" ITREALMS: AfTLD v. DCA: The battle for dot Africa


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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

AfTLD v. DCA: The battle for dot Africa

The duo of Mauritius-based African Top Level Domains (AfTLD) and Dot Connect Africa (DCA) are currently bidding for Dot Africa (.africa), Remmy Nweke reports that utmost decorum is required to make the process litigation free exercise.
The 5th annual African country code Top Level Domain (AfTLD) meeting ended in the city of Accra, Ghana, with controversies surrounding the management of the dot Africa domain name.

Report has that while the organizers of the meeting AfTLD said that the event was successful based on the support the group got from the Ghana government with regards to who manages dot Africa or better disposed to win the heart of African Union (AU) on the issue, observers from Dot Connect Africa (DCA), said the event was far from being successful, whereas contending the likely upper hand that AfTLD purportedly gained against its quest to manage the dot Africa.

AfTLD was established in 2002 to act as a focal point for African Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) managers in coordinating, formulating, developing and presenting a unified approach to issues related to the Domain Name System. Just as AfTLD presents a forum for sharing ideas between the regions Internet community with an aim of promoting the utilization of national country’s Top Level Domains.

Equally, 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.

The ‘successful ‘Accra Meeting:
However, the Accra event, which held from 18 to 22 April, comprised of a three day Attack Contingency Response Planning (ACRP) workshop for African ccTLD managers, and a 2 day Policy meeting and Annual General Meeting (AGM).

With over 50 attending the AGM, the majority of whom came from 19 ccTLD managers for the event hosted by Ghana’s National Information Technology Agency (NITA) with the support of the Ministry of Communications.

Addressing participants, Ghanaian Communications Minister, Mr. Haruna Iddrissu, appreciated AfTLD for choosing Ghana for this crucial Internet security event, adding that ACRP training came at a right time when Internet access has increased tremendously and cyber attacks are the new generation warfare.

Ghana endorses AfTLD for dot Africa:
According to him, the Ghana Government attaches great significance to online privacy, and plans to pass into a law the Data Protection Bill by July this year, maintaining that Ghana supports the Africa Union Commission (AUC)-led process of endorsing a suitable bidder that will apply to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the delegation of the dot Africa new Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD).

AfTLD, he said, is the foremost TLD association in Africa, representing sufficient African Internet community interests to manage the dot Africa new gTLD on behalf of the AUC.

Equally speaking, veteran of Internet development and governance in Africa and globally and the current dot GH (.gh) chairman, Dr. Nii Quaynor, while welcoming participations to the occasion, reminded the meeting how Ghana was instrumental in establishing AfTLD about a decade ago.

Imploring African TLD managers, Dr. Quaynor, noted the imminent changes in the domain name policy environment globally, underscoring the fact that African TLD operators, needed 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 also added that there was a need to continue strengthening African ccTLD capacity to overcome the challenges on security, and affirmed the ACRP as a step in the right direction. He echoed the Minister’s support for an AUC endorsement of a suitable bidder to apply to ICANN for the operation of .africa.

Vote of confidence for AfTLD:
Chairman, AfTLD, Mr. Vika Mpisane told participants that the case of the AfTLD .africa project was an illustration of the commitment of the AfTLD to help African TLDs grow, expressing the believe that AfTLD had a good opportunity to win the endorsement of the African Union (AU) and the approval by ICANN.

“We will do our utmost best to see to it that AfTLD wins the .africa bid,” he assured, stressing that after the presentation of AfTLD’s .africa bid strategy, it was remarkable that all the ccTLDs present expressed their support of AfTLD’s .africa bid.

It was gathered that their unanimous view was that only AfTLD in the African Internet community had the collective experience and know-how of setting up a successful operation of a dot Africa registry, even as some of the ccTLDs promised to lobby their governments to support AfTLD’s bid.

This step was described by industry observers as huge vote of confidence, which goes right against some of the recent malicious views claiming AfTLD was not best suited to operate dot Africa.

DCA reactions:
But reacting to the outcome of the Accra’s AfTLDs meeting, a contending interest, the Dot Connect Africa (DCA) Organization alleged a chameleonic exercise of shifting faces by AfTLD from previously seeking an “AU mandate” to now of seeking an “AU endorsement”.

DCA said it felt compelled to respond to the outcome of AfTLD meeting because of some innuendoes and veiled references to DCA made by some prominent participants.

DCA position made available to ITRealms Online by Mr. Thomas Kamanzi pointed out that at first, DCA’s concerted campaign against the “illegal proposal of awarding an unjustified mandate to AfTLD by the AU” has been again vindicated.

We got endorsement first!
He argued that this was against the backdrop that the DCA already received the same endorsement from the AU more than one year ago, adding that the position of AfTLD currently and its supporters is grossly untenable and very unjustified, insisting that such mandate could only be given by ICANN.

In addition, DCA said it was not taken unaware 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.

Equally, DCA group said, the meeting reinforced the widely shared belief that there is a dangerous nexus between a certain cabal within the AU Task Force on Dot Africa and the AfTLD - and this nexus has been established in order to disingenuously facilitate ‘insider’ help for AfTLD’s Expression of Interest to the AU and prospective bid to ICANN.

Unshakeable DCA?
“Therefore, before delving into particulars, the DCA hereby reiterates its unshakeable belief that AfTLD is not suited to operate DotAfrica,” stressing that it has no problem with any organization attempting to compete and win the DotAfrica gTLD mandate from ICANN based on rules of fair competition.

Kamanzi said DCA believes that any eligible organization is free to participate in an open and transparent bid process that is corruption-free, even as it refuses 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,” Kamanzi asserted in a press statement, while DCA frowned upon the fact that AU Task Force members on DotAfrica are also advisors and confederates of AfTLD. DCA believes that such affiliations are unwholesome and foster corruption, nepotism, abuse of office, and large-scale illegality.

AU Task Force must work independently
Further, DCA alleged AfTLD could work independently of AU Task Force members on DotAfrica who are in its midst, and are both advising, and influencing matters on behalf of AfTLD. Noting that with a certain amusement, that even though there is nothing materially new that was revealed as an outcome of the Ghana meeting, however, DCA insisted that sustained pressure based on truthful revelations by the group has made the handlers and advisors of AfTLD to change their position, in a rather chameleonic way, from one of previously seeking an AU mandate to that of now seeking an AU endorsement.

“All in all, the Ghana meeting could hardly be qualified as a successful outing, since nothing new came out of it. The meeting only exposes the fact that certain AU Task Force members connected to the Ghanaian government used it to garner dubious support of the Ghanaian Ministry of Communications for AfTLD to bid on DotAfrica,” DCA officer said.

ITRealms Online learnt that DCA alleged that this position is not only contradictory, but an unsolicited interference in the issue of the AU Commission endorsing a bidder to apply to ICANN for the DotAfrica registry mandate.

“It is already clear that the Ghanaian Minister of Communication is under the direct influence of, and is being controlled by, the same “special interest group” that has expressed a vested interest in assisting the AfTLD to win an illegal endorsement from the AU,” DCA claimed, insisting that the Ghanaian Ministry of Communications has lost a certain amount of credibility for allowing itself to be used as a willing tool to rubber-stamp an invidious scheme.

DCA, however, maintained that it will frontally challenge any acts of illegality that are orchestrated by any affiliated AU Task Force members who use insider privileges and access to facilitate an illegal scheme that would grant AfTLD an AU endorsement.

Investigations conducted by ITRealms Online showed that since the last meeting of AfTLD in Accra, DCA instead of lobbying relevant authorities directly involve in the dot Africa project to gain support has condescended to personality battle with some members of AU Task Force on Dot Africa.

AU yet to give dot Africa endorsement:
While AfTLD is still seeking the endorsement of AU, and DotConnect Africa (DCA) claiming it has already gotten the ‘AU mandate’, the African Union Commission (AUC) recently 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.

One lesson, though DCA may have to contend with is that despite the fact that AfTLD may have its affiliates lobbying for it, members of the AU Task Force do not usually condone antagonisation of its members.

Secondly, it is a clear fact that most countries, especially in Africa currently have their country code Top Level Domains which made up AfTLD managed by government partially alongside the Internet stakeholders in those countries, which makes it invariably difficult to draw a line between the government across Africa and their ccTLDs.

The aforementioned analogy thus paves the way for AfTLDs to receive the kind of lobbying or acceptance its bid which dot Africa supposedly got in Accra.

The reality as gathered by ITRealms Online was that AU hitherto gave an endorsement to DCA without understanding the efficacy of dot Africa until it was updated, following which it now set up a task force.

An observer of Internet development on the continent when faced with the kind of propaganda going on dot Africa advised Africans and those in AU Task Force on dot Africa not to forget in a hurry the incidents which characterized the African ccTLDs, which in the case of Nigeria coursed the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to gave birth to the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA).

She maintained that Nigeria is not alone in such a situation and warned that such a thing cannot be allowed to happen again in the name of leaving dot Africa in the hands of private organisation not well constituted for that purpose, arguing that AfTLD, for instance represents all the ccTLDs, hence it is easier for them to manage dot Africa successfully.

Frankly, such errors of giving endorsement on subjects without expert consultations have occurred in the past and even cost governments across the continent very heavily, yet organisation of a continent like AUC could not do better now than opening up the space for bidding, hence all interested parties are enjoined to take advantage of the bid and concentrate on doing the vital lobbying devoid of corruption or molestation, pending when the deadline clicks this week Friday, June 3, 2011.

These steps if taken seriously could save the continent the undue quarrels over dot Africa, while efforts could be focused on making dot Africa acceptable to people of Africa.

For now, all eyes are on AU Task Force to ensure openness in the process in addition to ensuring a transparent exercise as far as dot Africa bidding is concerned.

Remmy Nweke:
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