through an inclusive “bottom-up” process embedded in transparency, inclusion and participation formingbasis of its business conduct and accountability towards stakeholders and the larger public.

ICANN’s open policy development mechanism promote well-informed decisions based on advice from a diversity of views, so ICANN staff supports policy development processes by the community, the Board’s steering cum validation role, and executes the resulting policies.

Noteworthy is that there is a delicate balance of distributed cum shared responsibilities between ICANN staff led by the CEO, global volunteer community, Board of Directors and stakeholder constituencies.

Internet Governance Ecosystem:
Recall also that ICANN is part of a broader, distributed Internet Governance (IG) ecosystem with other major players forming key partners in the technical community. These actors work together to preserve one single, interoperable and permissionless Internet, thereby inspiring ICANN work closely with related technical organizations, and each performs their technical functions within well-defined and limited remit.

Equally, ICANN works with a growing number of non-technical players in theIG ecosystem, including International Government Organisations (IGOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), foundations, governments, associations, as well as private organizations and participates within its specific given responsibilities for the Internet’s system of unique identifiers.

The Candidate we want:
On behalf of ICANN, the Sadowsky-led disclosed that the candidate they want for CEO of ICANN requires a demonstrable public interest-minded leadership with a combination of business, diplomatic and organizational skills to assume this position with highest degree of experience and skills possible. 

The committee disclosed that these have been grouped in no particular order under several headings that embodies the multi-faceted nature of the role to consist of ICANN seeking candidates motivated to increase the effectiveness of the global Internet for the benefit of all.

On the management and operational experience, the ICANN search party requested a solid record of achievement in respected public, corporate, academic service, NGOs, foundations, and/or other public service institutions.

Potential candidates, DigitalSENSE Business News gathered, must have proven record of strengthening, fostering and consolidating operational excellence, with previous experience working on boards of non-profit and/or profit organizations. This is in addition to having the ability to foster consensus-building, just as significant experience of, and achievements in, a multi-stakeholder environment, and an understanding of policy development processes.

The new CEO search party said,experience forms a strong operational part of running an established organization of substantial size, like ICANN with ultimate responsibility for all key functions, maintaining that success in managing the continued evolution of a dynamic organization, with complex legal issues and significant contractual relationships, as well as experience in resource allocation and management of competing priorities, of course without leaving out background in establishing, strengthening and consolidating business systems and processes, backed with good negotiating skills to be able to represent ICANN and present it well in potentially adversarial environments.

For the search party, global experience cannot be left out as ICANN requires understanding of relevant political and policy processes, with awareness of current Internet issues around the world, stressing that global exposure based on experience working in leadership roles in different countries and with different cultures matters, just as experienced leadership of dispersed international teams of significant size and active and diverse stakeholders remain expedient.

Also, the committee seeks candidates experienced in managing complex and global process workflows and ability to anticipate issues and advance pre-emptive actions, evolving into strong diplomatic skills, ability to balance between all facets of a complex ecosystem, including technical, business, and political aspect, whilst significantly experienced in interacting and engaging with media.

Leadership Style:
ICANN, the committee said, is intellectually engaging and contributes to ‘thought leadership,’ which helps to define vision and strategy, and leverages the organization’s competencies. So, it is crucial to appreciate the aspects of multilingualism and how this affects many players in the developed and the developing world by way of handling the geopolitical currents and pressures that will affect the future of a global organization, even as they search for a candidate that understands and demonstrates empathy, and instills that quality throughout the organization as a core part of the values and mode of operation.

The candidate ICANN is looking for, they said, should thrive on motivating a high level team of functioning specialists and must be seen as a consensus builder, catalyst and motivator, who is practiced at, and enjoys, working in partnership and persuading others. Therefore, the candidate must embody and practice the inclusive and empowering multistakeholder approach and encourages significant volunteer involvement.

Personal Characteristics:
As said by the Committee, potential candidates must align themselves with ICANN’s values, namely integrity, trust, humility, technical excellence, and public service, as well as multicultural in nature with language skills, practiced communicator and public speaker. With strong belief in the value of the Internet: conscious of its role and complexity, fully embrace to ICANN’s mission, accountability requirements, and bottom-up process.

“Relishes work within a community empowered organization, while taking into account the different interests of the different communities in a balanced and fair way,” the Committee underscores, saying that there must be excellent interpersonal skills at all levels, showing commitment to strengthening diversity, ability to generate trust with all stakeholders and respect their input, whereas adept at rapid assimilation and adjustment to new environments.

Additionally, ICANN new CEO is expected to have passion of Internet technology and Domain Name Industry (DNI), the market structure and dynamics while working within ICANN’s technical remit in a rapidly evolving Internet governance ecosystem by way of ensuring the evolution of the organization within such a framework.

This is because, familiarity of Internet technologies and, in particular, an understanding of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers, including domain names, protocol parameters and addresses, and the functioning of domain name registries and registrars, including issues of competition, privacy, intellectual property, consumer protection and branding; Internet addressing challenges and opportunities, including deployment of IPv6, exhaustion of IPv4, and the implications of IPv4 scarcity on the fundamental Internet architecture.

Consideration, ICANN search party said, would be given to those who understand the IG ecosystem, the institutional environment of Internet and its administrative governance systems, such as Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), The Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Society (ISOC), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), among other organizations. 

Whereas, awareness of the international dimensions, and ability to interact with government and intergovernmental stakeholders as well as knowledge of the United Nations (UN) system and other international organizations and processes cannot be said to be less importance.

Good news:
The good news, however, is that the Committee is not oblivious of the difficulties in finding a unique candidate with all the features, hence, it gave a proviso that although candidates may not match every single criterion listed above, but those who reach the final shortlist will satisfy many of them.
Largely, the candidate will be expected to work at ICANN’s United States headquarters in Los Angeles, California, with substantial travel required.

Can Nigeria fill-in the gap?
A cross section of Nigerians was asked what they think about a qualified Nigerian occupying this position. For Nnenna Nwakanma, there may be no need limiting it to Nigerians as there are about two Africans in the corridors of power at ICANN, such as Adiel Akplogan who joined ICANN as Vice President for Technical Engagement and Anne-Rachel Inne, the Senior Advisor to the President on Government Engagement, declaring “They are internal already and they can represent Africa well.”

For the President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) Engr. Sunday Folayan lamented that unfortunately, such positions are not zoned invariably to Nigeria, otherwise he should have proposed him.

“If the recruitment is zoned to Nigeria, I will back Lanre Ajayi. He is clued on what ICANN does and is on the GNSO council. Unfortunately, that is not how they recruit for such positions,” Folayan decried.

Yet for anonymous analyst, Dr. Jimson Olufuye will not be a bad candidate after all, he serves presently as ICANN vice chairman, Finance & Operations at Commercial Business Constituency. 

As we wait for who the cap of ICANN chief executive officer fits, developing economies should not fail short of encouraging their experts to key into the Internet community, especially from Africa.

Yes, the continent may be making some inroads as far as the Internet and domain name business are concerned, but definitely Nigeria and Ghana among other African countries could do better in taking their rightful places as ICANN continues to expand its engagement processes globally.

+Remmy Nweke (ITRealms) +ITRealms DSA +ICANN  

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