Moving towards a data-driven ICANN (Cross-community session)

22 Mar 2017 01:00h

Event report

The session aimed to start a strategic dialogue on the importance of data and metrics in the context of ICANN, especially to enable: 1. evidence based policy making; 2. organisational and community development; 3. a cleaner and safer DNS; 4. the development of new and better businesses; 5. enhancing public trust.

ICANN has already begun to work on some initiatives in this area with the gTLD Marketplace Health Index and the Identifier Technology Health Indicators. But so far there is no strategic thinking around data and the issue is not ‘owned’ at the most senior levels.

The speakers agreed that requests for more and better data are being made from different parts of the organisation, in initiatives such as the gTLD Marketplace Health Index – which aims to measure market concentration in different sectors of the new gTLD market – and during the work of the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice (CCT) Review Team. Thirty out of fifty recommendations made by the CCT Review Team are data-related.

Data is very important for evidence-based policy development at ICANN: it can help to identify problems, assess how serious they are, and prioritise them. It also allows for an assessment of the implementation – whether the policy was successful in solving the problem or not.

In spite of the importance of data, a large amount of it is not public. Some actors that operate within the ICANN framework own their databases and define how and by whom the information can be accessed.

Building data-driven businesses within the context of ICANN is important as well. Data can reveal important elements in the DNS market, such as market activity and potential slow-down, market growth, competition levels, deficit of innovation, and the perception of registrants. It can also provide market intelligence. For example: for a long time it was believed that registrants prefer shorter domain names, however, recent data suggests that individuals prefer longer and rather descriptive domains.

Data is also important for ICANN and its community to be able to tell their organisational story. There is little information, for example, on the number of jobs directly and indirectly created by the domain name industry, and the levels of community engagement. Initiatives put forth by other organisations, such as the Internet Measurement Project of the Internet Society, have successfully used data to tell a narrative. ICANN needs to use data to tell its story.

In order to bring data to the core of ICANN’s activities, some steps are necessary, such as: a) hiring a data specialist; b) adjusting community expectations when it comes to balancing privacy and openness; c) putting data governance frameworks in place.

With that in mind, ICANN recently launched an open data initiative. The project tasks ICANN staff with the mission of preparing ICANN to open data standards, to improve the way ICANN generates and collects data, and to devise a plan so that the collected data is made public over time.

Some challenges to achieving these goals within the context of ICANN are: a) data has been collected for a long time in different formats; b) there is no document planning framework, there are distributed curation and disperse formats; c) the initiative is not a priority in the budget; d) there is need to reconcile privacy and the possibility of personally identifying data with contractual obligations of the parties involved; e) re-publishing data acquired from third parties presents constraints.

The open data project will start with a pilot, with the following components: a) identify ICANN managed data; b) deploy the pilot project; c) determine a process for making data public; d) listen to the community for prioritisation hints.