Africa will benefit from new ICANN initiative
By Alice Munyua, Africa liaison and government relations for the ZA Central Registry bid for .africa.
The launch of the Africa Strategy at the just concluded ICANN meeting in Toronto, has raised the level of debate on the relationship between Africa and ICANN.
There is no doubt that over the years Africa has not meaningfully participated in ICANN processes, mainly because of a divide between the needs of African stakeholders and depth of issues ICANN addressed. While ICANN participants discussed DNS business and technology development, most of African countries were still addressing issues of universal affordable access and connectivity. How do you debate and contribute to issues on DNSSEC, IPv6, WHOIS data, improvements to Registrar Accreditation Agreement, UDRP, etc. while most of your government and business services are offline? But that was a few years ago.
In the last three years, there has been tremendous effort to lay fiber optic and terrestrial cables covering most countries. Issues of access and connectivity, while not fully resolved are not as pressing as they were and more businesses and government services have come online.
The Kenya Government’s open data (opendata.go.ke) initiative, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, provides a platform for third party applications and opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and development of technologies, in addition to increasing public outreach and interaction with government.
Now, with the Africa Strategy Working Group, ICANN can work with various constituencies in the region. For example to encourage more registrars to pursue ICANN accreditation,this would mean training on domain name business skills and how to sustain those. This, in turn, will provide more business opportunities for Africans as well as international companies active within ICANN.
ICANN is not a humanitarian organization, but support and engagement with African stakeholders might mean more business opportunities for other ICANN constituencies interested in doing business with and in Africa. Good examples are the Amsterdam Internet Exchange and Netnod (Sweden), which supported the inaugural Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum three years ago.
This year, AMSIX signed an agreement with SEACOM as its first Pan African reseller and with the Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) to establish a local Internet exchange presence.
What started as merely a support project has resulted in a new reseller and local Internet exchange point for AMSIX and this is likely to grow. Imagine what will happen with the ICANN constituents eyeing Africa's growing markets.
Within ICANN there are constituents who have supported African ccTLDs and IXPs, for example with local root server copies.
Most deployments of anycast instances in Africa have resulted from discussions during various technical training and coordination meetings. ICANN recently embarked on a project with AfriNIC to provide copies of the Lroot, part of the activities aimed at providing regional infrastructure resiliency and also part of the broader strategy of Internet development in the region.
This doesn't mean that the African Strategy Working Group is the only outreach activity that Africa is relying on. There are initiatives like the African Union .Africa new gTLD initiative, which is engaging with all the countries' of the region and raising awareness on ICANN processes. Support from ICANN would allow the .Africa team to double its effort and get more African governments, businesses, civil society and other interest groups involved. Others like the ISOC and AUC initiative to support the establishment of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in African Union Member States, will only lead to more Africans on the Internet.
This is therefore a great opportunity for us all to identify the areas that need support,and to participate and contribute to “ICANN's New Approach to Africa”.