Battle for “DotAfrica”: DCA’s bid set for another review as UniForum’s goes through Initial Evaluation (IE)


.africa DCAVersus_signdotAfrica UniForumICANN has, through its Generic Domains Division, announced the conclusion of the Initial Evaluation (IE) phase of the new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) program, a development that means more than 1,700 applications have now been moved to the next steps in the program.

“This is an extraordinary landmark which demonstrates the progress in this program,” said Akram Atallah, President of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division. “We are looking forward to the innovations that these new introductions will enable on the Internet.”

Out of the 1,930 new gTLD applications submitted, a total of 1,745 applications passed Initial Evaluation, 32 have gone into Extended Evaluation, and 121 were withdrawn from the program. “It would be an understatement to say we are excited to reach this point. Applicants worked hard on their applications and the evaluations were complex and rigorous. We are pleased that 90 % of the original applications passed Initial Evaluation – this is a clear and distinct success,” said Christine Willett, ICANN’s VP of gTLD Operations.

Applications that passed IE will proceed through the program based on their complexity. Some may move straight to the Transition to Delegation phase, while others may have to go through additional steps, such as dispute resolution and string contention.

Among the applications that passed through the IE process is UniForum’s “.Africa” bid while the other application submitted by DCA Trust for the same string has not made through the IE process and still has to proceed to an Independent Review panel (IRP) due to GAC Advice.

However, this seems to be just one of the many setbacks that DCA has had to deal with in its “.africa” bid and may not be the final nail on its application’s coffin.

In a statement issued on July 5, DCA Trust stated that its “application passed all the Evaluation Panels including the technical, operational and financial evaluation criteria, but the Geographic Names Panel (GNP) Evaluation for the application was not completed,” leading to the designation of an ‘Incomplete’ IE Result by ICANN’s Generic Domains Division as the reported status for DCA Trust’s .Africa new gTLD application.

An official notification received by DCA Trust from the ICANN New gTLD Customer Service CSC Portal on 3rd July 2013 contained the following statement:

 “This is a notification to inform you that the status of your application .AFRICA (application ID 1-1165-42560) will be updated to reflect the 4 June 2013 New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) approved resolution to adopt the “NGPC Scorecard of 1As Regarding Non-Safeguard Advice in the GAC Beijing Communiqué.” The status of “Not Approved” will be reflected on the Application Status page of the new gTLD microsite. 

As a result of this resolution, we finalized the processing of your application based on currently available information. Unfortunately, this information was not sufficient for the Geographic Names Panel to complete the evaluation of your application. All other panels performing Initial Evaluation of your application determined that the application passed each of these other panel evaluations. Because the Geographic Names Panel could not complete evaluation, the Initial Evaluation report for your application will reflect an “Incomplete” result, and will be posted on the Application Status page.”

As a result of this, even though DCA Trust’s .Africa application passed all the evaluated criteria for the current new gTLD Application round, its Initial Evaluation result is incomplete.

“DCA Trust understands that the GAC Objection Advice that was issued against its application and the subsequent NGPC decision has affected the processing of its application; thus, the ‘incomplete’ status of the Initial Evaluation does not truly reflect the outstanding result that DCA Trust has scored on the Evaluated Criteria,” notes the statement.

In a preliminary reaction to the ‘Incomplete Status’ of the Initial Evaluation, DCA has already sought additional information from ICANN new gTLD Customer Service Centre, and will continue to follow-up with the proper official channels to restore the integrity of the Application Status of its .Africa new gTLD application.

ICANN’s new gTLD program is the result of 8-years of study, 47 public comment periods, which produced over 2,400 comments, 55 explanatory memoranda and 7 versions of the new gTLD Applicant guidebook.