ICANN Public Meetings are central to our multistakeholder model and an important venue for the community to advance our policy development work. Due to the global nature of the ICANN community, our public meetings have always allowed for virtual participation. The pandemic has required us to hold virtual-only meetings for more than a year. Now, as the pandemic eases in some parts of the world, we are looking to the future and considering which lessons that we have learned from our virtual meetings will carry over into our Public Meetings when it is safe to gather in person again.
The pandemic has affected residents in various countries in different ways, and the vaccine rollout is not occurring at the same pace across the world. As a result, some members of the ICANN community will feel safer to travel before the entire community is ready to do so safely. ICANN organization (org) remains focused on ensuring the accessibility of events whether in person, virtual, or a hybrid of the two.
Recently, we asked community members to complete a survey to gauge their general comfort level and the desired conditions for a return to in-person ICANN Public Meetings. While the results of this survey are not the only determining factor in the Board's decision to return to in-person meetings, they provide valuable input for the Board as it considers the future.
First and foremost, the health and safety of participants remains our highest priority. ICANN org has a dedicated team that continues to monitor the updates and recommendations from worldwide health authorities, global risk consultants, and travel partners. We will not hold an in-person meeting until it is safe to do so.
Also, we are closely tracking the extremely fluid situation regarding travel across the world. Borders remain closed in some parts of the world, while other borders are only open to returning citizens, as is the case in the United States today. We have learned from events over the last 15 months that we cannot definitively anticipate what the situation will be in October. There are many logistical challenges to holding an in-person meeting in such a rapidly evolving situation.
We are grateful to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey. The results show that the majority of the community is interested in returning to in-person meetings. We saw similar results when we asked if you would be willing to attend in person if safety precautions were taken, such as physical distancing, onsite rapid testing, and face mask requirements. You can see the full results of the survey here.
Public Meetings are most successful and productive when they are as inclusive as possible. The survey showed that there is some concern within the community about the possibility of reduced attendance and global diversity due to COVID travel restrictions. Around 50% of the survey respondents did not agree or were neutral on holding in-person meetings if it means a reduction in the global diversity of attendees.
The Board will decide soon whether to hold ICANN72 virtually, or as a hybrid meeting with both in-person and virtual components. The results of this survey will be used as input to the decision, but it is not the only input. The Board will also consider safety guidance, local restrictions, and, importantly, the equity issues resulting from who will likely be able to travel in October.
On Thursday, 17 June, we will host a community discussion at ICANN71 about the future of ICANN Public Meetings. Please join the session to share your thoughts and ask any questions you may have. We are grateful for the community's dedication to progressing the work, despite the many obstacles presented by the pandemic over the last year. We look forward to your continued participation – virtually at ICANN71, and in-person at some point in the future.