NEW YORK, NY—Balloting in the Internet’s first worldwide online elections for five members of the Board of Directors of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, concluded last night. The elections were initiated and conducted by ICANN in an attempt to fulfill its mandate to represent all Internet users in its decision-making processes. ICANN is the private corporation charged with the international oversight of the Internet domain name system and other functions. The Markle Foundation contributed funds to ICANN’s costs for the elections, and to outside organizations to advise ICANN on the election process.
“These elections were far from perfect,” said Baird. “However, they are part of a process we hope will lead to greater transparency, participation and representation at ICANN and for Internet Governance generally. We hope that ICANN will take very seriously the study they have committed to conduct following these elections and that advice from expert observers will help shape a better process in the future.”
“Global institutions are beginning to oversee Internet activities,” said Markle President Zoë Baird. “The decisions they make reflect what we as society value and will help determine whether the Internet will achieve its potential to improve people’s lives through not only e-commerce but also innovation, vibrant exchange of ideas, and diversity. Management of the Internet by a private entity will not be stable or legitimate if that entity does not adequately include the public voice. So it is essential that ICANN—which is establishing rules that impact individuals and organizations alike—be accountable to all Internet users everywhere. The elections were an experiment in building a legitimate way for ICANN to reflect the interest of all users so it becomes an authority they can trust; this experiment now has to be evaluated to determine whether it or another method should be used to fill the remaining seats on ICANN’s board of directors.”
ICANN called the elections as a step toward making the body more accountable to and representative of Internet users worldwide. All other seats on the board are allocated to representatives of technical and commercial interests. In order to ensure that ICANN had access to input from leading experts on transparent and fair public processes and public interest organizations, Markle also provided funding to former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center to monitor and review the election process, and to the Center for Democracy and Technology and Common Cause to advise on the election process and to identify means by which the public voice can be strengthened in ICANN.
“Our goal all along in funding ICANN-related projects has been to make the process of governing the Internet more broadly representative, participatory and transparent,” Baird said. “While there may be many means to achieve this goal, when ICANN came to us with a proposal to hold elections, we decided to work with them and involve outside experts to help make the process fair and credible. It is now imperative that the data from this election experiment be thoroughly analyzed and available for public scrutiny so that the dialogue can continue and the system can be improved.”
Background on Markle’s ICANN-related work
The Markle Foundation has committed more than $1-million to grants under its Internet Governance Program, of which ICANN is the first. Projects in this program area are designed to improve Internet governance, and include several major initiatives designed to make ICANN, the Internet’s first international oversight body, more accountable to all users of the Internet.
Markle’s first initiative—a $200,000 grant directly to ICANN to initiate this process enabled the organization to hire staff, conduct outreach, create technical mechanisms for global voting, translate key documents into several major languages for the benefit of all potential ICANN members worldwide, and initiate the voting process.
Markle also enlisted the support of and provided funding to the Carter Center, Common Cause, the Center for Democracy and Technology and other organizations from around the world to help establish the election process, to create a travel fund at the Salzburg Seminar (with the Ford Foundation), to reach out to Internet users, and to monitor the elections.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit, international corporation formed in September 1998 to oversee a select set of Internet management functions previously managed by the U.S. Government, or by its contractors and volunteers. Specifically, ICANN is assuming responsibility for coordinating the management of the domain name system (DNS), and other important features of the Internet.