On behalf of the Board, I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication in support of fulfilling ICANN’s mission to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers.
2019 has been a year of change, as are most years. Since the first message was sent over the Internet 50 years ago, continuous innovation in technology and services, along with wide usage, have made it an essential part of the infrastructure that allows society to function.
Essential elements of the Internet are the result of decisions made decades ago. Since that time, both the technical context and political significance have changed dramatically, resulting in real challenges with regards to safe and secure use of the Internet. Overcoming these challenges can only happen through the collaborative efforts of the stakeholders who helped to evolve the Internet, together with new stakeholders for whom access to one global Internet has much to offer.
Today, more than 4.5 billion people around the world use the Internet, representing more than half of the world’s population. Even with this unprecedented growth, the Internet works. It was never built to be safe; it was built to be used. However, it will require all of us to ensure that as the Internet changes and evolves, it remains a useable, trusted, and safe resource in the future.
The Internet governance ecosystem has been evolving for decades. ICANN plays an important role in this ecosystem. With a clear focus on our mission and the community-led, multistakeholder process of policy development, the Board embarked on 2019 with a commitment to continuous improvements in accountability, process, and transparency.
After many years of focus on the New gTLD Program, and the IANA transition, the ICANN Board of Directors is now focusing on improving Board governance and our interaction with the community, to work together more effectively. This includes engaging with the community earlier in its work on policies and reviews to avoid surprises when community recommendations reach the Board. We also supported actions to make ICANN a safer place for all to participate. And we are committed to continuous and ongoing improvement in the effectiveness of our processes.
Throughout the year, the Board addressed other issues, such as committing to include sustainable investment criteria in our investment policies, with the funds under management, and to more systematically track legislative and policy initiatives.
A key result from 2019 is the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, which provides the community, Board, and ICANN org with clear guidance on what must be prioritized in the coming years as the Internet continues to grow and evolve. This Strategic Plan is broken down into five key areas:
- Strengthen the security of the DNS
- Improve the effectiveness of ICANN’s multistakeholder model of governance
- Evolve the unique identifier systems in coordination and collaboration with relevant parties to continue to serve the needs of the global Internet user base
- Address geopolitical issues impacting ICANN’s mission to ensure a single and globally interoperable Internet
- Ensure ICANN’s long-term financial sustainability
Our activities in 2020 will be in full support of this plan. To put words into practice, ICANN org is developing the Fiscal Year 2021-2025 Operating and Financial Plan to ensure we can deliver. A draft plan will be put for public comment soon.
In 2019, we also began a conversation with the community about enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of ICANN’s multistakeholder model, with a focus on the future. This is one of the five key objectives of our Strategic Plan, and will be reflected in the Operating and Financial Plan, taking into account community input over the past year. And together, we started to develop more effective ways to prioritize and budget for community-led recommendations. A draft plan will be published for public comment very soon. Your input on those draft plans are important to ensure the best possible results.
With regard to the announced sale of PIR by ISOC to ETHOS, ICANN takes its responsibility in evaluating this proposed transaction very seriously. We will thoughtfully and thoroughly evaluate the proposed acquisition according to the .ORG Registry Agreement and our processes for reviewing such requests, with a clear focus on the security and stability of the DNS. We acknowledge the questions and concerns that are being raised and have urged PIR, ISOC, and Ethos Capital to act in an open and transparent manner throughout this process and to please be clear and open in all of their communications.
Together, with the entire community, we are creating the future. To fulfill ICANN’s vision to be a champion of the single, open, and globally interoperable Internet, there is more work to be done. Together, we stand ready to continue to fulfil our mission, and to work with other key stakeholders to create the conditions for all members of society to connect with one Internet, around the world.
I want to wish you all the best during a season that invites reflection both on what we learned throughout the past year, and on where we are heading in the New Year. Health and happiness to all, wherever you are.