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A Look Back on 2023

21 December 2023

Representatives from the ICANN organization and Board attend a UA Day event.
From left, ICANN Board member Edmon Chung, Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) Chair Anil Kumar Jain, ICANN Board Chair Tripti Sinha, former UASG Chair Ajay Data, ICANN Interim President and CEO Sally Costerton, and Jia Rong Low, VP, Stakeholder Engagement and Managing Director – Asia Pacific, attend a UA Day event in New Delhi in March 2023.

The end of the year is a time to look back on how far we've come in 12 months. Not only did we celebrate ICANN's 25th anniversary this year, we also recognized 10 years of successes by our Regional Office teams in Istanbul, Montevideo, and Singapore.

In 2023, the ICANN organization (org) worked closely with the ICANN community and Board to achieve remarkable progress across our many areas of work in support of our mission. As we look toward 2024, I wanted to share an update on the status of my President and CEO Goals for the current fiscal year, which I hope you will find informative.

Improving Organizational Efficiency

Goal 1: Community Engagement System – Last month, ICANN org debuted an enhanced Engagement Calendar, which shares events recorded in the Community Engagement System to improve awareness. In 2024, we will continue rolling out the new system to evolve stakeholder participation and improve staff efficiency.

Goal 2: Community Readiness – The first term of the Policy Accelerator Program began in September and will end in March. Fifty-one participants will complete asynchronous learning modules and attend sessions featuring technical and policy experts from the community, with a focus on generic top-level domain (gTLD) registration data. Work also continued to develop the Consensus Playbook, with the ICANN Learn course expected to launch in January, followed by training for policy working group members and leadership. Additionally, ICANN org created an initial version of a Program Management Tool for each Supporting Organization and Advisory Committee, with the aim of launching the finalized versions next year.

Increasing Digital Inclusivity

Goal 3: Coalition for Digital Africa – The Coalition continues to expand its outreach, with activities in 26 African countries. Since July, the Coalition has added two new partners and is working to develop eight new initiatives. ICANN held a capacity-development workshop on Universal Acceptance (UA) readiness in Namibia, and two webinars for 10 selected African country code top-level domain managers. In November, I traveled to Cairo for the launch of the second ICANN Managed Root Server installation in Africa, which will significantly improve Domain Name System (DNS) resiliency across the continent.

Goal 4: Multilingual Internet – The inaugural UA Day marked the first time a diverse set of technical and language communities, companies, governments, and DNS industry stakeholders mobilized to champion UA and a multilingual Internet on a global scale. Building on this success, we are busy planning UA Day 2024 and issued a call for proposals last month. We have been supporting the community's policy-development work to allow for Internationalized Domain Name implementation, and to make them more secure and usable by enabling variant domain names. Meanwhile, work continues to make ICANN's systems UA-ready, and we have updated our email system to allow internationalized email addresses.

Goal 5: ICANN Grant Program – During ICANN78, ICANN org staff shared an update on this program. Steady progress has been made through the year, and the program is on track to go live in March 2024 with the launch of the first call for applications. We plan to publish the Applicant Guide next month.

Supporting and Promoting the Efficacy of the Multistakeholder Process

Goal 6: WSIS+20 Review – We are continuing our work to develop, share, and implement a clear strategy to address the upcoming review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and ancillary events in early 2025. The purpose is to identify and mitigate any issues that have the potential to impact ICANN's mission; to maintain the multistakeholder model of Internet governance and protect ICANN's role within it; to increase the visibility of ICANN's work in support of its mission, including policy-development processes; and to reinforce the importance of a single, global, interoperable Internet. This work takes multiple forms, such as when I spoke at the Web Summit in November, where I emphasized the crucial role of the technical community in ensuring a secure, stable, and unified global Internet.

Enhancing ICANN's Ability to Combat DNS Abuse

Goal 7: DNS Abuse – ICANN org and the Contracted Parties House worked for months to negotiate contract amendments that target DNS abuse. The proposed amendments received overwhelming support from gTLD registries and accredited registrars, a major victory in our effort to combat and mitigate DNS abuse. Next, the proposed amendments will be shared with the ICANN Board for consideration.

Supporting the Global Public Interest

Goal 8: Environmental Sustainability Strategy – Setting this goal kicked off an important conversation for ICANN about the environmental impact of our work. We are on track to finalize a proposed draft environmental sustainability mission and an initial scope by the end of this year, which will feed into the overall environmental sustainability strategy. As part of these efforts, ICANN org is carrying out best-practice research to better understand the broader environmental sustainability landscape.

Supporting a Secure, Stable, and Resilient Internet

Goal 9: IANA Services – The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) team worked with the Planning team to develop a candidate set of projects for consideration as part of this goal. The teams will meet with the Public Technical Identifiers Board early next year to discuss a long-term road map.

Goal 10: African Regional Internet Registry – ICANN remains committed to the long-term viability of the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system, including providing the Official Receiver previously appointed by the courts in Mauritius with a neutral and expert observer. John Crain, ICANN Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, was on the ground in Mauritius in September to support this work. Though further court filings have removed the Official Receiver from service for now, ICANN org maintains its readiness to offer expertise in support of the RIR system. We also are in close communication with the leadership of the other RIRs, which has greatly improved our coordination in monitoring the African Network Information Centre situation.

Goal 11: Community Reviews – As of this year, ICANN org has successfully implemented 46 percent of all pending Board-approved Specific Reviews recommendations. For the Lifecycle of Reviews Project, we published a thought paper that highlights some of the major challenges that we identified within the current reviews process and proposes six potential improvements.

Goal 12: Next Round of New gTLDs – ICANN org submitted the next round implementation plan to the Board ahead of the 1 August deadline. This was a significant milestone in the development of the program, and it was possible thanks to the hard work and spirit of collaboration across the ICANN community and Board throughout the year. In addition, a new governance model is being put in place to ensure a timely and efficient delivery of the program. In 2024, ICANN org will continue to provide a program status report before each ICANN Public Meeting, and to proceed with a phased communications campaign to raise awareness of the next round.

Goal 13: RDRS – ICANN org launched the Registration Data Request Service (RDRS) to registrars in September and to the full public in November. So far, registrars representing approximately half of the total gTLDs under management have volunteered to participate. Beginning next year, we will regularly update the community on the service's usage statistics and continue to engage with the Generic Names Supporting Organization's RDRS Standing Committee. We also will continue our outreach and engagement efforts as well as our media awareness campaign.

These are just a few of our many accomplishments this year, none of which would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of everyone at ICANN. I'm looking forward to another exciting year ahead. Happy holidays and see you in 2024!


Sally Costerton

Sally Costerton

Sr. Advisor to President & SVP, Global Stakeholder Engagement and Interim President & CEO