ICANN 52 – A Caribbean Perspective

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit with the responsibility for the management of the names and numbers of the Internet. This gives them authority over Internet Protocol (IP) address space, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top Level Domains and root server management functions to name but a few key areas.  

They hold three public meetings every year where various members of their constituent Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees get a chance to physically meet and continue work on the various initiatives which they have been toiling on via remote participation sessions of working groups throughout the year. 

ICANN is governed by a bottom-up, consensus driven multi stakeholder model and preceding each public meeting applicants  are selected to participate in a fellowship programme which is designed to bring up and coming voices in the field of Internet governance into the fold.  For the ICANN52 meeting recently held in Singapore over the period 8 – 12 February 2015, Trinidad & Tobago’s  Shiva Bissessar was selected to participate as a fellow as a member of the business community. 

The following is an edited version of his post meeting summary report.

Janice Lange, fellowship ‘den mother’, at the helm immediately preceding Sunday’s first fellowship session
Janice Lange, fellowship ‘den mother’, at the helm immediately preceding Sunday’s first fellowship session

Introduction

In preparing for ICANN52, I felt a responsibility to appropriately represent the groups which I associated myself with. I am a small business owner from a developing  nation within the Caribbean and a first time fellow. After becoming involved in raising the profile of information security and cyber security issues in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean via various fora over the past year, I saw this as a natural area of focus during the meeting. I was keen to seek the interests of developing nations in the Caribbean and develop opportunities in the area of cyber security. 

Cyber Security

From the onset, these goals began to realize themselves as I took note of the Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communication and Information for Singapore opening remarks on Singapore’s focus on cyber security and development of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Cyber Security Agency (CSA).  He also spoke of the development of Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act to cater to harassment in the online and physical world. 

These are exactly the same challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago at present as we seek to introduce cybercrime and cyber security agency legislative measures which include areas addressing harassment which has caused some controversy amongst some members of the media.  This speech did bring clarity on the similarity of the state of affairs with respect to measures to provide cyber security between Trinidad and Tobago and Singapore at present.

During his address to the fellowship members, Chair of the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) Patrik Fältström, emphasized the difference in skills required at the SSAC where he stated they require a well-rounded composition of members not simply those who are technically focused but those who are also capable of tackling long term strategic issues. 

This is very much in alignment with where I position my own professional services, that is, I attempt to assist organizations with their strategic Information Security and Cyber Security governance needs rather than focus on their technical needs, so it was certainly refreshing to hear this distinction of skills sets being spoken to by the Chair SSAC. 

This reminded me of one of the questions I’d submitted, which had to do with proposed assistance to ICANN in developing and delivering strategic level presentations on the benefits of IPv6 and DNSSEC designed for an audience of decision makers at corporate entities, service providers and regulator organizations rather than ones focused on technical merits of these necessary technology advancements.

At the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) session within the Government Advisory Constituency (GAC), I learned of the development of a Virtual Currencies Roundtable as hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec) via the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI), which seemed predominantly focused on risks. 

This is an area where I have an established record of proficiency including my latest study and report via the UN Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) exploring “Opportunities and Risks associated with the advent of digital currency in the Caribbean” which is to be published by the end of March 2015. 

In post-ICANN activities I gave a presentation on this very topic at the Sim Kee Boon Institute of Financial Economics at the Singapore Management University and have been invited by the South School of Internet Governance (SSIG) to deliver same at SSIG2015 later on in April.  

In keeping with the theme of increased participation from citizens from developing nations I certainly hope to offer assistance to future events being organized by the Virtual Currencies Roundtable and the Commonwealth Secretariat to present them with a more objective view of both opportunities and risks.

Encouraging developing nation participation

As a citizen of a developing nation I took note of several contributions from various speakers who sought to emphasize the importance of the contributions from this demographic in Internet governance.  Again, during the opening ceremony, Ira Mezinger, former Clinton administration’s chief Internet policy advisor, set the tone on this issue, taking the time to emphasise that he saw a deficit of a developing country presence as he looked at the participants of ICANN. 

He further highlighted “the Internet serves everybody and has an opportunity for everybody, not just those who are wealthy and developing”.  Drawing reference to the Singapore experience of phenomenal economic growth since the 1970’s he  pronounced that certain developing nations are at the same starting position which Singapore was at but stated that they needed the Internet to fuel their growth.

Figure 2: Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communication and Information for Singapore
Figure 2: Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communication and Information for Singapore

Also underscoring the need for developing nations’ citizens to become more involved in the Internet Governance process were Bill Drake and Walid Al-Saqaf of the Non-commercial Users Constituency (NCUC), who spoke of the development of a survey designed to investigate ways by which the NCUC can encourage greater participation amongst certain groups of their member (including those of developing nations) to get them more active in the actual work of the NCUC and transition “lurkers to workers”.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Tracy Hackshaw, former Vice Chair of the GAC in his address to the fellowship members underscored the importance of having developing countries participate at the GAC level. No doubt Tracy’s future absence from the GAC as an elected member now leaves a void in terms of developing nation representation at that level, although this may have been addressed via election of a Vice Chair from Namibia at ICANN51 and impending elections of new GAC members.

Latin American and Caribbean issues

At the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Space session designed to bring together participants from the Latin America and the Caribbean region for discussion of “economic matters in the domain name system” (yes, the name is misleading) I learned of the agenda of 45 projects as part of a LAC Regional Strategic Plan, some being worked on jointly by Latin American and Caribbean members.

One of these projects is the development of new ICANN LAC regional website as being jointly developed by Trinidadian, Dev Anand Teelucksingh and Fatima Cambronero.  Bennette Thomas of Dominica spoke of the formation of a Caribbean working group to combat “marginalization of the Caribbean countries in the LAC space to solely look at Caribbean issues” attributing relatively low active participation from Caribbean countries due to “accessibility to Internet services, accessibility in terms of the various benefits associated with being in ICANN”.   

At a subsequent LAC working lunch where several Caribbean members, affiliated with government, expressed cyber security as a pressing concern to their territories, I noted the fact that normally when such cyber security efforts are executed by international bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) AS/CICTE and Commonwealth Secretariat, local private sector entities (non-government) are excluded from such efforts. 

I encouraged the participating members of LACNIC, ARIN and the Caribbean members to invest in Caribbean people and develop a robust private sector with expertise in cyber security at the same time as they are executing programmes along the agenda driven by the aforementioned bodies.

Shiva Bissessar discusses digital currency with Bloomberg correspondent Lien Hoang, during LAC working lunch (Image courtesy: ICANNphoto)
Shiva Bissessar discusses digital currency with Bloomberg correspondent Lien Hoang, during LAC working lunch (Image courtesy: ICANNphoto)

Conclusion

The ICANN experience was certainly very rewarding, providing invaluable information and contacts within the realm of Internet governance and cyber security as well as information on Caribbean activities in along these dimensions.  The fellowship experience itself is very much responsible for this good result. 

The fellowship Sunday session and the morning session were adequately developed to give the newcomers an understanding of the various ICANN structures, method of participation and level of involvement they could expose themselves to.  I particularly liked the concept of being given the autonomy to choose your own path during the conference without undue influence from fellowship management and/or coaches.

The sessions I participated in were very encouraging of new participant participation.  For example, at the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) “All things WHOIS” and “Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues” sessions  I became aware of the confluence of issues surrounding the data privacy implications of ICANN becoming involved in the verification of entities who register domains as required by the Registrar Accreditation Agreement. 

Indeed this is a very complex data privacy issue with some members strongly advocating that ICANN re-examines its verification role as such activities could potentially involve going beyond the longstanding remit of only being concerned with names and numbers.  Yet even in the midst of such a significant debate regular members of the public within the audience were encouraged to come forward and state their position on the issue. 

At its very core, this is the foundation principle of ICANN, that each person participating will have an equal say and it was every encouraging seeing this reality played out in front of me in my very first ICANN experience.

Shiva Bissessar B.Sc. (Hons.) MBA M.Sc.

Shiva Bissessar
Shiva Bissessar

With almost 20 years of industry experience, Shiva Bissessar founded Pinaka Technology Solutions in 2013 as an Information and Communication Technology consultancy with specialization in Information Security at the strategic level. He recently joined the University of the West Indies, Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, as an adjunct lecturer within their Master Information Systems & Technology Management programme. 

He has written several articles in various regional publications on issues such as cyber security, digital currency and technology innovation.   He recently completed a study and report as commissioned by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean entitled “Opportunities and risks associated with the advent of digital currency in the Caribbean” which should be published by the end of March 2015. 

In February and March 2015 he presented on this topic at public forums hosted by the Sim Kee Boon Institute of Financial Economics, Singapore Management University, Singapore and the Bitcoin Centre New York City, New York, respectively.

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