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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011: Imperative of adopting dot ng by politicians

The 2011 general elections is just near the corner, REMMY NWEKE reports that adoption of .ng by the political class would boost the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) penetration.

For over 423 years, the word ‘politician’ has existed with many of those classified as such leveraging on Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). This was overwhelmingly brought to the fore at this 21st century by the strategists led by the campaign manager for President Barack Obama in the 2008 American presidential election, Mr. David Plouffe.

Speaking in Lagos recently at MTN Life Enrichment seminar held in Lagos and Abuja, Mr. Plouffe said that any country that wants to attract the common people, mostly the youth at heart must embrace technology, noting that they are always in search of new ways of doing things, hence, technologies is a wonderful tool especially for political crusade.

Brainyquote.com defined politician as the one experienced in the science of government as well as devoted to politics; who invariably grow in skill to become a statesman. It also stated that a politician is primarily devoted to his own advancement in public office, or to the success of a political party.

It was not surprising that as the 2011 general elections in Nigeria draw nearer for the April dates, most Nigerian politicians are now taking their case online, on the internet, which has put forward the commonness of information sharing on the ‘network of networks’.

One aspect that however, worries internet stakeholders mostly in developing economies like Nigeria is how best to make Internet work for the populace. It’s on this stead that the president, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mrs. Mary Uduma and some experts in the industry had argued that politicians warming up for 2011 elective positions should as matter of urgency embrace the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) dot.ng, to stimulate its adoption, which is literally Nigeria’s flag on the internet.

Technically, .ng is the country-code Top-Level Domain designated for Nigeria under the sponsorship of NiRA as registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the administrative arm of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN’s); a global body charged with the coordination of the Internet, on March 15, 1995.

Right now, .ng has a little over 10,000 domain registrants, which could be described as dismal for a nation of over 150 million and boasts of being the most populated country on the continent, as at November 30, 2010.

Mrs. Uduma also noted that NIRA is the registry for .ng Internet Domain Names and maintains the database of names registered in the .ng country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). Registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), as an independent not-for-profit organization NiRA manages the .ng ccTLD name space in the public interest of Nigeria and global internet communities.

Currently, NiRA says it encourages all applicants for .ng domain names to register theirs through one of the over 30 Accredited Registrars, even as Nine second level domains (SLD) are available to Nigerians, comprising .com.ng which is for commercial entities and purposes, as well as open to every Nigerian; .edu.ng, which is restricted to higher education and research institutions; name.ng is open and could be used for personalization; just as .net.ng is for Internet service, telecoms and infrastructure providers respectively; while org.ng is for not-for-profit entities, which also is opened to interested parties including political organisations.

In addition, .sch.ng is for other academic institutions and is closed; .gov.ng is usually closed and is meant for national, regional, states and local government bodies and agencies. Whereas mil.ng is a closed domain name for the military and related purposes as well as mobi.ng is for mobile devices that meet .mobi generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) standards.

Some of those who comment said that the upcoming general elections in 2011 could be a morale booster to the .ng, especially the NiRA, if all political office holders start to exhibit patriotism by using the nation’s domain name.

Investigations by ITRealms Online indicated that as at the time of filing this report, almost every Nigerian politician on the Internet, campaigning for public office in 2011 has dot com (.com) or dot org (.org) domain names. The dot com represents commercial websites hosted in the United States, while dot org is for organisation’s website equally hosted in the States among others.

For instance, ITRealms Online investigations revealed that the acclaimed consensus candidate for the Adamu Ciroma-led northern caucus and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, could be sited at http://atikuabubakar.com for the 2007 2011 at http://www.atiku.org/. For the retired General, Muhammadu Buhari, contesting for the presidency on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the forthcoming 2011 elections, is at http://www.buhari.org.

Equally for General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida popularly known as IBB, his online presence is located at www.babangida.com, just as the incumbent governor of Kwara State, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, could be found at www.abubakarbukolasaraki.com. While the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presence is on facebook.com, just as his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is on dot net.

The first Nigerian Information Technology Youth‘s Ambassador and Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Mr. Gbenga Sesan in his reaction highlighted the fact Nigerian political class for 2011 elections and beyond, the first implication for those using foreign domains is security, which entails that the so-called owners are not in control of the domains.

“It means the content is hosted on servers they have little, if any, control over. If, for any reason, opponents seek to take down such websites, it’ll be quite easy,” he said, stressing that it’s an indication that very few Nigeria-based companies play active role in web-hosting at this era.

“It also goes to show that they are politicians in a country that has very few companies that host locally due to the high cost of such - because of infrastructure problems,” he said, stressing that the way forward is that they have began to embrace ICT mainly because they want to impress the youth in exchange for their votes, although there could be a change at the end of the tunnel.

“Now that they’re embracing ICTs - or at least, pretending to reach out to youth via social networking platforms, we expect that any of them who eventually assume the position of authority will take ICT more serious,” he anticipated.

Also, the former president of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and chief executive of Teledom Group International, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, told ITRealms Online that it takes an intense awareness campaign to get people (politicians) at that level to buy into the concept of .ng. While insisting that politicians must take advantage of .ng, he said that it’s not acceptable to the Nigerian populace for any political office aspirant to host his online presence outside .ng.

“It must be .ng or nothing. We need to create awareness among them,” he asserted.
Commenting on the imperativeness of patronizing .ng, the Registrar of the Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Mr. Sekiri Shehu Mohamed noted that it’s not in the best interest of the country for Nigerian politicians to use foreign domains against the .ng. He wondered where the patriotism of the political class has gone, saying that they need to exhibit their Nigerianness by localizing their domain names with .ng, which is their interface with the world online and Nigerians particularly, describing this kind of attitude as “unfair to the .ng ccTLD.”

Decrying the use of foreign domains against .ng, NIRA president, Mrs. Uduma urged Nigerians to make .ng adoption a passion and called for .ng to be regarded as the preferred domain names for all well-meaning Nigerians including politicians.

Security-wise, she said, the use of foreign domains against .ng should be holistically discouraged and called for strong campaign against this practice.

Uduma, therefore, implored Nigerians to support only those politicians who root for local brands like .ng, while charging politicians to believe in the Nigerian brand.

“For the citizens to support a politician, the politician should show example of their believe in Nigerian brand and promote it by proudly having their domain names on .ng for all their websites,” she suggested, underscoring the fact that having .ng should be seen as part of the rebranding project of the federal government, which is good for the country and political growth.

In his input, a director of NiRA and former managing director of Chams City, Mr. Sola Bickersteth, said that politicians need to understand that anytime they give out an internet address that does not end with .ng, it is equivalent to carrying telephone lines with +44 or +167 instead of 234 and paying their bills in foreign currencies.

The implications, he said include that in an era where nations are actually attacking themselves over the internet and the American constitutions empowers the American president to order the disconnection of Internet communications if the nation is under threat, it is vital for a nation like Nigeria to take its country code Top Level Domain seriously.

This, he said, entails that Internet communications taking place in Nigeria is directly under the control of foreign governments as exemplified by the recent leaks on Nigeria by Wikileaks.

Bickersteth explained that politicians campaigning with websites that do not end with .ng are only confirming that they are not prepared for modern leadership and should change immediately to .ng domains before it becomes too late.

“If and when they get elected, they must recognise that countries are beginning to amend their constitution to declare internet as a fundamental human right and in modern economies or information society, if you like, providing internet access is as important as building roads,” he said, stressing that even the Word of God confirms that knowledge is power.

Politicians, he said, need to recognise .ng against foreign domains like .com, .co.uk, emphasising that this should form part of requirement to confirm their readiness for leadership in 2011 as the world economy has gone digital.

Equally speaking to ITRealms Online, a politician and governorship aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State. Mr. Babatunde O. Gbadamosi, alias BOG, alleged that .ng domains appeared to be tightly controlled and are not as readily available online as the .com or .co.uk names, noting that the most efficient way of selling domains is through resellers, just the same way .com or .co.uk domains are sold, otherwise .ng arrangement is open to abuse.

He was of the opinion that the most efficient way of selling domain names is to just make them available to every domain name seller in the world, not just a few "favoured" registrars. He argued that it limits the ability to sell those domain names to the capacity of those few favoured registrars, then it would be open to abuse and tends towards cronyism.

“30 registrars are hardly enough to sell .com.ng names worldwide, don’t you think,” he retorted.

ITRealms Online gathered that BOG’s position was not correct as by simply visiting the NIRA website, could do the magic; pick a registrar of choice and ask that your website be migrated to .ng or ask your current registrar or host to migrate you to .ng he/she knows what to do, which does not cost upto N3,000 about $19.7.

Also, ITRealms Online intelligence shows that NIRA’s registrars act as resellers or retailers and that is why registrants go through them to get the .ng ccTLD, a list of registrars is available at NIRA website, but does not have any ‘favoured’ registrars in its diction as claimed by BOG. Rather NIRA registrars are scattered across the globe including Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, United States and Nigeria to name a few.

NIRA it was further gathered has not stopped receiving applications from potential registrars but attend to them as they come using relevant committees to evaluate and recommend to the board which would then give approval or otherwise, even as .ng ccTLD has over nine domains on offer at present and not only .com.ng, as alleged by BOG.

Nevertheless, Nigeria Internet experts insisted that political office seekers particularly, should have the nation at heart, which starts with where they host their information or websites online. This underlines the fact it could be a point for good politician’s Nigerianness for campaign purposes.

They also observed the implication especially when the youths are involved, saying it’s because everything nowadays including politicking has gone online after the Obama experiment. Though being on Facebook could be said to be on the right track, but Nigeria needs forces to encourage the growth of .ng, especially politically.

Moreover, when payments are made to register or renew these foreign domains in .com, and .net among others, they encourage capital flight no matter how small, whereas the information on those domains are not safe in the event of disaster or dispute as noted by Mr. Sesan earlier.

Above all, Internet stakeholders in Nigeria maintained that as the 2011 dates for general election is just round the corner, the political class needs to look inwards in their search to have ‘political contents’ hosted online in the name of websites.

They insisted that any politician that knows his or her onion must have .ng domain for a starting point, after all, charity they say begins at home.

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