"I want the business I run to be successful, but there has to be a purpose to it." That's the view of Roelof Meijer, CEO of SIDN. In his youth, Meijer was something of an adventurer, working on development projects in Africa for ten years and spending his spare time roaming the wilderness on a motorbike. Yet he ended up at the helm of SIDN. "I never envisaged myself doing an office job, but here I am. And I love it. Everything I've done has had an international dimension and has involved working with people from different backgrounds. You learn a lot in that kind of setting; it's a great driver of innovation."
When Meijer joined SIDN in 2005, the organization had an unwieldy, old-fashioned decision-making structure. "Back then, if you googled 'SIDN', the results didn't make pretty reading," recalls Meijer. "Yet we were growing rapidly, because the internet industry was booming and customers were becoming more demanding. So we replaced the structure we had, which was typical of a traditional foundation, and went over to a more business-like model, with a single CEO able to respond quickly to developments. We also transformed the mind-set of the organisation, which had been very inward-looking. Today, our operation is well run and our position is strong. Instead of being underperformers with a list of overdue maintenance tasks, we are trendsetters, doing things that others can only dream of."
Nevertheless, Meijer acknowledges, SIDN is relatively unknown to the general public. "If people know we're responsible for .nl, they usually imagine that we're an administrative organisation. Whereas in fact the registration of a domain name is just the start of it. The real work is making sure that registered domain names are secure, always work and can be found on the internet. However, people have the impression that the internet works of its own accord; they take it for granted that they can reach a website or get their mail delivered. If they do wonder how that's organised, they're likely to think that the government takes care of it. But, if the .nl domain was down for as much as an hour, it would be all over the front pages. I'm proud of the fact that, out of all the domains with more than a million registered names, .nl has by far the least problems with phishing and malware. We are real international leaders on security."
Meijer wants to boost public familiarity with SIDN. If you're good at what you do, don't be shy about letting people know. "SIDN operates a high-quality domain with an outstanding track record and innovative services. We are committed to delivering safe, future-proof digital living for the Netherlands. We also develop new services and solutions with the potential to make people's digital lives more secure and more straightforward. That's real added value. Another field of activity is providing registry services for top-level domains, such as .aw (Aruba) and .amsterdam. And we advise on internet security and stability, internet governance and internet policy. On top of that, we have at our disposal a huge body of statistical data about the internet. Later this year, we are planning to pilot an on-line platform for looking up validated company information. Consumers will be able to see how trustworthy a company is and enterprises will have a vehicle for gaining consumer confidence. For instance, the system might let you see whether the company you are looking at is affiliated to Thuiswinkel.org, or has a dispute resolution body, or is creditworthy."
Protection and security are also the selling points of SIDN's Domain Name Surveillance Service (DBS). "It's not unusual for crooks to register a domain name that's very like the name of a trusted organisation, such as a bank. They do that with the aim of harvesting log-in details, which are then used for fraud. So we've created the DBS to alert brand owners to registrations that resemble their brands. The alerts come complete with risk assessments and enable users to act quickly to protect their customers and their own on-line reputations."
On the face of it less spectacular is Simplerinvoicing, an SIDN-managed framework that allows complete automation of the invoicing process. "As well as bringing huge cost savings, e-invoicing can raise the quality of procurement and billing. Simplerinvoicing also ensures that you accept only genuine invoices and pay only for the goods and services you've received."
One final topic that Meijer wants to raise is digital identification. "The Netherlands has been very slow to start using digital IDs. For instance, when you buy from a webshop for the first time, you are prompted to set up a user account. That involves giving lots of personal data, when all you really want to do is pay and tell them where to deliver. Against that background, we're currently involved with various initiatives aimed at establishing a good digital ID system. Clearly there are security and privacy benefits for consumers, but there are strong commercial incentives as well. Because the fewer clicks it takes to buy, the better the conversion."
Meijer wraps up by setting out SIDN's ambition. "This year, we are aiming to generate 5 per cent of our turnover from new business. That will be challenging, but developments move quickly. I'm confident that the Netherlands will come to value SIDN not simply as the company behind .nl, but as the organisation that delivers a secure digital world for all."
This article was published on Cstories.nl on May 26.