The 2012 Internet Society Global INET
Multistakeholder Collaboration - the Key
Ingredient for Advancing Internet Innovation
Brief session description:
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 The Internet is a collaborative effort. The positive evolution of the Internet requires leaders who are able to work productively within the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. This two-part session addressed practices and processes for collaborating to support an open and innovative Internet. In Part I, Internet leaders shared lessons and best practices with a goal of explaining: how multiple stakeholders can work together in organizations such as IETF, IGF and ICANN; best approaches for supporting and continuing the multistakeholder model; and ways in which accountability can be ensured. In Part II, discussants addressed the challenges to working in a voluntary, open-participation format such as the collaborative processes to design and deploy DNSSEC, IPv6 and new gTLDs. Among the issues faced are difficulties in advancing technological deployments, finding consensus on new protocols across a wide range of voices and promoting technology updates that are imperative to the health of the Internet when they lack a clear short-term business rationale.
Details of the session:
Session moderator was Fred Baker, fellow at Cisco Systems. Participants included: Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC; Raymond Akwule, president of the Digital Bridge Institute; Steve Crocker, ICANN Board of Trustees chair and CEO and co-founder of Shinkuro; Russ Housley, chair of IETF and founder of Vigil Security; Olaf Kolkman, director of NLnet Labs; Steve Mills, president of the IEEE Standards Association and senior architect at HP; and Alexa Raad, CEO of Architelos, formerly CEO at Public Interest Registry.
Throughout Global INET, the word “multistakeholder” was on everybody’s lips. But how exactly can the various people who come together to make a multistakeholder group work together, improve and be held accountable? This was discussed in a Tuesday morning session - the specific, two-part panel, “Collaboration: The Key Ingredient for Advancing Internet Innovation.”
Fred Baker, a fellow at Cisco Systems and the panel’s moderator, said the first part of the session was intended to talk about “how it really works,” referring to successful collaboration, specifically in the field of standards and standards development.
Panelist Steve Crocker, chair of ICANN's Board of Trustees, pointed out that many say one of the great things about standards is there are so many to choose from and he parallels the behaviors of standards organizations with the operational modes of the first computers.
“Each standards body that exists generally, around the world, thinks of itself as operating in isolation and it’s the center of its own world,” he said.
Panelist Raymond Akwule, president of the Digital Bridge Institute emphasized the common benefits of shared information and accessibility.
“Interactions with your peering organizations is about good neighborships,” he said.
Steve Mills, another panelist and president of the IEEE Standards Association, said individual cultures and processes of organizations are varied, and he noted that real collaboration starts with a respect for those various processes.
In past collaboration efforts, all panelists agreed there have been some successes and some failures, although most could indicate where the failure occurred. Russ Housley, chair of the IETF cited examples of such projects, for instance digitally signing XML’s, that had joint working groups from multiple organizations but receiving approval from those organizations was very difficult.
“The point is we’re trying real hard to find a way through this,” he said. “I think it needs to be based on pragmatic experience.”
Mills said in one recent collaboration failure, industry didn’t want the effort to succeed and neither did the stakeholders. He said standards activities have a fairly high level of competition.
“To me, it’s a very difficult situation that you need to be very cautious about,” he said. He added that through cooperative spirit and aligned objectives, success can be achieved.
One audience member raised concerns about imbalance in standards development and accessibility, these questions were met with various answers from panelists of different backgrounds.
Akwule discussed the partnerships his Digital Bridge Association , located in Kenya, has with The Brookman Center for Internet and Policy at Harvard and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and computer science joint program at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“The nature of this partnership is a model that I would like to explore and bring over to the area of standards,” he said, explaining that meetings led to workshops with a true multistakeholder approach, because civil society was invited in as well. “There is value in using university resources.
He also noted that while standards are open now for anyone to contribute to, the vast majority come from North America, with smaller numbers from Europe, Australia and Asia and miniscule numbers from South American and Africa.
“We need to just go to an awareness building strategy, “Akwule said, “We need to then go quickly to identifying institutions within those regions.”
He described overcoming this obstacle as “breaking the log jam” that is creating this imbalance.
Baker then fielded a lengthy comment and question from an audience member that essentially boiled down to what the panelists saw as the future of the Internet.
Mills predicted global markets will drive more adoption of standards.
“Those standards are going to be standards that the consumer chooses through the products that they buy,” he said.
Another audience member questioned the influence of the user who has little to no market power.
Akwule shared the story of nomadic cattle herders in Kenya, one of the populations that is very difficult to reach, despite Kenya’s increasing Internet accessibility levels, because they move from place to place.
“Because they are on the go, they are usually, usually, outside the political process,” he said.
There is no broadband in Kenya and bandwith is very expensive and Akwule said he questions how he can use the Internet and existing technology to educate this group and assist them with economic survival.
“The technology is not mature enough to answer my question today,” he said.
Mills agreed that open standards and education and training are important to improving the lives of everybody on the planet.
25 years ago, Crocker said, he made his first trip to India and was introduced to a graduate student in Bangalore who had created something amazing. When Crocker asked how he did, he said he simply found the RFC’s on the Internet, read them and built his own product.
“The enormous power of the fact that information is available really around the world to anybody is an enormous enabler and really cuts down on the drag,” he said.
Part II of collaboration session
looked at DNSSEC and IPv6
The second half of the session brought a new smaller panel, made up of Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC, Olaf Kolkman, director of NLnet Labs and Alexa Raad, CEO of Architelos. They spoke about the future of collaboration and more specific developments, like DNSSEC and IPv6 and the difficulties is getting people to adopt and apply new technologies,
Kolkman said the implementation of IPv6 was necessary to move the next four or five billion users to the Internet.
“If we don’t move there and we get stuck in the present, then we cannot innovate anymore,” he said.
Businesses that make their hands dirty is what drives this industry, he elaborated, but Raad said when it comes to new technologies some are wary, worrying that it’s not what customers want.
“You can’t expect your customers to call you up and say ‘I want DNSSEC,’” she said. “Customers don’t know what they want.”
An audience member who identified himself as the owner of a small software company questioned the panelists about specific tools that are useful in collaborative efforts.
“There’s always going to be a variety of tools that are available and they’re always going to be better,” Raad said. “There’s a human element that’s missing.”
But Kolkman named Wikipedia as an example of a perfect tool formed to accomplish a goal. The founders wanted free dissemination of knowledge that was readily accessible and they created exactly what they needed to do just that.
Much of the final few minutes of the panel revolved around the role of governments in collaboration.
“In different parts of the world, governments take different approaches to these types of public interest technologies,” Kolkman said.
Akplogan mentioned that in many developing countries, the government often filled the role of early adopters, so government education was key. Kolkman and Raad echoed this idea.
“Some governments play an active role in pushing towards something,” Kolkman said. “It’s a culture thing.
Akplogan carried this culture concept forward to the entire Internet, saying that it is a culture of people who get together to create new things based on shared responsibility.
“I fundamentally believe in the power of open collaborative effort for public and common good,” he said.
“Collaboration has to lead us to work together for common interest.”
- Reporter: Rachel Southmayd
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The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at the Internet Society's 20th Anniversary Global INET Conference included the following Elon University students, faculty, staff and friends: Jacquie Adams, Dan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Kacie Anderson, Nicole Chadwick, Jeff Flitter, Addie Haney, Brandon Marshall, Brian Meyer, Caitlin O'Donnell, Rachel Southmayd and Rebecca Smith.