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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aptness of .ng MoU heralds new beginning


Features of the week:

Recently National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) entered an agreement with the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) to herald a new beginning for the Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), name .ng, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Penultimate Wednesday at the conference room of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) located at Port Harcourt Crescent, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, history was made in the nation’s core IT sub-sector as the agency and the stakeholders’ led organisation, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the management of the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), .ng.

The endorsement of the MoU, have attracted commendations from stakeholders and the Internet community precisely, with most of them describing it as a positive chapter in the annals of Internet development in the country and heralds the formal handover of the management of the ccTLD after a long years of controversy that surrounded the evolution of dot ng.

Obasanjo’s legacy:

Noteworthy is that following the controversies that enveloped the hitherto management of the nation’s ccTLD among stakeholders, which saw the immediate past President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo showing interest in the development of Internet and particularly the ccTLD, hence he directed the federal government agency, NITDA to take over the administrative contact portfolio and come up with a structure that would involve all members of the Internet community in the country.

This was the outcome of the petition by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) led then by Dr. Chris Nwannenna, consequent upon the ‘forced’ redelegation from the pioneer Point of Contact (PoC), Mrs. Ibukun Odusote to the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), a non-governmental organisation by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, in addition to the interventions by the Nigerian IT Professionals in the Americas (NITPA) led by Prof. Manny Aniebonam.

However, this gave birth to stakeholders’ formation of NiRA, which was inaugurated last year under the leadership of Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, the chief executive of Amsco Telecom, while the board of trustees is led by Dr. Adeola Odeyemi.

Commenting on this development, NiRA President, Mr. Kalu described it as a good development and in furtherance of the steps to boost the stakeholders’ trust in NiRA as well as in accordance with the global Internet regulator, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) guidelines.

He also said that plans have been advanced to ensure the success of the signing ceremony in Abuja, becomes a regular progressive phase in the Internet community.

Champion Infotel recalls that for over 10 years, Nigeria recorded less than 600 registrations on the .ng after it was created in 1995 due to controversies.

First 1 million domains:

This came as NiRA recently said its targeting 1 million registrants in the nation’s ccTLD by 2009, even as NiRA currently has achieved over 3000 domain names registration since coming on board in the first quarter of last year, stressing that registration exercise, which is on-going is expected to attract 1 million before the next 24 months.

“Our hope is to move this figure to 1 million within the next 24 months,” he asserted, adding that before the birth of the current NiRA management team in May last year, the number of registered domain names in the country was less than a 1000.

He also said that NiRA was aware that several Nigerian domains exist but were hitherto registered mostly with the international domain names, stressing that NiRA, is a child of circumstance given birth to by the former administration of Chief Obasanjo.

NiRA, he pointed out also faces some challenges mostly in curtailing advances by some disgruntled Nigerians who tried to register phoney company domain names.

“But NiRA has put some measures in place to safeguard against such attempts. We have to verify every application before registering any name,” Mr. Kalu said.

Collaborating with EFCC:

He further said that the main function of NiRA is to administer the nation’s Top Level Domain (TLD) .ng, as seen in other countries, emphasizing that a domain is like an address that facilitates a location of a given name on the Internet.

Hence, it is an address to locate an organisation or individual online, just as he equally disclosed that NiRA is collaborating with the directorate of Cyber crime and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to teem down the rise of Internet fraud emanating from the Nigerian-based Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

He added that NiRA is in communication with the newly created directorate of Cybercrime, and EFCC to ensure reduction and involvement of Nigerians on Internet fraud.

“The collaboration, he said, has resulted in the introduction of due diligence initiative among the service providers,” Mr. Kalu said, emphasising that NiRA supports 100 per cent trial of any fraudulent process, maintaining that technically, there are room to trace fraudulent electronic mail scams and his association is not relenting.

NiRA in history:

NIRA was founded on March 23, 2005 as stakeholders-led organization, charged with the management of the nation’s Country Top Level Domain Name (ccTLD), dot ng, and brought to an end the long years of .ng controversy.

Hitherto the .ng was being managed by NITDA on behalf of the federal government, even as NIRA’s constitution was adopted by stakeholders, at a meeting held on March 28, 2006 at the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre, Onikan-Lagos.

Also, NiRA’s Board of Trustees (BoT) were selected among the stakeholders including, Dr. Odeyemi as chairman has the immediate past President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) Dr. Chris Nwannenna, President, Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Dr. (Mrs) Adenike Osofisan, Dr. Y. Z. Yau, Director, Information Technology (IT) unit, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, Mr. Olaleye Alao, Editor, Technology Times, Mr. Shina Badaru, Mr. Akinbo A.A., Prof. I.S. Diso and chairman, Linkserve Limited, Chief Chima Apugo Onyekwere, even as the domain registration is currently open to individuals and organizations for free.

Positive Reactions:

Reacting to the signing of MoU, the pioneer IT Youth Ambassador and Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Mr. Gbenga Sesan said that the endorsement signifies the importance of Internet business to stakeholders in the country, especially by the government, emphasizing that all the while the nation’s Internet community seems to be playing so to speak.

“But now we really mean business of .ng and the ultimate decision now is for Nigerians to embrace .ng and reclaim our position on the Internet,” he declared.

Mr. Sesan added that dot ng is as good as any other ccTLDs in the world and is expected to propel local contents on the Internet.

Also speaking, President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, told Champion Infotel that it’s most appropriate for NITDA to redelegate .ng to private organisation, which was the purpose of forming NiRA in the first place.

According to him, the process of redelegation is within the ambit of the law for the agency to redelegate that authority as stipulated in the NITDA Act, describing it as a step in the right direction.

Uptill now, he noted, a lot of Nigerians have been thrown into confusion due to the long time it took for the redelegation through the MoU to come to fruition.

“For a long time, people were not very sure who is incharge and since NIRA has been founded with some officials elected, its just appropriate for it to take over the management,” he pointed out.

As said by him, its only when NiRA takes full charge that the right information could be passed, maintaining that generally speaking, “its something that has to be done and by signing the MoU, they are doing what the law asked of them to do.”

Issues in motion:

Subsequent to the signing of the MoU, NiRA, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) set up to manage the ccTLD since June 23, 2005, has the mandate to replace the late Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Gabriel Olalere Ajayi.

Champion Infotel recalls that till date, late Prof. Ajayi is still the administrative referred to as POC for the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, .ng, over three years after his demise.

Investigations by Champion Infotel revealed that late Prof. Ajayi’s name is conspicuous in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) database on .ng, which was created on March 15, 1995 and last updated on September 22, 2005, that is, about seven months after the decease of Prof. Ajayi on December 16, 2004 at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

The PoC is the individual or organisation supposedly in-charge of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, which in this case is .ng administration.

Affront:

Although NITDA remained the sponsoring organisation on behalf of the federal government and the technical contact person is still Mr. Randy Bush, a United States-based Internet expert, late Prof. Ajayi’s appearance on IANA database as the POC is an affront on the nation and specifically NITDA for the inability to appropriately communicate with the IANA, the administrative arm of the global Internet coordinating agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The initial excuse given was that a decision taken by some ‘stakeholders’ elites after the conclusion of the meeting on the formation of NiRA allowed for the change to be made once and for all, meaning pending the eventual endorsement and handover by NITDA.

This ‘stakeholders’ meeting was online and based on the instance of the IANA on June 2005; that is, instead of using the current NITDA Director-General, Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye to replace late Prof. Ajayi as PoC, the status-quo should remain, pending the registration of NiRA to take over.

Unfortunately, it took some good months for this to be achieved due to bureaucratic bottlenecks. Although NiRA has since first quarter of last year, 2007, be in possession of an issued certificate of incorporation of its trustees and dated February 9, 2007 by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Speaking after the signing of MoU, NiRA President, Mr. Kalu, assured that before the end of this quarter, the group would take full control of .ng management including the replacement of late Prof. Ajayi as POC and Mr. Randy Bush as the technical contact person.

For. Prof. Angaye, all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government have no excuse now to still be using inadequate TLD, adding that a memo to that effect would soon reach all the MDAs for actions and violators would be sanctioned accordingly.

Waiting for NITDA letter:

He also explained that as the outcome of the MoU endorsed with the Federal Government’s IT agency, NITDA is expected before this week runs out to detail a letter to the changes in the management of .ng to ICANN on behalf of government with a copy made available to NiRA, even as they too is expected to write ICANN based on government’s letter of authorisation, stating their readiness to take over the management of .ng as specified in the guidelines with global best practices.

ICANN, he said, would in turn forward these letters to its administrative wing, IANA, to set up a committee for the verification and when this is certified, “An agreement would be signed between NITDA cum NiRA and IANA.”

This process, Mr. Kalu noted, would take up to three months to accomplish and to give time for due process to be followed.

Personalised POC bane of .ng crisis:

He decried the use of individual names in registration of a national project like .ng, describing personalisation of the ccTLD as its major and basic challenge since inception.

He pointed out that with the MoU endorsed, lots of things would change, such as POC would be changed and technical contact to either the President of NiRA or administration department of NiRA, while the technical department of the association would take over the position of the technical contact respectively.

“Either the President or admin department of NiRA and technical department will be used this time and not a name,” he said.

Mr. Kalu further explained that President’s of NiRA would always come and go and there must be somebody in that position or even the administrative department would at all times be there despite who is occupying the position.

This, he said, is what is obtainable in other countries of the world and not personalisation of issues and administration of the .ng as reflected in the current database, stressing that the present steps will boost the penetration of .ng among Nigerians both at home and abroad even as he urged the Internet community to embrace the .ng.

Also, sources close to IANA informed that changing the details on PoC for .ng, for instance, is not a difficult task once the Internet community in Nigeria agreed to a specific name.

According to IANA’s procedures concerning ccTLD database information in order to effect a change on ccTLD managers, a request must be made to IANA which is responsible for receiving and acting on requests by the designated ccTLD managers to change contact information about the ccTLD’s designated sponsoring organization, administrative contact, and technical contact.

This request, IANA said, should be made by filling-out the root-zone modification template and sending it to root-mgmt@iana.org.

Conclusion:

The responsibility now rests on the members of the Internet community in the country to tap into this development by ensuring that from banks to government institutions and other private sector entities, down to individuals should ensure that they relocate or rename their domain names to include .ng.

The ball, no doubt, is now in the public domain, after all, domain name registration in the country is still free-of-charge. So, be on the queue now.

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