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Chair’s Blog: April–May 2022 Board Workshop Recap

13 May 2022

The ICANN Board held its latest Board Workshop from 28 April to 1 May. With the ICANN74 Policy Forum fast approaching, the Board discussed how to best welcome the ICANN Community to The Hague, Netherlands, in person and virtually. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to register for ICANN74.

Overall, the workshop agenda was similar to what I shared in my preview blog. Thanks to the experience we gained over the last two years, we were able to rapidly adapt to a virtual format, following our decision less than a week earlier to revert from a hybrid meeting to a fully virtual meeting.

Thursday, 28 April

I began the workshop with a brief introduction, during which I reflected on the ongoing pandemic and its continued impact on our ability to progress our work and interact with ICANN Org and the Community. The Board then held a brainstorming session wherein we explored the opportunities and threats facing ICANN in the near future.

It was striking to see how, across four breakout groups, similar issues emerged:

  • We agreed that ICANN has an opportunity to develop best-in-class hybrid meetings by applying the lessons we have learned from our virtual meetings. At the same time, we recognized the potential negative impacts from the lack of face-to-face interaction, as well as the risk of organizing a super-spreader event amid the ongoing pandemic.
  • We also discussed the danger of geopolitical initiatives that may hamper ICANN's ability to fulfill its mission of a unified, global Internet. Not all of the trends are negative; one recent event, among several that have supported a multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, is the launch of the Declaration on the Future of the Internet, which endorses the concept of multistakeholderism and has been signed by 60 nations.
  • Moreover, we recognized the risk of ICANN being seen as "not getting things done." On the opportunity side is the broad awareness within ICANN that we need to continue to deliver on our mission in the face of new challenges, as demonstrated by the prioritization efforts of the Board, Org, and Community, and our ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Friday, 29 April

On Friday, the Board Strategic Planning Committee and committee Chair Matthew Shears led a session on evaluating ICANN's strategic objective of "address[ing] geopolitical issues impacting ICANN's mission to ensure a single, globally interoperable Internet." These strategic planning sessions are an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss the objectives and goals outlined in the ICANN Strategic Plan. In this session, ICANN Org presented an overview of key accomplishments and the work underway toward achieving the targeted outcomes of the geopolitics strategic objective and mitigating any risks. ICANN Org staff explained the landscape and trends that could impact this objective. This discussion was followed by a forward-looking brainstorming session and discussion by all Board members.

Next, the Board continued its discussion of prioritization from the March Board Workshop, also led by Matthew. This exercise focuses on prioritizing all current and planned Board work that is in addition to our Bylaws-mandated regular activities. Prioritization is tracked against the ICANN Strategic Plan to ensure that we can progress our work effectively. The Board intends to integrate the prioritization of activities into its work plan and add the highest-priority activities to the agenda of each Board Workshop.

During the last hour, ICANN President and CEO Göran Marby shared what he has been working on in an interactive exchange, in which we also discussed the latest CEO Report to the Board.

Saturday, 30 April

Saturday began with a discussion on alternative name spaces, led by Göran and ICANN Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer John Crain. As the ICANN Office of the Chief Technology Officer explained in a recent paper, alternative name systems present many challenges to the Internet ecosystem. The Board discussed these challenges, as well as how the Board and Org can further the dialogue on how to address them.

Next, Avri Doria led a discussion on the New Generic Top-Level Domain Subsequent Procedures (SubPro) Policy Development Process. The Board SubPro Caucus has identified issues related to the policy recommendations that the full Board should consider while the ICANN Org's Operational Design Phase (ODP) team conducts its work. One such issue is closed generics, which I discussed in a recent blog. The Board has invited the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council and the Governmental Advisory Committee to start a dialogue on a workable framework. ICANN Org also briefed the Board on the progress of the ODP, including financial and resource reporting, and regular meetings with the GNSO Council Liaison and the ODP team to address any policy-related questions that may arise.

The day ended with a session on the System for Standardized Access/Disclosure (SSAD) to Nonpublic Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Registration Data, led by Becky Burr. In January, ICANN Org completed its first ODP and published an Operational Design Assessment (ODA) for SSAD, with the aim of helping the Board in its consideration of the GNSO's policy recommendations. The Board has reviewed the ODA and is grateful to the team for its work. The ODA, which provides a detailed analysis of how the SSAD recommendations may be implemented, has proven valuable to continuing the Board's consultation with the GNSO Council on the EPDP Phase 2 team's SSAD policy recommendations.

Recently, ICANN Org proposed to the GNSO Council's Small Team an SSAD Light concept, which closely aligns with the proof-of-concept the Small Team outlined in its Preliminary Report to the Council. Based on the design described in the ODA, the SSAD Light is a simplified, cost-effective process for submitting and receiving requests for nonpublic gTLD registration data. The Board discussed the proposed SSAD Light Design Paper and requested that the Board's Caucus on General Data Protection Regulation meet and consider the implications of the proposal and next steps.

Sunday, 1 May

The last day of the workshop began with an overview from the ICANN Org Meetings team on the health and safety protocols planned for ICANN74. The Board also discussed how ICANN Org evaluates risk in a given location, and factors that can help determine if it is safe to meet in person. The Board encouraged ICANN Org to continue identifying criteria in addition to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's risk assessments, such as the guidance of the health authorities in a given country.

Next, Avri led a session updating on the implementation of the recommendations from the third Accountability and Transparency Review (ATRT3), including the Pilot Holistic Review Terms of Reference work and the Pilot Planning Prioritization Framework, which aims to give ICANN Org and the Community an opportunity to test the processes and methodologies developed in the draft framework. We then reviewed a proposal for the Board to act on three of the recommendations still pending from the Second Security, Stability, and Resiliency Review (SSR2) Team Final Report. At the Board Meeting following this session, the Board took this SSR2-related action as well as several other resolutions.

As always, we ended the workshop with a reflection session on what went well and what could be better – part of our commitment to continuous improvement. The overwhelming conclusion was that we have learned how to make the most of virtual meetings, and we are thankful to the ICANN Board Operations team that facilitated the transition from a hybrid workshop to a virtual one in mere days.

We are looking forward to getting together at ICANN74 and working face-to-face again with those who feel comfortable doing so. For those who cannot make it to The Hague or feel uncomfortable due to the ongoing risk of COVID-19, our goal is to ensure they can also participate effectively.

We are committed to making sure ICANN74 takes place next month as a hybrid meeting as planned, and to having our first hybrid Board Workshop just before it. Those planning to attend in person will be asked to observe the health and safety measures in place for ICANN74 to provide a welcoming environment for all. As with the virtual ICANN meetings we developed over time, our plan is to build on the experience of our first hybrid event toward future events.

I look forward to seeing you in the city where I was born, whether in the room or via Zoom. Let's make the most of ICANN74!


Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member