African governments get behind bid to administer Africa’s domain name

African government ministers attending the recent Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week have pledged their support for the ZA Central Registry’s (ZACR) bid to become the dotAfrica Registry Operator. The ZACR is a non-profit company based in South Africa, and is the administrator of the popular CO.ZA domain name space.

“The drive towards Africa’s very own Top Level Domain (TLD) continues to gather momentum and we need the support of all African governments and the broader community as that momentum gathers further steam,” said Koffi Fabrice Djossou, who presented the ZACR’s case for dotAfrica at the Summit.

He specifically called on all the delegates – which included key government ministers from Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, as well as a variety of policy makers and regulators – to provide the African Union with their letters of support for the ZA Central Registry to apply for and administer the dotAfrica TLD.

Djossou is a member of the Registry Project Team, which works closely with the dotAfrica Steering Committee (Steercom), established to provide strategic and ethical oversight for the dotAfrica project. The multi-stakeholder SteerCom responsibilities include the development and establishment of the dotAfrica Foundation, which will play an important role in administering ICT related developmental projects and initiatives in Africa. Djossou pointed out that the goal is to promote an African identity for the continent, through African based administration and operation of the domain.

The IAD Summit is internationally recognised as one of the most important business meetings in the African ICT space. It seeks to address many important issues, including issues affecting the development of the telecoms and ICT landscape across Africa.

Djossou told the delegates that the administration of a continental domain name, as with any TLD, will present significant technical issues and challenges. The African Union was therefore only prepared to endorse an organisation that could demonstrate a strong technical ability and track record concerning the administration of a large domain name space.

Transparency, reliability, technical ability, financial stability and continental representation were all key considerations for the AU in deciding which organisation to endorse. For these reasons, says Djossou, the AU put forward the ZA Central Registry as its choice of Registry Operator.

He says that the AU and the ZA Central Registry have been working in partnership to prepare and submit the required application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This will be done before the April 2012 deadline. However, he added that since ICANN still has to make the final choice regarding the dotAfrica Registry Operator, additional demonstrations of support would be most useful.

In a show of African solidarity, the African government representatives present responded enthusiastically, with many pledging their support. The delegates clearly recognised the importance of having an African organisation administering the domain name, as this is what will be required to drive future African innovation and help Africans to rely on, and grow, their own resources.

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Neil Dundas, Director: UniForum SA

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African governments get behind bid to administer Africa’s domain name