Openness, transparency and accountability: A chat interview with Alan Barrett, AFRINIC's CEO

AFRINIC is home to Africa’s regional internet registry, based in Mauritius, and has three other operational offices in South Africa (technical operations), Egypt (backup and disaster recovery) and Ghana (training coordination).

AFRINIC was part of the 2016 African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) session on “Multistakeholder internet governance: Achievements, strengths and weaknesses”, where it’s CEO Alan Barrett, stated that multistakeholderism is important to the future of internet governance and AFRINIC believes in this process.
Afrinic CEO Afrinic CEO “Alan Barrett” & some AfriSIG participants: Photo credit: Yolanda Mlonzi
In this interview with APCNews, he discussed some of the intricacies of multistakeholderism within the context of AFRINIC and beyond.

APCNews: How does AFRINIC put into practice the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, which are associated with internet governance?

Alan Barrett: Openness, mostly through our policy development process. One just has to show interest and have the ability to join the AFRINIC mailing lists; no membership is required. Members of AFRINIC include businesses, universities and internet service providers (ISPs) who get IP addresses from AFRINIC, where we currently have about 1,400 members.

As for transparency, all our policies are published, and resolutions and minutes of board meetings are also published on the AFRINIC website.

In terms of accountability, we have just recently created an advisory committee which will advise the board about governance matters. Their duties will be to look out for any mistakes AFRINIC makes and draw public attention to it. AFRINIC could be more open on certain processes, but is nonetheless trying to put the principles into practice.

APCNews: What are the key issues that AFRINIC prioritises in internet governance?

AB: For internet governance in Africa we mostly focus on our processes within AFRINIC. We also participate in forums like this [the African Internet Governance Forum, AfIGF], we go to ICANN [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], the global IGF, and we support the network operators groups. So many countries have a network operators group where ISPs will get together and have a conference or training ,and we try to support those.

APCNews: Is ICANN a strong upholder of multistakeholderism?

AB: Yes, the people who started it and the people who are involved now strongly believe that the internet should be managed by the people who use it. This includes ordinary users, companies, universities, civil society, not so much by governments. Governments have a role but in my view, in the multistakeholder environment, governments should have the same voice as anybody else; they don’t get a special voice just because they’re government.

APCNews: For the technical community in Africa, what’s the landscape looking like and are there any opportunities?

AB: Africa is very much undeserved as far as the internet is concerned. We have about 0.1 IP addresses per person in Africa, whereas in Europe it’s still less than one but much more than Africa. In the US it’s more than one, they have about five IP addresses per person and that is for historical reasons, such as the internet started off in the US. There is a lot of room for innovation; our mobile operators could provide better internet services. Internet service providers can expand, there’s a big market here, where we have people who do not have internet access at home but have it on their phone. That’s a market already and ISPs need to tap into it.

Learn more about AFRINIC here.

One on One interview conducted by Yolanda Mlonzi for APCNews.

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