Accepted paper:

ICANN and the Global South: The digital divide in the domain names industry


Paul Antony White (Leeds Beckett University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the digital divide in the domain names industry. It will reveal the present 'multistakeholder' ICANN regime to be a 'captured agency', dominated by commercial interests based predominantly in the Global North, to the detriment of digital development in the Global South.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore ICANN's New Generic Top Level Domains (New gTLDs) programme and associated policies in terms of their implications for the Global South. This analysis will be set in the context of long-standing criticism of the ICANN system by governments and other groups from the Global South. Such critics have consistently argued, at WSIS, the IGF and elsewhere, that ICANN pursues a neoliberal ideological agenda that strongly favours the interests of corporate stakeholders from the Global North and fails to accommodate the legitimate interests of the developing world. The paper will explore the extent to which the policy framework underpinning the New gTLDs programme favours the interests of particular groups from the Global North, while simultaneously failing to address the legitimate interests of groups from the Global South, placing real barriers in the path of potential gTLD applicants from the developing world and thus potentially stifling digital development in those regions. Based on the evidence from this case study, the paper will go on to argue that a failure of ICANN's multistakeholder system has allowed its policymaking processes to be captured by corporate interests from the Global North. Finally, the paper will explore some options for reform that could lead to the development of a more equitable and truly globally representative DNS governance structure.

panel D01
Digital inequalities and development (Paper)