From the outset, 2023 was a year of change and milestones for ICANN. We began the year with a new Interim President and CEO, and at the Annual General Meeting in October, we celebrated ICANN's 25th anniversary. Throughout 2023, we continued to achieve our goals and fulfill our mission to ensure a secure, stable, and unified global Internet.
In a momentous step for ICANN, the Board of Directors began the process of planning for the opening of the next round of new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications. For months, the ICANN Board, community, and organization (org) worked together to make tremendous progress on this long-awaited initiative. Much work remains ahead, as we embark on this effort to expand the Domain Name System (DNS) and to close the digital divide by launching the New gTLD Program: Next Round in April 2026.
In March, the global Internet community came together for the first-ever Universal Acceptance (UA) Day in New Delhi, India, where Edmon Chung, Sally Costerton, and I delivered remarks highlighting key aspects of UA. More than 50 events took place in more than 40 different countries, with several Board members participating in events in their regions. The events raised awareness and provided training to help governments, the technical community, and domain industry stakeholders understand the benefits of UA and how to make their systems UA-ready.
Also in March, the Board began the process of fulfilling one of its most important duties: selecting ICANN's next President and CEO. Under the leadership of ICANN CEO Search Committee Chair Chris Chapman, the Board held 15 listening sessions with stakeholders from across ICANN and the Internet ecosystem to identify the professional and personal attributes that are most needed in our next leader. We then created a comprehensive candidate profile and position description and appointed a global executive search agency, and the search is progressing as scheduled. The Board is also in the process of searching for a new ICANN Ombuds, under the leadership of Danko Jevtović.
This year, ICANN strengthened its partnership and collaboration with our Internet ecosystem partners as we collectively problem-solved. In particular, with our Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), we worked in unison to achieve common goals. In September, I participated remotely in the Africa Internet Summit, and during the Opening Ceremony I emphasized ICANN's commitment to actively contributing to Africa's digital transformation within its domain of expertise, with a particular focus on DNS operations and security. This commitment was highlighted in 2005 when ICANN recognized the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) as the Internet registry for Africa and the South Indian Ocean through Internet Coordination Policy-2, developed by the Address Supporting Organization. This development emphasized the pivotal position of AfriNIC in conjunction with the other RIRs. Also in September, members of the ICANN Board and org attended the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre's APNIC 56 conference, where I delivered welcome remarks commemorating APNIC's 30th anniversary.
All year, ICANN Board members dedicated substantial effort to engaging with the wider Internet community on the most-pressing issues. For example, León Sánchez spoke at the LAC Domain Names week in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Danko Jevtović spoke at the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association's APTLD84 meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea; Sarah Deutsch spoke at the Windsor Dialogues Series – Imagining the Possible in London, United Kingdom; Maarten Botterman spoke at the India School on Internet Governance in Guwahati, India; and Alan Barrett spoke at the African Regional At-Large Organization General Assembly in Accra, Ghana.
In October, I had the pleasure of addressing attendees of the Canadian Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Montréal, Canada, where I emphasized ICANN's critical role in maintaining a globally interoperable Internet. A significant delegation from the ICANN Board and org attended the global IGF in Kyoto, Japan. ICANN led five sessions, including an open forum on the many successes of multistakeholder Internet governance. Several Board members were invited to serve on panels; Becky Burr, for example, contributed legal and technical insights to a lively panel on current developments in DNS privacy. I attended bilateral meetings with many governments and global institutions highlighting the success of the multistakeholder model. As we approach the 20-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2025, ICANN is ready to uphold the multistakeholder model as the most adaptable, inclusive, and effective approach to Internet governance.
Rounding out the year, ICANN officially introduced the Registration Data Request Service in November, in line with the agreed-on time frame. The service will gather usage data to help inform the Board's consideration of the policy recommendations related to a System for Standardized Access/Disclosure.
The new year will bring a new set of deliverables, opportunities, and challenges. The ICANN Grant Program will be launched, permitting us to evaluate the program's effectiveness based on the first grant cycle. The Board is developing a new five-year Strategic Plan, which will allow ICANN to anticipate its challenges and capitalize on its opportunities. The Internet landscape continues to evolve, and the world's reliance on the Internet continues to grow. There are mounting pressures on the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, and new developments in the identifier technology space. Additionally, there is a recognition that the governance models of Internet ecosystem institutions need to be strengthened. These and many other topics will be examined while developing the next Strategic Plan.
On behalf of the Board, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone in the ICANN community for your tireless efforts this year. I am especially grateful for your unwavering commitment to collegiality, compromise, and creating a safe and inclusive environment. Going forward, I am committed to continuing to serve you to the best of my ability and to further streamlining and improving our interactions.
As we embark on another transformative year for ICANN, I am confident that we are united in our belief in our mission of one, global Internet. I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season with best wishes for 2024.