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ICANN Strategic Planning Process for the July 2007 - June 2010 Strategic Plan

Issues identified during the initial consultation process

8 September 2006

Background

The ICANN Strategic Plan is a three year plan that is reviewed and updated annually. The ICANN planning calendar is divided into separate, two month segments. Strategic planning occurs during the first six months of the fiscal year and operating planning and budgeting occurs during the second six months. The present strategic and operating plans can be found at http://www.icann.org/announcements/strategic-plan-22jun06.htm and http://www.icann.org/announcements/operating-plan-22jun06.htm , respectively.

At the ICANN meeting in Marrakech, the consultation process for the July 2007 - June 2010 Strategic Plan was launched. Consultation sessions were conducted in English, Spanish, French and Arabic. Questions were also posted on an online forum to allow members of the ICANN community who were not able to attend the Marrakech meeting to contribute to the consultation process.

As might be expected in the annual review of a three year plan, there are many issues that were noted in the July 2006 - June 2009 Strategic Plan that remain relevant. In addition, given that the plan only commenced operation in July, the impact of initiatives identified in the plan has yet to be seen. There is, therefore, significant overlap between the issues in the July 2006 - June 2009 Strategic Plan and the issues raised for the July 2007 - June 2010 Strategic Plan. This issues paper acknowledges that overlap by combining the challenges and opportunities identified for the July 2006 - June 2009 Strategic Plan with material generated by the recent consultation. Members of the community who were involved in the Strategic Planning process in 2006 will see many common themes and a continuation of the ideas developed in last year's planning process.

Key challenges and opportunities for ICANN

Although some aspects of the ICANN environment move "at Internet speed", many of the major drivers are more constant and remain relevant over many years. This list of challenges and opportunities builds on issues identified last year and includes comments from the recent round of consultation.

  1. The continued rise of the Internet as a truly global means of communication and the need for ICANN to meet the needs of a truly global stakeholder base
  2. Ensuring stability and security in an environment of increased threats
  3. The increasing importance of the infrastructure of the Internet for a broad range of critical commercial and communication applications
  4. A wide range of abusive behaviours in the Internet environment that may be placed at ICANN's doorstep
  5. Maintaining stability given expected increases in scale driven by the number of devices using the Internet and the number of users
  6. Multiple complicated changes to Internet operations or protocols that need to be managed in parallel, including possible paradigm changes not yet anticipated
  7. Significant increases in the volume of policy and management work that needs to be done
  8. Continuous evolution of commercial applications and business models that use the Internet
  9. Possible fracturing of the current system perhaps brought about by some users becoming dissatisfied with perceived restrictions imposed by technical protocols or by actions of a government or governments
  10. ICANN taking an appropriate role in the broad group of international entities involved in Internet functions
  11. Developing alternate, secure, stable sources of revenue and adequate cash reserves
  12. An o obligation to review and renew ICANN processes in order to operate most effectively in a post-MOU environment

Major issues that need to be considered in the July 2007 - June 2010 Strategic Plan

This section is a synthesis of the community's views on the issues that need to be discussed in order to establish strategic priorities for ICANN for the period of the July 2007 - June 2010 plan.

I. Internationalization remains an important issue for the ICANN community. The continued growth of the Internet as a truly global means of communication will place a number of demands on ICANN:

  • Many members of the community believe ICANN should be doing more to assist the development of Internet communities in developing countries. This might include awareness raising about Internet issues, training on technical issues and education about the role that ICANN plays. In particular, some have suggested that ICANN should provide more support for the growth of the Internet in the developing world. This might include analysing limitations to Internet growth and working with local communities and other stakeholders to facilitate usage whilst maintaining security and stability.
  • ICANN's business processes need to continue to move to a more international framework, reaching beyond the translation of documents to the acceptance of a broad range of business cultures and practices to ensure a level playing field for people across the globe. Many from outside North America and Western Europe feel that some ICANN processes are more easily understandable to those who are familiar with working in English in an American business/ legal framework. This needs to be changed if ICANN is to become more truly international, providing high quality service to stakeholders around the globe.
  • On a similar note, some were of the opinion that ICANN needs to have less of a "U.S. centric approach" in its culture and processes, with some suggesting that it needs to move away from being a company incorporated in the US.
  • ICANN's communication and meeting practices need to become more international, especially by broadening of the use of languages other than English for key documents and other communication.
    • While many believe that translation is important, there was no clear consensus among commentators on which documents should be translated, nor which languages should be used. Work has been scoped as part of the 2006-07 Operating Plan which should begin to address this concern.
    • The provision of forums in French, Spanish and Arabic during ICANN meetings has been very well received, and participants at these sessions encouraged the continuation of opportunities to work in their native language. Others have suggested that ICANN should hold regional meetings where there would be more opportunity to discuss issues in the languages of the region.
  • For some, the most important step in the further internationalization of ICANN is the establishment of regional presences. There are a number of reasons for suggesting this. Education and capability building in local communities would be more easily achieved through regional presences. It would also bring a knowledge of local laws, culture and context to improve ICANN business processes. In some cultures, having ICANN staff or a representative available to the region and from a similar culture provides a validity to ICANN's role. Others have suggested that the most important reason for regional presence is that it would make business processes more accessible by providing "in the same time zone" service. Others are not in favour of regional presences and in particular caution that any ICANN regional activity should not duplicate resources that already exist (e.g., ISOC, CENTR, ccTLD resources). A key issue for discussion in this planning cycle is which ICANN services and functions are best performed from one central location and which (if any) might best be provided on a local basis.

II. Closely linked to the issue of internationalization is the challenge of effective participation for all stakeholders. While the comments above about translation and meetings are certainly relevant here, the issue goes deeper than that. Some members of the community believed that the convergence of technologies that is leading to increased reliance on the infrastructure of the Internet means that there may be new stakeholder groups who need to be included in the ICANN community. ICANN may need to consider new (or enlarged or realigned) constituency groups for formal inclusion in the ICANN policy process. In addition, many believed there was a need to broaden and strengthen the membership of constituency groups, and to increase participation in ICANN policy processes.

III. Excellence in operations remains an important theme in the consultations. There is an acknowledgement that improvements have been made. A number of projects to improve operations and service have been identified in the 2006-07 Operating Plan. However, there is a need for ongoing improvement. In particular, many members of the community were keen to see clear measures and targets for operational deliverables included in this year's operating plan. The issue of risk management was also raised, with some concerned that ICANN be better prepared to deal with failure of a registry or registrar. (Projects to address this have been included in the 2006-07 Operating Plan)

IV. Excellence in policy development also remains a significant issue. Of particular concern is the development of processes to deal with policy issues that cut across current SO/AC boundaries or require significant input from more than one of these groups. The other issue that was raised was the need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the policy process by improving the skills of members of the ICANN community involved in policy work.

V. In particular, there were three significant projects or undertakings that involve major areas of operations and policy development that were identified for the July 2007 - June 2010 Strategic Plan. While significant work is ongoing in these areas, their completion remains of paramount importance:

  • Introduction of IDNs
  • Introduction of new TLDs
  • Ongoing Security and Stability issues

Next steps

This issues document will be sent to the Supporting Organizations (SOs) and Advisory Committees (ACs) so that they can review the issues raised by the community and make whatever comments they feel are useful in the context of preparing the strategic plan.

In addition, the document will be posted on the ICANN website in English, French, Spanish and Arabic and members of the community will be encouraged to make comments through the on-line forum.

Based on the feedback that is received from the SOs, ACs and other members of the community, a key priorities document will be prepared. This will be a short document that sets out the proposed major areas of strategic focus for ICANN over the next three years. The key priorities document will be distributed to the SOs and ACs and published on the ICANN website. Subject to comments from the SOs, ACs and members of the community, these priorities will form the basis of the strategic plan to be prepared and distributed in November for comment. A final version of the plan will be prepared for the Sao Paulo meeting. It is hoped that the strategic plan can be approved by the Board at the Sao Paulo meeting.

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