DotConnectAfrica’s Government Objection sponsored by ICANN – Towards a failure of the New gTLD program

As a matter of routine to be open the internet community ICANN surprised many by the revelations of its FY14 Operating Plan and Budget . Mind boggling figures are intended to stretch ICANN through its 2014 fiscal year.

ICANN indicates that the Projects are also inclusive of funded project activities based on ICANN’s strategic priorities as documented in the adopted three year 2013-2015 Strategic Plan. ICANN also expects to cater for an increasing staff capacity perhaps to match the increasing global coverage as ICANN attempts to get a global image.

ICANN also posted the relevant budgeting for the meetings that it organizes three times every year. The most critical and visible within the budget allocations were the GAC Spending for the two latest ICANN meetings.

ICANN sponsored 17 undisclosed delegates to ICANN Beijing at a cost of $61,480.47, within which the Per Diem alone was $12,180.00. Another allocation of the same type went to ICANN Durban with 22 delegates at a cost of $88,747.39 and a Per Diem of $10,300.00.

GAC is understood to be an arm of ICANN. However the representatives are from different countries and should have been ideally catered for by the respective governments. This would increase the accountability of the delegates to advice their respective ministers and government department responsible for ICT.  From Africa it is perhaps critical to note that there has been total disarray and disjoint in how the governments are to relate to ICANN at an individual basis.

 Africa Union Commission has taken the biggest role in guiding albeit by force and perhaps due to the frequent changes within the African Country level Ministerial secretariat there is never an informed and sustained position that the governments can rely on informatively. Macro Internet projects that are considered Pan-African would need proper and neutral and transparent leadership to avoid running the project in the hands of special interest groups.

The African team:Initial Plan
of the Africa Strategy

On the same issue, it’s notable that representation to ICANN from Africa has been done mostly by a select few who have been attending the meetings to include themselves.  First there was the charm of the Prague ICANN Africa Strategy labeled as A New Approach to Africa intended at increasing African participation and influence within ICANN that confused watchers on the agenda that included a dotAfrica, which DCA fought off successfully to remove.

Aside from the dotafrica issues, the ICANN-ASWG Initiative betrays the agenda that the interest group calls an AfriNic supported initiative. The initiative, which is said to have the blessing and support of the ICANN Chairman, were later criticized as sponsoring an Agenda to bring in Governments on board to eventually oppose DCA’s application, which satisfies the recommendation made by the ICANN Chairman who indirectly recommended to the AU saying:

“While ICANN is not able to offer the specific relief requested in the Communiqué, the robust protections built into the New gTLD Program afford the African Union (and its individual member states), through the Government Advisory Committee, the opportunity to raise concerns that an applicant is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic, or provide direct advice to the Board. In addition, the African Union (and its individual member states) can avail itself of any of the appropriate objection processes mentioned above in the event an application is received for any string – even those beyond representations of .Africa – that may raise concern”.

It’s therefore obvious enough that the voice of DCA was muted starting Prague, since despite many letters and complaints to the Board after this initiative took place, the ICANN leadership continue to promote the affairs of the special interest group that are supporting the Uniforum bid over DCA.

The ICANN sponsored participation of African GAC members was the primary reason that DCA’s application was stopped by GAC members.  When the party was over at Durban and questions were raised, various Governmental representatives were responding that they had no reason to object to DCA, rather, they were just supporting AUC’s position.

The glaring evidence is that ICANN is sponsoring the same delegates who are grossly biased in handling the .africa issue to its meetings,  to deliberate ‘neutrally’ on matters affecting the globe.   Such attendance by these people will skew and alter how the individuals will come across concerning applications, as has been seen in the .africa issue.  A good example of required independence was when American GAC delegates abstained from commenting on the .amazon case.

Mike Silber, SouthAfrican
Conflicted Board member

Several applicants including DotConnectAfrica have been adversely affected by the representation at ICANN.  If it is not the conflict of interests alerted to the internet community by DotConnectAfrica before the new gTLD program had taken off,  its is the delegates representing GAC who have used ICANN meetings to lobby for their colleagues in AU, to ensure that any attempt by the applicant in this case DotConnectAfrica to pass through the paces without difficulty and result in a Contention set have been thwarted completely

DotConnectAfrica has twice fallen victim to intense ICANN-GAC lobbying.  This was presented during the Early Warnings and finally though the GAC Objection Advice in Beijing.

It is proper to think that this has been made possible because ICANN has funded delegates who are not impartial to sit in the GAC meetings.  Given that the ICANN Board has been very much prejudicial to DCA’s bid, indeed sponsoring GAC members to ICANN meetings was a guaranteed outcome so as to shape their opinions to a No vote against DCA.

If ICANN couldn’t indeed address the impartiality within its own Board or perhaps organize the GAC in a manner and structure where conflict of interests are addressed, future new gTLD rounds will not attract many applicants, nor will the outcome of the current will be considered a big failure.

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