Wednesday, May 18, 2011

AfTLD, DCA battle for soul of dot Africa

Two Mauritius-based African Top Level Domains (AfTLD) and DotConnect Africa (DCA) are squaring up for the soul of Dot Africa (.africa) over who the Africa Union (AU) should back in pursuit of this continental domain.

AfTLD acts as a focal point for all the African TLDs managers, to discuss matters of policy that affect over 50 country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) including dot ng for Nigeria, among others, as well as present the group’s position as one voice in relation to Domain Name System (DNS).

On the other hand, DCA is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organisation incorporated in Mauritius Africa with intension to primarily sponsor, establish and operate a TLD registry with global recognition and regional significance dedicated to the needs of pan-African and African community.

While AfTLD is still seeking the endorsement of AU, DotConnect Africa (DCA), said it has already gotten the ‘AU mandate’, even as African Union Commission has debunked the claims by DCA, saying it has not yet given any endorsement or mandate to any particular organisation on dot Africa, pending the decision of the commission which is currently accepting applications for the dot Africa bid until Friday, June 3, 2011.

“The AU Commission would like to hereby categorically state that it is not supporting any one individual or organization in this bid,” a communiqué made available to ITRealms Online May 12 read.

AU also said that its member states meeting within the framework of the Conference of African Union Ministers in Charge of Communications and Information Technologies had decided to allow competition from any African organization or entity that is interested in bidding for the domain name on behalf of and for the use of the African organizations and citizens at large.

This decision, AU confirmed was endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2010 and was reiterated in 2011.

However, raising from its three-day 5th annual African ccTLD meeting in Accra, Ghana, AfTLD’s position to bid for the dot Africa domain name was backed by the Minister of Communications, Mr. Haruna Iddrissu and .gh chairman, Dr. Nii Quaynor.

The Ghana Minister of Communications in his address, noted, that the government of Ghana, attaches great significance to online privacy, and plans to pass into law the Data Protection Bill by July this year, and expressed Ghana’s support to the Africa Union Commission (AUC)-led process of endorsing a suitable bidder that will apply to ICANN for the delegation of the dot Africa new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD).

He stressed that AfTLD, as the foremost TLD association in Africa, represented sufficient African Internet community interests to manage the dot Africa new gTLD on behalf of the AUC.

Dr. Quaynor in his address reminded the meeting how Ghana was instrumental in establishing AfTLD about a decade ago and urged African TLD managers to take note of the imminent changes in the domain name policy environment globally.

He enjoined African TLD operators to be strengthened to meet the challenges that ICANN’s new gTLDs will bring as many capacity challenges still faced African TLDs, including higher level governance interventions.

He echoed the Minister’s support for an AUC endorsement of a suitable bidder to apply to ICANN for the operation of dot Africa.

At the end of the AfTLD Annual General Meeting (AGM), its chairman, Mr. Vika Mpisane said the case of the AfTLD dot Africa project was an illustration of the commitment of the AfTLD to help African TLDs grow.

Mpisane expressed the belief that AfTLD had a good opportunity to win the endorsement of the African Union (AU) and the approval by ICANN, stressing that they would do their best to ensure that AfTLD wins the dot Africa bid, even as all the ccTLDs drummed support of AfTLD’s dot Africa bid.

But reacting, Dot Connect Africa Organization described AfTLD meeting outcome as innuendoes and veiled references to DCA made by some prominent participants in the same meeting, saying that DCA’s concerted campaign against the “illegal proposal of awarding an unjustified mandate to AfTLD by the AU” has been again vindicated.

DCA position made available by Thomas Kamanzi, showed that this is against the backdrop that DCA has already received the same endorsement from the AU more than one year ago.

“The position of the AfTLD and its backers is grossly untenable and very unjustified. This mandate can only be given by ICANN,” he said, pointing out that DCA was not surprised by the attendance and list of attendees of the Ghana meeting, since it has become increasingly clear by the day that the most vocal voices and viewpoints expressed are the same forces that have arrayed themselves in vehement opposition to the DCA on the issue of DotAfrica.

DCA, therefore reiterated its “unshakeable belief that AfTLD is not suited to operate DotAfrica, and would like to again stress that DCA has no problem with any organization attempting to compete and win the DotAfrica gTLD mandate from ICANN based on rules of fair competition.

“DCA believes that any eligible organization is free to participate in an open and transparent bid process that is corruption-free,” he said. Just as he insisted that DCA refused to accept a situation whereby double-dealing are being institutionalized to pave the way to enable AfTLD win an unfair endorsement from the AU on DotAfrica.

AfTLD cannot maintain its credulity as a fair player whilst being an obvious beneficiary of illegality, alleging that DCA frowns upon the fact that AU Task Force members on DotAfrica are also advisors and confederates of AfTLD, maintaining that such affiliations are unwholesome and foster corruption, nepotism, abuse of office, and large-scale illegality.

As we wait for the result of the application submitted to Africa Union Commission on the endorsed organisation to bid on behalf of the continent on dot Africa after June 3, all eyes are now on AUC to ensure every process leading to that is devoid of DCA allegations by instituting transparency on the bid.

Remmy Nweke
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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