IGF 2019 WS #72 Inclusion and Legitimacy in Multistakeholderism at ICANN

Organizer 1: Jan Aart Scholte, University of Gothenburg
Organizer 2: Manal Ismail, The National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt (NTRA)

Speaker 1: Anita Gurumurthy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Erika Mann, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Leon Sanchez, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Nii Narku Quaynor, Technical Community, African Group


Manal Ismail, Government, African Group

Online Moderator

Hortense Jongen, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Jan Aart Scholte, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Inclusive participation is a cornerstone of legitimacy for the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. One of the key arguments for supporting multistakeholder designs is their purported ability to assemble and empower affected people from all regions, sectors, genders, languages, minorities, age groups, and so on. With this inclusive diversity, multistakeholderism is meant to make Internet governance more democratic, effective and fair. Yet how is the inclusion-legitimacy nexus working in practice? Insofar as shortcomings arise, what might be done about them? To examine these questions this workshop considers latest evidence regarding inclusion and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is one of the main pioneers and champions of multistakeholderism in Internet governance. The organization has moreover pursued many initiatives to promote inclusive participation in the governance of global Internet infrastructure: outreach, fellowships, multilingualism, trainings, diversity initiatives, etc. What are the results of these moves for greater access at ICANN, and what wider lessons might be learned for inclusion in Internet governance? In particular the workshop discusses findings from a detailed systematic study of access, inclusion and legitimacy at ICANN, undertaken from the University of Gothenburg during 2018-19. The project has interviewed a random sample of 500 participants in and observers of ICANN, spread across all stakeholder groups and all world regions. Respondents were asked how important they find it that ICANN gives all stakeholders the opportunity to participate in policymaking, and to what extent they think ICANN has achieved this inclusivity in practice. In addition, respondents were asked to assess inequalities of influence in the ICANN regime on lines of geography, sector, language, gender, age, race and more. How far do the interviewees perceive uneven access at ICANN? How far do they find these exclusions to be problematic? How do they suggest to address the problems of marginalization?


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Description: The workshop invites a diverse group of insightful commentators on ICANN and Internet governance to reflect on the results of this study on inclusion, access and inequality and to explore the implications for future policy and institutional design. Results of the study will be shared with the roundtable participants in advance. Copies of the summary report will also be available for the audience onsite and with an online link for remote participants. Confirmed roundtable participants are Anita Gurumurthy (female, India, civil society), Erika Mann (female, Germany, commercial), Nii Quaynor (male, Ghana, technical), Leon Sanchez (male, Mexico, ICANN board). The onsite moderator is Manal Ismail (female, Egypt, government). The online moderator is Hortense Jongen (female, Netherlands, academic, youth). The rapporteur is Jan Aart Scholte (male, multiple, academic). The workshop will begin with 5 minutes of welcome and introductions from the onsite moderator. The scene is then set with a 10-minute overview of the study and its main findings by the rapporteur, who is also the principal investigator in the project and a former independent external advisor in ICANN's IANA transition. Next, in a first round of comments, the four roundtable participants will have 5 minutes each to give three headline reactions to the findings about access and inequality in multistakeholder governance at ICANN. Pre-workshop communications among the participants will make them aware in advance of their respective views and discourage too much overlap. We then turn to the audience for 15 minutes of additional perspectives on the study results, inviting people also to relate these findings to their own experiences of inclusion/exclusion in ICANN and other sites of multistakeholder Internet governance. Returning to the four roundtable speakers, each will take 5 minutes to set out one or two key steps that they would propose to advance on issues of inclusion and access in multistakeholder governance at ICANN. The floor then goes again to the audience for 15 minutes of feedback on these suggestions as well as possible further proposals. In the final 5 minutes the onsite moderator summarises the main themes and proposals for future action.

Expected Outcomes: The workshop report will summarise the various perspectives presented in the discussion and highlight the concrete suggestions that were made for more inclusive and equitable participation in global governance of Internet infrastructure. This report will be shared with the ICANN board, community leaders, and staff for their consideration and possible action. The report will also be posted online for wider readership.

As indicated in the workshop session description, interaction among the roundtable participants will be encouraged: (a) by having them exchange their main points ahead of the session; and (b) by having several rounds of comments, which invites participants to pick up on what others have said. In addition, the session will include two rounds of audience interaction.

Relevance to Theme: The workshop examines inclusion, access and inequality in the governance of Internet infrastructure. The session is particularly concerned to identify dimensions of inclusion/exclusion and to help develop policies which can advance equitable opportunities. The particular focus is on ICANN, but the principles and suggestions discussed could have application for Internet governance more broadly.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The workshop focuses on multistakeholder Internet governance, with particular reference to the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers.

Online Participation

Online Moderator Hortense Jongen will monitor remote contributions and feed them into the discussion in coordination with the Onsite Moderator.

Proposed Additional Tools: In advance of the IGF we plan to circulate the report of findings to all 500 respondents in the study, alerting them to the workshop in Berlin and inviting their participation in person or remotely. Social media (Facebook and Twitter) will be available as further channels of communication and deliberation.

1. Key Policy Questions and Expectations

(1) How far do participants in multistakeholderism at ICANN perceive inequalities of influence in the regime, particularly on lines of north-south, gender, age, language, and race categories?

(2) How far do participants in multistakeholderism at ICANN regard these inequalities of influence to be problematic for the legitimacy of ICANN?

(3) What innovative steps - beyond what ICANN already does - could be taken to reduce these inequalities and achieve a more inclusive multistakeholder regime at ICANN?

2. Summary of Issues Discussed

There was consensus that inclusion and (in)equality is a major issue and challenge for multistakeholder governance of the Internet through ICANN and other institutions.

Some diversity of perspective emerged regarding the relative priority between inclusion and other concerns (e.g. market development and efficient decision-making). Most participants emphasised that inclusion contributed to other objectives, but several speakers also noted possible trade-offs.

It was repeatedly stressed that 'openness' in multistakeholder governance is not the same thing as 'inclusivity' and 'meaningful participation'. One needs carefully to identify structural inhibitors within 'open' participation.

The discussion considered how people in more excluded positions tend to perceive larger and more problematic inequalities than people with more access and influence. Those in power can therefore underestimate the degree to which marginalised people feel constrained from participating. A particular observation was that the ICANN board generally saw less problems of inequality by age, geography, language, and race/ethnicity than the ICANN community and ICANN staff.


3. Policy Recommendations or Suggestions for the Way Forward

Policymakers need to talk openly, seriously and precisely about inequalities in Internet governance.

Studies such as the one discussed in this session can provide concrete data for an informed, direct, reflective consideration of the sensitive issue of structural power in multistakeholder governance.

Consider whether alternative technologies of deliberation - away from heavy reliance on email and conference calls - could encourage more inclusive participation in policy development at ICANN.

When deliberating about inclusion and how to improve it, policymakers can be more sensitive to (and aware of their tendency to underestimate) the ways and degrees that people in more subordinated positions experience exclusion.

4. Other Initiatives Addressing the Session Issues

The discussion noted various initiatives taken by ICANN to address inclusion issues, as well as their limitations.

5. Making Progress for Tackled Issues

See point 3

6. Estimated Participation

80 participants onsite


Number of online participants unclear (our online moderator was taken ill just before the session - the technicians kept the remote line open, but did not moderate.


Roughly even numbers of women and men in the audience. Female chair, male presenter, two female and one male panelist. Contributions from the floor from 3 women and 5 men.

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

Gender inequality was one of the five types of structural inequality put in focus. Much discussion compared the situation around gender inequalities with circumstances related to age, geography, language, and race/ethnicity. One woman in the audience wondered about perceptions of gender inequality at ICANN when many leading positions are taken by women.

8. Session Outputs

The session has a background paper.