CIRA’s Board of Directors Election

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You’re probably aware that CIRA is in the middle of an election for our Board of Directors.  It’s probably a good time to explain some of our elections processes and talk about why they exist.

The rumours are true: CIRA does have a complicated governance structure, and I’m the first to admit the process for electing the Board of Directors can appear convoluted.

Let me explain.

First, though, I think it’s important to provide a bit of background.  CIRA was founded in the late 1990s as a not-for-profit corporation designated to “…administer the .CA (dot-ca) domain space on behalf of Canadian users.” We receive our mandate from Industry Canada.

With the exception of three ex-officio seats (Industry Canada, CIRA’s president and John Demco, who helped establish the .CA domain and CIRA), two thirds of the seats on the Board are intended to provide for broad skills, experience and representation. CIRA’s Board of Directors is intended to be representative of the Canadian Internet community – there are plenty of stakeholders in the work CIRA does and we need to ensure their voices are heard.

Simply put, there are two slates of candidates for seats on our Board of Directors: a Nomination Committee Slate and a Members’ slate. This year, there are four seats to be elected from the Nomination Committee slate (three because their term was up and one due to a resignation) and one from the Members’ slate.

Each year, a Nomination Committee is formed by the Board. There is an open call to apply to fill vacant seats on this Committee. Their mandate is to select nominees, as set out in our Policy on Nominations & Elections, that: (A) represent different regions, cultures, genders and linguistic groups, that are consistent with the diverse make up of the Canadian population; (B) provide necessary professional expertise; and, (C) have significant relevant corporate and/or organizational governance experience.

This year, CIRA received 1,601 applications from which eight nominees were chosen to run for the four open seats from the Nomination Committee slate, using the above criteria.

The remaining third are selected directly by CIRA’s Members. Membership in CIRA is free and open to anyone who holds a .CA domain name. Currently, CIRA has about 15,500 Members.

This year, one of the three seats which are elected from the Members’ slate is open. Members are currently in the process of selecting the candidates who will make it to the election ballot from this slate. To run for one of these seats, an individual (either a member or non-member) must be nominated by a Member. To ensure relevance, Members’ Slate Nominees must secure 20 shows of support from Members to become candidates by September 9, 2010. Note: to provide a show of support, Members had to sign up before August 30, 2010.

There are eight candidates on the Nomination Committee slate. A total of 38 nominees are on the Members’ slate, awaiting shows of support. We’ll be posting the final full list of candidates on September 13, which will include both the Nomination Committee slate and the Member’ slate.

Voting opens on September 22 and closes on September 29 – we’ll post the results of this year’s election on or before October 6, 2010.

The entire process is overseen by an independent returning officer who is not an employee of CIRA.

One final note: To vote in the election itself, the application deadline to become a member is September 17, 2010.

Canada’s Digital Economy

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Over the summer, I took some time to read many of the submissions to Industry Canada’s Digital Economy consultation. As you know, CIRA participated in the consultation; you can read our submission here. In it, we make 19 recommendations, ranging from developing a Community Emergency Response Team (DNS-CERT) to recommending that governments at all levels leverage their purchasing power to stimulate the adoption of technologies like IPv6 and DNSSEC in Canada. However, as we state in our submission, there are a couple of underlying factors that need to be addressed to build Canada’s digital economy: the cost of and access to broadband in Canada, and digital literacy.

One thing that was clear in the submissions to the Industry Canada consultation is that there is a diversity of opinion with regard to how to go about it. However, three themes were common among the majority of submissions: venture capital (or lack thereof), broadband cost and access, and digital literacy.

Why is this important? A few weeks ago Chris O’Neill, the new Canadian country director for Google, called on Canadian businesses to become more web savvy. It got me thinking about what the factors are that will enable businesses to do just that, and I think the answers are in the submissions to Industry Canada’s consultation.

The fact is, according to OECD reports, Canada has been falling behind its peers with regard to the digital economy (no doubt one of the reasons Industry Canada held their consultation earlier this year). The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in co-operation with IBM, publishes a white paper that takes a look at nation’s e-readiness. They define e-readiness as “the ‘state of play’ of a country’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and the ability of its consumers, businesses and governments to use ICT to their benefit.” In short, how ready and strong is a country’s digital economy. Canada doesn’t fair too well in their report either, having fallen from ninth place in 2006 to 13th place in 2007. We made our way back up to ninth place in 2009, an encouraging sign.

However, when you look a little deeper into the OECD’s and EIU’s numbers, it starts to become clear that there’s more here than meets the eye. More importantly, it becomes clear the organizations that identified these three themes in their submission to the Industry Canada consultation – including Google – were on to something.

On which indicators is Canada falling behind? Connectivity and infrastructure (read broadband access), a cultural environment conducive to widespread participation in the digital economy (read digital literacy), research and development, and access to venture capital.

Despite the relatively widespread availability of broadband access networks in Canada, the cost per megabyte, and service gaps in rural and remote areas, are barriers to the digital economy. The OECD’s data shows that the average price for broadband service in Canada is twice the rate of that in the U.S, and there are huge swaths of Canada that simply do not have access to service. It’s pretty difficult to establish yourself as a digital leader when a good proportion of your population is on dial-up. That’s why we called on the government to address this situation, as did many other organizations, including Google.

The state of access to venture capital in Canada is alarming. VC investments in Canadian industries is falling, and the sheer number of companies receiving VC is now half what it was in 2003. Deloitte Canada said it best in their submission: “…no country has ever become a leader in creating a digital economy without a healthy domestic VC industry.”

Finally, the Certified Management Accountants of Canada (CMA) state that as many as 40 per cent of working Canadians lack the basic literacy skills needed to participate in the digital economy. Our work with the Media Awareness Network (MNet) on the issue of digital literacy has certainly convinced me that addressing it is of key importance. Digital literacy is a driver of productivity in the digital economy. Without it, we are not going to be competitive. How do we do this as a country? The CMA call on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to make investments in building Canada’s digital literacy skills. I agree, as does MNet and countless others.

Where are we doing well? Canada has an exceptionally stable business environment, a legal and policy environment conducive to business development and a business and consumer population interested in adopting information and communications technology (ICT). What’s the common thread here? Trust in the systems that build a digital economy.

The safety and security of a nation’s systems – including the DNS – is a major factor in consumer and corporate trust. This is one of the reasons why CIRA called on Canadian governments and businesses to adopt IPv6 and DNSSEC in our Industry Canada submission. I would argue that the fact that the .CA top-level domain is considered one of the safest in the world bolsters consumer and business trust in the system. In fact, our own research (and MacAfee’s) proves it.

There’s good news, too, and lots of it.

Canadians are heavy users of the Internet. In 2009, half of Canadians surveyed in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Internet Use Survey reported using the Internet for shopping, up from 45 per cent in 2007. Two thirds (67 per cent) of Canadians use the Internet for banking, up from 63 per cent in 2007, a clear indicator of trust in the system. It’s interesting to note that in a 2008 survey of Canadian Internet users, 78 per cent of respondents stated that they prefer .CA domain names for online shopping. This is important for Canadian business; in 2007 Canadians placed almost $13 billion worth of orders online (more than half of which went to Canadian companies!).

We’re quickly approaching 1.5 million domain names registered, an incredible number when you realize that the Canadian market is relatively small and that we live next to the largest economic powerhouse in the world.  Canadians are demonstrating their trust in the system by registering .CA domain names. In fact, we’re growing at a rate that the big guys, like .COM, can’t match.  In spite of the recent economic downturn, the .CA TLD has experienced double digit growth – 16 per cent – whereas the generic top-level domains are experiencing a growth rate of a mere six per cent.

I don’t see Canada as falling behind. In fact, I think we’re on the cusp of great opportunity. As a nation, we’ve reached a fork in the road, so to speak. We just need to choose which road we’re going to take. Fortunately, we have two things working in our favour. First, we have a bit of a roadmap – we know what we have to do to get to the place we need to go – the Digital Economy consultation responses have done that for us. Second, we have some experience in these matters. In the early 1990s, we were faced with some pretty difficult choices. We made the right choices with regard to the traditional economy, and results were telling. Canada made it through one of the worst economic downturns in the history of the modern economy relatively unscathed and has become the financial envy of the world.

Moving down the right path this time will involve making the right decisions for the digital economy, and I think we’re well positioned to do just that. In fact, I see Canada as building the foundation on which we can build a strong and sustainable future. We may be doing it slower than some other nations, but I think we’re well positioned to take the right path.

Just a final note: Chris O’Neill, Google Canada’s Country Director will be speaking at CIRA’s AGM as part of a panel on September 21. Perhaps we can continue this discussion there!

What do you think? What are the factors that will enable Canada to become a digital leader?

India to Adopt IPv6 by 2012

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Last week India proved that the real driving force for the Internet could be shifting from the developed world to the developing world when the Indian government announced that that it will introduce IPv6 by 2012. All telcos and ISPs in India will have to be IPv6 compliant by the end of 2011 and offer IPv6 services in 2012.

Of course, there’s a greater urgency for India to adopt IPv6 than Canada or the rest of the developed world. As far as address blocks go, we received more than our share back in the beginning, as addresses were not uniformly distributed. And, the proliferation of mobile devices and access to broadband in India and China will further drive demand for IP addresses in parts of the world that lost out on IP address distribution in the beginning.

Although India has more to lose than Canada does with regard to delaying adoption of IPv6, we’re going to pay the price for complacency if we don’t act soon. While I don’t necessarily agree that “the end of the world has arrived”, the fact is we’re running out of IPv4 addresses. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) reports that less than 10 per cent of IPv4 address space remains, meaning that there’s about a year before this space is exhausted.

In CIRA’s submission (.PDF) to Industry Canada’s Digital Economy consultation, we state the importance of IPv6 adoption in Canada, and we recommend governments in Canada take a leadership role by leveraging its purchasing power to stimulate IPv6 adoption in Canada. It’s going to be expensive, but time is running out. The end of the world may not be here yet, but we ignore IPv6 at our peril.

I think we’re on the verge of a new trend. The developing world, which has for so long taken second place with regard to technology development and adoption, is becoming the leader.

What do you think about India’s move to adopt IPv6?