DotConnectAfrica is anticipating a review and reinstatement of their application for .africa gTLD string that has been in the center of controversy in the past two years since ICANN announced the major expansion of the Internet name space in Singapore.
DotConnectAfrica’s application has been through enough hurdles that they have overcome. These include the change of the string name applied for from ‘.dotafrica’ to ‘.africa’ that came about as a result of the TAS application system being unable to correctly label it; which made Uniforum ZACR to prematurely announce that “ICANN says there is only one applicant for .africa”, which proved to be a major embarrassment for not knowing the process, when the issue was rectified in DCA’s favour through due process of the New gTLD guidebook. DCA Trust had indeed clarified on 14th June 2012 that it has applied for the .Africa name string and also correctly predicted that its .Africa application and the competing .Africa application by UniForum ZA Central Registry would end up in the same exact string contention set.
Another major issue that caused the organization to seek higher redress from Congress asking for a “Direct Congressional Oversight & Recommendation for the Appointment of an Independent Counsel as Congressional new gTLD Ombudsman to Investigate & Report to Congress on Matters of Illegality and Irregularities in new gTLD Program of ICANN” was attributed to the manner that its competitors applied fraudulently to ICANN by not applying on behalf of the African community as per the endorsement obtained from African Union, instead they submitted a standard application without acknowledging the community in its application.
One would think that the verification of such necessary documentation for an applied-for new gTLD should be a simple pre-qualification procedure for any international competitive bid, however DCA in this case is made to keep on fighting with no one to hear it, which has been the reason it escalated its issues to Congress. For not having the confidence in ICANN GAC to do its work, it appears that the issues of the AU RFP and the way that Uniforum ZACR was selected against due process without any form of accountability is amongst the investigation that DCA is seeking from Congress.
To make matters worst, at the last minute, it looks as if Uniforum ZACR were again caught lying to the public on having the 40 African Government endorsements that they boasted for a prolonged period of time so as to block DCA from moving forward with its application to ICANN. Then what was quite laughable was the GAC Advise that was issued against DotConnectAfrica’s application for lack of Government endorsement while its competitor for the same.africa string does not have one. I don’t know what to make of this, is this politics or pure corruption?
The final straw came when ICANN Board NGPC then agreed with this nonsense. But then again, the suggestion for the GAC Advice to block DCA’s application has come from the Board initially, as DCA has pointed out in its letter to the Board in responding to the GAC advise, so I can imagine there will be no ethical problem in the Board agreeing with their own decision..
Having already known the position of the NGPC Board Committee members on .africa, as a result of the Conflict of Interest issues, it is not surprising that the likes of Mike Silber will want to make a minced meat out of DotConnectAfrica’s application. So I looked up the ICANN Governance Board Committee, who will have to re-consider the issues and to my surprise I found the same members of the NGPC belong to the reconsideration committee, i.e the same people who are making a decision on New gTLDs will also be making a decision on the reconsideration decision, of a presumably wrong decision they already may have claimed to be making regarding a new gTLD. What kind of organizational governance is this? The whole ICANN Board Governance process seems like a circus act.
In the latest case, DotConnectAfrica is asking to reinstate its application and in their letter to ICANN they have requested “in identifying the policy(ies) with which the action/inaction was inconsistent. The policies that are eligible to serve as the basis for a Request for Reconsideration are those that are approved by the ICANN Board (after input from the community) that impact the community in some way.” and have responded saying “We believe that the ICANN Board deviated from its process, and did not perform a certain important step (procedure) that was necessarily required as per the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook when considering GAC Advice. We have principally pivoted our argument on the following stipulation in:
Section 3.1, Module 3, of the Guidebook, viz:
“Where GAC Advice on New gTLDs is received by the Board concerning an application, ICANN will publish the Advice and endeavor to notify the relevant applicant(s) promptly. The applicant will have a period of 21 calendar days from the publication date in which to submit a response to the ICANN Board. ICANN will consider the GAC Advice on New gTLDs as soon as practicable. The Board may consult with independent experts, such as those designated to hear objections in the New gTLD Dispute Resolution Procedure, in cases where the issues raised in the GAC advice are pertinent to one of the subject matter areas of the objection procedures.”
“Indeed, it is our very strong belief that the ICANN Board should have consulted Independent Experts as per Guidebook stipulations. We have concluded that the Board Decision did not take into account the need to subject the GAC Advice and our Response submitted to the ICANN Board to an independent expert determination as stipulated in the Guidebook.”
The major underlying issue that DCA pointed out is the lack of the committee to seek the services of an independent expert. DotConnectAfrica appear to be saying that their application is being hampered by the presence of interests that are keen to ensure that the application goes no further than the initial evaluation, and wanting it to withdraw.
DotConectAfrica have continued
“Consequently, the recommendation in the NGPC Response that we should “seek relief according to ICANN’s accountability mechanisms (See ICANN Bylaws, Articles IV and V)” as contained in the NGPC Response to GAC Advice should now be utilized by ICANN to reconsider its decision based on ‘Section 2 – RECONSIDERATION’ of Article IV of the Bylaws, by taking into account, all the procedural steps specified in the Guidebook regarding how to deal with GAC Advice.
We therefore insist that the entire decision should be re-evaluated and immediately reconsidered, and an independent expert consulted first before the GAC Objection Advice regarding our application and our Response to GAC Objection Advice are deliberated upon by the ICANN NGPC. In a nutshell, we believe that the outcome of a determination process by an independent expert designated to hear objections in the new gTLD Dispute Resolution Procedure must be a required input into the decision regarding whether to approve or not approve our application.
In reading through the Board Resolution No. 2013.06.04 and the Rationale (http://www.icann.org/en/groups/board/documents/resolutions-new-gtld-04jun13-en.htm), and the actions that were taken, including who was consulted (“Which stakeholders or others were consulted?”), we note that an independent expert on new gTLD Dispute Resolution was not consulted, and this should therefore be the basis for approving this request for reconsideration so that the decision as it presently stands is not allowed to prevail and constitute a serious miscarriage of justice that would frustrate our new gTLD aspirations.”
Its clear that ICANN will have to justify most of the decisions made and the people behind the recommendations so that the public can be duly satisfied with every decision that has so far been made on .Africa.