OHI project interviewed Ira Magaziner on 20th September 2019 in Washington, DC.
The interview with Ira Magaziner, the father of ICANN, was undoubtedly the top priority of our trip in the U.S. As the senior advisor for policy development for the former US President Clinton (1992-2000), he participated in establishing ICANN from the very beginning and no one could match him concerning the context and truth of the development of ICANN. Besides, he might be the best interpreter to tell the inside stories and first-hand information about ICANN from a political perspective.
With the help of Steve Crocker who was the former chairman of the ICANN’s board, we were able to get in touch with Ira Magaziner who lives in Rhode Island. Considering his inconvenience of transportation, we suggested to do the interview in Boston since Boston is the nearest place for him to travel, however, due to some unexpected changes of Ira, we finally met at Washington, DC on the afternoon of 20th September.
To meet our appointment of the interview, Ira Magaziner traveled from New York to Washington, DC at a quarter past 2 pm. He even arranged a meeting room for the interview near Washington, DC Reagan Airport and we met him at 2:30 pm. He apologized for changing the interview agenda and his warmness and friendliness left a deep impression on us.
We began our interview with the topic of ICANN. According to his political experiences, Ira Magaziner thought that the policy direction of a big country sometimes directly affects or even leads the development trend of the entire Internet to some degree. Take the transfer of ICANN as an example, according to Ira Magaziner’s original plan, if Gore who advocated the New Economy Policy, were elected as President in 2000, the transfer would probably accomplish the by 2000 or, at the latest, by 2002 when the contracts ended between NTIA at the US Department of Commerce and ICANN.
However, the republican Bush took office after the Clinton administration and changed the new economic trend. Especially after 911, the US government was afraid to let the ICANN go out of control. Fortunately, the transfer of ICANN has been accomplished in 2016 before Trump took office otherwise ICANN maybe still were under the control of the US government and could not operate independently. Finally, the dream of transforming ICANN to a multi-stakeholder model as well as an apolitical organization has eventually come true in 2016 after 21 years of planning by Ira Magaziner since 1995.
It is undoubtedly that the initial milestone of Internet globalization was around the mid-to-late 1990s, during that period, if the US government restrained Internet technology or treated it as only a technical application controlled by the US government, then the flourish of the Internet which has covered more than 4 billion people would not happen. Although there are still some political and business forces trying to hinder the development of the Internet, the general trend of the Internet connecting the world is unstoppable. In this regard, we should thank Clinton and Ira Magaziner for their historical contributions.
Moreover, as the core executor of the New Economy Policy of Clinton administration, Ira Magaziner told us about the concept of the information highway, the act of deregulation of the telecommunications, the e-commerce framework that primarily promoted by the US around the world, and so on. And we also discussed the ups and downs of the New Economy Policy during the Clinton administration.
As an insider who acquainted with Internet history, I have witnessed the prosperity and depression of the Internet new economy since the 1990s. The Internet began to boom in 1994 and fell down after reaching the peak at the end of Clinton administration in 2000. The New Economy Policy implemented by Clinton administration has undoubtedly played an important role in prospering the Internet despite the maturity of the technology and other factors of investment and business. And I strongly believe that the most precious political treasure left for the world by Clinton administration is the New Economy Policy.
Our 3-hours interview with Ira Magaziner was extremely fruitful and full of information. We have prepared three-pages of questions before the interview and he almost answered all of them in a serious, in-depth as well as authoritative manner. Thanks to his sharing, we had an even broader view of the history of ICANN and further understood the influences of policy on the technology. He also spoke highly of the questions we prepared and apparently he had not received any interview with such detailed and delicate questions before.
After the 3 hours interview, Ira Magaziner had to rush back to Boston. As one of the trusted partners of Clinton, he still holds a leadership position in Clinton Foundation and travels a lot to Beijing. Naturally, we made an appointment for the next interview in Beijing. Both of us firmly believed that the only way to achieve a win-win situation between the US and China is to cooperate friendly.
Ira Magaziner was the last one we interviewed for this US trip. Looking back, we have already interviewed 400 Internet key figures since 2007. As the project progressed, we have gradually understood that everything has not come easily and the development of the Internet was full of contingency as well as the technical and historical inevitability. We will keep working hard and bring the most precious and valuable information to human beings in the future.
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