At-Large Summit Declared Open
Alejandro Pisanty, President of ISOC Mexico and former Vice-President of the ICANN Board of Directors, welcomed the Summit participants to Mexico City and addressed them with his Opening Keynote Address:
From Vision to Mission
Good morning to you all again. This time, I would also like to thank the organizers of ALAC, and all of the staff and the board of ICANN, for having undertaken to organize this meeting.
Also, it is important for me to convey the words of thanks and gratitude in organizing and welcoming you all to the Mexican Internet association, which is an Internet association that covers all of the Internet community and the organization that controls the domain MX for all of the support and help for the summit and the meeting, including the infrastructure and organization of this meeting.
And I have been asked to speak in Spanish. And it is my pleasure to do so.
I, of course, ask your indulgence or your apology, and I would like to warn you that at international meetings, I usually speak in English. And I will not do so on this occasion. I have been asked to do so, and I will do so gladly, in order to underscore our cultural diversity.
In our environment, when we speak of cultural diversity, we should not limit this diversity to our ethnic roots, language, or culture. Our cultural diversity, particularly in a room like this, is a diversity of cultures that we could call the functional cultures. It is even more difficult to communicate amongst social activists, engineers, government officials and those in charge of standardizing Internet protocols and many other communities and functional organizations than when you try to have Mexican and New Zealand and Chinese and French engineers amongst them, or with officials from Venezuela, United States, even when countries may have strongly different opinions, the government language is the same, and the engineering language is the same.
It is the cultural barriers and the cultural hurdles that we have to surmount.
The thoughts that I wanted to share with you today, which I hope will live up to the role, given the different path that will be set of spaces for our debates and discussions within which we are to hold our conversations, I'd like to start with a brief analysis on Internet governance, which is a very brought framework, very general, within which we believe that we find ICANN activities, and, obviously, those activities that have to do with the At Large and at this summit, which is an outstanding event, unique in its nature so far. We can forecast that one of the agreements or consensus that we will have at the end is that we need more public. But for the time being, this is one first opportunity, an exceptional opportunity, and where we hope to win that spot.
This is part of the huge panorama that is described as Internet governance, Internet governance.
There is a significant trend in the world nowadays, particularly in places such as the Internet Governance Forum and its organizing group, in trying to find an organization, a superstructure, that will absorb most of the tasks and most of the problems and possible solutions that are understood and that are seen in the field of Internet governance.
As an example, in a recent event that was held in Oslo University, the question that was addressed to all speakers was, is it possible -- no, I'm sorry, let me just think back -- by when will it be possible to reasonably expect that an intergovernmental entity will take on the whole set of Internet governance tasks.
And my question is that it is possible to expect it, not reasonably. The word reasonably will not be used that it is possible to expect that an intergovernmental entity will take on the tasks, control the supervision of Internet governance as a whole, only in a way that is not reasonable. This expectation is not reasonable. Not only an intergovernmental entity, but even a unique entity, even if this is a multisectorral, multistakeholder entity, as we now call them, as of the World Summit on the Information Society. So what we see the trend that we witness, a trend that is possible to see in the 30-odd years of existence of Internet and the 15 or 20 of its broadest dissemination, in the ten that it has been in existence, this discussion since the proposal of the millennium decade, is that Internet governance is being built on the basis of solving specific problems with tools, also specific tools. Perhaps the first problem, historically, of Internet governance that has been solved was not called as such. It was only the need for making agreements for the technical standardization of technical protocols, I repeat that give foundation to the operation of Internet.
And with an essential principle, which was that of ensuring the interoperability, the possibility of communicating networks, extremely diverse networks, making sure that they will be able to communicate with the mere strict compliance of all standardized protocols. And the tool that the Internet community that at that time was much smaller than the current community, I believe, was Internet Engineering Task Force, the IETF, created mechanisms, original, there were references made by Paul Twomey, so I don't want to go into a repetition, but amongst other characteristics, they copied the layer 8; they copied the activity of humans. Some of the basic things that were expected to be done by technology at the level of technical protocols, the horizontality, the strict compliance with the interoperability rules, and, thus, the setting in motion of the foundation, the establishment of a hugely diverse and creative network, they created this, the IETF is used in order to solve this problem. It does this extremely well. It does it much faster, much more effectively than preexistent entities devoted to technical standardization, both intergovernmental, as well as ITU. When both private as well as the IEEE.
And there is an interaction amongst all protocols. But, surely, the explosion, the boom in Internet growth, is due to the fact that we found a good governance tool for this specific purpose of standardization, technical standardization and interoperability.
Now, on this, we build later on a mechanism in order to try to deal with the problems that stem from intellectual property of these protocols.
So different from other organizations that make sure that these protocols will not be sold, but only by themselves, the point was to make sure that the protocols, the standards, the RSS, will not be sold by anyone; that they would be permanently available for free. And the superstructure that was created to comply with this function, the Internet Society, amongst others, solves this problem in a very special way. And besides, it solves others for which we -- this has also been structured and built and populated by people and organizations, the right people and the right organizations.
The problem to be solved in due course of the coordination of the system of names, DNS, and the allocation, and to assign domains and addresses and IPs was very peculiar, although at its very beginning, we could have believed that it was not very imaginative. One person did it all. Our admired, our dear Jon Postel. He did it all.
And when this problem is replaced by another one another problem of coordinating, has already solved, another problem is to coordinate without any litigation against the government of the United States, to coordinate with the participation of the relevant actors, stakeholders, and to transfer the coordination to a formal entity, competent entity, capable of coordinating the DNS systems to assign addresses and protocol tables and coordination of these tables. And that's where ICANN was proposed. ICANN is a tool to solve problems in order to deal with that problem. ICANN brings together, as no other one does, the Association for (inaudible) Machinery, the IEEE, ITU, UNESCO, OECD, APEC, and no other organization, preexistent organization or entity, puts together the stakeholders such as ICANN does, that is to say, the people who do have something at stake, their work, their life, their business, the prestige, the honor, in which the system of DNS will be well coordinated and exempt of litigation and legal processes that would paralyze it. This is put together, this industry of assigned names, lawyers working in intellectual property, civil society in its different shapes, the technical community, governments, they all come together in a specific way that provides a very special tool in order to solve this problem.
Some of the governments that have better understood this issue, for example, do not feel as concerned as others, because this is a board within a private organization, because they realize and they perceive that within that structure, they have sufficient influence within their ability to respond on a temporary basis without the need for complexity, formal agreements, intergovernmental agreement, endless times for treaty and agreement to be signed, to be signed by 60 different countries, in order to be legally valid at an international level. And at the same time, that they get sufficient influence, they are waived of all the risks that stem from that influence, as would be the case with the liabilities, the liabilities of being part in a legal process amongst private individuals. It would not be good for the government of France, just to mention one of our dear friends here present, it would not be good for the government of France to be involved in a litigation case between a registrar of domains and a registered brand or trademark in the U.S. This is, then, the adequate tool for a specific problem. It evolves and it is adapted on the basis of the nature of the problem as it changes. But it is not used to solve a problem such as spam or insecurity on the Internet vis-a-vis banking transactions. It is not good in order to defend freedom of expression in countries that are qualified -- usually rated as totalitarian. It is not used in order to overcome censorship. This is not what it was built for. It was not built for any other mission.
Then what I believe is what should be done as regards Internet governance, in general, and with this community that is gathered here today and outside the work in what we do every day to what they might contribute are two things. One is that we are waiting to find we do not have a theoretical sound body, well-debated, well discussed, that would give a really profound framework to Internet governance. There is a lot of work going on from a legal point of view. There's a lot of work going on that come to the conclusion that governments ought to have the predominant role, the final word, the final word on this. But they start off on the basis of that premise. If you look at the academic work that is done, they start off on the premise or they base on that prejudice, we don't have a theoretical core, a body. I recently postulated, since I'm a layman in this field, I don't dare speak publicly, but I do much as interest something that is called the theory of the principal and the agent, the principal able to theory that is used in the theory of international relations in order to explain why someone, an entity, a person, a government, a nation, gives in, delegates a function, and what are the conditions and circumstances for this to happen.
But this is a type of a theoretical body that our academic community within ICANN brilliantly represented with the risk of offending others, but brilliantly represented by people such as Wolfgang Kleinwachter, is the following step, which I believe will be brought to your schools and institutes.
And the second important step is, together with the construction, improvement, deepening of the ICANN model for ICANN's work, is to study how and what is to be transferred from ICANN's model to settling other problems of Internet governance which are of the same nature, transnational, complicated because of the speedy dissemination of activities through Internet, complicated in their solution because the hyperconnectivity between people and institutions, and complicated because of the fact that they go through different jurisdictions, legal jurisdictions. And this makes it impossible or extremely complex to have direct action by the governments as the main stakeholder in this. There's a list of 40 issues that have to do with Internet governance, and it is based on some of the work that we did in the Working Group on Internet Governance a couple of years ago. And in each one of them, you can see the opportunity of starting to adapt, (Spanish words), changing whatever is necessary, and what was learned in ICANN.
The problem, this vision that you call heuristic, that is to say, based on a problem-solving approach is applied successfully. And it is a very good guide for advancement and progress of the At Large. The problem that we're trying to solve with the structures, current at-large structures, is the problem of the representation or the voice or the influence in the decisions of Internet users in general. Final users, some of which are almost illiterate, they use Internet in developing countries, in underprivileged communities in order to upload a video. They only use it as a means of transfer of something that they already know what to do, which is to record themselves on a video, expressing their needs or their views, their social or political activism. Users of Internet that are the major speculators in domain names, users of Internet which are the people that are in India and Africa, in the desert areas of Mexico, throughout the world, setting up wireless networks, voluntary, with a spectrum that is not authorized legally, taking advantage of all the vacuums in the system for the poorest or marginal communities to be serviced. These Internet users, as well as those that perform banking transactions, those that transform human life through the Internet, it is not possible to define this number of users, who are the stakeholders that make Internet work. It includes many people that are not users, the children, the parents of users that are the ultimate beneficiaries. When a farmer receives support, and just to give you a specific example, with someone who harvests trouts in the northeast of Mexico receives help from Canada to improve the techniques and to triple the number of trouts through a son that goes to school, is literate and uses Internet, who is a stakeholder.
Even the trouts are stakeholders and using Internet. And we cannot go to the trouts to ask them for their opinion.
So our need in the At Large is to give voice to those who are Internet users and those who are the beneficiaries. But we do not have in any one of these organizations a mechanism that will truly embrace the population to inform the population of the huge political, legal, and technical problems that we're dealing with and that would enable us in all legitimacy to come here legitimately and say 5 million users of Internet express their views through me. So the legitimacy of the at-large has to be based, as Paul Twomey said, on the quality of the ideas, the depth of the treatment and the discussion of these ideas, and the certainty that whoever speaks on behalf of individuals, five million people or 500 million people, we have the certainty that we do so legitimately. Sometimes we prefer to speak on behalf of five, but do so correctly on inventing a discourse that is not known to five million on behalf of whom we decide to speak.
The first idea that we had in order to solve this problem of voice in the presence of users were elections to the board by the community, at-large community. I speak, having been part of the organization of these elections, of one of the committees that were behind this, and the board at that time. That system showed all the problems that one can have, and very few of the solutions.
The election is an election that is easy to guide and to direct because of interest. These might be the loftiest interests, but they have not been balanced. Classical theory of elections is based on having a well-defined electorate and subdivided by its preferences between parties, candidates, ideas, proposals, et cetera, and not to be based on everyone coming with their own electoral, and to bring it together. This is not unforeseeable or unpredict and is the basis of the failure of all of these Internet systems and is based on a specific registry of voters. So what we have in ICANN with honest people is the equivalent of one of the greatest misfortunes that the democracy of this country suffered for 70 years. Someone in ill faith will bring 100 farmers up on a truck. They pick them up in the different lots, and then they're brought to the station. They're brought to the point, the election place, giving them a sandwich or a juice in order to pay for the effort of the day. And, obviously, the electoral preference is preset by those who brought them, because they only picked them up and bring to the polling station those who vote in favor of their electoral preference. This very deep device was to me the essential point that took me away from holding these elections. It was not my idea, but I wanted to look for Esther Dyson and Denise Michel in 2003 on the concept based on the idea that we know as web of trust. It is web of trust is, as the word describes it. In the end, we didn't know each other. Many of us had not met. And we had not even met online. But there's a chain of individuals who I trust. That connects me with each one of you, and each one of you with one of the others. So this is the basis of the at-large concept. This is the key phase, you know who you're talking to, you know on behalf of who he's speaking, and you make sure that the clearance of all ideas is -- or screening of ideas is privileged above the bunch, the number, all the way down to coming to a stage of the world democracy Utopia, where everybody will be registered as a voter. But this is centuries ahead. And it is a very popular, open, and democratic way of building a dream, the illusion of the world government, the sole government of the world, the democratic, the authoritarian both are distant Utopias in the best of cases. And in the meantime, we need to build something else, which is precisely this At Large. This At Large has the possibility of appraising and valuing what ICANN is in its mechanisms of participation, construction, upwards from the periphery to the center of the balance, between the interests of society and trade, between profit and service to society, without penalizing legitimate profit, but without stopping to believe in, as many of our organizations believe, those are gathered, the at-large this cannot be the main driving force of society. This is the thought of ideas that I believe should be pondered upon. And out of which we can find very fruitful work that is done with the at-large, not only at the summit, but with the continuity online that exceptionally is given or found in this community. I repeat something that I said previously. On the one hand, to build, to deepen, and to improve these mechanisms to bring more voices to make sure that they're better heard, that they be better informed, that the educated opinion will be better disseminated. And on the other hand, to start thinking at national levels, regional levels, and global levels, on what the lessons learned are of this mechanism that might be transferred to others.
What are the lessons learned in terms of a good structure, a structure with weights and count weights and checks and balances in order to use the precise words in English that will have the structure, the necessary weight, so that legitimately, we can propose solutions to well-proposed problems, a phrase that I used for many years is that in ICANN, it is much more important to see the physiology than the anatomy. It is much more important to have a good operation, clear rules, than a structure or another one, another one, any structure that will be dishonestly handled or managed with traps, it would be much worse than a bad structure that is used with honesty, with clarity, with conviction, with sound technical information. The major difference in Internet governance, with governance of other global spaces such as the environment, is that Internet is being actively built by human beings that will give shape to the governance. This is extrapolated to other organizations and even something that is a mere event, not an organization as the forum on governance of Internet. This cannot be presented in a tribunal, in a court. It cannot become a mechanism for evaluation, because it doesn't have the structure. It doesn't have the necessary checks and balances. So these general lessons, hopefully, will come with us in the thought that we will share in the coming days focused on the specific mission of ICANN. And then instead of bringing all the problems from outside to ICANN, which is a task that has to be done in order to analyze it within this specific framework, let us think on how to do the reverse movement, come out of ICANN with the lessons learned. We have a lot of work. Hopefully, it will be fruitful in the coming sessions. Thank you.
Please find the remaining transcript of the General Opening Session under: http://mex.icann.org/files/meetings/mexico2009/transcript-atlarge-summit-open-28feb09-en.txt
Please find Evan Leibovitch's Closig Keynote Address "From Mission to Action" under: http://www.atlarge.icann.org/announcements/announcement-05mar09-en.htm