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DIDP Request #9 - Exactly how involved is ICANN in the NETmundial Initiative?

Posted by Asvatha Babu at Jul 27, 2016 03:53 PM |
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The importance and relevance of knowing ICANN’s involvement in the NETmundial Initiative cannot be overstated.

It was reported recently that ICANN contributed US$200,000 to the Initiative.[1] Following this report, we requested the details of all expenses incurred by ICANN for NMI till date. This includes formal contributions to NMI as well as costs incurred towards travel and accommodation of ICANN board and staff to meetings relevant to the NMI discussion.

Apart from these financial details, we also requested information regarding the number of staff working on NMI from ICANN and the hours clocked by them for the same. We further specified that we would like this information to gauge ICANN’s involvement beyond its technical mandate. The request filed by Geetha Hariharan can be found here.

What ICANN said

In its response, ICANN separated the questions in the request into two categories: a) Expenses incurred by ICANN towards the NETmundial Initiative and b) Other resources (personnel and hours) allocated to the Initiative by ICANN. The first category in the request includes: formal contribution to the NETmundial Initiative; travel costs of ICANN board and staff; and costs of maintenance of other sponsored parties. The second includes the number of staff involved in the NETmundial Initiative from ICANN and the number of hours spent working on it.

To answer both, the response directs us to the Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC)[2]signed by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), ICANN and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to set up the NETmundial Initiative according to the outcome document from the initial NETmundial meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Some of the important takeaways from the MOC that are relevant to our request are the following:

  • Each party to the MOC agrees to pay $201,667 towards operational expenses on signature of the agreement.
  • Total anticipated cost of the NETmundial Initiative is $605,000 (also mentioned in the response).
  • Each party will assign 1 staff member to the NETmundial Initiative secretariat during the inaugural period to smoothen the process. This staff member will commit at least 50% of their time towards Secretariat work.

This information is important but it does not provide a comprehensive answer to our query. It does not, for example, answer if ICANN contributed anything more than the $201,667 the MOC specifies. It also does not tell us if ICANN allotted any staff apart from the designated secretariat member to work on NETmundial Initiative.

Further, the response states that ICANN does not keep track of costs according to the number of hours or the topic but rather according to strategic objectives. Since ICANN is not required to create a document that does not already exist to answer a DIDP enquiry,[3] we have no way of knowing the specific amount of  time or money spent on the NETmundial Initiative by ICANN. The response instead directs us to the financial presentation at ICANN50 where the costs of attending the NETmundial Meeting at Sao Paulo is detailed. While this is interesting (ICANN spent $1.5 million)[4] it is not a satisfactory answer to our question.

ICANN justifies its lack of direct answers by expressing that not only is the request “overbroad", it is also “subject to the following DIDP Condition of Nondisclosure: Information requests: (i) which are not reasonable; (ii) which are excessive or overly burdensome; and (iii) complying with which is not feasible.”[5]

ICANN's response to our DIDP request may be found here.


[1] See McCarthy, ‘I’m Begging You To Join’ – ICANN’s NETmundial Initiative gets desperate, THE REGISTER (12 December 2014), http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/12/im begging you to join netmundial initiative gets d esperate/

[2] See MOC: https://www.netmundial.org/sites/default/files/MOC-%20CGI.br,%20ICANN%20&%20WEF.pdf

[3] See Disclosure Policy: https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/didp-2012-02-25-en

[4] See ICANN50 Finance Presentation (Pg 4): https://london50.icann.org/en/schedule/thu-finance/presentation-finance-26jun14-en

[5] See ICANN conditions for non-disclosure: https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/didp-2012-02-25-en

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Asvatha Babu

Asvatha Babu is a Master’s candidate in the International Communication program at American University's School of International Service in Washington D.C. Her research interests include using ICTs for inclusive development, internet governance and cyber security. Thus far, her work with CIS has dealt specifically with ICANN’s transparency and accountability policies. She tweets about tech and feminism at @fireflyclass.