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Highlights from the June Board Workshop and ICANN74

5 July 2022
By Maarten BottermanMaarten Botterman

Last month at ICANN74, many of us met face-to-face for the first time since November 2019 for a hybrid meeting in The Hague, Netherlands. In some ways this meeting marked a return to what "we've always done," yet with more emphasis on enabling effective online participation via Zoom, as well as with additional health and safety measures to be able to meet responsibly in person, bringing together participants from more than 100 countries. This was an important step toward best-in-class hybrid meetings, where participation both in the room and online is optimized.

ICANN74 was attended by more than 1,800 participants, roughly half of whom attended in person. Most sessions featured smooth participation by both in-person and virtual attendees. On behalf of the Board, I would like to congratulate the ICANN Organization (Org) for its excellent preparation and support throughout the meeting. And I would like to thank the ICANN Community for your hard work at ICANN74, both onsite and virtually, and for your diligent contributions during the fully virtual meetings over the past few years.

Just before ICANN74, the ICANN Board met 10–12 June for a workshop. It was our first hybrid meeting since the pandemic began. With some Board members participating remotely and others in person, we had the opportunity to experience the hybrid setup and the health and safety measures prior to the Policy Forum. Here, I wanted to share what the Board discussed during our workshop. I will conclude with key takeaways from ICANN74.

Board Workshop

Friday, 10 June

The Board began the workshop as usual with a dialogue with ICANN President and CEO Göran Marby. After this, we reflected on our Board Operational Priorities in a session led by Board Vice-Chair León Sánchez. The results of this session will be reflected in our next update on our Board Operational Priorities and will feed into the development of CEO goals for fiscal year 2023. Over the years, setting these priorities has helped us focus on initiatives that enable the Board to work toward our mission effectively.

After this, Léon led a session on Community participation. Despite the global health crisis, participation at ICANN meetings has remained steady, thanks in part to initiatives such as the Pandemic Internet Reimbursement Program, improved virtual attendance options, and regional readouts. We are determined to keep serving those who are best able to contribute virtually while transitioning back to in-person participation in ICANN meetings in the months to come. We also discussed plans to boost Community engagement through a forthcoming virtual Fellowship Program.

Next, Matthew Shears led the Board in a session focused on evaluating ICANN's strategic objective to "evolve the unique identifier systems in coordination and collaboration with relevant parties to continue to serve the needs of the global Internet user base." These strategic planning sessions are an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss the objectives and goals outlined in the ICANN Strategic Plan.

The session included an assessment of how ICANN is progressing toward the targeted outcomes and mitigating the strategic risks for unique identifier systems. The focus of this session was on the strategic goals pertaining to Universal Acceptance (UA) and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), in addition to how the New Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program contributes to achieving these goals. The session provided the Board an opportunity to look at how trends and other factors could impact ICANN's strategic objective on unique identifier systems in the future.

Saturday, 11 June

On the second day, Mandla Msimang and Matthew facilitated an update on the project seeking to address Enhancing the Effectiveness of ICANN's Multistakeholder Model, a strategic priority for ICANN. The project consists of evaluating existing initiatives that support the multistakeholder model and identifying gaps. The Board plans to integrate the project into the work of the Organizational Effectiveness Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee.

Next, the Board received an update on the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures (SubPro) Operational Design Phase, facilitated by Avri Doria. A major topic of discussion at ICANN74, SubPro touches on many other important issues, including Domain Name System (DNS) abuse, IDNs, and closed generics.

Next, Becky Burr led a session on the System for Standardized Access/Disclosure (SSAD) to Nonpublic gTLD Registration Data. The Board discussed the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council's request to proceed with the design paper for a simpler ticketing system. Considering the expected impact on other ongoing projects, the Board concluded that this matter required further discussion with the Council during ICANN74.

Sarah Deutsch and James Galvin then gave an update on the Board Caucus on DNS Abuse's recent activities and facilitated a discussion regarding the next steps for the Board Caucus and the Board regarding DNS abuse. The Board is aligned that the DNS security threats measured in the Domain Abuse Activity Reporting System are within ICANN's mission and technical capability to help address. As with UA, some of the work related to DNS abuse will require action from other actors in the wider Internet ecosystem, and we continue to follow the Community's initiatives with interest.

To close out the day's sessions, Harald Alvestrand delivered a semiannual report from the Board Risk Committee. Risk assessments are now deeply integrated in our way of working, and discussion by the full Board is an important aspect of ensuring we stand ready to support ICANN Org whenever action is necessary.

Sunday, 12 June

On the final day of the workshop, Göran, León, and I met with leaders of the ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees to discuss topics of importance at the Policy Forum. Over time, I have learned to truly appreciate the opportunity to listen to those who are deeply involved in the work of the Community, as well as to discuss issues that affect us all and how they relate to the work and interests of ICANN.

In the afternoon, James facilitated a session on the policy discussions planned for ICANN74 to ensure we were fully prepared and able to meaningfully contribute to those discussions. For a summary of the policy outcomes, be sure to read the forthcoming "ICANN74 Policy Outcomes Report."

Then ICANN Org staff provided an update on the Planning Prioritization Framework Project. The draft framework recommends adding a new prioritization step to the planning process. Community volunteers successfully completed a pilot of the draft framework in May. Next, the framework will be revised as needed and implemented for the fiscal year 2024 planning cycle. The implementation of this framework aims to enhance ICANN's overall planning process. The new prioritization step will increase ICANN Org's ability to plan for and complete work in an efficient and timely manner, and the Board believes that bottom-up processes are key to delivering on our mission.

Finally, the workshop concluded with a Board Meeting, during which we approved several resolutions, including accepting the recommendations of the Cross-Community Working Group on New gTLD Auction Proceeds. The ICANN Grant Giving Program, which I described in a blog, will fund projects in support of the global interoperability, reliability, and security of the Internet's unique identifiers.

ICANN74, 13–16 June

Across 105 sessions, ICANN74 participants advanced issues such as DNS abuse, closed generics, and IDNs. At their welcome session, At-Large Advisory Committee leaders discussed the connection between SubPro and efforts to mitigate DNS abuse, as well as plans to advance IDNs through a pilot project in India. During its session on SSAD, the GNSO Council considered the impact of developing the simpler ticketing system on other ICANN activities. The Governmental Advisory Committee, in its joint session with the Board, emphasized the importance of the global public interest framework. And during the plenary session on who sets ICANN's priorities, Community members noted the necessity of transparency and multistakeholderism in setting ICANN's priorities.

The enhanced ICANN meeting format, including the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, proved successful. This included relying on in-person participants to self-evaluate how they were feeling and self-administer a rapid antigen test provided by ICANN each day before entering the venue. The on-site entry process also was different from prior meetings to allow for temperature screenings and vaccination status checks.

Overall, meeting participants indicated that they experienced a collegial, respectful, welcoming environment. While some may have been more comfortable without any protections, others valued the protections in place. Thank you to everyone for observing the health and safety protocols; for participating via Zoom even while on site to allow all attendees to engage equally; and for your continued support for fostering an environment that allows the multistakeholder way of working to thrive.

If you attended ICANN74, please be sure to email any feedback to icann74feedback@icann.org so that we can continue to evolve and improve the ICANN meeting experience. It was a real pleasure to see and speak with many of you again, and I look forward to seeing you at an even better ICANN75!

Authors

Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member
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