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What’s New at ICANN’s Development and Public Responsibility Department?

26 January 2016
By Nora Abusitta

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Following a review of the previous year at ICANN’s Development and Public Responsibility Department (DPRD), my team and I are excited about what 2016 will bring. As an important part of ICANN’s Community-Approved Five Year Strategic Plan, we have worked hard to support current and new stakeholders’ participation at ICANN, and have supported our internal staff through programs, tools and collaborative efforts aimed at making the multistakeholder model stronger and more diverse.

In 2015, our flagship meeting programs – the Fellowship Program, Newcomers Day and NextGen@ICANN – have gone from strength to strength, and we are proud to announce a 97% satisfaction rate across those participants surveyed. During 2015, we also conducted the ‘Where are they now?’ survey of Fellowship alumni (read here) and saw, for the very first time, a Fellow nominated to the ICANN Board.

For the Marrakech ICANN55 meeting in March, NextGen@ICANN will consist of 30 participants and two ambassadors. Thus far, NextGeners have joined At-Large chapters and working groups, hosted remote hubs, returned as NextGen Ambassadors, held large-scale academic outreach events to help spread the word about ICANN on their university campuses and joined the Fellowship program.

The Fellowship Program allows individuals who are familiar with ICANN, but have not yet fully participated in the community, to attend an ICANN Public Meeting in a tailored and supportive program. The program gives these community members the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and deepen their engagement by participating in person and working closely with the rest of the community. Applicants must either be citizens of eligible countries that are classified by the World Bank as low, lower-middle, and upper-middle economies or listed on the United Nation’s (UN) Listing of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

We are currently preparing for the launch of the Community Mentorship Program pilot at ICANN55, which will match experienced community members with those new within their respective ICANN Community Groups. This pilot will build capacity with each ICANN stakeholder group, encourage skill set and knowledge sharing and cultivate a self-sustaining mentor structure of new generations of volunteers and leaders. This is part of a larger effort across ICANN to map and support the Stakeholder Journey, targeting individuals between newcomer and leadership stages of the multistakeholder model.

Our focus on supporting education and academic outreach saw the launch of a revamped ICANN Learn at ICANN54. This new platform has an enhanced user interface, allowing for dynamic course content and easy access to take or instruct a course. Following the migration from the old platform, ICANN Learn now houses 20 updated courses with 8-10 video-centric courses currently in development. Video has become a strong feature on the new platform, with more than 110 hours of videos watched in just one course over a period of one month. We are currently looking at expanding language capabilities in non-UN languages and scripts, such as Thai. We have also formalized an approach to internships and are looking forward to welcoming new interns to the pilot offices of Istanbul, Singapore, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., this year.

Through our focus on supporting collaboration in the Internet ecosystem, we have supported internal departments in their evaluation of sponsorship requests, supported complementary efforts such as the World Summit Awards, and provided Secretariat support to the NETmundial Initiative, which built, launched and maintains open, collaborative tools such as the NETmundial Solutions Map and the NETmundial Collaboration Platform. As a result of our engagement with the World Economic Forum in 2015, the WEF is now in the first year of a multi-year initiative, which is focused on research and meeting challenges related to the Future of the Internet.

We are also supporting preparations for the start of the conversation on next steps related to the new gTLD auction proceeds, and have established a wikispace as a resource for starting a dialogue to explore the ‘public interest within ICANN’s remit.' This wikispace is the result of months of research and conversations across ICANN, and will be featured as a topic for a High Interest Session at ICANN55.

In our review of 2015, we have also been taking stock of feedback from stakeholders on how we can improve existing work and better support the multistakeholder model. We have begun addressing this feedback through the new approach to ICANN Learn and pilot programs such as the Community Mentorship Program pilot. As part of our ongoing dialogue with stakeholders on improving current programing, one particular area we are currently reviewing is the selection criteria for the ICANN Fellowship Program, with the goal of increasing inclusivity.

If you have questions on any of the above, or would like to provide feedback for the ICANN Development and Public Responsibility Department to consider, please email us at DPRD@icann.org. You can also stay up to date on the ICANN website, and on our program landing page. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wishing you every success in 2016!


Nora Abusitta