David Hendon is Director, Business Relations in the Enterprise and Business Group at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).
It’s an awfully long job title, but he was introduced as “the civil servant responsible for the internet”, which, although not 100% accurate, should give you a reasonable idea of what he does.
His keynote speech here at the Nominet .uk Registrar Conference was interesting, and I’d expect to see it covered by the usual online news sites later today.
He spoke about the need for “confidence and trust in the internet”, and explained that the government’s mission was to “promote dynamic growth of all that’s positive, while attempting to mitigate all that’s negative” about the internet.
Up the list of priorities
With a major report, ‘Digital Britain’, due next year, Hendon explained that the issues of public trust and confidence in the internet are moving up the government’s list of priorities.
He questions whether typical internet users (the general public) draw much of a distinction between phishing, spam, objectionable content and other online problems. They just want them fixed, and to some extent they expect the government to be able to stop bad things happening online.
It’s part of the national infrastructure
The domain name system, continued Hendon, is a part of the national infrastructure. And he’s right; it is a vital element of the UK economy and without, it the online part of that economy might as well not exist.
Because of that, the government wants to understand the vulnerabilities of the domain names system, and wants Nominet to demonstrate that the organisation understands its own wider responsibilites to the internet-using public as a whole.
Essentially, his point was that Nominet, as guardian of an important piece of UK internet infrastructure, has a public-service mandate to fulfil.
It’s about ordinary internet users
He expressed the desire for the domain name system to work for ordinary internet users, and confessed he is “sceptical” about the value domaining brings to the UK internet economy as a whole. (Domaining is a somewhat controversial subject, as our recent post on the subject and subsequent comments demonstrate.)
What this means for how Nominet will work with the government in the future is still to be decided. However, it is clear that the government expects Nominet to continue to take its public service obligations seriously and continue to manage the .uk domain name space in a responsible way.
The next panel debate is starting any minute now. It’s all about trust and confidence in the online environment, and David Hendon is on the panel, so hopefully he’ll elaborate on his points then.