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Internet Governance 2 June 2016

Reflections on Six Years on the ISOC Board of Trustees

Narelle Clark
By Narelle ClarkFormer Deputy CEO, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, and a Past President of the Internet Society Australian Chapter

Editor’s Note: At the Internet Society’s Annual General Meeting in June 2016, Narelle Clark cycled off the Board.  Thank you Narelle for your six years of service and contributions.

After six years on the ISOC Board of Trustees, my term is now over. Thinking back to my first year, I felt a very green and inexperienced newbie compared with my fellow Trustees – some of whom left me awestruck just meeting them! Despite my thinking they were truly Gods, they quickly became solid friends and mentors – and we continue to work together even after some have left the Board.

When I was first elected, the big issue of the day was censorship of the internet and government efforts to block content from the citizenry. We were also looking at ways to increase the organization’s footprint and to assist chapters and organizational members. Those issues are still present, yet we have significantly increased the number of chapters, and our organizational members’ meetings are dynamic and interesting. Our impact as an organization is indisputable: our CEO speaks to the United Nations, and our leaders around the world address their own governments and regional forums with influence. Each time a new (or old!) Internet issue appears, there is an Internet Society person ready to guide its resolution by diplomatically providing impartial, expert views to enable a robust, reliable Internet. Threats such as address scarcity, poor regulation, lousy connectivity and so on don’t seem to disappear, but our strength to counter them together is clearly increasing.

Over the years I’ve been involved in a few substantial changes to our organization, and even the Internet itself: the By-Laws review (which created the Chapters Advisory Council), and most recently the IANA transition. We’ve seen a new CEO join the organization and a vibrant renewal take place that has retained our important values: high ethical standards; deep technical know-how; a global perspective; and respect for our fellow human beings.

One of my strangest moments was at the inaugural Internet Hall of Fame meeting, where over breakfast I found myself in a deep discussion about all the flaws in a new technology – my operator experience meant I understood the deployment issues it would face. Of course, my colleague was the person who invented it! I quickly learned that this was perfectly normal and acceptable in IETF circles: ideas come first.

Certainly the most rewarding part of this journey has been the opportunity to work side-by-side with the many Internet Society members around the world to address the issues we all face. It amazes me how similar our issues are! It seems we are all struggling with connectivity, regulation, affordability and accessibility. At one stage I was privileged to join a meeting to establish an internet exchange in Africa: as a seasoned telecoms engineer I was expecting to show people what to do, but after introducing a few people to each other, they took over and laid their own plans. It is fantastic to see the Internet Society acting as an enabler of people to act for themselves.

In my role as Chair of the Nominations Committee I have also seen firsthand how the passion for education has driven developing nations ahead. Most recently we have seen emerging leaders from developing nations with postgraduate degrees and deep management know-how that will equip us well for the future. In the past, those qualifications were mostly seen in people from developed nations, and we struggled to find people from across the world that had the balance of skills needed to take on the role of Trustee. I am truly optimistic that the diversity I have worked for will be carried forward.

What an experience this has been. I won’t miss the sleepless nights with long conference calls at unkind hours, but I know I have forged some deep relationships with some truly brilliant people. People I know I can trust with the Internet.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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