How Diverse Is ICANN? New Study Explores Organisation's Makeup

By Michele Neylon
Michele Neylon

ICANN is a strange beast. Even the term "ICANN", which is itself an acronym, has more than one meaning. There are at least two "ICANNs", one is the "community", which is made up of everyone who engages with the ICANN "circus" and then there is ICANN the organisation itself — a California not-for-profit.

While people outside the internet industry probably have never heard of ICANN or had any direct dealings with it, the policies that get decided at ICANN have a tangible impact on how the internet operates.

At the moment ICANN is coming under a lot of scrutiny, as it tries to decouple itself from its rather odd relationship with the US government. Whether this "transition" will finish in 2016 or not remains to be seen, as the entire process is coming under increasing scrutiny from many quarters, both within the US and further afield.

But if ICANN is to be held up as a model of anything it needs to be able to withstand scrutiny of its many facets.

Afnic, the ccTLD domain registry for .fr, released a preliminary study on ICANN's diversity earlier this week. Exactly why Afnic took it upon themselves to produce the report isn't very clear, though it would appear that as they are very active participants in ICANN's processes and their CEO has been heavily involved in the IANA transition work to date that they view this kind of study as being useful for that work.

The initial report runs to about 20 pages and provides some interesting insights into the makeup of a part of ICANN. For the purposes of their study Afnic chose to concentrate on "community leaders", which is a group of 190 individuals that are at the "core" of ICANN. As they explain, these are people who fulfil at least one of the following roles:

The findings aren't terribly surprising and can be summed up in one sentence: ICANN is dominated by men from North America whose first language is English.

The gender breakdown is roughly 74% male versus 26% female.

And when you look at language, English dominates at about 63%:

What the study does not do, and they recognise this, is explore whether or not the "leaders" are a reflection of the broader community, or even the industry. They also don't explore ICANN the organisation itself, which is unfortunate.

You can read the full report here which goes into a lot more detail.

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions. Visit the blog maintained by Michele Neylon here.

Related topics: ICANN


What percentage of the community can read a pie chart? John Berryhill  –  Jun 23, 2016 5:08 AM PST

Is the reader to assume the legend on the gender pie chart is reversed?

JohnYes - I've no idea why CircleID Michele Neylon  –  Jun 23, 2016 5:09 AM PST

Yes - I've no idea why CircleID ended up with that version of the image. My original blog post had the correct one:


Re: JohnYes - I've no idea why CircleID Ali Farshchian  –  Jun 23, 2016 6:56 AM PST

It's now corrected.