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Keynote address by Fadi Chehadé President and CEO of ICANN

Page history last edited by Mary Murphy 9 years ago

Session notes


Fadi Chehadé’s keynote address at day zero of the GIC


The unofficial opening of the Geneva Internet Conference, or the official closing of Day Zero, was the keynote speech given by Mr Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).


In his welcoming remarks, interviewer Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the conference host, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), made a reference to Otto von Bismarck, who compared making laws to making sausages: we take the law as it is just as we eat sausages without looking at the way in which they are prepared. Although managing the Internet is a complex activity, Kurbalija encouraged everyone not to follow Bismarck’s advice, and asked Chehadé about his take on ‘sausage making’ in IG.


Chehadé explained that the Internet is the most powerful human solidarity platform, shaping many aspects of our lives, with more and more people participating in the debate. He alerted the audience of three dangers:


  1. A fragmented Internet, which could deteriorate when the open and transnational nature of the Internet is not maintained.
  2. A centralisation of Internet governance (IG), since the Internet is, in itself, designed to be polycentric.
  3. Ignoring the issues that need to be addressed (e.g. cyber crime and the taxation of e-commerce).


Old wine and new bottles


Chehadé mentioned NETmundial, which he described as an ‘empty canvas’ on which solutions can be proposed. He clearly advocated this bottom-up, transparent approach, as otherwise, he said ‘someone will fill the vacuum’.


When asked whether existing systems of government are appropriate for the emerging, new IG issues, i.e., whether old wine can fill new bottles, Chehadé explained that many systems have not adjusted to the speed and transnational nature of IG. Therefore, permanent effective mechanisms need to be created to bring coordination, in which ICANN can help.


A plate of mezzes or a whole turkey?


Chehadé compared IG to a plate of Lebanese mezzes ‒ a small set of distributed polycentric meals ‒ instead of a central major turkey. He spoke about the benefits of having small groups addressing different topics, although he added that this is only effective when we have a map of all solutions. These ‘maps’ can be found in the form of initiatives such as NETmundial and the GIP.


A question was raised concerning the critical attitude of the Internet Society (ISOC) towards NETmundial, which Chehadé explained to be rather unproblematic: these discussions are what is needed for a healthy and open system. Furthermore, when asked about the dangers of a multiplicity of initiatives, he answered that this multiplicity is important for a bottom-up approach, so that everyone can propose their solutions. Although many solutions may be proposed, the good ones will automatically become prominent and be picked up. Therefore, he advocated networked governance, rather than centralised governance.


When asked about ICANN’s collaboration with national regulators and international organisations, Chehadé explained that ICANN had collaborated very closely with many different countries, as many are now bringing IG to the head-of-state level. This is a logical development, since the Internet touches every aspect of public policy. In reply to a comment that he had not been heard to speak about the more social aspects of IG, Chehadé explained that ICANN is not an island, but part of an ecosystem, which the organisation needs to take into account.


Two questions were posed relating to (1) the problem of implementing solutions by governments who have different time frames, and (2) to IG’s link to the business process. Chehadé explained that policy implementation should be viewed separately from policy development. NETmundial and other platforms propose solutions that are not normative or binding. He drew a picture including a fast, small wheel of solutions, which can be picked up by the big wheel of implementation whenever that wheel is ready.


Regarding the business world, Chehadé emphasised the importance of practical and pragmatic solutions, saying how important it is to be able to show the mechanisms and developments that have been put in place to solve problems in IG issues.


Finally, hungry after day zero of the conference, and from the many references to food during the keynote speech, with appetites whetted for the conference to come, participants were invited to a reception opening the new Geneva IG 360° exhibition on the top floor of the WMO building.

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