Philip Du Bois, managing director of DNS Belgium, looks back with satisfaction at an eventful 2020 and at the same time looks at what the new year has to offer.
2020 was a special year for everyone. Did 2020 present any exceptional organisational challenges for DNS Belgium?
Philip Du Bois: 'Like any other organisation, DNS Belgium had to adapt and look for answers too. Fortunately, our Business Continuity Plan has been in place for years. This plan departs from the premise that our office has burnt down completely, which means that all our staff have to be able to work from home for a few months while we remain fully operational. During the first lockdown this plan was a great help ensuring we could all work completely remotely in no time at all.'
'We started working from home a few days before the government imposed this. This seemed a logical decision from a risk limitation point of view. Given the nature of our services for the digital community in Belgium, we are by nature a very risk-aware organisation.'
In a year like 2020, how do you turn your organisation into a great place to work when everyone is working from home?
Philip Du Bois: 'While the operational side was fully under control, the biggest challenge for DNS Belgium was keeping everyone connected. The colleagues' individual motivation is excellent. But ensuring that everyone feels part of one team when working from home requires extra attention and effort. To stay connected, we took several small initiatives such as weekly video calls with the entire organisation and many more personal calls. With 35 people, this is still feasible.'
'We also do a weekly quiz and organise online team building games. Twice a week we held a virtual coffee corner. In the autumn I went for walks with the colleagues who wanted to, just to talk to them about how they experienced the home working situation. It's not the same as having a real coffee together at the office in the morning and having lunch together. But we make do with what the government allows and what we can do.'
'In terms of cybersecurity, our agenda was already filled with initiatives to increase security in the .be zone.'
Homeworking appeared to pose challenges regarding the security of the business data. Cybercriminals saw interesting opportunities in the massive increase of online shopping. Are extra efforts needed in terms of cybersecurity?
Philip Du Bois: 'In terms of cybersecurity, our agenda was already filled with initiatives to increase security in the .be zone. We developed software in 2020 that indicates when a domain name is suspicious when several parameters are entered while registering. Unlike before, the domain name will not be activated until the person or organisation that made the registration provides more proof of his/her identity. And under the motto 'if only everything was as safe as surfing to a .be site’, we launched a video campaign on social media in the autumn. The aim was to increase consumer confidence in .be domain names by showing people what we do to keep the .be zone safe.'
'Because of corona, we started checking registrations of domain names with certain terms linked to the coronacrisis more closely. But to date, we have not seen a big upturn in the abuse of domain names linked specifically to corona.'
What cybersecurity initiatives are on the agenda for 2021?
Philip Du Bois: 'In 2021, we will continue on the same path as in 2020. We will further improve the possibilities to identify registrants and we also want to take steps in the field of internal security. When it comes to security, you can always go further and keep investing. It is therefore necessary for every company to correctly assess for itself which level of security is sufficient for its activities. One thing is certain, however. The security level required for each business today is much higher than it was a few years ago and I have never experienced a reduction of the efforts. In other words a permanent evaluation of the security level in organisations is needed'.
Through DigitalForYouth.be, DNS Belgium played an important social role last year. The response to the calls for laptops and resources was huge. Will the 2020 results be the benchmark for 2021?
Philip Du Bois: 'In 2020, DigitalForYouth.be stepped up a couple of gears. The crisis made it painfully clear that important steps still need to be taken in terms of the digitisation of youngsters. The unexpected generosity of companies allowed us to donate 15,000 laptops to children in 2020, mostly in collaboration with schools. If, in 2021, we can do half of what we did in 2020, it will already be a huge success. We put DigitalForYouth.be on the map: people know who we are and the quality of our devices is praised. We notice that companies are still willing to work with us.'
2020 was another year when DNS Belgium achieved great results in the field of sustainability and received plenty of recognition for it. Is it becoming more difficult to keep taking major steps forward?
Philip Du Bois: 'The quick wins have indeed already been implemented. Now it is a case of looking carefully at which actions we can still implement, without losing sight of our principle that each sustainability measure must be cost-neutral in itself. This requires more thought now than it did a few years ago, but we are still managing. As a non-profit organisation with an explicitly social mission, it is sometimes easier because we also look at the macro-economic picture. As an organisation, DNS Belgium does not benefit directly from an initiative such as DigitalForYouth.be. But the social importance is abundantly clear. Better knowledge of IT among youngsters leads to more IT graduates, more potential employees and perhaps even entrepreneurs in the sector, more advanced users of IT, etc.'
How important are the titles such as SDG Pioneer, climate ambassador for Vlaams-Brabant?
Philip Du Bois: 'Such titles are important, but most of all because they help spread the message. Organising such awards is more important than winning them. DNS Belgium has tried to be one of the best in the class to inspire others. To convince others that the climate and therefore our children gain from such efforts. It can also lead to cost cuts and therefore more profit for shareholders. And it motivates employees to work for an organisation that really cares about its impact on society. And sooner or later, it will get all customers thinking.'