By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya
While UniForum SA prepares to drive the .africa gTLD campaign, Kenya’s DotConnectAfrica is campaigning for the Africa domain.
Last week, ICANN revealed the applicants for a series of new Top Level Domains. UniForum SA, trading as Registry Africa, said ICANN had confirmed there was only one applicant for the .africa TLD. DotConnectAfrica Trust, has applied for the .dotafrica TLD.
UniForum said in a statement on ICANN’s ‘reveal day’ on 13 June: “UniForum SA, trading as Registry.Africa, is now officially acknowledged as the only Registry Operator bidding for the .africa TLD. If successful UniForum will be allocating names to the public such as “example.africa”. Another bidder, DotConnectAfrica Trust, has surprisingly applied for the .dotafrica TLD. This means, should they be successful, they will be allocating names such as “example.dotafrica”.
DotConnectAfrica Trust said in a statement on 14 June that it had applied for the same geographical string name for ‘Africa’, pronounced as ‘DotAfrica’. It said: “It is important to note that the initial evaluation process will also consider string similarity – and all strings applied for will be reviewed; and applications for the same or similar strings will end up in the same “String Contention Set”. The prescriptions of the ICANN new gTLD Guidebook (Section 188.8.131.52) are quite clear in this regard.
Therefore, 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”. During the geographic names review, it would also be shown that DCA Trust applied for the ‘Africa’ gTLD – an ASCII 6-character string. 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.”
Meanwhile, DCA has announced that it is set to establish a world-class Internet registry system infrastructure to be located in Nairobi, Kenya.
DCA, non-profit organisation based in Kenya and with offices in Mauritius, has been leading the DotAfrica effort for the past four years in Africa under the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. The organisation is set to sponsor, establish and operate the TLD registry with global recognition and regional significance dedicated to the needs of pan-African and African community.
According to DCA’s chief executive, Sophia Bekele, the setting-up a world-class registry system infrastructure that is physically located in Africa will be an important ‘criticality’ to the unconditional success of the DotAfrica generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) project.
“To this end, DCA has reached a landmark agreement with CentralNIC London U.K., a world-class registry services provider, to set-up a registry services system in Africa, and has also signed important agreements with two Kenya-based firms – Safaricom and FINCOM Technologies – for the co-location of mission critical computer hardware and network technical infrastructure that would support the registry functions of DotAfrica gTLD,” said Bekele.
Safaricom is a leading integrated communications service provider in Kenya. The beneficial access offered by the Data Centre operations of Safaricom would enable the DCA Registry to provide a fully-redundant Internet registry system that features off-site fail-over and escrow so as to satisfy the most exacting high availability requirements of a 21st century gTLD.
This would provide DCA with full control of the critical resources required to run and administer the DotAfrica gTLD registry on a sustainable basis for the benefit of its prospective customers especially within the Africa region.
Bob Collymore, Safaricom’s chief executive, commended DCA’s decision to base the registry system in Kenya and was pleased at the selection of his company to host the registry infrastructure because of its adequate technical capacity to provide the large Internet bandwidth and availability of top-class co-location facilities required by DCA and further expressed happiness with the association of Safaricom with this very high-profile Pan-African initiative.
Fincom, on the other hand, will provide computer and network technical support and local facilitation or representation services to DCA.
Barry Ryan, a Director at DCA and CEO of Fintech Group Africa, which owns Fincom, noted that Kenya offers a suitable location when compared to other African countries as it boasts one of the best ICT, telecommunications and internet connectivity infrastructure in Africa, adding that Kenya has four efficient, carrier-grade optic fibre links connecting the country to high-speed global networks.
As part of the deal, CentralNIC is to provide DCA with registry software, consulting and training services and work closely with DCA to ensure that the Kenya-based registry established will satisfy all the stringent technical and operational requirements of the ICANN new gTLD programme.
CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said, “This visionary initiative by DCA will also make full use of CentralNic’s deep experience doing business in the English-speaking, Arabic and Francophone worlds, ensuring that in DCA’s even-handed and responsible care, the TLD will serve all of Africa and the global African diaspora.”
On why Kenya was chosen to host the DCA registry operations, Bekele explained that her organisation selected Kenya for reasons of its region-wide market access in East Africa, and its efficient transport and direct communications links to countries in Central, South, West and North Africa, and the nearby Arab Gulf. In her words:
“From the geographical point of view, no country compares to Kenya in terms of accessibility to the five (5) sub-regions of Africa, and its membership of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) also provides further distinctive advantages in terms of market access and coverage,” she said, adding that Nairobi is a world-class city which hosts the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the diplomatic offices of other important regional and inter-governmental bodies.
DCA believes that setting-up a world-class registry located in Africa with the help of its international partners offers superb benefits and invaluable advantages to the continent especially in the area of technology transfer to Africa and the acquisition as well as availability of key human resource skills in Africa to run the registry.
Sammy Buruchara, Chair of DCA Global Strategic Advisory Leadership Group, also CEO of NairobiNet, believes that locating the world-class registry in Africa would eventually bring down the cost of domain name registrations thereby increasing affordability as significant cost-savings are passed on to prospective users and registrants.
“Setting up the registry also offers DCA Registry significant economies of scale that would translate into overall strategic competiveness, enhanced marketing services and delivery, and overall customer satisfaction,” said Buruchara.