In our second instalment of the Leaders of Tech Q&A series, we speak to InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter about pioneering the Internet for good in New Zealand, what keeps him excited about working in the domain name industry and opportunities for ccTLDs such as .au and .nz.
You have a long history working in the DNS industry. How did you get started in it?
I actually joined InternetNZ as a member back in 2000, when there was an implementation of a new domain registration system with lots of bugs. I was on the Council for a few years helping to change our structure, and then got hired as a staff member working on domain name policy. I have found the industry and the broader Internet sector so interesting, and so fast changing, that it has ended up being my career!
What keeps you engaged and excited about the DNS industry?
The fact that the Internet is part of more and more aspects of our lives, and the centrality of online identity in that, is what keeps me most fascinated. The pace of change and the social impact of this technology are other angles. Basically, you have to keep learning and changing to be part of it, and that's what keeps me engaged.
InternetNZ is driven by the purpose “Internet for Good”. Can the internet be bad? What good are you and the InternetNZ team working to achieve?
Our purpose is to help Kiwis harness the power of the Internet. We want the Internet to be a force for good, and available to everyone. We want to see the Internet change and develop in ways that expand its positive impact, while diminishing the bad things that happen. The terrorist attacks on Muslim communities in Christchurch, and them being livestreamed, is an example of the Internet being put to bad use. So are more recent terrorist threats against Māori. The harms the Internet offers are something we need to unite around solving. Our other focus is working in the digital equity area, to make sure everyone in New Zealand can benefit from what the Internet can offer. As a complement to this, we run the Broadband Map that helps people see what connectivity they have at their address.
Like auDA, InternetNZ is a member-led organisation. What issues are InternetNZ members most passionate about?
Over the years we've seen member attention move beyond the DNS per se and into these broader social issues. Our annual survey shows strong member support for our work on digital inclusion and making the Internet better. In our annual NetHui events, hundreds of members and stakeholders come to talk about a range of Internet issues, and it’s the social impact the Internet is having, broadly speaking, that gets the most attention. We are moving to build more and stronger links with the Māori world — Te Ao Māori — in our work and that has broad based support across our membership.
How can we ensure .au and .nz continue to drive value for Internet users?
By keeping people's confidence that what we offer is secure and trusted, is the first point. After that, I think we can all do more in sharing stories of innovative uses of the DNS and domain names that help spread their use more broadly. There's an angle we are exploring more about how using a domain name for your online identity helps you keep it — and your data — under your own control. I think there's more to do there. Finally, we can also be brave in supporting broader Internet community dialogues about the impact the Internet is having and how society needs to respond. NetThing in Australia and NetHui in New Zealand are examples of that.
What emerging trends do you think present the biggest opportunity for ccTLDs such as auDA and InternetNZ?
I think the rising importance of online identity is crucial as an opportunity. With more and more of our lives happening online, especially highlighted by the pandemic, it becomes more important for service providers and others to know that the person behind the online identity is really who they say they are. This goes well beyond the DNS into how authoritative identity is presented online.
Another trend is the rising set of challenges around the security of the infrastructure we operate, since it's so important. Our research team's collaboration with experts overseas to uncover and deal with the TsuName vulnerability is an example of how our expertise can help make the Internet safer and better. So is one of our new product offerings, the Defenz DNS firewall service.
What can we expect to see from InternetNZ in the coming year?
Plenty of things! We are working on a replacement registry system; we are working through revisions to the .nz rules that shape how .nz operates; we are supporting the establishment of the Digital Equity Coalition Aotearoa; we'll have our usual grants funding rounds; we’ll have a NetHui focused on Māori... and so much more.