ICANN refuses to explain

Regular readers will know about the application made by the .Kids Foundation to ICANN to be allowed to run the proposed new .kids gTLD.  ICANN gave a contract to the Economist Intelligence Unit  (EIU) to help them assess the bid.

I have been around the child protection, children’s rights  and child welfare space for several years. I had never heard the EIU’s name mentioned as an authority in connection with anything to do with children. Had I missed something? I contacted the EIU. They refused to discuss it. The EIU referred me to ICANN.

In their reply to my questions ICANN told me

….the EIU was chosen because it offers premier global business intelligence services.

Not a convincing opening line given the nature of my enquiry but ICANN went on to quote from something called the Panel Process document, in particular the following:

The EIU is the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist. Through a global network of more than 500 analysts and contributors, the EIU continuously assesses political, economic, and business conditions in more than 200 countries. As the world’s leading provider of country intelligence, the EIU helps executives, governments, and institutions by providing timely, reliable, and impartial analysis.

The word  child  or  children  have yet to make an appearance. In fact they never do.

Then comes this

The evaluation process respects the principles of fairness, transparency, avoidance of potential conflicts of interest, and non-discrimination. Consistency of approach in scoring applications is of particular importance. In this regard, the Economist Intelligence Unit has more than six decades of experience building evaluative frameworks and benchmarking models for its clients, including governments, corporations, academic institutions and NGOs. Applying scoring systems to complex questions is a core competence.

I added the bold to that word transparency since it is clear it is singularly lacking.

ICANN then gave me some more cut-and-pasted quotes

  • All EIU evaluators undergo regular training to ensure full understanding of all CPE requirements as listed in the Applicant Guidebook, as well as to ensure consistent judgment. This process included a pilot training process, which has been followed by regular training sessions to ensure that all evaluators have the same understanding of the evaluation process and procedures.
  • EIU evaluators are highly qualified, they speak several languages and have expertise in applying criteria and standardized methodologies across a broad variety of issues in a consistent and systematic manner.
  • Language skills and knowledge of specific regions are also considered in the selection of evaluators and the assignment of specific applications.

So I wrote back with only one further question

Did you satisfy yourself that the EIU had (the necessary expertise) or did you simply rely on the EIU’s general assurances (that they had)…..?

Answer came there none.

I doubt the EIU has much of a clue about children and the online space thus, to be clear, I think they were wrong to accept a contract to work in  an area that is outwith their competence but equally ICANN should not have offered them the work without satisfying themselves the EIU  could do it properly.

Children’s interests are marginalized or overlooked once again.

About John Carr

John Carr is a member of the Executive Board of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, the British Government's principal advisory body for online safety and security for children and young people. In the summer of 2013 he was appointed as an adviser to Bangkok-based ECPAT International. Amongst other things John is or has been a Senior Expert Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, a member of the Executive Board of the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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