Africa DNS Forum Kenya: Africa’s Participation in ICANN Worrying

DCA’s Registry Rep Gideon Rop
DCA’s Registry Rep, Gideon Rop

DomainNewsAfrica spoke to Gideon Rop of DotConnectAfrica and Internet Governance expert in the African landscape on the current Africa DNS forum in Nairobi which he is participating.

DNA:  I quote the VP for ICANN, Pierre Dandjinou” the lack of ccTLD growth in africa is due to Internet penetration”.  Can you also give us an insight?

GR: The Internet penetration in Africa is listed as among the highest rising in the world, especially if you factor in the mobile phone penetration, which loosely translates to internet connectivity. The broadband pricing may still be higher than other places but connectivity is improving.

Lack of ccTLD growth is more of poor marketing and operation model that remains an impediment in pushing the ccTLD’s vis a vis the other domains such as .com. In fact the difficulty is in the lack of capacity within the ccTLDs in relation of having the proper registry /registrar technologies which increases the administrative fees on the registrants. So we really can’t peg all the underperformance of ccTLD’s on internet. 

African Government on their part have done a tremendous job of championing access for their people for the past 6-7 years.  I think the African registries have to adopt model that provides appealing value added services.

DNA:  How about ICANN Africa Strategy.  How will this help?

GR:  To date, the ICANN Africa strategy is three or more years old. Apart from the DNSSEC road shows, I don’t think there is much tangible evidence of help, maybe a more practical approach will bridge the ICANN gap in Africa.

DNA: The IANA Transition Dandjinou mentioned?  What has this got to do with domain business in Africa?

GR:  Well, much appears to be a very thin line, less perhaps ICANN has allotted large budget for the transition discussions.  There is actually no direct effect or connection of the IANA transition to the performance on African Domain business.  If it was not performing before transition, what will make it perform after?  Africa should importantly work on finding the best ccTLD best practice that will attract more country code domain name registration. 

The people who are promoting ICANN transition in Africa are simply trying to advocate that Africa is supporting the transition, and even in recent African Union Declaration, the document did not even mention ICANN’s accountability. Meanwhile this is an important condition of the IANA transition, before transition is approved by US Congress and other public authorities.  That is where the decision will be made.   However on our part, DCA Trust has been engaging directly with US congress on issue of transition, so that it also benefit Africa, if the accountability improvements are achieved.

DNA: I understand DCA Trust is an applicant for the .africa domain, and is somehow now tied up in International IRP proceedings.  During the DNS panel discussion in Nairobi, we heard Nii Quaynor suggesting that .africa should be given to AUC.  What is your take on it?

GR:  First of all, these is two steps forward and three steps backwards.   I would think that the suggestion takes the continent back to the discussions of the “Africa Agenda”  and “Africa Ministerial Roundtable”, which took place during the ICANN 42 meeting in Dakar, Senegal  in October 2011.  You may recall that under Nii Quaynor’s group, which is the AUC Taskforce, requested ICANN to give the AUC the .africa gTLD, under a special legislative protection that would enable the AUC to bypass the New gTLD requirements.   Even so, they went ahead and formed AfricainOnespace, even though it had no legal establishment, but they try to use it to apply for .africa by backing ZACR application.

Before, we even go back to things that happened in Dakar, the most important question now is why has Nii Quaynor changed his mind from AfricainOne space, to now AU ownership of .africa ?  Is it because AfricainOnespace could not be legalized or is it that AU is now in the domain name business?  Just to  be clear on one thing, any initiative on .africa that tries to change the AU’s role beyond that of endorsement to ownership will fail.

DCA already fought that anomaly in Dakar and won its case at the time.  DCA will always continue to point to the proper guidance of what is Internationally approved New gTLD policy.   Any strategy that is not based on that will not be successful.    I hope this is much clearer to you now. 

DNA: Africa posted only 17 applications to the new gTLD round, why the small number and what is the future prospects?

I think the small number of applications could be attributed first and foremost to the awareness that is really lacking in Africa as regards to ICANN and activities.  It was in fact DCA that championed and rallied the continent on the ICANN gTLD process in Africa initially through our yes2dotafrica campaign.   Currently, a change of approach in attracting the Africa DNS interest is paramount.  Secondly the 185, 000 USD, applicant fees may have been clear a deterrent.

There are many lessons to be learned from this new gTLD application round, that could really help ICANN’s future, from addressing its accountability short comings, streamlining the applicant process, reducing the hurdles and inconsistencies and also finding the right space for government participation, which was by the way, one of the short comings of this application round.

DNA: What is the Future of African Domain name business?

GR:  DCA’s research experience suggest, that the major driver of internet expansion is the private sector.  Both the innovative capacity and risk taking  of new gTLD can only be handled effectively by private sector.  Therefore, DCA long ago has recognized this and want a new initiative to improve Africa’s private sector participation in global internet governance by the establishment of IBCA.   Hopefully DCA’s  effort will bear fruit and this will cause more private sector organization to participate in next gTLD round.  

Furthermore, the key is participation  and rising attention being given to the internet and mobile based services and local content generation.  If registrars can bank on the large youth population based on such concepts as generation.africa in mobilizing African techies, to unleash innovation and entrepreneurship potential of a new generation.   So the future is bright.

DNA: Thank you Gideon

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