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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Saint Gery decries lack of Africa’s presence @ GNSO

NEWS:
SENIOR official of the Ge-neric Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), a supporting organisation within the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Ms Glen van Oudenhove de Saint Gery, has decried lack of Africa’s presence at GNSO.

Speaking to the Highway Africa News Agency (HANA), at the ICANN meeting in Luxembourg, Ms Saint Gery was quoted as saying, “there are no Africans at all on the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO)”.

GNSO is a supporting organisation within ICANN tasked with developing policy for generic domain names. A generic top level domain name is an internet address that is not directly linked to a specific country, such as the .com and .org domain names, while .ng or .za are country code top level domain (ccTLD) names, as .ng is for Nigeria and .za for South Africa.

“Africans are missing an important opportunity to participate in the policy making process of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),” said Saint Géry.

The GNSO responds to six constituencies, which represent all stakeholder groups on the internet, including registrars, generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) registries, business and commercial community, non-commercial users, international service and connectivity providers and intellectual property.

According to her, since the continent has no representatives on the GNSO council, it is very difficult for Africa to influence any policy decision affecting the way gTLDs are managed.

The report also said that the absence is ironic as African governments are campaigning to move control of the internet from ICANN to an international organisation so that they could exert greater influence over the current system.

There is widespread dissatisfaction among Africans with the considerable US domination of ICANN and all its functions, but when there is an open forum, such as the GNSO, Africans do not appear to be interested in the policy making process, the report said.
Van Oudenhove de Saint Géry believes that Africa is missing out by not participating in the activities of the GNSO, and at the same time, ICANN is also missing the opportunities to understand the requirements of African users.

Part of this perceived apathy, she said, could be attributed to the high cost of participating in the GNSO. Many meetings are held in North America or Europe, which are usually expensive destinations for most African businesses.

Van Oudenhove de Saint Géry pointed out however, that the GNSO council holds regular teleconferences, and uses the internet to contain costs.

Lamenting that while effective use of technology could certainly keep expenses down, it is also true that the costs of teleconferencing in Africa are far higher than in most other parts of the world.

In an effort to address the lack of communication between ICANN and the vast majority of African internet users and potential users, the GNSO is about to hire a liaison officer. HANA also reports that this post will be used to forge greater links with Africa and to find out what Africans want in terms of internet policies.

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