Connecting the Dots in History: From Integration to Consolidation. Part III

04-09-2018

Carolina Aguerre was the researcher and author of the LACTLD history for the 20th Anniversary Publication. Below, we share the third part of our organization history.

The creation of LACTLD was vital to foster dialogs among peers, to work jointly in an organized fashion. Besides, the international context required representation mechanisms and it was increasingly important to understand and develop the institutional environment to build the trust around the management of the Internet's critical resources. During ICANN’s meeting in Santiago, in August of 1999, a meeting for LACTLD members was arranged. However, it was in 2001 in Montevideo, during ICANN’s tenth meeting, when the MoU that would settle the formal configuration of the organization was signed. ICANN had recognized Latin America and the Caribbean as one of the five representative regions in the world for this community in 2000, which led to an organizational process to start working on draft statutes, formalizing the communication in discussion lists and debates on the establishment of quotas.

Techinal Worskshop, 2012. Asunción, Paraguay.
Techinal Worskshop, 2012. Asunción, Paraguay.

In March of 2004, the celebration of LACTLD’s first Assembly, together with the formal configuration of the organization in Montevideo, marked a milestone in its history. The formalization process was enriched by the experience of LACNIC, which two years earlier had achieved its legal status, and there was a lot of synergy between the organizations and their members, like Oscar Robles (.MX), Lito Ibarra (.SV), Demi Getschko (.BR), Luis Furlán (.GT), Edna Samudio (.PA), Clara Collado (.DO), Margarita Valdés (.CL), Raquel Isaula (.HN), among many others who participated in the legal establishment of LACTLD. The then legal consultant of the Ministry of Education, Beatriz Rodríguez —at present in AGESIC, Uruguay, and the ISOC chapter for that country— gave an overwhelming support for the recognition of LACTLD (and, previously, of LACNIC) as an international non-profit organization.

From all points of view, the challenge posed by its formalization was very significant, as Oscar Robles recalls, since it was not clear what added value LACLTD could offer to its members, who were still struggling to become established internally with their own budgets, which were often subsumed under bigger organisms like universities. It would take a few more years to obtain the economic contributions needed from members for memberships that would finance the growth of LACTLD. “Today it’s easier, a little bit easier, for the ccTLD to justify its participation in its regional organization, but back then we had absolutely nothing to offer. So, we could not speak to a university finance manager and tell them: ‘This is important because...’ Why? Because... There was no way. The people who participated in this so that it could work and be important were just relying on blind faith,” says Oscar Robles.

Its formalization allowed to strengthen the regional community, on the basis of the experiences gained by other regions that were evolving in the framework of their regional ccTLD ecosystem. “I think the formalization of the organization certainly marked a turning point. A new era had begun with it. And, then, LACTLD started to grow and stopped being just a ‘friends club’ to be an organization with a say, which could get to vote, make changes and, also, offer an added value,” notes Margarita Valdés, secretary of LACTLD’s first Board of Directors.

LACTLD’s legal establishment enabled different voices and opinions in the region, and consolidated the contribution of the participation of actors in the local community to the international process. One aspect of this process is the progress in the achievement of a linguistic unity among the associates, as a feature that helped speed up LACTLD’s consolidation. Therefore, as of 2012, LACTLD adopted its policy to develop a line of work that has English as one of its languages during their communication exchanges and workshops.

One of LACTLD’s main duties during the past decade was to create places for collaboration, exchange, and training of its associates. The discussion list and the annual meeting, where topics of international and regional policy were discussed, were no longer enough due to the increasing complexity of the environment, the requests for informed participation in relation to the regional ccTLDs in spaces like the ccNSO, and the needs for more specific training. This is why in 2007, LACTLD organized its first technical workshop in Cancun. This was a fundamental step towards the recognition of the variety of topics on the agenda of ccTLDs at the time. LACTLD was no longer an organization with just one face-to-face meeting a year (its Assembly): it started to draw up an agenda with workshops that became stronger in time. In 2008, LACTLD held its first commercial workshop in São Paulo, Brazil, and the following year, it held its first legal workshop in La Paz. Since then, there have been 12 annual technical workshops —some years there were more than one—, five legal workshops, 14 annual policy workshops and seven commercial ones.

With the decision of incorporating LACTLD’s first General Manager, Erick Iriarte, in 2008, the organization developed the dynamics for more frequent workshops and more member participation. Hiring the first employee showed the commitment made by the members to direct their financial inputs to the sustainability and growth of the association.

The consolidation of an annual agenda for workshops with four key areas (political, commercial, technical and legal) became, in time, one of the most added-value elements for members, according to a satisfaction survey carried out in 2013 for the Assembly and Policy Workshop in Medellin. This traced a very clear path for the management of the organization, whose staff leader at the time was Carolina Aguerre (the writer of this document) as the organization’s General Manager.

Policy Workshop, 2010. Curaçao.
Policy Workshop, 2010. Curaçao.

According to Clara Collado and Margarita Valdés, the work plan for LACLTD’s workshops enables every ccTLD involved to make its own decisions regarding a specific issue, but having the understanding needed about a current topic, and fundamentally relying on a network of contacts that the organization offers to its members in order to promote this exchange in a trustworthy and friendly manner, even when the DNS has developed an increasingly competitive environment. LACTLD’s workshop agenda regarding the key areas managed to develop a dynamics for the Agenda Committees between 2011 and 2015. These Agenda Committees were made up by LACTLD members who would independently make the decision to participate in the initial discussion for the outline of topics of a given workshop. However, this mechanism did not have a well-delimited process as regards the participation of members and relied on the coordination and constant motivation from LACTLD’s staff. By the end of 2015, having agreed on the third strategic plan of the organization, some progress was made as regards the working groups who started working at the beginning of 2016. Working groups are meant to work as: a platform in which members can express their worries, interests, and needs in relation to a specific issue (be it legal, commercial, political, or technical); a repository of the members’ experiences in a certain area, which can then become case studies, reports, guidelines, manuals, etc.; a continuity of the topics dealt with in workshops, making lines of work out of the debated topics in order to elaborate on their contents, according to the interest of the members and the tendencies of the international industry that affect the regional agenda, and a continuation of the collaboration based on experience and knowledge in the case of individual consults of the members.

The creation of the working groups was a goal achieved thanks to two factors that influenced each other: on the one hand, the development itself of regional ccTLDs, with an organic growth in which functional areas started to specialized with the increase of the operations of many regional registries; on the other hand, LACTLD’s ongoing work to consolidate the workshop and meeting schedule in order for members to be able to have a sharing and training space with their peers in the region. “This way, working groups enable both the increase of member participation and their commitment, at the same time,” notes Clara Collado. The experience of other ccTLD regional organizations like CENTR was a fundamental ingredient to consolidate this mechanism in a context where members and the association jointly draw up the topics and proposals that most affect their interests.

During these years, LACTLD developed working arrangements to improve its institutional capability and its governance capacity. An interesting feature in its consolidation process was marked by the review process of statutes in 2006, 2009 and 2011, with the purpose of promoting a more frequent participation of different actors in the Council, annually rotating at least one of the positions. This allowed LACTLD’s Board of Directors to rely on the participation of many people, members of several ccTLDs, thus simultaneously creating an atmosphere of closeness between the members and the Council.

A crucial element valued by LACTLD members during its institutional consolidation years was the sustained publication of documents and relevant information for their members. A fundamental milestone was the publication of the first LACTLD Report in 2012, which has been published every six months, on average, to date, and it is publicly available. The organization also took a chance at the consolidation of its statistical documents, so that members could have access to reports on the evolution and growth of domains in the region every three months, as well as the monthly news published in the newsletters.

In addition, the development of strategic plans has enabled LACTLD to identify the members’ needs, and to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, delimited in the specific context of a certain situation. So far, three strategic plans have been developed in the framework of a strategic planning exercise by the Council and the members: 2007-2011, 2011-2015 and 2015-2018, which are fundamental documents for the validation of the actions of the community towards LACTLD. The last strategic plan validated a line of work that, apart from the promotion of workshops, represents the ccTLDs in international spaces of Internet governance and the DNS. It also works on the development of the members’ capabilities, which include the strengthening of the cooperation with other organisms in the ecosystem and the easy availability and access to the relevant information given by the organization to its members, among other goals. This way, LACTLD started to become institutionally stronger during the decade after its legal formalization, which was then followed by an an organization led by executives who worked in the daily aspects of its management.

*The original version is included in the LACTLD 20th Anniversary Publication.