Philip Du Bois, general manager of DNS Belgium, looks back on the past year with satisfaction. The figures were better than expected, DNS Belgium achieved the targets and the efforts in the field of cyber security, sustainability and operational excellence were rewarded. We want to do at least just as well in 2020.
The amount of registration extensions of existing domain names as well as the number of new registrations exceeded expectations in 2019. ‘We thought growth would stagnate, but it was not the case’, says Philip. ‘In addition, our work received several acknowledgements. Our website won prizes and CENTR gave us two awards for our efforts in the field of security. VOKA Vlaams-Brabant appointed us climate ambassador. We try to work sustainably, both socially and ecologically, and it's very pleasant when your efforts are recognised. 2019 was a great year. The challenge for 2020 therefore is to do everything at least as well and to focus on different things'.
What will we focus on in 2020?
Philip Du Bois: ‘Cyber security remains very important and we want to focus even more on the security of the .be zone. We want to detect as much fraudulent use of .be-domain names as possible and proactively remove them from the zone based on objective criteria. In this way we can also set ourselves apart from the commercial extensions, such as for example, .shop, .app, .immo. As a non-profit organisation we are able to reinvest the money we make to thus create the most secure possible zone. It is not interesting for commercial zones to remove domain names. We have no hesitation doing this when a .be-domain name is abused. By tackling fraud, we increase consumer confidence. This is very important, as it’s one of our core tasks to stimulate the use of the internet by the general public.’
And what, in addition to cybersecurity, will be another focal point in 2020?
‘Another important action item is Digital for Youth, which we launched in 2019 to distribute laptops to organisations which focus on youngsters and digitisation. Our ambition is to give away a thousand laptops in 2020. Together with the King Baudouin foundation we will organise at least three calls for distribution of these laptops. But we also want to look ahead and see what we can do to attract more members and get more sponsoring. We will investigate whether we might be able to get subsidies from the Belgian or European government, or whether we can talk to donors directly to put more laptops on the market. To increase our services in the social economy, we need to look at whether we can also provide support via partners, in addition to hardware, for the maintenance and repair of laptops, for example.’
Are you planning any internal changes?
Philip Du Bois: ‘Operational excellence is one of our pillars. We will therefore continue to analyse our efficiency. In 2020 we will set up operational KPIs to find out if we are doing as well as we think we are. For instance, we will measure the number of releases per year. A release is literally releasing a piece of new software on a production environment. Four years ago, we had five big releases a year. If you then found a mistake in the code you had to recall everything from production. In 2019 we did 76 smaller releases and by 2021 we want to hit 200. The number of releases is a good parameter for your efficiency because to be able to do so many releases, a number of processes have to be completely automated. The impact on the system is minimal if you do several small releases and possible bugs can be remedied sooner. This creates a more secure system and increases the productivity of your organisation. In other words, it is a way to continue providing quality.’
Are significant evolutions imminent in the industry?
Philip Du Bois: When it comes to domain names, I see a challenge in major internet players entering the domain of local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Telenet, for example. When a person types a domain name in his/her browser , ISP asks us where the information of this domain name is located. Connecting a domain name to a location is known as resolving. Customers don't notice anything of this because their ISP immediately takes them to the right website, thanks to us. The Googles and Mozillas of this world will take over and create the optional possibility in the browser on your PC to resolve directly through them with us and no longer through your ISP. This means they can see all the websites you visit and all your online interactions.’
Does that worry you?
Philip Du Bois: ‘Yes, it does. These major players already possess a lot of data about people. They might say they're going to encrypt your resolving data so that others can't access them, but do you want Google to know even more about you? I also wonder if it's not going to distort the market and harm our ISPs. I suppose one could say that as a user you prefer to see ads that interest you. But so much concentration of data at major parties is worrying. If you see how Facebook handles our data, it is wise to be careful.’