PanARMENIAN.Net sat down with Conrad on the sidelines of the Eastern European Domain Name System (EEDNS) Forum, held in the Armenian capital on October 11-12, right on the heels of the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT).
First off, the ever-present question of what ICANN does is certainly raised, and Conrad cites ICANN President Göran Marby to explain the non-profit as an organization that provides the user interface to the Internet.
“Any time you want to connect to a website or surf the Internet or something like that, you type a name into the search bar, which gets translated into unique identifiers that allow for the connection. But what the end user, i.e. most people, see is just a domain name, like Icann.org. ICANN creates the environment, the policies that create the very tail end of those - .org, .com - and all of those names are managed by ICANN. And we delegate that out to organizations like Internet Society in Armenia,” Conrad explains.
A non-governmental organization and the registry of .հայ and .am top-level domains, Internet Society, or Isoc.am, co-organized the EEDNS Forum in Yerevan, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the original delegation of .am domain for Armenia.
Several major IT events were organized in Armenia in October, which means the country could become a more stable platform for such gatherings in the future.
“My impressions have been that everyone is very energetic and forward-looking in terms of the future of Armenian telecommunications and Internet connectivity. My impression has been that there is concerted effort in the industry through public - private partnerships to try to facilitate greater deployment of various forms of connectivity,” says Conrad, citing Singapore as a success story from which lessons could be drawn.
According to Conrad, there is a lot of energy, a lot of interest in accelerating Armenia.
“Taking advantage of the impressive Diaspora, trying to leverage that community to bring in investment and technologies into Armenia could actually accelerate the deployment of the underlined infrastructure, facilitate Armenia in becoming a larger player because it is reasonably centrally located for a large number of countries in the region,” Conrad says.
Internet in Armenia is somewhat connected to Russia, and as a result rules set by their providers sometimes apply here too. For example, there have been cases when sites banned in Russia have been automatically blocked here as well. In addition, Russia has announced plans to create what they call a "separate" Internet, and Conrad says it could have an impact on Armenians if Russia blocks particular traffic.
“For Armenia, because of the network topology here, the way data goes from Armenia to get to the rest of the Internet, it transits Russia. It could have an impact on Armenians if Russia blocks particular traffic. It could mean that if you are in Armenia, even though you don’t have a reason to block that, you’d still be blocked because you get the connectivity through Russia. The “easy” solution to that is to get connectivity through another avenue, like via satellite or going to some other country, a nearby country that does not go through Russia,” Conrad explained.
When asked about personal data protection becoming an increasingly sensitive issue, the ICANN Vice-President says one of the key things when using the Internet is that people need to be much more aware of how their data is being used.
“One of the big issues that people don’t fully understand is that if you’re not paying for a service that usually means you are the service. The data that you provide to Google and Facebook is what Google and Facebook then turn around to sell to advertisers. So any time you are interacting on the Internet, you just need to be more aware of the information that you are sharing. The information that you are publishing or posting can be used to target ads, to also, if bad guys get a hold of it, it can’t be used to compromise your accounts,” he says.