RealTime IT News

Jean-Jacques Damlamian, ICANN

Mozelle Thompson

At a time when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is being challenged in court by its own constituents, a relative outsider has been tapped to lead the organization's 2004 Nominating Committee (NomCom).

Jean-Jacques Damlamian will work with 17 voting members to fill vacant posts within an organization charged with managing the technical aspects of the U.S. root server, which holds the majority of today's Internet domains.

That means finding the best person for the job, whether that's an industry insider from the United States or a little-known administrator from Ghana. The NomCom's charter is to "ensure that the ICANN Board is composed of members who in the aggregate display diversity in geography, culture, skills, experience and perspective."

Time's running short. Nearly halfway through the year, the NomCom still doesn't have all its voting members in place and has until November to fill three ICANN board of directors seats and six supporting organization seats ahead of ICANN's annual meeting in December.

But Damlamian, a French Legion of Honor recipient and former executive vice president for France Telecom's technology group, is used to deadlines. He recently spoke with about his role as ICANN's "chief headhunter."

Q: What, exactly, is the role of the NomCom?

Our job is to start a third-party commencement on any candidate that would be considered. So it's a business of balancing every viewpoint of a person; obviously some people might be less known to us, but they should be considered by us also.

Q: As a relative outsider at ICANN, how are you suited for the job?

I am a Frenchman; I have the background and culture of a European. I am an engineer [and] have been working for France Telecom since forever. I will not deny my background. I may be different than others but I know my duty and I will ask my colleagues on the NomCom that if I have any bias to tell it to me. I hope that everyone will be open-minded and speak clearly in place of me.

What is my personal involvement in the Internet? I would say I've been interested in the Internet since the end of the 80s. I have been involved with France Telecom in introducing the Internet with [subsidiary] Wannado, so I know about the Internet, some of the problems and I know how it can change the economies of the world and the personal lives of any of us in developed countries as well as undeveloped and holds a lot of importance for the future. I shouldn't be biased and will not be biased. There is more difference between developed countries and developing countries than there is between Europe and the U.S., in that respect, and I'll have to take care of that.

Q: Why did you decide to take this job?

I was called by a friend of mine, who was part of the board, whom I know and trust. He called and said, "Jean-Jacques, I have something to propose to you -- we need you, would you accept?" I called back in 20 minutes and said, "I know you, I trust you; if you ask me this I know you're serious. If you propose I will accept." I'm someone who works with trust so if I trust someone I take with great consideration their opinion.

Q: How important are your selections this year?

A human organization has to value two things: individuals and groups formed by those individuals. What should be looked after is people that are able to work together, that respect each other, that respect differences; this is in the bylaws of ICANN itself. Respecting differences but also looking forward, so my duty is to find those people.

The future of the Internet is not decided today nor do we know what could happen but if we have the right people and the right group then we can cope with it, that's the reality and the spirit of [ICANN].

Q: You were awarded the French Legion of Honor, recognizing service to the country. Why?

When I started as a civil servant [at France Telecom in 1966], they didn't pay us too much but they gave us that type of recognition. Serving others is something that is in our genes. We look for the best, for the duty we have to achieve [and] this is what they had told me I had done. I think they recognized in me someone who was dedicated, who tried his best to make things happen.

Q: How hard will it be to find good help within the ICANN community?

We are not looking for candidates in the restricted "ICANN Community" but among the whole of the Internet stakeholders community. I am very confident that we will have all the help necessary to fulfill our mission taking into account the importance of the Internet and its harmonious and stable growth. Those issues are so important, and so well understood throughout the world that the willingness to contribute exceeds by far the needs.

Q: What kind of pressure, if any, do you feel for nominating the right people to positions within ICANN, particularly the three board of directors this year?

If you refer to pressures for choosing specific candidates rather than anyone else, I have not experienced any sign of such a thing yet. If you refer to self-generated pressure for nominating the right people to the right position, I am willing to share this pressure with the whole of the NomCom but without any outside interference.