At Large Out Reach

This message appeared in the DNSO GA list, seeing a brainstorming chance and wiki having a good cross section of computing people it seemed a good place to stick a copy. People should run the internet, not corporations. --AndrewMcMeikan

(For open information: copy of mail to panel and discuss lists of IcannAtLarge?, kicking off a discussion on Outreach to internet users, to promote representation of ordinary internet users in the governance and administration of the Internet.)

In order to claim that we represent ordinary users and the internet public, we need to increase our membership significantly. Otherwise we will be marginalized as a minority group, whereas the constituency we seek to promote and represent is in fact millions strong and deserves to have a critical executive role in the administration of the DNS and the future development of the Internet.

ICANN being ICANN, the true voice of the internet majority will always be sidelined (particularly if it challenges ICANN policy) unless it negotiates/determines from a position of numerical strength. Size of membership is what ICANN will most truly fear, because the larger and wider our membership, the stronger our claim to be truly representative.

Therefore, the premise behind the ideas I'm posting (below) is that mass-recruitment is essential, and that we broaden our remit beyond mere "technical mission of ICANN" (which will never attract more than a few thousand) to become an organization upholding the interests of the individual in the Internet, ranging from the way it is run, to consumer issues, to freedom and justice. Only if we embrace the issue of "The Future of the Internet" - as it impacts on individuals, families, communities with all their various interests - will we be relevant to many and grow significantly in numbers.

The following Outreach ideas are not meant to be wholly rational and "sensible" in the first instance. They are intended to provoke thought, incite comment, and are basically a brainstorming exercise so we can explore collectively the ways we might achieve a broader membership. Some ideas you may quite like. Some, you may rule out completely.

I take the view that most significant Outreach will take place at a national or local level, and I regard it as axiomatic that we press forward with establishing representatives for each country, and websites to accompany that representation wherever possible.

OUTREACH IDEAS:

Possible points of access and recruitment:

1. Through University and College Internet Societies and IT departments, with a view to a student membership and network. This could be a worldwide feature of our movement, but could be promoted best at national level, with a view to sending speakers to various campuses. I believe in the idealism of young people, and they are a vital recruitment zone.

2. Through Trade Union movements, interest groups, and already-established organizations at local and national level. We should demonstrate the importance of a "free" Internet run by people for people, not dominated by big business. We should demonstrate the link between organizations' interests and the future and freedom of the Internet. We should seek to affiliate with these pre-existent organizations and networks, and seek the representation and involvement of their memberships. It may indeed be possible to 'capture' whole membership lists of organizations, and link up via e-mail to significantly enlarge our representation of individuals.

3. Through a "map" approach, starting with the world, and divisible down to country and town level, seeking to encourage representation from every town that has internet access (and indeed, indirectly, seeking representation from those villages and communities that don't). This would be a very graphic method of demonstrating our scale, scope and purpose - as an organization speaking for ordinary people from every corner of the globe.

4. Through conventional coverage and development of links with press and media, working particularly at national and local level. Publicity and Marketing are essential, and strategies should be consciously developed, targeting opportunities and planning the timescale and levels of publicity which will be most beneficial. However, we should never fall into the trap of 'spin' superseding 'substance', and we should always put integrity and truth before image and soundbite.

5. Identifying certain key movements, whether Green organizations, religious/cultural groups, UN organizations, commerce or small business groups. Working out the "interface" and common ground on which to approach them, and demonstrating how the future of the internet (and its administration) is vital to them.

6. Negative strategies. I believe it would be very useful to analyse, develop, and summarize for publicity, some of the most glaring failures, abuses, and controversies ICANN and its close allies have been guilty of. This is all part of the process of conviction and argument and recruitment (rest assured, ICANN would not hesitate to do the same to us). Clearly, this negative sub-category would merely be a small argument in our prevailing positive message.

7. "Themed" initiatives. For example, you develop an initiative called "Schools of the World" linking to the theme "Sharing the Future : the Internet for All Our Children". In a similar vein to the "map" approach, you try to spread out and involve as many schools worldwide as possible. (This would be facilitated if we constructed links with eg Teachers' Unions etc.) We try to get a teacher representative (or more than one) and we link to interest/education/freedom issues and information. Setting up (from simple beginnings) a global movement like this would extend the scope of our membership, the importance of a free internet for all children, and the great thing about schools is that they are so closely knitted into their communities in so many places.

8. Club membership and affiliation : the world is full of clubs, hobbies, interests etc. Set up lists of organizations, listed geographically and by subject/category. Approach clubs through national and local representatives. Explain how the Internet and its future matters for them. Encourage even just ONE representative to join our organization (and of course, develop from there to involve the rest of their membership list).

9. Exploiting the mass-following of sport worldwide. Sport is an interface which is worldwide. It can be an image of worldwide friendship, involvement and things we have in common. And the Internet is a meeting place, a linking place, and a place for supporters and players. Take Football for example : using the same "map" method, you could try to create a link and representative with as many clubs as possible in every country on the planet... "The Internet Future : is YOUR club represented yet?" Sport is high-profile. Sport uses the Internet. Clubs may be willing to exchange links. And supporters might join up so that their own teams are represented in this worldwide process of representation.

10. Dialogue and Targeting Interested Parties. For example, analysis of whois lists enables me to see who are the most active domain registrants in the .info and .biz roll-outs. Why not enter into dialogue with some of these? Similarly, at local and national level, why not analyse, identify and engage webmasters, IT workers, interested groups or businesses? In this area we might not enrol such high numbers, but we would be attracting a more informed group, and a membership with the kinds of skills we could use.

CONCLUSION.

If you've read all this, I applaud your stamina. You could probably think of another 10 initiatives in place of these. What I'm doing here is more of a "vision" thing than a "practical logistics" thing. And these ideas may be kicked into touch by one or all. I'm just brainstorming.

But the point I'm trying to make is : without a substantial membership, our influence is limited and our claims can be marginalized in the very area we argue most strongly - representation.

And yet, if we broaden our scope a little, while keeping ICANN/DNS/"How the Internet is Run" as a central project, we can create the kind of scale and representation (and global representation too) which ICANN knows will have the moral authority to demand representation and executive power.

The Internet is a Worldwide resource for all the ordinary people of the world. The people of the world have a right to determine its development and its future. That's simple democracy. And much as Mr Sims loves to rule out "global democracy" along these lines, what we are proposing here is in fact something idealistic and about freedom and the reality - that the internet has truly become something that belongs to ALL the people of the world. Its ideas, its dreams, its freedom, its sorrows, its charities, its projects... it is this power for such great good, and for bringing ordinary individual people together.

The concept of global representation, and the right of the millions upon millions of ordinary people to have a priority over big business in the decisions taken over the development of the Internet : this is an ideal which is waiting to be turned into a reality. Because it is an ideal (and a beautiful ideal too, because the Internet is growing so many creative opportunities for ordinary people) it will face opposition from those tired, grey, sordid power-brokers for whom the control of the net is more about "control" and "vested interest" and "power"...

But the Internet has unleashed a different kind of power, creative, democratic, subversive of dishonesties and stolen power.

So... however impractical some of my brainstorming ideas may seem... I invite you to tell ME, in reply, the ways YOU think we can "grow" a membership which truly, and authoritatively, represents the interests of the ordinary people of the internet - millions and millions of them.

Faced with a movement that grows exponentially, and embraces openness and democracy, ICANN will find it very hard indeed to exclude its greatest constituency.

Richard Henderson [richardhenderson@ntlworld.com]

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