Just when we thought it was safe to surf! There are hunters on the way and they are eager to capture their prey: Africa’s online domains (generic Top Level domains) are the target and dot Africa (.Africa) Top Level Domain (TLD), specifically, the coveted prize.
This is because it is widely accepted that control over . Africa would expose the online community, particularly businesses, to numerous benefits – not least of which is the opportunity to use this resource as a springboard for African businesses to become globally competitive.
Octavia Kumalo, Marketing & Communications Manager, UniForum SA, suggests that .Africa offers a lot in terms of opportunity for the content and proceeds from the Top Level Domain will be reinvested into the continent and boost socio-economic development.
“Africa is the land of opportunities and growth, and I suppose it’s natural for contention to arise; when a lucrative opportunity such as running and operating a domain name which represents so many opportunities for the continent, is presented. The .africa domain name will give Africans, businesses, governments and individuals an online African identity,” says Kumalo.
“The proceeds from the .africa TLD will be reinvested into the African community through socio-economic development, ccTLD development, RAR development and also technology and infrastructure development. The .africa TLD will create an opportunity for African content development, which is a big need currently. So yes, the .africa TLD is a precious resource which paves the way for much needed development in the Internet industry inAfrica,” she adds.
An article posted on CNN in December last year spoke of a non-profit organisation registered in Mauritius, DotConnectAfrica, competing to establish and operate the .Africa name space.
Other contenders include the African Top-Level Domains Organisation (AFTLD) and the African Registry Consortium, along with interest expressed by the African Union, the report claims.
AFTLD is a membership-driven organisation established to serve the interests of African TLD managers with respect to policy and registries.
The African Registry Consortium (ARC) is a pan-African consortium that aims to administer the dot Africa domain by Africa, for Africa.
ARC spokesperson and founding member, Koffi Fabrice Djossou, is on record as saying that the company is pushing for the same EPP technology currently implemented for co.za and other .za second level domains to be utilised for the .Africa domain.
“We see .Africa as the ideal opportunity to highlight African know-how and expertise”, said Djossou. “This new domain will give the continent a truly African identity for the first time and will allow companies and organisations operating here to proudly highlight their African operations and identity.”
In June 2012 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) reported that a total of 1, 930 new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) names applications had been received – as part of the organisation’s new gTLD program.
According to the report of the total number of applications for new gTLDs, 66 are geographic name applications and 116 are for Internationalised Domain Names or IDNs, for strings in scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic.
Analysts say it can take up to six months for an application to be fully assessed.
Applications were received from 60 countries and territories. But, says Howard Rybko, CEO of Syncrony, a South African-based website development and hosting company,Africa has not come up with the goods in terms of vying for its slice of the digital real estate pie.
“In mid-June of 2012, when the big Internet players revealed their cards in the highest stakes game in web history, the best Africa could come up with was four predictable geographic plays (.JOBURG, .DURBAN, .CAPETOWN and .AFRICA) and a few MNET pals covering their brand names. At stake is the ownership of the digital real estate represented by the few hundred new domain name extensions that will start appearing in 2013. These include extensions like .ZULU, .WEB, .LOTTO and a possible 1,400 more. The new extensions are designed to unclog the constipation resulting from the lack of availability of dot com names (and the handful of alternatives like dot net, dot biz and dot org),” says Rybko.
Stakeholders like Djossou believe that the advent of .Africa domains will revolutionise the domain name space in Africa– something that Rybko believes the continent should be more cognizant of.
“Our entire African continent accounted for a paltry 13 English name applications. Peanuts compared to the enterprising Donuts Inc, who went out on a $65 million limb and applied for a staggering 307 new Top Level Domains. The names that Donuts (Domain Nuts) have applied for run the generic gamut from .RUGBY to .CASINO, .FAMLILY, .BLOG and even a controversial few like .SUCKS. If things turn out as Donuts’ hope, they will profit by making it affordable and simple for businesses and individuals to lay claim to their online territory,” Rybko said.
ICANN is expected to confirm its decision in early 2013 and operators like UniForum SA believe the organisation has the expertise and credibility to add significant value to the overall development of the Internet.
“ICANN plays a critical role within the Internet industry, and they do tremendously good work, to make the Internet stable, secure and accessible – and now with the inclusion ofAfricainto the GAC, there will be even greater participation from African’s on the future of the Internet,” Kumalo says.
Chris Tredger, Online Editor