As we continue work on the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Subsequent Procedures (SubPro) Operational Design Phase (ODP), I would like to introduce Work Track 5, which focuses on vendor procurement. Vendor evaluation panels are a critical aspect of the technical and financial reviews of applications for new gTLDs, among others. In preparation for the next round of new gTLD applications, the ICANN org is developing the necessary plans to retain vendors to conduct many of these assessments.
ICANN org uses vendors either to add expertise in areas outside of its scope or to add capacity for parts of the process that can't be scaled internally. The vendors are secured according to a standard, formal procurement process. For the 2012 gTLD application round, 28 vendors were needed to support the assessment of the 1,930 applications. The current operational design work anticipates a similar approach for future rounds: bringing in vendors with a high level of expertise to provide a fair, accurate, and expeditious evaluation of gTLD applications.
All gTLD applications will go through a series of required evaluation steps including, for example, string similarity review and background screening. In addition, based on the policy recommendations the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council's Final Report on the new gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process, future rounds will include evaluation elements for which ICANN org may require evaluation panel vendors to be utilized in a different way or in new areas, such as:
- Identifying applied-for gTLD strings classified as belonging to a highly sensitive or regulated industry. Based on the outputs of the Final Report, some applied-for strings might fall into one of four categories of highly sensitive or regulated industries. We anticipate this may require using a vendor to review all applied-for strings and determining whether a string falls into one of these categories.
- Pre-evaluating registry service providers (RSPs). The Final Report recommended that RSPs have the option of being evaluated prior to the opening of the application window. This differs from the technical evaluation performed in the last round and would likely be performed by a vendor with expertise in technical operations.
The Work Track 5 team has a critical role in planning for the smooth operation of future gTLD application rounds. They are working with multiple teams across ICANN org to identify processes that will require either specialized expertise or scalable capacity to evaluate the applications or to augment other areas in need of additional capability. The team will establish guidelines related to vendor qualifications and contracting for these activities, as well as the estimated costs needed to acquire those vendors. The results of this work will be factored into the Operational Design Assessment. Our analysis indicates that some vendors will provide services timed to specific steps in application processing, while others may be required to provide services over the length of the round.
Work Track 5 is responsible for responding to many challenges, including: identifying vendors with specialized capabilities; supporting quality assurance; addressing potential conflicts of interest; and producing consistent application evaluations. All these factors inform the overall estimates for the project's timeline and resources.
To stay up to date on the SubPro ODP, visit our webpage or reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, remember to register to attend ICANN75 Prep Week and the ICANN75 Annual General Meeting for more discussion, news, and updates.