In March 2020, we could never have imagined the degree to which our lives were about to change. Although CIRA has been a strong and vocal advocate for Canada's internet for years, there was no way to anticipate the degree to which the pandemic was about to fundamentally transform our relationship with the internet.
Overnight, the internet became a lifeboat for our society with everything from education to weddings moving online. In the early days of the pandemic, we learned the true value of the internet to Canadian society. Although the tailwinds of the pandemic provided a lift to many of CIRA’s activities, it was only by virtue of the long-term planning, vision and strategic investment made by the organization over the previous years that CIRA was able to maximize the opportunity.
The strategic shift to invest in growing the .CA brand paid off when thousands of Canadian businesses realized they had to pivot online to survive lockdowns, and now understand that a website is no longer a luxury for a successful business. We anticipate this trend continuing.
The move to leverage CIRA’s expertise in DNS infrastructure to launch a suite of new products paid dividends as the pandemic put a renewed focus on cybersecurity which led to an increase in both sales and brand awareness for CIRA’s cybersecurity services.
Similarly, that same cybersecurity expertise was used to launch CIRA Canadian Shield, a free privacy and malware protection service for all Canadians. This came at an opportune time for the thousands of Canadians forced to learn and work from home due to the pandemic.
The environment created by the pandemic also created a number of opportunities for CIRA to emerge as a thought leader in our industry. By leveraging our expertise in digital issues, governance and data, CIRA has become a go-to source for media, government and other experts.
Finally, the operational enhancements and investment in CIRA’s culture that had been slowly building prior to the pandemic were put to the test when the organization was forced into a fully remote environment. This shift was not only smooth but happened during a period when the pandemic was creating elevated demand for our products and services, adding another layer of urgency to our operations. This is a testament to our staff and the culture we have built around our mission—a trusted internet for Canadians.
.CA stewardship: building on success
After two years of strong .CA domain registrations, driven by the pivot to e-commerce by thousands of Canadian businesses, combined with the success of the .CA brand advertising campaign, FY23 will be a year to reassess, reinvest and expand.
- Expand the .CA brand advertising campaign and channel programs to support the growth of .CA, particularly in the Francophone market. After three years in market, it is anticipated that adjustments will be made to the creative approach of the .CA brand advertising campaign and media strategy for FY23.
- Continue to build marketing partnerships that promote the registration of .CA domains at the point of sale. A heightened focus will be put on the DIY website builder market to ensure .CA has visibility and placement in all channels where Canadians have an online presence.
- Ensure the .CA domain is safe, stable and reliable with the evolving cybersecurity landscape. Continue to invest in .CA’s infrastructure to ensure resilience from cyberattacks and the delivery of reliable service to our customers.
Product expansion: taking the next step
Since the adoption of CIRA’s diversified product strategy, our cybersecurity, DNS and registry products have grown in both scope and sophistication. As we move into FY23, we look to continue the journey towards making these services self-sustaining by expanding their customer base and enhancing their capabilities.
- Continue to leverage our assets to further our mission to build a trusted internet for Canadians. Those assets include our customer base (nearly 800 organizations), our technical expertise (both internal and through partners), our growing brand and thought leadership credentials and our marketing and sales channels.
- Investigate how to better leverage the wealth of data generated by our products and services. This will enable us to better understand our customers, enhance our products and produce data-driven content to fuel our thought leadership and brand activities.
- Continue to build an ecosystem around CIRA that will drive our success through partnerships with top-tier partners, such as the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Beauceron, Akami and CANARIE.
- CIRA Canadian Shield, a free, mission-driven service, underscores CIRA’s position as a trusted partner, provides a low-barrier way for users to try our service and demonstrates our technical expertise. We will continue to work to find alignment with the Community Investment Program (CIP) and other initiatives to help us continue to grow our brand in Canada.
- Continue to enhance the CIRA Registry Platform to add features requested by our partners including the structure required for cloud deployment.
Community investment: turning advocacy into action
FY22 was the first year under the new CIRA organizational structure that broke out Community, Investment, Policy and Advocacy as its own business unit. After a year of learning and planning, FY23 provides us with a tremendous opportunity to bring together our Community Investment Program, policy, advocacy, thought leadership and public affairs work into a holistic strategy that leverages our strengths and aligns with CIRA’s corporate goals.
A key element of our activities in FY22 was ensuring the alignment of our community investment and advocacy activities with CIRA’s goals. This will continue into FY23 as we focus on and invest in activities that not only have a high impact on strengthening Canada’s internet but also raise CIRA’s profile.
- Complete round nine of the Community Investment Program and execute a mid-strategy review prior to round 10. Round nine targets students, Northern, rural and Indigenous communities.
- Raise awareness of the need for increased digital funding in Canada through investment in ongoing research and building partnerships to grow the funds available for distribution to help Canada’s digital philanthropy sector.
- Continue to take a leadership role in enhancing the resilience of the internet as seen through the support of initiatives such as the Canadian traceroute database project, advocation for the creation of a Canadian Internet Observatory and running CIRA’s Internet Performance Test (IPT). IPT will continue to play a key role in measuring the evolution of connectivity and broadband investments in Canada.
- Expand Canadian Shield, which serves more than 2.2 million Canadians, through new partnerships and optimized infrastructure. Encourage users on the Private service to upgrade to the Protected or Family service to further protect Canadians.
- Continue to advocate for a favourable legislative and policy environment for the internet including such critical issues as network resiliency, cybersecurity, internet access and privacy.
- Remain an active participant in global internet governance including our position as a core supporter of the Canadian Internet Governance Forum.
- Continue to leverage CIRA data through original research such as Canada’s Internet Factbook and the CIRA Canadian Shield Insight Report.
Organizational enablement: investing in our people and infrastructure
The engine that keeps CIRA running is its people. Throughout the pandemic, CIRA has made it a priority to invest in our people and culture in order to ensure we attract and retain top talent in a challenging job market. Our people are what make CIRA great, and by creating an engaging, values-driven culture, we will continue to be able to succeed in the market.
- Maintain a high-performing culture through strategic investments in talent management, employer branding, employee engagement as well as diversity and inclusion.
- Reimagine CIRA’s work environment as a hybrid model with a focus on connection, collaboration and flexibility.
- Support the FY21-25 Strategic Plan through brand investment in activities, partnerships and campaigns that reflect CIRA’s values. The goal is to ensure our efforts in thought leadership, public relations, community investment and advocacy drive value back to our core operations and products.
- Continue to roll out a strategy for cloud-based services to optimize operations and processes.
- Undertake a security assessment to inform CIRA’s security roadmap and investments in mitigation and defence strategies.
- Build off our new ERP system, Business Central, and implement structures and processes around it to enable improved financial management and reporting.
- Review and adjust the Targeting Operating Model in response to our current environment and re-focused priorities.
- Evolve risk management activities and align this with a review of risk appetite statements and tolerance thresholds.
- Develop an action plan towards advancing CIRA’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) program.