There’s a raging debate on whether DotConnectAfrica (DCA) Trust applied to ICANN for “.africa” or “.dotAfrica” with South Africa’s UniForum claiming that there’s was the only application made for the domain. Having been associated with the “.africa” campaign for several years, AptanTech spoke to DCA Gideon Rop to shed more light on the contentious issues for the benefit of both the continent’s internet community and the general public. Excerpts:
- When did DCA begin its “.africa” campaign and what was the main driver behind this move?
DCA began its “Yes2dotAfrica” campaign over five years ago, as early as 2007 starting with the announcements by Ms. Sophia Bekele, spearhead of the “Yes2DotAfrica Campaign”; where she shared her desire to champion this project having worked as an ICANN GNSO advisor on the New gTLD programme.
Her ICANN initiative started with consultation with her colleagues on the gNSO Board who were doing similar projects of “.asia” and “.lat” (Latin America) and later on disclosed and discussed the proposal she developed to the AfrICANN grouping in Lisbon then followed up with a presentation at the 2007 Connect Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. In 2008 during the ICANN Paris meeting, she initiated the desire to spearhead the “.africa” project.
Then Ms. Bekele introduced it to the Pan African organizations, mainly UNECA and African Union, where she got endorsements in 2008 and 2009 respectively. These gave DCA the impetus to drive the project forward on behalf of Africa.
DCA officially launched its “Yes2DotAfrica” campaign in East Africa Nairobi during the AITEC Conference in February 2010, and stating that Kenya was going to be the launch pad and home of the African registry as stated here.
- What’s has your campaign for the “.africa” gTLD been like since you began the process – in terms of both challenges and successes?
First, it has been largely successful, against the backdrop that many African audiences and Internet enthusiasts did not know much about the “.africa” gTLD apart from what they already knew about existing TLDs such as the “.com”; “.net”: “.org”; “.edu” etc. Creating awareness about the domain and raising its profile was the major success recorded by DCA’s global “Yes2DotAfrica” campaign.
The initial challenges faced came from the fact that many people did not understand the “.africa” initiative. The major challenge was in undertaking a campaign of promotion and sensitization in order to build support around the initiative, so as to effectively communicate its goal and projected benefits; and especially how ICANN, as an institution dealing with global Internet governance, was overseeing the multi-stakeholder process, and to undertake the type of coherent campaign that made many people learn about the “.africa” domain, and ICANN ‘s role and responsibilities regarding the new gTLD programme. We reckon our success to be that of promotion and sensitizing people about “.africa.”
- A key requirement from ICANN for “.africa” is endorsement from African governments. Has DCA managed to secure this endorsement? Why does the UniForum group say that there application is the only one endorsed by the Africa Union Commission (AUC)?
DCA was the first to receive endorsement from the African Union Commission in 2009, and it was granted based on DCA’s leadership of the initiative. DCA was also endorsed by the Uited Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Under the UNECA definition, DCA has the 100 per cent support of the countries within the ‘AFRICA’ macro-geographic region under the economic grouping, which we believe already fulfils the requirement. DCA applied to ICANN on the basis of the legitimate endorsements that it received earlier.
There were unsuccessful attempts to try to invalidate DCA’s AU endorsement using a forged letter, and DCA managed to expose the work of sabotage that was perpetrated against it by its opponents. DCA has already submitted its application and will look forward to the outcome of the ICANN Evaluation.
- To the issue of the “.africa” application to ICANN, did DCA apply for “.africa” or “.dotAfrica”? Is there proof from ICANN that both DCA and UniForum applied for the same string or whether only UniForum applied for the string?
DCA did not apply for a “.dotafrica.” DCA Trust has applied for the ‘AFRICA’ geographic name, a six-character ASCII string. The details are contained in the application submitted to ICANN.
There is a deliberate ploy by our opponents to mis-characterize our application to score a cheap point and claim the initiative that they are the only ones that applied for “.AFRICA.” Essentially, both applications are for the same geographic name, ‘AFRICA’, and ‘dotAfrica’ is simply the way ‘.AFRICA’ is pronounced. Therefore, we expect the ICANN Evaluation to treat both as competing applications for the same geographic name string.
DCA has already issued an official clarification on this issue via this link and no additional comment is necessary on this issue.
“...the understanding as presently clarified by this communication is that DCA Trust has applied for the same ‘Africa’ geographical name string as UniForum and this will be confirmed by the outcome of the Independent String Similarity Panel who will review “applied-for gTLD strings against other applied-for gTLD strings. It is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that DCA Trust has applied for .dotAfrica as a geographic name without seeing the exact details of the underlying application which is yet to be evaluated by ICANN or considering the stipulations of the Guidebook regarding String Similarity Reviews and how String Contention Sets are arrived at” .–DotConnectAfrica, Press Commentary on 17 June 2012
- After all is said and done, when can Africa’s internet community, those keen on domain matters as well as other target institutions and organizations expect to see the “.africa” gTLD in reality?
The current status of the new gTLD programme is that the submitted applications that were revealed are already undergoing Initial Evaluation, hopefully we expect that the “.africa” gTLD will be delegated in late 2013 according to ICANNs timelines.
- What are the main benefits to be derived from the “.africa” gTLD by users in the continent?
For Africa, the “.africa” domain will be used to consolidate Africa’s online identity and is useful for branding products and services from Africa, and this represents a huge potential for businesses, corporations and individuals alike. The domain will be introduced as one of the new Top-Level Domains under ICANN’s Internet expansion programme.
It is expected therefore that “.africa” will help achieve the objective of expanded Internet use in Africa. Through this Africa will be able to present its content using its own name and therefore be able to not only put African content online but also be able to preserve the cultures and the rich African Heritage.
From the country benefits point of view, DCA’s decision to locate the technical infrastructure and operations centre of our initiative in Kenya satisfies the following which can be counted as benefits to the country:
a) Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Component into Kenya
b) Foreign Technology Transfer Component into Kenya
c) Employment opportunities for Kenyans
d) Strategic and service partnerships with important Kenyan technology & services providers such as Safaricom Limited