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2020 so far: a General Manager’s perspective

2020-07-15 Blog

Blogpost by Peter Van Roste, General Manager of CENTR - When we were drafting plans for 2020, nothing could have prepared us for the extraordinary times we have witnessed in the last six months.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to run extreme stress tests on many levels. And while the DNS, ccTLD managers and CENTR passed these tests with flying colours, the pandemic’s lasting impact should not be ignored.

The CENTR community adapted reasonably well to the new reality. Despite moving most of our meetings online until the end of the year (a few are still optimistically in limbo pending a decision from the Working Group chairs) the community has continued to exchange information, experiences and data. Survey response rates remain high and the number of surveys is higher than usual. Online meetings and ad hoc webinars have in part filled the gap left by the cancellation of in-person meetings, but real conversations are dearly missed.

The CENTR Secretariat adapted well too. The team started working remotely from mid-March and service levels remained unaffected. The first half of the year is always a busy time for the CENTR secretariat, and this year has been no exception. It takes an intense team effort to run a regular Jamboree (a joint meeting of all our working groups), so rescheduling it to an online meeting at short notice was quite a challenge. On top of this, we covered two ICANN meetings remotely (ICANN67 and ICANN68), continued our coverage of RIPE and IETF meetings (see our blogposts here) and provided subject matter expertise to EuroDIG.

This year we also had our first online edition of the Board’s strategic planning retreat. Any of the participants would have preferred a physical meeting in Belgium and the opportunity to meet the CENTR staff, instead of the 12-hour online marathon, but most importantly: the work got done. The outcome of these sessions is now being discussed by the membership during webinars and 1-2-1 calls.

For the next six months we expect a heavy workload on policy issues, in particular the work on the Digital Services Act and cybersecurity. We expect to finetune meeting formats to deal with a continuing restricted travel scenario. We plan to formalise a framework for CENTR collaborative projects, revamp our CENTR Academy and renovate our public and member’s website. We also look forward to opening our renovated CENTR office, where the extra floor space will allow us to bring the team together in a safe environment. Despite all the fancy tools and brilliant internet connections, nothing beats having a conversation over a cup of coffee and the serendipity that comes along with it.