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Language Services at ICANN67

28 February 2020

As we prepare for our first virtual ICANN Public Meeting, we want to let you know about a temporary change to the language resources at the ICANN67 Virtual Community Forum.

ICANN serves a global community, and to facilitate participation ICANN org usually tries to make many of our events, meetings, and content accessible in the six United Nations languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish – as well as other languages when needed. The Virtual Community Forum format we are now planning poses unique challenges to providing real-time interpretation and translation. Despite these challenges we are committed to trying to mitigate the impact.

We recognize and appreciate how important the full offering of Language Services is to enable and broaden participation and facilitate the community's work. Our current capabilities and capacity are constrained by both the limited time to prepare and physical space constraints to create a suitable hub for ICANN67 operations.

Because of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, and thus the recent decision to hold ICANN67 as a virtual meeting, we've worked hard to shift from a physical meeting to a virtual meeting. This requires a complex technical setup with a short amount of time to build the capabilities. Due to the technical challenges, which are insurmountable given the short time available, as well as limited physical spaces to create a suitable hub for ICANN67 operations, we are not able to provide the same access to live interpretation or real-time transcription for ICANN67 as we would normally offer. After much consultation with the ICANN67 Community Planning group, including feedback about what they consider to be critical language services support for the ICANN67 Virtual Community Forum, balanced against the inherent limitations, we are pleased to tell you that we are able to provide language support in English (the main working language of ICANN) as well as live interpretation in Spanish and French.

In the place of the remaining three languages, we plan to offer capabilities that are similar, but not identical one-for-one replacements. Let me briefly explain why:

  • Each ICANN67 session will be held using the Zoom platform.

  • ICANN org has the ability to facilitate eight simultaneous Zoom rooms to manage the sessions. Each session Zoom room requires a corresponding physical session room to house the personnel and equipment required to facilitate the session (located in Los Angeles).

  • ICANN org has been able to put in place the physical facilities and technical capacity to host simultaneous interpretation in two of those rooms.

  • Two Zoom rooms will be set up with simultaneous interpretation support, and these two rooms will have interpretation services in Spanish and French. Spanish is being offered because it is the primary language of the original host country. French is being offered as a result of consultation with the community and requests by the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) and At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC).

  • The service will be available during the official meeting hours (e.g. 0900 – 1700 Cancún time).

  • Priority access to these rooms will be given to the GAC and ALAC sessions, in accordance with our Language Services policy, and live interpretation services will also be offered in Spanish and French for key sessions, such as the Public Forum or cross-community sessions.

  • Interpretation will be provided in a listen-only format, streaming out as a broadcast in Spanish and French. Participants will be able to submit written comments or questions in Spanish or French in the chat function. ICANN org linguists will interpret feedback and translate the question to English and share it with the Remote Participation Manager.

  • Real-time transcription services in English will be offered for some key sessions, such as the GAC sessions and Board meetings.

  • All session recordings and transcripts will be posted in English within 72 hours, and we will expedite delivery of transcripts in the other UN languages as soon as is possible thereafter. The exact delivery time will vary depending on the length of the session and other aspects; however, we will make every effort to get them to you faster than is typical after Public Meetings.

The org team is putting every effort into making this first-ever Virtual Community Forum a valuable experience, and we greatly appreciate the community's support. No doubt, we will learn important lessons in this extraordinary circumstance and be able to build out the capabilities if a situation like this arises in the future.

Additionally, to serve time zone-challenged participants, ICANN org will provide periodic updates and will facilitate ICANN67 regional readouts as quickly as possible after the meeting. These events will provide a summary of the key developments at the Public Meeting and the opportunity to discuss the issues with regional colleagues. We are still working on the details, but please make sure to subscribe to your regional newsletter to be notified as soon as the logistics are set.

We will provide more detail on how to access these resources on the ICANN67 Meeting page. Please read our Frequently Asked Questions to get more answers about the evolving Virtual Community Forum format. If you have feedback or suggestions, please contact our Global Support team.

Thank you again for your patience, and most importantly, for your participation in ICANN67, the first Virtual Community Forum.


Sally Newell Cohen

Sally Newell Cohen

SVP, Global Communications