An interview with Graham McDonald – Independent auDA Board Director

Posted by Helen Hollins on 21 July 2015

First in the series - Spotlight on a Board Director

Graham describe for our blog readers your role on the auDA board

As an independent auDA board member I see it as my role to consider the public interest in the maintenance of Australia’s domain name administration. In this capacity it is the role of the independent directors to maintain a strategic overview in ensuring Board approved policies are implemented (i.e. governance oversight), that auDA’s financial capacity is sufficient to fulfill its mandate and that auDA is positioned to fully participate in future changes which may arise in the ever changing and dynamic Internet world.

Why did you decide to get involved with auDA? What experience do you bring to the auDA board table, from your own career?

As a person with a wide variety of experiences – from being the inaugural solicitor at the then newly established Aboriginal Legal Service in Western Australia, in Government regulatory systems (Corporate Affairs, Superannuation and Federal administrative appeals), as well as private enterprise as a barrister and solicitor and Australia's inaugural Banking Ombudsman – I was attracted to the administrative, legal and regulatory challenges involved in auDA's novel and unique multi stakeholder domain name administration model.  

It is important that there be directors who, while using a domain name, do not otherwise have a professional involvement in the industry to ensure a diverse Board perspective is achieved and maintained.  The high level of stability and security achieved in operating connectivity through Australia's domain name administration is important not only for business, the professions, education and government, but increasingly so for the general community.  

I was particularly pleased to be involved in the development of auDA's alternative dispute resolution processes and subsequently to be engaged as a member of ICANN's expert international panel to advise on this topic in relation to the introduction of the new gTLDs. That auDA's alternative dispute resolution processes have not been called upon is a testament to both the clarity of auDA's policies and to the operational efficiency achieved by the auDA staff.

You recently represented auDA at ICANN53. What key topics did the global Internet community address at this meeting?

It is important to realise that auDA is an enthusiastic and influential participant in the unique international multi stakeholder community driven model utilised by ICANN, in operating the connectivity of the world wide Internet. The recent ICANN53 meeting in Buenos Aires made substantive steps towards the transition of the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) function from the control of the USA government to the multi stakeholder model, as well as a start to a review of ICANN’s internal accountability mechanisms. I was grateful for the opportunity to attend ICANN53.

Many and complicated issues associated with the change required consideration.  However, the underlying IANA function of ensuring worldwide connectivity of the Internet is envisaged as remaining in its current stable form, and it is not anticipated that the transition in stewardship will impact on day to day operations.  The stewardship change is aimed at making that operation the responsibility of the global multi stakeholder community.  It is a condition of the United States relinquishing stewardship that there be no ‘capture’ of the IANA function by any one or more governments.

The two major issues revolved around the mechanism that would be used to accommodate the IANA function and the accountability of ICANN for IANA’s continued operation.  The latter, while raising specific issues in respect of the IANA function, also spilled over to a consideration of broader issues connected with ICANN’s accountability to its multi stakeholder constituency. Much of the debate concerned the most desirable method to ensure ICANN’s decision making continues to reflect the bottom up multi stakeholder approach for the implementation of policy decisions and how that model can be held to account. That multi stakeholder model was further boosted by endorsement from an increasing number of Governments including an announcement of support, at the conference, from the Government of India.

The Cross Community Working group on Naming Rights (the CWG) proposed the establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary of ICANN to take over IANA’s post transitional function.  A standing committee to monitor functioning and a separate committee to undertake periodic or, if needed, special reviews was proposed to be established.  The proposal was accepted by the constituent naming advisory committees and supporting organisations within ICANN.  The next step is for that proposal, along with advice from the numbering resources group and the protocol group, to be considered by a Committee (the ICG).  After a period for public comment, it is anticipated that the proposal will be ready for consideration and hopefully endorsement at ICANN54 meeting in Dublin in October. Once acceptance has been endorsed by the Congress of the USA, the transition will take place in the first part of 2016.  A more extended time frame will see the determination of ICANN’s broader accountability mechanism over the coming year.

Among other news is the continued roll out of the new gTLD program - with 660 new top level domain names delegated and a further 260 imminent.  Funds totalling in excess of US$58m, from the auction of contested names associated with the introduction of the new gTLDs, have been set aside.  ICANN has launched a cross-community working group to determine the future commitment of those funds.

While the very popular and successful president and CEO of ICANN Fadi Chehade announced that he will not be seeking a further term beyond March 2016, he undertook to see the IANA transition process to completion.  Fadi leaves ICANN operationally greatly strengthened, with an increased global presence and wider global acceptance of the multi stakeholder model. 

Also of note from this meeting, ICANN continued to recognise outstanding commitment to the multi stakeholder model made by volunteers with the Ethos Award.  At ICANN53 the contribution made by two participants was recognised, one of whom was Australia’s Cheryl Langdon-Orr.  Cheryl was a long time board member of auDA and has served in a number of capacities at ICANN including as Chair of both the At large Community Advisory Committee and the Nominating Committee.  Our heartiest congratulations to Cheryl on this well deserved recognition of her longstanding and substantive contribution.

Drawing from international discussions, where do you see auDA's role in the future of the Australian Internet community?

auDA fulfils a trusted position in the administration and security of Australia’s domain name system of value, not only to Australian businesses but also to community organisations and individuals.  In addition to funding provided for research through the auDA Foundation, in conjunction with our New Zealand counterparts InternetNZ, auDA makes annual awards (ANZIAs) which recognise industry leaders who have contributed to making the Internet a more diverse, inclusive, accessible and safe place. Additionally, auDA participates in convening the Australian Internet Governance Forum (auIGF), bringing businesses, governments, non-government stakeholders and end users together to discuss, inspire and inform about Internet related issues. The above standing initiatives in which auDA is engaged, along with the work of the 2015 Names Policy Panel, contribute to the overall stability, security and development of Australia’s domain name industry.   

What were the highlights you experienced domestically when you judged the ANZIAs?

I have been one of those involved in assessing the ANZIAs as a judge over the past two years and, along with my Australian colleague Craig Ng and New Zealand colleague David Farrar, am very pleased to note a substantive lift across both countries in the number and quality of submissions in 2015.  Our congratulations are extended to all entrants.  The winners will be announced at a Gala event to be held in Auckland on 27 August this year. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the finalists, personally.