Improving Institutional Confidence
Overall I find The Implementation Plan for Improving Institutional Confidence an impressive improvement on its predecessors. I do have a number of comments on the document. These comments are being made on my own behalf and are not to be construed as representing any formal ICANN body.
CaptureI find the concept of capture is not fully fleshed out. In particular, it focuses on open and visible capture, with insufficient focus on capture due to lack of attention. The document does mention "apathetic" capture, where participation by certain groups may decline, leaving more power to narrow interests, with the answer being "large and diverse interest groups need to be maintained within the Supporting Organization and Advisory Committee structures". This latter statement will require positive action to carry out. To date, the more common reaction to lack of participation seems to be a lack of concern and the belief that if some groups are not involved, that is their problem, not ICANN's.
Perhaps more important, the document treats capture by staff as purely an issue of "inappropriate or inadequate staff conduct", with the solution being a better code of conduct. This completely ignores the more insidious forms of capture by staff - capture by staff who truly believe that they are doing the right thing. The solution involves: - Increased transparency accompanied by increased management oversight, so that single individuals or small groups do not have unreasonable and unseen power. - Increased Board oversight of senior management to ensure that the Board drives management and not the other way around. To give an easy example, and without any intention of being critical of the present incumbents, in many organizations, legal staff have the ability of moving an organization in the direction that they think best, simply by exercising their responsibility of giving legal opinions on business issues. This can move the organization in the safest legal direction, but not necessarily in the best business direction.
Lastly, recommendation 2.9 on establishing a mechanism for the community to remove and replace the Board in special circumstances is clearly attractive, but I would like to better understand how that could be accomplished without significant risk of capture by those put in interim power while the process was being carried out.
TransparencyDespite the continual discussion of transparency, ICANN is at times anything but transparent. ICANN needs to address this, even when it is embarrassing or awkward. Lack of openness simply leads to rumour and conspiracy theories, none of which serve ICANN well.