As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted physical events across Europe in early 2020, the Internet community quickly came together to explore new ways of engaging. Key engagement events, such as those organized by the National and Regional Initiatives (NRIs) on Internet Governance (IG), were challenged by lockdowns and stay at home orders. Annual event circuit staples and essential face-to-face meetings, where we would meet with the community and new stakeholders and run workshops, were being cancelled or postponed.
To support the growth of effective participation in the region, ICANN contributed to the planning process and redesign of a series of national and regional engagement events by lending our experience and expertise where needed.
In these adverse conditions, ICANN and the larger IG community showed their resilience and innovation by contributing to the redesign of virtual events, achieving remarkable results and exceptional attendance. Two events in Europe are worth mentioning as we look back at 2020.
SEEDIG 6, the sixth annual meeting of the South Eastern European Dialogue on Internet Governance, was to be held in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. Instead, the event was held virtually from 21-25 September and divided into thematic tracks, including Internet infrastructure, trust, and security. Universal Acceptance, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), cybersecurity, and the challenges of an open and decentralized Internet were among the themes addressed. Multiplatform streaming of the event allowed participants to join via Facebook and YouTube. We saw over 1,000 views during the week. SEEDIG 6 also introduced an innovative array of creative sessions that were positively received. Some of those sessions included: SEEtalks for one-on-one interviews with experts in digital and policy issues; the living library that focused discussions on key digital policy organizations; and arts and virtual reality for a peek into the most cutting-edge evolution of technology.
The Internet Governance Forum Italia 2020 (IGFItalia2020), held between 7-9 October, is another example of a successful virtual event. The multistakeholder program committee worked to adapt the event to a new hybrid format. The Forum involved in-person events hosted in four different cities and livestreamed through a network of 54 Chambers of Commerce across the country, as well as online via Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom. Each office of the Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to organize its own satellite event and invite participants, which led to a series of events beyond 7-9 October.
The Italian IGF agenda included sessions dedicated to the resilience of the Internet and the role played by the national country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries and Internet service providers (ISPs) in ensuring that their services endured during constant peak demand. The online format also allowed a more global flavor, with a panel comprised of representatives from the global IGF, the United Nations High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (UNHLPDC), and the World Wide Web Foundation. With over 5,000 registered participants on Zoom, the overall reach of the event was further amplified by the social media channels, reaching 35,000 views on YouTube and Facebook.
These two events lead the way in the regional efforts to evolve and adapt our engagement strategies: finding new ways to partner with the local community, sharing our platform and experiences with organizing the virtual ICANN meetings this year, as well as exploring new formats for discussion and engagement.
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated many trends in new engagement and event formats that we expect to stay and further evolve to adapt with the changing reality. We will continue to work with the community to learn, evolve our engagement, and adapt our support.