In our first instalment of the Leaders of Tech Q&A series, we speak to auDA CEO Rosemary Sinclair about Australia's digital transformation and how her experience in technology and consumer advocacy prepared her for auDA.
You recently passed your one-year anniversary in the role of CEO at auDA – can you provide us with some reflections on your first year at the helm of Australia’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)?
It has been an incredibly rewarding 12-months leading auDA’s small yet hardworking team, which shifted to remote working mode only two short weeks into my time as CEO.
Throughout 2020, the Internet became inextricably linked to what we came to know as “the COVID normal” – working from home, attending virtual classrooms, shopping online, conducting telehealth visits to our GPs, socialising via video calls and shifting bricks and mortar businesses online. This undoubtedly reinforced a greater appreciation for connectivity in the minds of Australians, and the vital importance of organisations such as auDA that deliver essential Internet services.
For me, it affirmed my mission at auDA - to support the Internet to benefit Australia’s digital society and economy. This goal has never been more important.
You have a strong background in technology and consumer advocacy. How did that prepare you for auDA and the domain name industry?
During my career, I’ve often found myself at the centre of significant technological advancements that have driven large-scale societal change.
From my early days at Telecom Australia, to my time at the Australian Telecommunications User Group and Energy Consumers Australia, I know it is essential to understand what matters to consumers in order to innovate and meet and exceed their needs.
At auDA that takes effect by engaging closely with registrars, industry partners, members, civil society and our international counterparts to understand how we can best deliver value to Australians and ensure the .au domain supports the evolving needs of Internet users.
Digital transformation has been a key theme throughout 2020 and 2021. What is auDA’s role in Australia’s digital transformation?
The .au domain is part of Australia’s critical communications infrastructure, which has underpinned the dramatic digital transformation we’ve seen across the country over the last 12 months.
There has been significant growth in .au domain name registrations as organisations have taken the decision to “go online”. Thanks to the high bar we set for security and reliability, the .au is a trusted choice for consumers. We have seen:
- In Q1 this year, new domain name registrations were up 23 percent compared to the first quarter in 2020
- In March this year, the .au registry recorded more than 3.3 million domain names under management for the first time, up 4.1 percent from March 2020 (that’s around one .au domain name for every eight Australians).
This shows that the .au domain is important to – and increasingly relied upon – by Australians. auDA’s role is to further improve the security and reliability of the .au domain to support growing consumer expectations and the opportunities that arise from Australia’s ongoing digital transformation.
auDA is a member-led organisation – what are the key issues for auDA members and how are you working to address them?
auDA has almost 4,000 members and they are critical to helping us understand issues of importance to Australian Internet users. From feedback in our 2020 member survey and speaking to members at our recent member networking events, we know that they are interested in building the utility the .au domain provides Australians.
They also take an active interest in .au domain policy developments. Almost three out of four survey respondents hold a .au domain name licence and many are small business owners that want to keep themselves or their clients up to date on domain name policy. Naturally, they are also interested in are interested in cyber security and digital innovation.
We are currently planning our next member events and I look forward to engaging with our members again soon, both face-to-face and in the online environment.
What is one critical issue you see on the horizon for the domain name system?
A full and prosperous economic recovery from Australia’s COVID-19 crisis relies in large part on the performance of critical communications infrastructure, including the .au domain.
Accordingly, we are dedicated to ensuring the security and reliability of the .au domain name system so that the DNS gets you to the service you want quickly and accurately – every time you type a .au domain name into your Internet search bar or send an email ending in .au.
We know that cybercrime is on the rise globally and presents an ongoing challenge to ccTLDs, businesses and individuals. That is why cyber security is a continual focus for us, be it through training auDA staff in global security standards, consultation with government on its Critical Infrastructure Bill, partnering with others to uplift security across the industry, contributing to global initiatives to combat DNS abuse, and effective validation requirements for registrants in .au, which keeps .au statistics for DNS abuse well below the global average.
You’re currently working to develop auDA’s new corporate strategy to shape the organisation’s future direction. What can people expect to see?
Our strategy development has been a collaborative process across the whole of auDA – our team shares a driving focus to deliver .au services that benefit Australians.
We will release our strategy for consultation in Q3 this year but you will see an ongoing commitment to raise awareness of the .au domain and trust in it, to drive innovation internally and across the sector, and to partner with industry and the community to support Australia’s digital transformation. We will, of course, also continue to engage in multi-stakeholder Internet governance processes to support an open, free and secure Internet, from which we know economic and social opportunities flourish.
I’m looking forward to much valuable and insightful discussion with our community as we refine our vision for the coming years.