The ALAC’s theething problems

It has been three months now I have been elected to ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee.  The 15 of us do not always share the same view and that is healthy. All these unpaid volunteers deserve, I think, a lot of respect for their commitment. Unlike other people in the ICANN circus, most of them are not into Internet governance issues as a part of their day job. However, the fact they are not full time Internet policy professionals is also the root cause of the ALAC’s theething problems.

There is a lot happening within the ICANN community. It ranges from technical issues to legal and political ones. Obviously, no-one can pretend to be an expert in all  matters. Still, the ALAC is presumed to be able to have an opinion on any matter. The amount of documents to read is daunting. It is by itself a half time job to process  them all, further complicated for those who do not have a fluent English reading.

One of the great features of the ICANN process is the possibility to submit comments. It of course takes time to read the documents, understand them, reach out to the At-large community, summarize point of views, reach consensus and finally draft a statement. All this within 30 days.  Often, the ALAC misses the deadline.

This is further complicated by the global nature of the community. There is no way one could identify a convenient time slot to hold teleconferences that would suit all participants.  The inconvenience is shared. For those in the Asia Pacific region, they need to call when they should actually go to bed. Europeans and Africans have to call during business hours. North Americans need to wake up early and arrive late at work.  However, at the end of the day, people look at who is signing  their paycheck. And it is not ICANN or a company that has a business interest in participating.  This may explain why some people cannot attend all meetings, however committed they are.

Some of the above issues are part of the report on the  review of the ALAC currently going on. If the board addresses the recommandations in the report, it will greatly help making the ALAC more efficient.

I once objected to seeing the ICANN board members compensated for their time.  I changed my mind on this. This is a real, full time, job.  I would think that Veni Markovski’s statistics on his time spent on ICANN board business are under-estimated, based on conversations I had with current board members.

On a similar subject Stéphane Van Gelder echoes his experience as a GNSO councillor and asks how long such a model built on volunteering can last. This is indeed a good question, because when volunteers will no more be able to participate effectively, only those who are ICANNing for a living will be able to call the tune.

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