Byron Holland is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). View bio
On my way back to Ottawa from Canadians Connected 2011: CIRA Symposium and Annual General Meeting last week, I spent some time reflecting on the activities of the day. It was the first time we brought our AGM to Vancouver since 2008, and I’m very happy we did.
Those of us who work in the Internet world sometimes think the Internet is the ultimate tool for communication.
Bold statement – it’s not.
Yes, the Internet is about connections. It’s about connecting people to other, like-minded people. But here’s the important part: it will never take the place of connecting to people face-to-face. That’s why it was so important to hold Canadians Connected 2011 in Vancouver, and that’s why it was so important to hold our first .CA Members’ networking event in Calgary. (By the way, we’re planning our next .CA Members’ event – in Montreal this November – as I write this).
More than 200 people joined us at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and another 53 joined us via webcast.
Once again, our keynotes were outstanding. Jonathan Zittrain, considered by many to be the leading authority on the future of the Internet, gave an engaging talk about where the Internet is heading. I was sold when he said “the Internet needs to be open and free from regulatory intervention in order to facilitate the social and economic innovation it has stimulated.” If you read this blog, you will know that I am a staunch defender of the multi-stakeholder model for governing the Internet.
Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr, also presented the Internet as a tool for unprecedented innovation. He asserted that the Internet has been a biological leap for humanity, more significant than invention of print press. Butterfield ought to know. He is, after all, one of the great innovators in the Internet world.
This was our second AGM where social media played an important role. We had a very active Twitter stream that was projected on a Twitter wall on site. In fact, the #CIRA2011 hashtag was a trending topic in Canada. This is interesting to me because it really is an indicator of how engaged our stakeholders are. They want to be having the important conversations about things like Internet governance, IPv6, DNSSEC, and a myriad of other issues that in the past were relegated to insiders in the Internet world.
AGMs are typically a time of looking back and taking stock of where you’ve been. I find, though, that our AGM has become a time to look forward. Yes, we turn our focus to the activities of the past year, but in CIRA’s case, I think this is more in order to provide a guide as we move forward. CIRA has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. We are a world-class registry, and I believe there are many areas where we punch above our weight. Please take the time read our 2011 Annual Report.
Don’t take my word on it – watch these videos of participants telling us what their favourite part of the day was.
This week, the Chair of CIRA’s Board of Directors, Paul Andersen, pens a guest post on the current CIRA election. Enjoy!
This is always an exciting and eventful time of year for CIRA. As I write this, our staff and Board of Directors are returning from Vancouver where we held this year’s Canadians Connected – CIRA Symposium and Annual General Meeting. The .CA community got together to hear about the progress of the organization during the past year, listen to great speakers and engage in lively discussion about the future of CIRA. I am proud to say that this was one of our best attended AGMs to date, and we had a record number of participants via webcast.
At the same time, we are in the final stage of this year’s Board of Directors election. Like many other elections, CIRA’s has a long period where very little seems to happen, and then in a matter of a few weeks the process heats up as we enter the final stage up to the balloting.
This year we have a very diverse and qualified set of candidates who have made it to both the Nomination Committee and Member side of our ballot. Each year I spend the time to read all the submissions from the candidates as I find it encouraging to see people so excited and dedicated to the concept of giving their time and energy to the governance of CIRA and the .CA domain.
To many, Internet governance is not a particularly exciting topic. To many, we are basically a server, and keepers of contact information for each registered .CA domain name.
While on the surface what we do appears simple, what CIRA does is far more complex and far-reaching. The Internet has become the fabric of all parts of our daily lives and the various aspects of how the Internet is governed at the core impacts each and every one of us in our daily lives.
As a world class registry CIRA requires a strong Board of Directors. I encourage you all to take just a little time out of your day to review the statements by each candidate in their applications.
Most importantly – please ensure you take just a few moments to vote. Each and every vote counts. If you’re a Member, you will have received an email containing a virtual token that allows you to access the voting system. CIRA Members may also access the vote ballot through CIRA’s election website. You will need your Member email address and Member password to login to the voting ballot. Note: if you haven’t received your email, please contact CIRA right away.
And, talk to your colleagues and friends. If they are .CA Members, encourage them to vote, too.
To me, the more votes that are cast in the election means a more engaged membership. And, the result of a more engaged membership is a stronger Board of Directors – ultimately a stronger CIRA.
I’ve been involved with CIRA for 10 years now, and have found the experience to be incredibly rewarding. In fact, CIRA’s first Board of Directors was held in August 2001 and I was there.
So, who is CIRA and what does CIRA actually do?
We are a federally incorporated not-for-profit corporation managed by an elected board of directors and guided by our letters patent. We operate the .CA domain name based on a mandate given to us in 1999 via a document commonly referred to as the Binder Letter.
At its core, our work is the management of the .CA registry. This involves two components: the operation of the underlying Domain Name System (DNS) – which allows Internet users to connect to those with .CA domains – and the operation of the registry systems that allow our community to efficiently register and maintain their domain names. This is very important work. Many consider these activities part of the essential Internet infrastructure, which we strive to undertake in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
CIRA is also involved in activities that go beyond the technical plumbing of the registry and DNS.
The operation of the .CA Registry and DNS is always our primary focus – none of the Board or our dedicated staff ever lose sight of this. We operate in a 100 per cent up-time environment. However, in 2006 we updated our Letters Patent to give CIRA a clearer mandate to also “ . . . develop, carry out and/or support any other Internet-related activities in Canada.”
Simply put, if after ensuring our core work is done at a world-class level and at a competitive cost, we constantly look to re-invest a portion of our resources in other activities that support the Internet in Canada. We undertake activities that give back to the community such as our Community Investment Program and the Canadian Internet Forum (.PDF), and we also actively participate in the governance of the Internet on behalf of our community both domestically and internationally.
That may sound like it opens up a world of possible activity for CIRA, but this is not the case. The Internet world is a very large one with many players who play many roles. Other players in Canada include governments (such as Industry Canada, Canarie and the CRTC), the private sector (i.e. ISPs, other telcos and Registrars) and academia.
When looking at such activities we keep our focus in the areas that have an impact on our part of the Internet. While we watch with interest the activities of others (and sometimes even add our two cents when we have two cents), we cannot get involved in every issue. As a federal not-for-profit, CIRA may only do the things outlined in our Letters Patent.
So what does the CIRA Board do? What is the role of a director?
A director must act in the best interest of the organization – in this case CIRA – at all times. As an elected board member, you have a “fiduciary duty” to the organization. It means that a director has an obligation of loyalty, honesty and to act in good faith as a representative of CIRA without regard to other external interests.
Directors are expected to bring their full wealth of knowledge to each and every topic the board faces. We strive and encourage a diversity of views on issues. Debate is what makes a board stronger, and ensures that we are making the best decisions for the future of the organization we represent. But make no mistake, each director needs to make decisions based on a course of action they believe will benefit the organization and not any individual stakeholder group.
CIRA plays an incredibly important role in running the Internet and it is one that I am proud to have played a part in for the past 10 years. Our influence on the national and global stage is growing, and I credit this in part to 10 years of good governance at the board level.
I encourage all of you to review the minutes of past meetings that are posted on the CIRA website, and the committee that preceded it, dating back to 2009. If you would like to see what is discussed at board meetings, this would be a good place to start. For more information about the roles and responsibilities of a board member for a not-for-profit in Canada, check out Industry Canada’s Primer for Directors of Not-for-Profit Corporations.
CIRA is a great organization with an important role to play in making sure our part of the Internet thrives. And to do that we need the best people.
I encourage you to check out the candidates and vote. I also ask that you encourage your friends and colleagues to vote, as well.